About two weeks ago, I asked my cousins in our group chat, there are five of us on there, all of us are Dominican and one is Puerto Rican, if any of them identify as black. I asked because I know many Dominicans don’t, and that question brought up a very valuable discussion.
The question steamed from the book I’m currently reading, “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, and she explained that race is socially constructed.
She says, “The difference we see with our eyes — differences such as hair texture and eye color — are superficial and emerged as adaptations to geography. Under the skin, there is no true biological race.”
After the discussion with my cousins, I told myself I would do more search on the history of the Dominican Republic because I knew that Dominicans are mixed, with Tainos (the indigenous people of the Caribbean), European (Spaniard descent), and African. Furthermore, I learned that the first enslaved people were brought to the Dominican Republic, which began the slave trade in 1503. This occurred 116 years before enslaved people arrived in the United States.
So why is it that so many Dominicans do not identify as black? Well, that depends on what your definition of “black” is. Usually, when someone identifies as black, they identify as African American, which wouldn’t be the case for some Dominicans.
Saying that one is black or white is speaking of their race, which usually goes by their skin color or specific features. For example, I have big lips, curly hair, and I’m curvy, which are features of African descent, but I’m not dark-skinned. My dad also has big lips, but his skin is lighter than mine, so would I be considered black and him white?
You can easily tell when a person is of the white race or black race, but when it comes to Dominicans, a lot of us are mixed, which is why sometimes it’s so confusing for us to choose that race box on papers and why some don’t identify as black.
Now, I’ve heard of some identifying as Afro-Latino/a, and they are usually those of darker skin complexion. This is a relatively new term to me, but one of my cousins had heard it while growing…