Note: When this diary was published Galtisalie was still a separate pseudonym from Francisco Nejdanov Solomin. Here's an explanation for the prior separate pseudonyms and the decision to discard the separation: http://www.dailykos.com/...
Fri Oct 25, 2013 at 3:19 AM PT: The DR learned its skin color craft as a defense mechanism at the bigoted European/U.S. master's feet, whipping posts, slave auctions, lynchings, and massacres. Instead of rejecting the evil of racism, the DR is embracing it as a continuing "Spanish" national ethos. My Cuban-American ancestors went through the same damaging transition in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century, when "white" cigar workers were forced to separate from their "black," and in many cases literally, brothers and sisters or face the same punishments and prejudices meted out for the crime of having a darker skin color.
Whether it is in the parts of U.S. territory where people get to elect voting members of Congress and the president, or the parts that do not (Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands), or in other heavily-influenced places not "in" the U.S. such as Hispaniola, race and ethnicity can be fuels of the time-honored power tool of exploitation known as "divide and conquer." The powerful use this tool to keep the exploited distracted and pitted against each other and in their appointed places. Further, just like the white founding fathers of the U.S. kept native peoples and African-Americans out of the political democracy and without human rights, the powerful of today want to deprive persons within the "voting U.S. territory" who are more likely to vote Democratic of their voting rights, and, in the case of immigrants, citizenship altogether.
In addition to forgetting the lessons of history, Cardinal Rodriguez in the DR has forgotten important Catholic social teaching: Anytime we judge "the other" in fear rather than love her or him as "neighbor" and sister or brother, "justice" loses its connection to love, and any laws arising from this warped sense of justice are not "just." He should have been speaking the truth to power; instead he demeaned his religion in power. How very Constantinian of him.
Denise Oliver Velez did a great work of journalism and human advocacy a few days ago at Daily Kos: If you are black, get out: The crisis of statelessness in the Dominican Republic. There is also a NYT piece today on the situation: Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court.
It is easy for some in the U.S. to sit back and say "not my problem" when a story like that gets into the U.S. press. Having a high tolerance for other people's pain is the American way. Often this is a reflection of conditions in the U.S.: the need to ignore ongoing race and class oppression in the U.S.; the need to suppress memories of and accountability for the European migration to the Americas and the associated centuries of inhumane treatment of native peoples and African slaves and their descendants; and the U.S.'s own refusal to grant citizenship and other basic human rights to immigrants and "guest workers." All true and damning. And certainly, the exploitation on Hispaniola traces back to Christopher Columbus.
But let's also not forget what the U.S. has recently done outside the U.S., in Hispaniola, to perpetuate an island-wide system of economic injustice. Don't even get me started about disgusting "free-marketeering" U.S. "citizens" who go down to Hispaniola on stag holiday with their Viagra to exploit desperate people sexually. (It is interesting to note though, that, according to their ethical code, they are being moral, and in fact, should receive their sexual "favors" at the lowest possible rate on the free market.) Haiti, despite its turmoil had a popular legitimately-elected president who was struggling to make things better and took seriously human liberation and the daily struggles of the poor. Despite its denial, the manifest evidence is that the U.S. forced Haitian President Aristide out of office and thereafter orchestrated international harassment and the blocking of his return after the 2004 coup.
The international sugar industry depends upon stateless or virtually stateless, and always desperate, dark-skinned people to work for low pay under horrible conditions, and the DR is no exception. But this is not simply about private enterprise, as such. U.S. development ideas for the DR similarly are all about the neoliberal marvels of the marketplace mythology. They include near total dependency upon U.S. agricultural imports, which not only causes single-commodity unhealthy diets, but also effectively forces people off the land and into urban slums where they can then be dependent upon water and power from expensive hydropower projects preferred by international lenders, not to mention dependent on legitimate jobs that fail to materialize, leading to coping strategies such as prostitution and crime (and, for the lucky few, a professional baseball career in the U.S.). The poor in the city often cannot afford the water and power and have to figure out some way to steal it. (I have seen how adept the desperate of Santa Domingo are at loosening fire hydrants to satisfy their selfish desire to drink.)
Meanwhile, out in the countryside ... please go below the fold for one quick example of batey life, brought to you by neoliberalism.
Desperate persons of Haitian descent crowd into sugar cane bateyes. The bateyes have horrible living conditions made worse by the lack of legal and economic accessibility to basic services. Even if, for example, water lines are extended to a batey, the connections usually do not run into the shacks where the people live. Thus, poor people, now without a nation to call their own, have to spend out of what little they have on bottled water. They often cannot bathe or keep their children clean without going to extraordinary measures. Here is a picture of an inexpensive pipe that, without a water connection fee, is impossibly out of reach to people who desperately need clean water.
P.S. BONUS ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM THE STATELESS PERSONS OF HAITIAN DESCENT MUST DEAL WITH: Drinking water wells near sugar cane fields can become contaminated with nitrate, which is dangerous to infants. Nitrate is historically used very inefficiently in industrial sugar cane production, and it may be better to look to ammonium and organic forms of nitrogen (although much of the excess ammonium not used by the plants would be quickly converted to nitrate, so it is no panacea). Here is a photograph of a potentially dangerous drinking water well in a batey: