After being in the DR for two weeks, I must say that while I was not scooped up and dropped at the Haitian border just for wearing my Afro ‘while black’, I did feel as though I had stepped about 3 centuries back.
As with all the countries I’ve visited so far and, even my own country, I noticed that nannies/maids, auxiliary workers were always of darker shade/complexion/of color/black/other. What was different for me though, was that in the DR, people walked with their ‘maids/nannies/servants’ everywhere. Supermarket, nannies/maids/servants pulling trolleys or tending to the kid/(s). AND the nannies were ALWAYS in uniform. I was perhaps most taken aback when I notice this trend in restaurants. ‘Servants’ standing behind the tables [I suppose] ready to run after the kid/(s) while their ‘maasas’ chattered away. Really made me question what century I was in. When I pointed this out to a few locals they explained is a result of their colonial ‘HISTORY’.
As per “discrimination”, I cannot say I experienced any form of [overt] discrimination during my stay. There were a few questionable occurrences for which the jury is still out. For instance, the cashier insisting that I presented my ID when using my debit but, readily accepted my (light skinned) roommate’s (roomie #2) CREDIT card. He found it ‘very odd’ but, I gave her the benefit of the doubt because I was using an international card that was in English and probably the first time she had seen it.
Another experience was how opened some persons I came across were about Haitians and persons of Haitian descent and when probed, the response is almost always ‘that’s how I was raised’ followed by Haitians cannot be trusted and rants about how cantankerous and nasty they were. All the while reassuring me that it is not that they dislike black people, no sir… we are not racist; so you are different, you are Jamaican. Phew!! #JamaicaBoom!
Perhaps the most noteworthy experiences came from my roommate (roomie #2) who ironically worked with Haitians classified as Group B (immigrants/refugees).
Noteworthy Experience #1:
Against the advice given from all and sundry prior to my trip, one day I decided to wear my hair in an Afro, no gel to give the ‘mixed’ effect’ pure kinky in all its glory. I generally don’t notice people when I’m walking on the street unless they make an effort for me to do so. Well, let’s say people wanted to show their ‘puzzlement’ at the thing on my head- I made eye contact with one lady ‘ shielding from the sun under an umbrella’ and, she had the most disapproving looked ever- the kind that said, how dear you. I managed to convince myself that I was imagining things and briskly walked to the office.
Upon my return home that evening, I walked in at the same time as my roommate who looked at me with horror and, a little disgust and asked ‘ what is that’ pointing to my Afro (which was VERY cute by the way- on FLEEK). Of course, my response was …errrrrr…. my hair. She wasted no time to scold me, stating that ‘I was brave to wear my hair like that because HAIR LIKE THAT IS NOT ACCEPTED HERE’ at which point I told her, it was a good thing I was here for work and not acceptance/approval.
In relating the incident to my coworker, she explained to me that hair out as I wore it yesterday is really frowned upon. In fact, natural hair is not really accepted and so, in order to get a job in private sector/corporate DR you HAVE to straighten your hair. It was a requirement.
Okay, so perchance my roommate was trying to protect me and, the horror in her face was not related to my hair but, maybe the fear as she thought about the harm that could have befallen me. Again, I went into my stash and pulled out another benefit of the doubt.
Noteworthy Experience #2:
While combing my hair one day, she watched in awwww rambling on about how skilled I was to be able to do my own hair. Naturally there was some loose hair that she hastens to tell me to ensure that I pick them up; then continued to say my hair creeped her out because it reminded her of pubic hair.
Looking at her totally bamboozled, I reached in to the stash and, it was empty; I had no ‘benefit of the doubt’ left to give. ZERO!