In Benjamin Bailey’s article, “The Language of Multiple Identities Among Dominican Americans,” he explores how Dominican Americans use language to construct and make sense of their social identities. He focuses on boundaries that are created between in-group and out-group. He does this by studying and focusing on Dominican American teens living and going to school in Providence, Rhode Island. Bailey says that the boundaries created between the in-group and out-group are created at three different levels. The first one he identifies is how Dominican Americans use language to enact a specifically nonwhite identity. The second boundary that Bailey identifies is how Dominicans linguistically claim a distinct nonblack Spanish/Dominican identity and the last boundary he indentified was how Dominican immigrants situationally highlight boundaries among themselves.
In 2009, CNN produced a documentary series titled Latino in America, which examines the increasing populations of Latinos living in the United States. The series sought to discuss the many different types of Latinos that are living in the United States. The series chose to touch upon the larger Latino populations living in the United States, which at the time was the Mexican population. In this article, published in Diverse magazine, Soledad O'Brien, the host of the "In America" series, was interviewed. Maria Eugenia Miranda, the interviewer, asked O'Brien whether there was anything she regretted about the documentaries that had aired. Soledad O’Brien says that her one regret was not being able to include Afro-Latinos in the documentary. She says that her own mother is Afro-Latina and felt that that they had not been properly identified in the documentary. The video clips below are a few reactions from audience members after watching a preview of “Latinos in America.”
The clips below show a few reactions, both from people that identify solely as Latinos and those that identify only as black. In the first clip, we see a Dominican woman, who was born in the United States, but raised in both the US and the Dominican Republic, discuss her racial identification. She claims that she faces a double racism being a light-skinned Dominican. According to her, when she goes to the Dominican Republic, she is deemed too white to be Dominican, but in the United States she is thought to be too dark to truly be white. In the video, however, she recognizes that most fail to identify themselves as African American. In the second clip, however, we see a couple that both identify as black or African American. In the second clip, the woman was born and raised in Panama, however she identifies herself as black. Her reasoning for this identification is that her ancestors were originally from Africa and that to identify as a Latina would be forgetting about her roots. When asked by the interviewer as to what they would be marking on the 2010 United States Census when it comes to their racial identity, the women who identified as Dominican said she would check the box that said “Hispanic.” The woman from Panama, who identified as black, said she would check multiple boxes including the one for the category of black. However, according to the woman from the Dominican Republic, only those from Dominican Republic and Haiti can identify as Hispanic because she believes that the term Hispanic refers to the island of Hispaniola, which is made up of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. However, the United States Department of Transportation (random, yes, I know), defines Hispanic to include persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or others Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race. Many other federal and state departments choose to include Spain and Brazil in the list of countries that make up Hispanics. On the 2010 Census, the category of Hispanic was changed so that it read “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.”
So what are Dominicans? Are they white? Black? Mulatto, as some like to say? And who is to blame for this denial of our African American roots, Trujillo?
(For those wondering, my family and I checked both the Hispanic and the black boxes on the 2010 Census.)