“Stateless”: Dominican Racism Against Dominicans of Haitian Descent and Haitians

“Stateless” (”Apátrida”) simply put is a documentary chronicling racism by Dominicans against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. Haiti and The Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in world governed by a seemingly endless stream of corrupt leaders. The Dominican Republic (DR) is not as poor but corruption is rampant.

Lawyer and activist Rosa Iris

The film’s foundation rests on the 1937 extermination of tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent ordered by dictator Rafael Trujillo in an attempt to “whiten” the DR. The racism and hatred continue with the DR Constitutional Court in 2013 revoking the citizenship of Dominicans of Haitian descent retroactive to 1929 leaving some 200,000 people stateless.

We hear the story unfold through the voices of activists, racist nationalists, politicians, stateless victims, lawyers and politicians.

It is rather difficult to see where President Danilo Medina sits as all the television footage we see reveals a politician full of hot air and platitudes. However see the difficulty those of Haitian descent have as they try to prove their Dominican citizenship. Mounds of documents are required and even with the documents it would appear the government bureaucrats express no interest in helping but only putting up roadblocks and hindering. There are also murders, beatings and harassment of activists not to mention a constant spew of hate on social media but the DR government does nothing so Medina’s position becomes clear. Even the Attorney General Rincón is brutally beaten as a result of his defending marginalized groups.

Rosa Iris is both a lawyer and a community activist and herself of Haitian descent. She tries for a seat in Congress but due to very suspicious electoral results is defeated. Voting for pay is common in the DR. Well even after losing the election Iris was the recipient of death threats so she obtained political asylum in the United States.

Unfortunately the Nationalist Movement sounds like Donald Trump demanding a wall be built along the border with Haiti to keep illegals out. Of course, some of the nationalists say they have nothing against Haitians who have been swindled and robbed by their politicians but moving to the DR is not the answer as after all it is clear to them that Haitians are trying to take over the DR and as murderers, rapists and criminals they are not welcome in the DR. These nationalists say nothing about the 1937 genocidal acts nor the retroactive revoking of DR citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent.

The documentary exposes a nasty little problem the DR would rather not have tourists discover the rat-infested nature of Dominican political reality. I was in the DR some 25 years ago blissfully ignorant of its racist history. After watching this documentary I have no intention of returning anytime soon.

The documentary was filmed in the DR and Haiti. It is directed by Michéle Stephenson. You will be able to watch the film on PBS, acclaimed documentary series POV on July 19th. If you are in New York on June 19th at the Tribeca Film Festival and virtually through the Festival from June 12-23 although it will be geoblocked to only those accessing from a computer in the United States.

You can watch the trailer here https://vimeo.com/412429182

Published by Robert K Sephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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