On June 8th, a stream of thought-provoking photos surfed on the social media pages of Dominican celebrities and influencers, showing a community marching in upper Manhattan to protest police brutality. At the front of the march, protesters held both the Dominican and Haitian flags – united. The photo broke the internet.
What perhaps artists like Cardi B and Amara la Negra would least expect is that the sight of two flags would have the power to trigger people deeply. Cardi B understood the impact and message: though the two communities have yet to heal from their violent past, it’s our duty to unite and fight together because it’s the same struggle; that those of the African diaspora understand as a collective that the connection among all Black people within the Black Latinx or African American communities and beyond is oppression and Blackness. Most importantly, it’s time for Dominicans to recognize social discrimination and racism against Haitians in the Dominican Republic.
Mixed comments piled under Cardi B’s photo, trolls expressed their distaste for the idea of “one country,” ultimately misunderstanding the purpose. “Never united. Everyone on their side,” one commented.
The rapper took the conversation to her Instagram Live. “You wanna know why people were marching in Washington Heights, the Dominicans and Haitians? Because we want peace, we want unity. Come to this country and you’ll see how you’ll get treated,” she said. “So they say [ I ] don’t know the history.’ I know, oh, I know. But it’s enough already. It happened already, and it’s time to treat our brothers and sisters like people.”
But what is the history we claim? Why is the maltreatment and xenophobia towards Haitians excusable over a taught history unquestioned in educational spaces?
It is ultimately up to descendants to do the work, in engaging in the questioning of one’s history and education. We discover leaders, false narratives, and essential erased facts over time. Revisionist history is defined as the act of changing history due to the discovery of new facts, to conform to our current understanding, or to hide negative traits of the past.
It’s not inherently good or bad, but it truly depends on what will be changed. When it’s negatively approached, it sometimes takes place with the manipulation of statistical data, the creation of false conclusions, the use of forged documents, and the mistranslations of essential texts.
The Dominican history and academic space were revisioned in the years of Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship. “There is such heavy and intense work of unlearning for Dominicans because the history of the Dominican Republic has been historically narrated by the Trujillasto,” says Saudi Garcia, an anthropology doctoral student specializing in environmental health and a facilitator for In Cultured Co, a platform dedicated to decolonizing the island by conducting educational and reconciliation related dialogue, focusing on conflict resolution through intimate gatherings and Instagram snackable content to promote transformational change.
“[Trujillo] invested very heavily on a lot of the historical revisionism of the Dominican people in medical history. He had historians and intellectuals on his payroll writing up these stories, and so the voices of truly marginalized people just don’t shine through or the experiences of marginalized Dominicans,” says Garcia. The narrative that we have today was birthed out of an oppressive colonial state. “The narrative is so elite, and it’s so anti-Haitian because to build a nation, you need an enemy. We have seen it as Trump takes power even more, and starts snatching people off the street. You need something that’s going to unify your base. And that’s what Trujillo did,” she added.
It is time to revise what we have been taught and our own conclusions. “I think that there’s a lot of internal, emotional labor, just like white people are now called to do racial labor. Dominicans have to do the same,” says Garcia. “Dominicans and Haitians, we are all one. The majority of us are Black people. This thing has happened where our story has been told by the whitest people of our island.
Platforms like In cultured Co. play an immense role in decolonizing our history. With several workshops and valuable resources, the collective has informed the masses with historical facts that founders dug up through their research, to educate and share with their followers our entire States is an oppressive state and that the entire economic foundation has been built on oppression.
One of the many resources In Cultured Co provides is a presentation by Saudii that breaks down some of the myths and erases the reality of Haiti and D.R historical narrative. In Dominican history, the story is one of “Haitian violence against Dominicans.” Our Independence day is one to think about as El Dia de Restauracion approaches. While other countries celebrate their independence from colonial rule, the Dominican Republic’s independence celebrates the separation from the first Black independent country. Spain recolonized the state for 17 years right after. On August 16th, the country celebrates the restoration of Dominican sovereignty and the separation from Spain. Though August 16th is celebrated, a more satisfactory act would be implementing this date as Dominican Independence Day.
Unity and healing is taking place. In Cultured Co’s Instagram caption explains the state of those revising and unlearning best: “For so long, they tried to tell us who we were supposed to be—keep us in chains, divided, robbed of our history, and our freedoms. Now, we rewrite history and show them who we were always meant to be.”