Dominican Teens Test New Generation of Race Relations

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NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS) So far, Yarialis Guzman, a Dominican American who identifies as Hispanic, hasn’t had a crush on a black guy. But if it happens, the shy 16-year-old sophomore at Manhattan Center for Science and Math said her parents likely won’t be happy.

“My mom would have a heart attack or she would try to force me to stop or think it over,” she said in a recent interview at her school. “My dad would just be like depressed and really sad about it. Most of the time my parents believe in the stereotypes of black boys because around the area I live in there’s a lot of black people and they see their ‘thuggish’ ways,” said Guzman, making air quotation marks to characterize her parents’ views.

Guzman’s situation is just one example of the inter-generational tensions that can arise in some Dominican American families because of inter-racial dating, a drama played out in many other previous generations of close-knit communities.

Four other Dominican girls, who go to the same school as Guzman in the Upper East Side in Harlem’s El Barrio, said they’d also face extreme disapproval from their parents if they dated teens with African ancestry.

Peyano, who is dating an African American boy now, says her parents feel like her boyfriend is a tiguere, which is another word for a “thug.”

She says her parents have never approved of her boyfriend, but that could have more to do with her choice in boyfriends since hers falls within the “bad boy” category. Still, she says her parents would be less critical if her boyfriend were Hispanic and without African ancestry.

Though the teens disagree with their parents’ sentiments, they said it can still affect their dating preferences and views of African Americans in general.

“My parents feel like [African American] people need to be more educated and less loud,” said Francheli Peyano, 17, a Bronx resident. “But my dad does believe there are some black people that are decent.”

Colorism Strikes Home

Reflecting the international skin-color bias, Peyano’s father’s side of the family has dark skin and her mother’s side is light. “My mother feels like she ruined her family because she’s light-skin and nobody in her family is dark except her kids,” said Peyano.

Peyano’s mother, Elizandra Peyano, 35, said skin color is not the primary consideration for who dates her daughter. “Decency and education” are the main factors. However, she added, skin color can be a factor. “If he’s decent and light skin, that’s a plus.”

All the girls interviewed said their parents encouraged them to date fair-skinned men or to date within the Dominican community.

Dahiana Pena, 16, said her parents would prefer her to date someone who’s Dominican, but they let her make her own decisions. But despite their leniency, she said her family still has racist views. “There’s definitely racist remarks that still remain in our culture,” she said, referring to such Spanish terms as “cocolo” and “negro” that are used to refer to African Americans.

“I feel like the white image has always been praised,” said Pena. “You can even see it when they talk about our hair. They say ‘do your hair’ when they talk about straightening it. I feel like it would just be better off if I dated someone that was Hispanic.”

These expectations are not exclusive to Dominican girls.

One African American female teen, who asked to go by Anne Lynn, said in an email interview that despite being with her Dominican boyfriend for three years, his parents have not been receptive of their relationship. She said that although her boyfriend has spoken to his parents about being more accepting of her, she can still feel the tension when she’s around them.

‘Maybe They’re Scared’

“Maybe they’re scared of the unknown or they have certain preconceived notions about what a girl of my skin color is supposed to act like and they disapprove,” said Lynn who is 18-years-old and lives in Washington, D.C. “It just sucks because I’ve tried to show them that I’m there for the right reasons.”

The race relations in these teens’ private lives are playing out on a larger, historical scale. In 2015 the Dominican Republic was widely denounced for deporting thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent. Critics described the mass deportation as a racist move against people who are predominantly black.

A source of the country’s anti-black sentiment is Rafael Trujillo, the military strongman who led the country from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Trujillo, who was rumored to have worn face powder to appear lighter, had an infatuation with “whitening the race” and ordered the killing of thousands of Haitians in what is now called the Parsley Massacre.

Peyano says that her native-born Dominican parents often sympathize with this sentiment, one that could strongly influence the intergenerational discussion.

Changing Perceptions

These teens don’t take everything their parents tell them to heart. As first-generation immigrants, many are growing up in an environment that includes discussions of systemic racism and how media portrayal can affect perceptions.

Some of this is reflected in a torrent of postings and comments that the teens find on their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

“You Dominican girls love black men but your families don’t” reads one post found on Facebook. Another one on Twitter reads, “Dominican parents hate black people in real life. But you already know their daughters be like ‘oh well’.”

But, not every Dominican family opposes their daughter dating an African American boy. Nicole Rivera, a senior at Manhattan Center, said her parents don’t mind who she dates. “They never told me not to date an African American boy. They basically just told me to do what makes me happy, even if that means dating a black boy.”

Blogs like those of Revolutionary Afro-Latino and Radical Latina are leading the way in a more inclusive and dynamic view of what it means to be Dominican. More and more Dominican teens of African descent are learning about their blackness and embracing it.

Lucy Perez, 17, a senior who lives in Manhattan, said who she dates is ultimately up to her.

“After speaking to my mom, I told her that if I find a guy attractive and I think he’s worth being in my life, like someone serious, then it shouldn’t matter what his race is,” she said. “She was upset at first but she understands and it’s true.”

  • Jose @ChapoTole el patriota

    Dominicans are a mixture of Africans and Whites, the result is mulattos. In the USA we’ll still be “African Americans” because of the “one drop rule”. These people talk about like Dominicans are white, our population is 85% of African ancestry. Stop the lies.

    • Kisse Ellis

      Some Dominicans “more white” or “more black” than others in appearance. And then the cultural issues come into play as well as far as perceptions of Black Americans vice versa. Also at play is the general and residual proEuro/antiBlack bias at play in all Latin cultures.

      And then there are class issues. Black Americans are considered tiguere/lower class by most generally speaking until a comfort level has been established. So that is a concern for many parents.

      • jose el patriota

        Black Americans are not consider “tigueres”, any body can be a tiguere, regardless of the color on their skin. A tiguere is a person who is slick, street smart, who’s always trying to take advantage of someone else. If you don’t know, stop telling lies.

  • j?

    dominicans love to call Black american thugs and shit yet their poor ass disgusting country is littered with people prostituting themselves and kids. they need to stay in their country and stay out of ours. at least we bathe in america.

    • Sandy Dewit

      EXCUSE ME MY COMMENT GOES FOR ANY PERSON OPENLY SPEAKING NEGATIVELY OF OTHERS. SOME PERSON REFERED TO BLACKS AS NIGGERS, ETC. IT TAKES TWO TO TANGLE.. IT IS FOOLISH TO SAY THEIR PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE NIGGERS, ETC. IF THAT WAS THE CASE WHY THE INSECURITY, APPARENTLY SOME WHITE WOMEN LIKE BLACK MEN. WHITES NEED NOT COMPLAIN. THEY NEEDED SOMEONE TO WORK THE FIELDS, BUILD FOR THEM. THEY FORCED THEMSELVES UPON BLACK WOMEN. SO ITS VERY FOOLISH TO TALK ALL THE HATE TODAY, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE WHITES OUT DATING BLACK WOMEN. IF I HAVE DEEP HATE OF WHITES, YET HAVE SEX WITH WHITE WOMEN, I WILL BE LYING TO SELF. I CAN GO OUT AND HAVE SEX WITH A WHITE WOMAN, THEN CLAIM I DID IT JUST TO ABUSE HER SEXUALLY. I DO NOT CARE TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A WHITE AMERICAN WOMAN, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PAST., I’M HONEST WITH SELF AND OTHERS., I JUST DO NOT CARE TO BE WITH A WHITE WOMAN, BECAUSE IN MY EYE SIGHT, ALL OTHER PEOPLE HAVE A CULTURE, CUSTOMS, TRADITIONS EXCEPT THE WHITES. WHITES WHEN AROUND STEAL OTHER PEOPLE HISTORY. ALL OTHER PEOPLE HAS A BETTER LOOK ABOUT THEM, A APPEAL ABOUT THEM, WHITES DO NOT. I HOLD NO HATE TOWARDS ANY WHITES OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST, WHAT WHITES DONE WAS DONE IN IGNORANCE. FOR WHITES TO CRITICIZE BLACKS TODAY, . THEY SHOULD HAVE LEFT BLACKS ALONG. WHITE WOMEN DEEP WITHIN SEES BLACKS AS HARDER WORKERS THAN WHITE MEN. .MOST OF THOSE WITH ALL THAT PLAYER HATING, MOST LIKELY CLAIMS CHRISTIANITY BUT THEIR ACTIONS ARE FAR FROM BEING CHRIST LIKE.

  • Any Race Dating A Dirty Black American is Degrading Their Value which is why They look to make their Race Better By Mixing with White or staying among Latinos, Shit even blacks are mixing in with whites to make their kids hair Better and lighter skin tone! but many are still stuck in the slave mind thinking the world owes them an apology, Nigga plz we don’t own ya shit!

  • Sandy Dewit

    I JUST READ THE VIEW OF A DOMINICAN WOMAN WHOSE PARENTS WOULD NOT APPROVE OF HER MARRYING OR BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A BLACK. IN MY VIEW DEEP WITHIN ANY PEOPLE THEIR IS NO REAL HATRED OF BLACK, THERE ARE MANY WHOM DISLIKE THE CONDUCT OF MANY BLACKS DUE TO THE IMAGE SOME BLACKS PROJECT, THE GHETTO TALK, THE SWAG, HANGING OUT ON CORNERS, DRINKING, SMOKING IN PUBLIC, THE IMAGE THEY SEE IS A VERY NEGATIVE IMAGE .FOR A HUSBAND OR SON IN-LAW, OR FATHER TO HAVE, WHAT CAN WE EXPECT OF OUR GRAND CHILDREN., BUT MOST OF ALL THE REAL THING WHICH BOTHERS THE PARENTS IS BLACKS HAS BEEN PROJECTED IN A NEGATIVE IMAGE FROM DAY ONE, SINCE THE DAY THEY ARRIVED IN AMERICA AND THEREFORE THE DOMINICAN PARENTS DO NOT WANT THERE DAUGHTERS WITH A BLACKMAN, THE DOMINICAN PARENTS IN THE BACK OF THEIR MIND DO NOT BELIEVE BLACKS WILL EXCEL ., IT IS MORE DUE TO ECONOMICS. IF MICHAEL JACKSON WAS LIVING.OR USHER, OR THE YOUNG SINGER SNOOP CALL COUSIN, MR. WILLIAMS, THE DOMINICAN PARENTS WILL BE ALL FOR IT. THE NEGATIVITIES WE SEE IN SOME BLACKS, ACCEPT THE REALITIES, IT EXIST WITHIN MANY OF THE YOUTHS TODAY OF PRETTY MUCH ALL ETHNIC GROUPS, WE ALL TEND TO COME UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF BLACKS. THEIR MUSIC, THEIR MUSIC ARTIST ARE MORE INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN WORLD WIDE. TO THE DOMINICAN PARENTS, I SAY THIS, AS LONG AS YOU ALL THE PARENTS RAISE YOUR DAUGHTERS RIGHT AND THEY END UP IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A BLACK GUY, DO NOT BE QUICK TO BE JUDGEMENTAL, GET TO KNOW THE GUY, AND LET HIM KNOW YOU STAND FOR HIGH MORALS., REMEMBER WOMAN IS OUR FIRST TEACHER AND THEREFORE YOUR DAUGHTER HAS THE ABILITY TO BRING OUT THE BEST IN THE GUY.. WHEN WE MOVE INTO A HOUSE IT USUALLY IS BARE, EMPTY, THE YARD MAY NOT BEEN WATERED IN A LONG WHILE AND THE HOSE MAY NEED A LOT OF WORK , REPAIRS AND PAINTING, BUT AFTER WHILE YOU PROVIDE IT WITH ALL THAT WAS NEEDED AND BEFORE LONG THE HOUSE BECOMES A HOME. TRY TO SEE THE GOOD IN A PERSON, HAVE FAITH IN SELF, AND YOU AND YOUR DAUGHTER’S WILL BRING OUT THE BEST IN HIM.

  • Sandy Dewit

    THE WHITE MAN HAS ALWAYS TRIED TO DIVIDE AND CONQUER OTHERS. WHEN THE WHITE MAN WANT TO DIVIDE IN ORDER TO DOMINATE A PEOPLE HE WILL TRY TO GET OTHERS TO VIEW THEM SELVES AS WHITE IF THEY ARE OF LIGHT COMPLEXION AND HAVE A DIFFRENT HAIR TEXTURE TO BLACKS. BUT THE BLACKMAN IS THE ORIGINAL MAN, ALL OTHER PEOPLE CAME FROM THE BLACK MAN. THE BLACK MAN BEING THE ABORIGINAL MAN, THE ASIANS, THOSE OF THE MIDDLE EAST, THEY ARE OF THE BLACK RACE, YHE ONLY PEOPLE WHOM ARE WHITES ARE THOSE OF EUROPE AND OF COURSE THEIR CHILDREN WHOM CALLS THEMSELVES AMERICANS, AS LONG AS OTHERS ALLOW WHITES TO EDUCATE THEM IN THE SCHOOLS, AS LONG AS THEY CONTROL TELEVISION, AS LONG AS OTHERS DO NOT STUDY AND WAKE UP THEY WILL CONTINUE TO RULE. I DO NOT SEE WHY A PEOPLE WOULD FORCE THEMSELVES UPON A PEOPLE, GIVE OTHERS ALCOHOL, GIVE OTHERS WEAPONS TO FIGHT AMONG THEMSELVES THEN CLAIM SUPERIORITY. AS FOR THOSE OF LATIN AMERICA WHOM ARE CLAIMING THEMSELVES WHITE., THEY NEED TO READ CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS BOOK, CALLED CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS DIARY, WHEN HIM AND HIS HINCHMEN WENT TO MEXICO, HE SAID WE HAVE TO MAKE THE PEOPLE THINK LIKE US, MAKE THEM THINK OF THEMSELVES AS WHITE.. TODAY MANY OF THEM PREFER TO CLAIM WHITE BECAUSE OF THE NEGATIVE IMAGE WHICH HAS BEEN ATTACHED TO BLACKS.. NON OF US DECIDED OUR COLOR. I DO NOT TAKE PRIDE IN MY COLOR, FOR AMONG PEOPLE OF MY COLOR THERE ARE SOME VERY FOOLISH AND THERE ARE SOME DECENT AS WELL. I DID NOT SELECT WHAT COLOR I WOULD BE, SO I CAN NOT TAKE PRIDE IN THAT. I TAKE PRIDE IN MY PARENTS, MY FAMILY AND I THANK GOD FOR THEM AND THE UP BRINGING I RECEIVED AND THAT I HOLD TO. .

  • Sandy Dewit

    THOSE WHOM ARE PLAYER HATING BLACKS, SHOULD NOT HAVE ATTACHED THEIR NAMES TO BLACKS.NORMALLY WHEN A PERSON DO NOT LIKE A PERSON HE OR SHE DO NOT BESTORE THEIR NAMES UPON THEM. NO BLACK PERSON SHOULD BE COMFORTABLE CARRYING THE WHITE MAN NAMES, WASHINGTON, SMITH, HOWARDS, LOPEZ, GOMEZ, GONZALES, IT’S STRANGE .