My psyche has been slammed in every direction these past two weeks by reminders that I am Black, I am Haitian and I am irrelevant.
A recent trip to Negril, Jamaica brought me back to my island roots. A group of us took our trip off the “all-inclusive resort” beaten path in search of some adventure. I was reminded of being in the “yard” or “lakou”, buying drinks from a shanty-looking building held up by a few pieces of wood. Eating curry crab from a woman on the side of the street. Getting fresh lemon grass to make tea with back home. A heat so palpable that only an ancient, bat-ridden cave with cool spring water can be the remedy. To feel welcomed not because I’m a tourist but because I look like them makes all the difference in the world. A country that has strived to live in its motto of “out of many, one people.”
Now to hear that not one but two island nations, Dominican Republic and now Turks and Caicos, have basically told me that I am not wanted makes me feel just that–unwanted. A recent reflection activity laid bare the memories of the Center for Disease Control accusing Haitians of being the bearer of AIDS. I didn’t give blood until I was 31 years old. And then it was only for my preemie niece. Years and years of being told directly or subtly that “you are Haitian, so your life doesn’t matter.”
I am curious to see how the DR can determine whose a person of Dominican ancestry. Their complexions are like mine and when I hear my dad speak of his Dominican grandmother, I understand why he and my brother share the same curl pattern on their wavy close cropped head. I understand my dad’s fluency with Spanish. I understand the history of a people who co-mingled and made a life sharing an island for centuries.
Turks and Caicos has jumped on the idiocy band of racism and prejudice. I am not even sure if you call it racism between people of the same race. But to call it prejudice, to call it bigotry just isn’t enough. An example of yet another one of humanity’s methods of degrading each other just because.
I’m searching for age-old answers to the why’s and the how’s behind what DR and Turks Caicos has now laid bare for me to see. I’m searching for ways to cope with these feelings of inadequacy. Why my people? Are we not clean enough for you? Is our hair not straight enough for you? Are we not light enough for you? Are we not smart enough for you?
We set the trend and wrote the book on how to unseat your slave masters. We, the Pearl of the Caribbean, now tarnished and set aside.