Kiskeya x The Racial Inferiority Complex

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This piece originally appeared on Remezcla.com, an excerpt has been republished here with permission. -

Any idea can be embedded into a person’s subconscious. In the case of the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by modern-day Dominican Republic and Haiti, that idea is the complejo colonial – the racial inferiority complex born of colonization and centuries of dominant white supremacist ideology.  As a Dominican-American woman who grew up in the West Harlem neighborhood of New York City and identifies as Afro-Latina, my own experience with race and identity has been an ongoing personal journey – one that’s been very present in my mind as DR’s ongoing immigration crisis has dominated the news cycle.

As a child, I spent a lot of time in the Dominican Republic, specifically in the campos of Tamboril and La Ciénaga and in the barrio of Ensanche Libertad, (all provinces of Santiago de los Caballeros). I identify as Afro-Latina and acknowledge my Taino, Spanish, and African roots, but for as far back as I can remember, the black/white racial dichotomy has been a topic of discussion in my culture. You know how it goes: white is the color associated with purity and goodness, whereas black is commonly seen as the color of impurity and evil. This duality has manifested itself in many ways throughout the world’s history, but in Dominican culture, one of the ways it takes shape is in religion and spirituality.

I grew up understanding magia negra y magia blanca as described by Dominicans in the northern part of the country, where my family is from. “White magic” was used for healing the sick, and involved a lot of natural cleansing baths and prayers to the spirits that we worshipped; “black magic,” on the other hand, involved sacrificing of animals and other rituals. It wasn’t until I did my own research that I understood the African Yoruba origins of these ancient practices and how they related to the Eurocentric Catholicism I was accustomed to. I felt conflicted by my family’s hypocritical ways of connecting with their spirituality. We went to Catholic church on Sundays but had an altar at home for Belie Belcan (a Yoruba spirit that is syncretized with San Miguel, the protector against evil). They prayed to both Jesus and to Papa Elegua (the chief deity of the Yoruba religion), but when my grandmother’s church friends came over, she’d hide any signs of Santería. I imagine she was afraid of being judged, since Santería and voodoo are taboo in Dominican culture because of their connections to blackness.

 

Read the full piece here.