Monday, March 24, 2014

Do you speak english?

Race and color come up a lot more in my life now than they ever did. There is a group of PCV's that I have involved myself with who hold the purpose of discussing minority issues. I also spent some time on Sunday with my room mate discussing my race, her race, and what it means for life here and in the United States. The only purpose of this post is to describe some scenarios that are common in my life here and I may throw some in for back home.

As my room mate and I walked with a Dominican man who was guiding us we discussed with him where we lived and where we were from. We both stated that we were living in Muñoz now, but that we were American. He said he was full Dominican. He also asked me, "pero, eres todo Dominicano, verdad?" I told him that no, I was America. I said that I was pretty sure my mom was of German decent, though we've never really talked about it, and that I had no idea where my father was from, but that I knew he wasn't Dominican. The guide was shocked. I guess here you tend to be one of three things, white, Haitian, or Dominican. That's probably a very broad generalization, but it seems to fit in many cases.

That in mind, this doesn't tend to be a serious matter for me. I told my room mate that i just use my skin color to my advantage when I can, i.e. I will keep my voice down in guaguas when I'm alone, so nobody questions my Dominican-ness and I don't have to haggle for a fair price. I also have times when I know white skin would make life easier, i.e. No one in my site gives me a bolla unless I have a white person with me.

I was also telling my room mate that the subtle-differences that take place because of race are hard to notice unless there is a way for you to flow between the two. I've had that chance in life here as well as back home. I'm grouped with whoever I am with. If I am with a group of mostly white people, servers are nicer, I'm more likely to get a simple advantage like a bolla down here or an on the house muffin at Mimi's in the states. If I am with mostly darker people, that stuff is less likely to happen. When I am in the gift shop down here with my room mate, people walk in a speak English to me and treat me like an America, when I am down there with just the Haitian guy I work with people walk in, stumble over spanish, and offer to pay me for a simple Google search. "I have money. I'll just have to go get it. Would you Google something for me." Race difference is subtle my friends, but it is real, tough often accidental.

I'm not pushing some kind of race issues. I actually think it's not that big of a deal. The mind works by generalizing things that make sense. It makes sense that a brown girl in the Dominican Republic would be Dominican and would therefore speak spanish. It wold make sense because that is likely what people have encountered on their entire trip. It would make sense for them to stumble over their spanish to try to communicate with me. It also makes sense, and is quite funny, when I speak english and throw this Canadian guy off so much that he doesn't understand my english to be english.

Okay. This is getting long. In summary. I'm not white. But I'm not black either, and sometimes the results are funny and sometimes it means I have to walk when white skin would have earned me a free ride, while other times it just means Americans, Dominicans, and Canadians are confused by my nationality an language skills.

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