The Dominican government has long-standing issues with activists and human rights organizations regarding their treatment of Haitian-descendant residents in the country. Now, they have engaged in a deliberate “ethnic cleansing” of Black Dominicans of Haitian descent by legalizing the mass deportations and the terror-like hunting of Haitian residents in the DR. While many have suggested that the United States should do more from an institutional perspective, some have pushed for a travel and product boycott hoping to send a message to Dominican leadership that their treatment of Haitian-descendant residents is unacceptable. But will it?
Many of the concerns regarding human rights infringements and accusations of apartheid in the Dominican Republic stem from a September 2013 ruling by the Constitutional Court which left thousands of the descendants of Haitian immigrants stateless. The ruling left a gap in the terms of citizenship which could be (and have been) exploited by those seeking to “ethnically cleanse” the country of their poorest, blackest residents.
These actions spawned the creation of a Facebook group and Change.org petition calling for mass boycotts of the country. Similarly, recent criticisms from Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz and Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat suggest that American citizens have some influence on these issues by how they choose to spend their dollars on travel and other leisure activities. While they have not explicitly called for boycott, they have emphasized that there are many ways to understand how Americans contribute to the DR’s economy. On the political front, Boston’s Mayor and state senator have each called for a boycott of the DR following these recent events. However, we have yet to hear anything concrete from Congress or the White House regarding the ongoing exclusion of Black Haitian-Dominicans.
Some have suggested that a boycott might actually be harmful to the very citizens it is meant to help. To add, these folks suggest, it is hypocritical of the United States to suggest boycotting the DR when we engage in similar practices here, specifically toward Mexican immigrants. These criticisms are completely valid especially when considering our historical poor handling of border management, deportations, and immigration detention centers which has only slightly improved in recent months.
At this juncture, the boycott does seem counteractive. It won’t actually dismantle the racist systems which continue to oppress Haitian-descendant residents in the DR. In addition, it won’t actually hurt those in power enough to persuade them to change course.
What is needed now is a definitive statement from the United States government decrying these types of human rights violations. Without sanctions against these behaviors, the leadership in the Dominican Republic will likely continue to treat its Black citizens as inhumanely as possible. And, as long as this continues, we will exist in contradiction with the values we profess to hold so dear.
Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.