Over the Thanksgiving break someone asked me “Is your boyfriend a Dominican too?” and when I said yes the woman was actually upset. I thought she would say something stereotypical about Dominican men but instead she told me that I should have found someone outside of my race so I can “better” it. I did not show her my anger but I was actually enraged. She too is Latina so I don’t understand why she thinks about us is not good enough. I responded by telling her that Dominican, or Hispanic for that matter, is not a race and that I did not feel ashamed of being Dominican. This encounter makes me think of the level of ignorance that people have and how much they are hurting themselves and others with comments like that.
There is clearly an image of racial hierarchy. In Latin America this stems from colonialism. According to Michael Hunt “Colonists carried with them Elizabethan prejudices that associated the color black and by extension the dark-skinned peoples of Africa with baseness and evil. White stood as the moral and aesthetic opposite, the symbol of virtue, beauty, and purity.” Hundreds of years have not been enough, and probably will never be enough to erase these perceptions. Unfortunately, people like that woman who think I need to marry “up” do not even consider themselves equal to others since apparently she thinks that we need to marry lighter skinned people to “better our race.”
Hunts’ article discusses the construction of racial hierarchy as benefiting a specific class, the elite. He notes that, “The elite interested in policy had at hand in the hierarchy of race a key to reducing other peoples and nations to readily comprehensible and familiar terms.” Not only is this woman hurting herself by devaluing our nature, but she is enforcing the values that the white elite want us to maintain in order for them to have power over what they consider to be inferior races. Reestablishing these values will always keep non-white races and ethnicity at the bottom of society, and comments like the one I received will help preserve this structure.
For the full article on racial hierarchy by Michael Hunt go to: http://us.history.wisc.edu/hist102/readings/Hunt_HierarchyOfRace.pdf