miércoles, junio 17, 2015

Dominicans should ignore the outcry about the country immigration laws

Reaction is fueled by a deliberate attempt to hide the real story

If you happen to search for the #DominicanRepublic hashtag on Twitter or like me you have a “Dominican Republic” Google News alert you really can’t escape a torrent of “news articles”,   opinion pieces and hostile tweets about our country and our immigration policies.

If we were to believe the social media storm, our country is about to embark in an ethnic cleansing campaign aimed to expel black Dominicans of Haitian descent.  As an example I offer Abby Phillip’s “The bloody origins of the Dominican Republic’s ethnic ‘cleansing’ of Haitians”, that went up in the prestigious Washington Post website last night.

In her piece Ms. Phillip quotes from a few individuals living in the United States and present their claims as facts.  Among them:

  • The Dominican government is expected to round up not only Haitians, but "anyone black enough to be Haitian”
  • The government initiative to "cleanse" the country's immigration rolls is "reminiscent of the Holocaust”
  • The Dominican government is "identifying Haitian-sounding names, then forcing Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent to prove that they are citizens”

No official from the Dominican Republic government apparently was contacted by Ms. Phillip to present their side of the story for balance, even though in her Twitter account she indicates that she is in fact a reporter.  I contacted Ms. Phillip at her Twitter and email accounts about this apparent oversight, but never got a reply.  Finally I called her at the Washington Post and had a very brief conversation about what I though was lacking in her article.

Even though I was bothered by the content of her piece I was polite, didn’t raise my voice and explained my concern.  Ms. Phillip limited herself to listening to my points and just said “O.k., thanks for calling”.  At that point I thanked her for listening and ended the conversation.

I would have expected that a professional journalist would at least make a cursory attempt to engage me in conversation about a topic that she is covering (I made sure to ask at the beginning of the conversation if this was a good time to call and she said that it was).  Nothing of the sorts, and my impression was that she really was not interested in discussing her piece.  

The point of my post is not to rail against Ms. Phillip and others like her that are covering this important issue in a similar manner.  I was not at all surprised by her reaction, because it’s clear by her writing that she’s not really dedicated to her profession and even less in pursuing the truth.

No, this post is addressed at my fellow Dominicans, to whom I say the following: Just ignore the whole thing.  Don’t pay attention to the “journalists” that file reports after reports describing a situation that we do not recognize because is not true.  Those of us who have been following the news about our relationship with Haiti and Haitian immigrants living in our country know that the international media coverage is one-sided and no serious attempt is made at covering what is indeed a very complex situation.

Why this is so is not important; theories abound, people talk about international conspiracies, lazy journalism or whatever… but in reality, it really doesn’t matter.  The news will always be presented following this template:

  • After an incident or major news about Haitians in the Dominican Republic…
  • The press will skim over the facts and find a way to make it about race…
  • The incident will be tied to our immigration laws and about the “hatred” that Dominicans feel toward Haitians.
  • Optional: Dominicans are called racist who are ashamed of their African heritage and that “think they are Spaniards”.  Also, they may call for a boycott of the country

My fellow Dominicans: I know that a lot of you will head to the comments section of the offending “news article”/opinion piece and respond with our side of the story.  You will reply about the Haitians that study in our schools, that use our hospitals, the women in labor that cross the border and are cared for at no cost to them, about he help provided during the earthquake in 2010, and so on.  To which I say: Don’t waste your time, because they either know this already or most likely do not really care to learn these facts in the first place.

There is nothing that prevents them from learning more about this issue if they really wanted to; they probably work for large media organizations with the reach and resources to get to the bottom of any story they are interested in.  Your facts are irrelevant to their interest in pushing their story and will be discarded as background noise.  You don’t exist to them, except as traffic for their websites in which they sell advertisement….which is another reason not to engage them.  They are insulting you and at the same time profiting from your visits.

Let’s not do this anymore.  We have more important things to do as a people and as a country.  They, whoever they are and whatever their motivations, have no power over us.  They can’t force us to change our immigration laws to accommodate their desires or prejudices.

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