". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Rights Advocate’s Work Divides Dominicans - SONIA PIERRE

[ Born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents, Ms. Pierre, 44, has spent her life advocating on behalf of Haitians and ethnic Haitians who hold Dominican citizenship but are subjected to racial discrimination in a society that places a high value on lighter skin. At the age of 13, she organized a protest by sugar-cane workers in one of the Dominican slums — known as bateyes — where she grew up seeing Haitian workers oppressed by their Dominican bosses.

Her current troubles with the government stem from 2005, when her organization, Movement for Dominico-Haitian Women, took to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights the case of two ethnic Haitian children who were denied Dominican birth certificates. The court found in their favor, ordering the government to provide the birth certificates and pay $8,000 in damages to each of the children. ]

[ Race is a complicated issue in the Dominican Republic, where much of the population traces its ancestry to the African slaves brought to the island, but where few regard themselves as black. Ms. Pierre said it was considered a compliment for a light-skinned Dominican to tell a dark-skinned one that he had the soul of a white person. Saying that someone thinks like a black person, Ms. Pierre says, is the equivalent of labeling the person ignorant. ]

[ “Haitianization” is what Dominicans call the negative influences that poor Haitians bring to their side of the island. Mr. Morales, the foreign minister, explained in his letter protesting Ms. Pierre’s award that his country could not handle the huge numbers of illegal Haitian immigrants. He put the blame on the United States and other countries for failing to improve conditions in Haiti. ]

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