Colorism in Dominican Society: A Qualitative Exploration of the Historical Roots and Behaviors Regarding Skin Complexion in the Dominican Republic

Jeanelle Wicks


Since Haiti’s occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1821, Dominican-Haitian relations have been characterized by tension and, often times, hatred. Because the first Black republic ruled over its neighbor, with which it shares an island, Blackness has been associated with negativity. In addition, the Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who ruled for nearly 20 years, furthered negative relations by ordering the onslaught of nearly 30,000 Haitians at the Dominican Republic-Haiti border and by promoting racist attitudes towards Haitians. Today, as in the past, Dominican society places a large emphasis on skin color. Those of lighter skin complexions are perceived as a symbol of beauty and capability, while darker individuals are perceived as less attractive and incapable. The majority of Black individuals who visit and live in the Dominican Republic are associated with being Haitian, thereby treated poorly. Skin complexion is a determinant of how people are received socially as well as their economic and career opportunities. Many darker people face various degrees of social rejection and fewer opportunities. From a young age, Dominican norms of colorism are introduced and the cycle of prejudices continues. Employing the Social Learning Theory, this paper analyzes the historical roots as well as the perpetual negative attitudes and behavior towards Black individuals in the Dominican Republic. Expert interviews and data from books, articles and Internet sources collected through document analysis are used to explore the theory and hypothesis. This paper hypothesizes that if social agents such as family, religion and the media continue to influence Dominicans from a young age, particularly regarding racism and colorism, then the cycle of prejudices will continue. Utilizing qualitative methodology to analyze this social situation, this paper strongly highlights the idea that socialization has much to do with the continuation of colorism in Dominican society.


Dominican Republic; Racism; Colorism; Socialization; Prejudice

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