A Tale of Two Worlds

 Military police checkpoint on the Dominican/Haitian border.

Military police checkpoint on the Dominican/Haitian border.

Days before New Years Day 2018, the last day my family and I were in the Dominican Republic, my brother, who has dreaded hair with caramel skin and myself, tall, dark-skinned, and largely built, were driving behind our stepfather in our uncle’s car dropping it off to our aunt’s house. As we reached el pointe (main part of town), a dark-skinned medium built male in plain clothes and no badge stood in the middle of the street with his hand on a pistol; waving cars by. My brother, driving at the time, drove around the man though he was waving at us to stop. Seconds later, both of us confused, the gentleman and his partner, who was dressed in police clothes; stopped in front of us in a motorcycle, pointing pistols at us.

The men, who we later learned were police officers, began screaming- "Salga de el auto con las manos en el aire" (“Get out the car with your hands in the air”).

Officer in plain clothes and no badge showing- ¿Por qué no te detuviste cuando te lo dije?” ("Why didn’t you stop when I told you to?”)

My brother-"¿Por qué me detendría por alguien sin distintivo, y su mano en una pistola  que me hizo señas?" (“Why would I stop for someone with no badge, and their hand on a pistol waving me down?”)

Me-“Pensamos que nos estabas atracando" (“We thought you were setting us up.”)

Step-Father- "Hermanos, ya me conocen, hemos bebido juntos antes, estos son mis hijastros. Solo estábamos buscando dejar el auto en la casa de su tía"(“Guys you already know me, we’ve drank together before, these are my stepsons. We were just looking to drop-off the car to their aunt’s house.”)

Officer in uniform- “Bueno, estábamos deteniéndote porque no vemos mucho de eso por aquí. - gente usando cinturones de seguridad" (”Well we’re stopping you because we don’t see much of that around here -people wearing seatbelts)”

As the officer in the plain clothes was searching the car, I looked into the back-rear mirror spotting a grasshopper the size of my palm on the left side of the car. Laughing internally, I showed my brother, looking to bring some light to a weird situation. Thinking to myself we are nothing but grasshoppers, learning from grasshoppers. Embrace each moment to its fullest  and enjoy the moments we have on this earth, for they aren't promised.

Police officers in Dominican Republic are known to blackmail monies out of tourists, which could have been what these gentlemen wanted to do, especially before the holidays. For those traveling outside the states, please be mindful, there is such a thing as American privilege. Having the ability to go to other countries, as most people do not, is a privilege, which may lead to some citizens believing either you're rich, or at least better off than they are. Due to the effects of colorism and economic caste systems there are many citizens of other countries who take issue with people who look differently from what they’re used to seeing.

These gentlemen have been affected by years of genocide and colonization by the Spaniards and French, and years of forceful dictatorship under Rafael Trujillo, parties who played a role in today’s self-hatred, colorism and economic hierarchy, and the divide of a country originally known as “Ayiti”. Even today most dark-skinned Dominicans will not acknowledge their Haitian/Blackness ethnicity, because of years of being called Negro or Moreno sucio (Dirty Dark-skinned), instead of being embraced by their country men and women.  

These police officers in my opinion tried stopping us for either of two  reasons. One, my brother and I stood out from what is normally seen in those streets: a caramel skinned brother with dreads, alongside a tall dark-skinned heavy-set brother (wearing seatbelts) isn’t common. Second, we had “American’ written across our foreheads (not literally of course); that made us potential victims, as they try to rake in funds for their families and themselves.Currently Dominican Republic’s Top 1% of citizens own 10% of the monies, while the Bottom 10% of citizens own 1% of the monies.  

 

Those officers may have been trying to get it wherever they can, using the power they do have for selfish gain, which isn’t right, yet these men aren’t the only ones. In today’s society this can be seen daily, as middle class citizens living in inner cities and urban areas being pushed out, while in these same areas there are magically transformed into lofts, condos and dream homes. Or the lack of attention given to the Youth and Elderly (also happening in DR), as our educational system hasn’t changed since the Industrial age and veterans and other elders being left homeless.

As this journey continues to the understanding of body, mind and soul; there is importance in understanding there are those who have been affected by institutional systems like slavery, Jim Crow, the New Jim Crow, and by certain western beliefs and desires. If our Village does not Stand; the worlds’ systems shall continue to be used by those in power and influence for one’s selfish gain.

As people get tired of rigid systems and bottom-feeding, the Matrix will continue to reveal itself. Communities are realizing it takes a village to raise a being, a collaborative effort that puts “ego” aside and understands there is strength in numbers. The answers we seek are in the place we are seeking from; along with the being next to you.

 My brother and I in a taxi.

My brother and I in a taxi.

Love, Compassion and Joy,

Frank Mena