Colonial Mentality

2014-03-02 13.22.37
2014-03-02 13.35.04
Colonialism is defined as the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.  The island of Quisqueya, renamed by Columbus as Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti), was colonized beginning with his arrival there in 1492.  After decimating the native Taino population through the cruelties of slavery and European diseases, the Spanish and later the French began to supply their own labor demands by bringing tens of thousands of slaves from West Africa.

The people today of the Dominican Republic are primarily of mixed heritage, African and Spanish, with perhaps some genetic connection with the Taino Indians.  The Dominicans have a troubled history of genocide, exploitation, and a leftover demeaning mentality that was and is caused by colonialism.

Colonialism has left its mark and still exerts a type of psychological control on Dominican society.  One strong message of colonizers is that they are vastly superior to the peoples they colonize and enslave.  And now generations later there is still a significant tendency for Dominicans of mostly African heritage to consider themselves inferior to those of lighter skin color.  People of European societies are seen as culturally, socially, politically, and economically superior, to be admired and as the standard to which the Dominicans aspire.

One of the greatest losses resulting from this colonial mentality is cultural.  There is a general agreement among Dominicans that they identify as a mixed race of Spanish and Indian.  They are in denial of their African heritage in spite of the fact that 80% of the Dominican population is mulatto, mixed white and black.  A significant part of their cultural heritage is lost to them and all of us in this denial.

Slavery has an ugly past that most Dominicans prefer to forget.  Slaves were poor, uneducated, abused, exploited, and treated as beasts of burden, considered less than human.  Common sense would declare this a heritage too painful and shameful to recall and better left in the shadow of denial.  The colonizers were powerful, educated, rich, and white.  The slaves were reminded on a daily basis whether spoken or implied that they were inferior to their masters.  In spite of the cruelties of the European masters, the African slaves and their descendants would come to accept the colonial mentality and deny their own heritage.

The African slaves came to see themselves through the eyes of their masters and not through the lens of the Biblical truth that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God.  Standing in the face of the lies of the colonizers, the true heritage of the descendants of African slaves is that they are children of God.  They are created equal to all and gifted with their own particular cultural expressions that need not be denied but rather celebrated and shared.

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