As we become more aware and attuned, we are bound to make mistakes – which means in various scenarios we may cause harm or be harmed. Our fear of this can force us to retreat from tough conversations or important moments of learning. But suppose we can equip ourselves with tools for navigating challenging situations. In that case, we can more effectively practice harm reduction if and when it occurs – and feel more confident when engaging in uncomfortable situations. This act may allow us to stay in relationship – not run and flee.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti share an island in the Caribbean, and there are many racial, ethnic, and cultural similarities between the two nations. Though most Dominicans in the DR identify as mixed-race, the overwhelming majority of Dominicans, like Haitians, are Black by American racial standards (Black Excellence). About half of the population of the gentrifying neighborhood of Washington Heights, Manhattan, where In the Heights is set, is Dominican (U.S. Census Bureau). Washington Heights comprises one of the largest immigrant communities from the Dominican Republic within the U.S. (Furman Center). Unfortunately, In the Heights wildly misrepresents the Dominicans living in this culturally significant neighborhood, continuing a trend where Afro-Latinos are ignored on screen.
It’s hypocritical to consume Asian or Asian-American cultural products and then refuse to defend Asian communities in the U.S. – or worse, exhibit open hostility against them. At the same time, we shouldn’t predicate supporting immigrant communities on enjoying their food, especially since the reason why so many Asian immigrants work in restaurants is itself a product of American racism.