THE DR'S DARK SECRET RACISM AGAINST BLACK DOMINICANS HAS BECOME EPIDEMIC ON THE ISLAND By JULIO TAVAREZ August 8, 2007 -- When I read last week about the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic censuring Loft, a nightclub in the Naco neighborhood of Santo Domingo, because of the club's policy of discrimination against black patrons and employees, it brought back sour memories of a recent trip I took to the island. Dominicans are known the world over for our great baseball players, our beautiful beaches and our friendly people. But there is something of a dirty secret that we sweep under the drug. Racism against black Dominicans, rich or poor, happens everyday, and not just in clubs. On my vacation, some friends I decided to check out a nightspot called Tribeca, in Santiago. Apparently, it was the hot spot. When we arrived, there was no line. As we waited, people began lining up behind us. Slowly they were allowed in. We weren't. I asked a bouncer why and he said one of the owners instructed him not to let us in. Puzzled, I checked our attire. We were dressed similarly to people being let in, so it wasn't what we were wearing. We weren't driving a Mercedes, but we weren't rolling in a Hyundai, either - we had a decent ride. Then, it dawned on me. It wasn't our clothes or our car. The only difference between the people that were given passage and us was they were light-skinned with European features while we were dark-skinned with African features. We were the wrong color. When I told my friend, he just said, "That's how they are here, let's go somewhere else." I was shocked. I had heard stories of people not being allowed into certain places in the DR because of their complexion, but it had never happened to me. I had heard the myth of the black Dominican baseball player who wasn't allowed in a club, bought the place and fired everybody. Stories like these are rampant, and seem like urban legends. But this was no legend. Acts of racism are commonplace in the Dominican Republic. Dark-skinned Dominicans have been told where they belong, and it seems have accepted it. Immediately, I began paying attention, as I do here in the United States, to billboards, television commercials and programs. Billboard after billboard featured not one dark face. In television commercials and programs, dark Dominicans were barely present and most of the time weren't even shown at all. It was as if we didn't even exist. In a country where more than 80 percent of the population is mixed with an African descendant, one would expect that at least some mixed-race actors would be used in commercials, but they don't make the cut, either. The unrelenting oppression of African culture and the discrimination against those that are, either partly or fully, descendants of the African people, continue to pull our country deeper into depths of poverty, ignorance and despair. Racism is nothing new in Latin America. The question is what are we doing about it? Tego Calderón, in a Tempo column last year, wrote that we needed a civil rights movement for Latino blacks. I agree. We no longer can continue to sweep this dirty secret under the rug. Julio Tavarez is the director of the Passaic County Chapter of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey NEW YORK POST is a registered trademark of NYP Holdings, Inc. NYPOST.COM, NYPOSTONLINE. COM, and NEWYORKPOST. COM are trademarks of NYP Holdings, Inc. Copyright 2007 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.