Summary of “The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans” by Benjamin Bailey

In this small passage from “The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans” by Benjamin Bailey, shows how young Dominican Americans use language to connect themselves to their surroundings. Many Dominican Americans are bilingual, meaning they can speak Spanish and English fairly well. Many cultures find that language is important to identity, and Dominicans are no different. In the article, the author, Benjamin Bailey, conducts research to find out just how much language means to these young men and women.

Many Spanish speaking countries tend to have different dialects of Spanish than standard Spanish, which leads to differences in tone and speech between the different Spanish speaking countries. For example, Dominican Spanish tends to have the speaker speak much faster than other country dialects, like Mexican Spanish. And sometimes, if English is also a part of the place’s origin, the speakers will speak Spanglish, a mix of Spanish and English in the middle of their conversation. A good example would be starting the sentence in English, but then sprinkling Spanish words in the middle, or vice versa. The author’s research found that up to 90 percent of Dominican Americans have Sub-Saharan African ancestry, however, Most Dominicans identify themselves as Spanish or “Dominican” despite the fact that they may be more African than have actual Spanish ancestors. Some feel that if someone speaks Spanish, then they are Spanish, not black, as many Dominicans will argue that speaking Spanish is what makes them different than African Americans. Many feel the need to distinguish themselves from other African Americans to retain their own identity. Though this doesn’t mean they show animosity to their African American friends, they can still be friends with them, but they consider themselves Spanish instead of being “black”.

Dominican Americans also find that they also don’t feel at home with “Pure” Dominicans because they are called “Bootleg Dominicans”, a “knock-off” version of a “real” Dominican. They are socially out-casted from “real” Dominican social groups because they have the parentage of being Dominican, but haven’t been raised in the Dominican Republic. This leads to Dominican Americans to stick closer together and create their own social circles of themselves. Dominicans tend to feel superior to Dominican Americans because they were born and raised in D.R as an “authentic” Dominican.

Dominican Americans use Spanish as a racial identifier instead of using their skin like many others do. Dominicans feel that if you weren’t born in D.R and raised there, you aren’t a “true” Dominican. The author has found that there is a social divide between Dominicans and Dominican Americans because of their definition of what is and isn’t “authentic” regarding their origin. Though there is no animosity between Dominican Americans and their African American peers, the Dominican Americans still tend to associate themselves as Spanish instead of being African American.

Bailey, Benjamin. 2000. “The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans.”
Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 10 (2): 190–223

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