chapter  11
18 Pages

The Reproduction of Color and Class in Haitian Bilingual Classrooms


I was interviewing the mother of one of my study participants in Boston, Massachusetts, when, while discussing issues of discrimination on the job, she made the preceding statement. At the time of the interview, this woman was working in a nursing home as a nurse’s assistant. Irrespective of educational attainment or occupational niche in Haiti, and much to my informant’s consternation, medical services comprise one of the top two occupational niches in which Haitian women in Greater Boston fi nd themselves (Suárez-Orozco and Suárez-Orozco 2000). The implications of this circumstance are that Haitians who in Haiti would have had no occasion for social contact, fi nd themselves working side by side but not developing social relationships (Buchanan 1983). In Haiti, this woman worked as a receptionist for the telephone company. Phenotypically, she is what Haitians would describe as wouj (red) or griffonne, in reference to her lightbrown skin and black, relatively fi ne, long hair. Over the course of the two years, during which I conducted fi eldwork in the Haitian communities of Boston and Cambridge, I came to understand that her statement captured a feature of social relations among diasporic Haitian immigrants, namely, the process of reproducing in the United States the class and color distinctions that exist in Haiti.2