Urban Expansion, Housing and the Le Corbusier Trap

By Desmond

Can developing-world cities keep up with their growing population demand for housing without sowing the seeds of future social disorder?

After more than two centuries, global urbanization continues to speed up. The world’s population is currently 54% urban, and is slated to hit 58% by 2050. Unfortunately, the global supply of housing has not kept up. In quickly low to middle income  countries across the global South, the majority of urban populations is trapped in slums without high quality housing, social services or a meaningful level of infrastructure. This problem was thrown into sharp relief two years ago, when the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics were adversely affected by runoff from favelas, or hilltop slums, few of which have trash pickup, clean water or other social services.

The African continent is rapidly catching up with the rest of the world in terms of urbanization  Source: World Bank Data portal

The African continent is rapidly catching up with the rest of the world in terms of urbanization

Source: World Bank Data portal


The world has faced such problems before. Following the Second World War, a combination of explosive population growth and destroyed housing stock forced European countries to pour resources into creating a new housing system virtually overnight. They did so—there were no permanent slums in Paris or Prague—but at a cost to social cohesion. The new housing built in the wake of the war failed to provide the social spaces needed to hold a community together: much of it was located on the outskirts of major cities, far away from grocers, doctors’ offices and other businesses, according to Andrew Hussey’s 2014 book The French Intifada. Traveling through the outskirts of Lyon, in eastern France, Hussey found that the unwelcoming banlieus had become a new kind of slum, home to mostly black and brown African-French, and nursery to the explosive race riots that tore the city apart in the early 1980s. More recently, the isolation of the banlieus has pushed many black and Arab Frenchmen toward the siren song of jihad and violence against a society that has physically rejected them. Nor is this phenomenon confined to France; in his magisterial Postwar: The History of Europe Since 1945, British historian Tony Judt found that the upheavals that convulsed western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s usually grew out of the substandard housing complexes on the margins of booming cities such as Milan and Paris.

A great deal of responsibility for this disorder can be laid at one man’s feet. Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known by his professional name Le Corbusier, is little known in the United States. But the Swiss-French architect’s modernist style, characterized by the use of white concrete and supporting pillars, is evident in most continental European cities. While his work won many architectural awards, Le Corbusier’s impact on urban planning was disastrous. He favored enormous buildings, wide boulevards for fleets of cars and the wholesale rejection of old, walkable city centers. Despite minimizing the chances of social integration, his designs had the advantage of being cheap, and were widely adopted by social housing authorities. At a time when their successors in developing cities such as Lagos face many of the same challenges and pressures, it is far from certain that they will learn from the past.

And yet, the Swiss architect’s work may hold the key to ameliorating global housing shortages. In the half-century since massive postwar housing blocks began to show strain, the world has refined its approach to design. Projects such as BedZED, an “eco-village” in southwest England, are emphasizing the importance of mixed-use spaces, placing schools, shops and homes in compact, walkable spaces. In developing world settings, Le Corbusier’s minimalist, inexpensive housing designs could be combined with mixed-use layouts to obtain the best of both worlds. Cities have done this before; Berlin and Tel Aviv, both of which were rebuilt after 1945, used simple, Le Corbusier-esque designs on a smaller scale than he had originally intended, creating modern, walkable central cities. Whether Lagos, Nairobi or Saigon will embrace such a mixed approach remains to be seen. 


Fixing What is Breaking: Rex Tillerson’s Journey to Rekindling Inter-American Solidarity

By Cecilia Godoy

On Feb 1st, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson kicked off a Latin American tour to improve relations with the region. On the trip that began this past week, Tillerson is expected to start his tour in Mexico with later stops in Argentina, Peru, Colombia, and Jamaica. The campaign is essentially an effort to build on the Inter-American sentiment of solidarity and establish a unified front against the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. However, a significant level of rapprochement and diplomacy will be required to get these countries and allies on board. The Trump Administration has made it quite clear that the U.S.-Mexican relationship will be significantly different from what it was like during the Obama years. One of the president’s newest tweets attacked Mexico, calling it “the number one most dangerous country in the world,”[1] a statement that could damage relations with an important trading partner and ally.

On January 31st, the Secretary did serious damage control following President Trump’s inflammatory remarks about Mexico. Secretary Tillerson held talks with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto and other senior officials to clarify America’s official position on issues relating to NAFTA and immigration. However, at the news conference following the meetings, Tillerson defended Trump’s attempts “to modernize the NAFTA agreement, and to crack down on both legal and illegal immigration.”[2] Additionally, he stated that one of the Trump administration’s key goals is to “clean up the troubled U.S. immigration system and lift the cloud of uncertainty on immigrants living without proper documentation.”[3] While both governments claim that diplomatic and economic relations are not at risk of changing, Rex Tillerson’s reception in Mexico City was decidedly frosty. Protesters voiced their outrage and discontent by taking to the streets and calling for Tillerson's resignation.

The upcoming Mexican presidential election in July will be critical in determining the quality of US-Mexican relations in the future. The front-runner, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, would take a more confrontational policy towards America which could further heighten the tension between the two countries. López Obrador has criticized the Trump Administration’s moves to deport unauthorized immigrants and has “promised to end a relationship of subordination to the United States.”[4] The ruling party’s candidate, Jose Antonio Meade, is currently third in recent polls.

The Trump administration’s rhetoric and actions over the past year, seems to have given rise to anti-Mexican sentiment in the United States. Before the Trump administration, it looked as though the U.S.-Mexican relationship was improving with both sides finally taking to each other.[5] Instead of furthering the progress made however, the Trump administration has used inflammatory rhetoric in order secure its position as the regional hegemon. It appears that the American public needs to be educated on the interdependence of US-Mexican relations. By understanding that benefits are being offered to both countries, the public will learn to value the social and economic relationship between these historical allies.

Why “Shithole” Countries Like Haiti Have Such a Poor Economy: Part 1

by Sabine Tessono

“Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” According to one source, President Trump made this remark while discussing a bipartisan immigration deal with a team of senators.  Unfortunately, seems as though that was not the most controversial comment made during the closed White House meeting on January 11th. Almost three weeks ago, President Trump reportedly made the harsh comment about African and Haitian immigrants coming to the US from “shithole countries.” These offensive statements tie into a pattern of  another reported issue of Trump targeting Haitian people, a pattern enforced by his June claim that they “all have AIDs” during a meeting on immigration. While Trump’s words were tone-deaf at best  and racist at worst, his apparent severely negative perception idea of black-populated countries, particularly Haiti, is reflective of an underlying, very dismissive idea that a significant number of both Americans and those living outside the United States have towards those same regions. While Haiti is one of, if not the, poorest country in the Western hemisphere, it didn’t suddenly appear into existence like that. In this post, we will attempt to understand how and why Haiti descended into its current state of rampant economic and humanitarian crisis, and examine the factors, often of Western origin, that continue to prevent it from successfully re-establishing itself.

In order to understand the country’s present state, we have to first look to its past. In 1804, Haiti became the first black slave nation to gain independence from France. While this may have been seen as a victory at first, the sudden revolution caused a great deal of instability within the country due to it being “diplomatically and economically isolated and facing a continual threat of foreign intervention.” The a swift cut off from the white European states that had built an economy supported by plantations forced Haiti into a state of deep fiscal crisis as there existed no infrastructure upon which the new government could fall back. This contributed to a lack of true autonomy, with a hierarchy of upper class mulatto people and lower class emancipated slaves still experiencing ever-increasing wealth disparity. A constant cycle of unsteady governments and interfering global powers that ignored the interests of the general population also set the foundation for turbulence within Haiti’s history which carries through to the present day. Influential early leaders such as Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines,  and Henri Christophe, should have been expected to intently focus on effectively building up the economic and social structure of the newly formed state, giving subsequent leaders a solid base from which to build. While some of their tactics did help to establish Haiti as a threat and an example to Europe, squabbles between officials often regarding furthering their own self-interests  led to a long line of “revolving door governments that inconsistently invited and spurned foreign investment.” and political puppetry that continues to refuse to address the social and economic inequalities the common people suffer from. These incompatible elements come together to form a disorganized and divided system that still hasn’t been effectively disentangled to this day.

If anything, the fiscal issues that overwhelm Haiti in the present day are intrinsically linked to the creation of the nation itself, and the interfering Western nations and leaders of that time period. However, Haiti’s story of continual hardship doesn’t stop there. In order to fully understand what led to its present state, one must thoroughly examine a few key specific and disasters through a closer lens. The next installment of this series will break down a few of these in an attempt to reconcile what many see as a country entirely to blame for its hardships, and Western influence that seems to either have left decades ago,  

-To be continued-


The Countdown To Day Zero Begins

By Cecilia Godoy

Cape Town, a South African city renowned for its natural endowments, is running a severe risk of being the first major city to run out of water in its reservoirs. Day Zero is the name given to the day that Capetonians’ home taps could run dry, by many estimates this could occur as quickly as in the next three months. City authorities have decided that “once the dams reach 13.5% capacity, municipal water supply will be turned off for all but essential services”[1]. Cape Town Mayor, Patricia de Lille, along with other executive figures, have determined that water allowance should be drastically cut to 50 liters a day starting next month, attempting to delay the inevitable. However, she claims that despite the several attempts and sanctions that have been put in place, “60% of Capetonians are callously using more than 87 liters per day”[2], the current recommended amount. In essence, 87 liters translates to keeping showers under 2 minutes, refraining from flushing the toilet unless necessary, and recycling bathing water wherever possible.

            City planners have long pointed out that Cape Town’s water system has not been able to keep up with the fast population growth the city has experienced in the last two decades. While this has been a vastly known issue, there was very little evidence and suspicion that such a dire situation could arise. However, the extremely rare three-year-long drought exacerbated the crisis to the point where a well-functioning water system would have a difficult time keeping up. The local government is racing to address the situation with desalination plants and groundwater collection projects, but it is unlikely that any of these initiatives will go live before Day Zero.

Additionally, there is a significant level of debate that the political climate also has exacerbated the water crisis in the province. Cape Town is located in the Western Cape, the only South African province run by the Democratic Alliance – the rest of the country is under the leadership of the ANC, the African National Congress. The relationship between these two political parties is complicated, as the water crisis shows to many South African citizens. Two levels of governance – the Western Cape province and the City of Cape Town – took a preemptive stance on the water shortage issue, but these actions failed at the level of national government[2]. Provinces don’t have the power to control the water allocation to agriculture. In 2015, the city of Cape Town was allocated 60% of the water from the Western Cape’s Water supply system, with most of the rest being allocated to long-term crops[3]. When the drought began to take its toll on the provincial dam levels, there was no effort from the national government to curtail agricultural water use. Cape Town shows some of the best water saving levels in the world, but without the compliance of the national government, its efforts are in vain.

Had the national government been as proactive as the provincial and city levels of governments, it would appear that this crisis could have been mitigated. Appropriate water allocations would have made more water available to Cape Town and with the support of many federal agencies, more funding could have been allotted to find new techniques of acquiring water and delaying Day Zero[4]. Cape Town illustrates how water crisis is not only a matter of climatic conditions. In many instances, natural disasters have many different facets and perspectives to truly understand them, including politics.

The Breakaway of Kurdistan from Iraq

By Juvan Bonni

“We’ve said all along that we won’t break away from Iraq but Iraq may break away from us, and it seems that it is,”Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdish Regional Government, told TIME Magazine.[i]

This statement comes in response to news of recent gains of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq that have quickly spread through international and social media.

The Iraqi army has proved to be an embarrassing force that has failed to protect civilians in Mosul in northern Iraq, which was easily captured by ISIS militants. Pictures of Iraqi uniforms lying in piles and ISIS militants parading around Mosul streets with Humvees and arms abandoned by the Iraqi army have surfaced on the Internet.[ii]  The lack of Iraqi resistance has allowed ISIS militants to quickly expand their territory south as far as Tikrit.[iii]

While ISIS is closing in on Baghdad, the United States government is deliberating on its options to protect their interests in the region.[iv] Above all, the United States is intent on keeping Iraq from breaking apart and hoping to have an Iraq headed by a united government that represents Sunnis Arabs, Shiite Arabs, and Kurds.[v] However, the reality on the ground is that Shiite Arabs and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have extended control over the entire apparatus of the central government in Baghdad. This has prompted a harsh Sunni response manifesting in the recent gains made by ISIS.[vi] These events have cemented the conclusion that Iraq is a failed state and no amount of wishful thinking and planning on the part of the United States government or any other power can lead to a united and democratic Iraq.

This outcome can be traced not simply to recent events but in fact to Iraq’s congenital defect as a product of British imperialism in the Middle East. As the Ottoman Empire was destroyed, the mandate of Iraq was created by Great Britain in 1921, with the intention to unify three of the former empire’s provinces.[vii] Since then, Iraq has only functioned ostensibly as a state with repressive central governance, from the time of the Hashemites, to Qassim’s communist coup, up until Saddam Hussein’s regime. And throughout the existence of Iraq, the geographically and nationally distinct region of Kurdistan has remained largely out of the control of the central government, even after Saddam used weapons of mass destruction and genocide against the people of Kurdistan.

State Department spokeswomen Jen Psaki recently said, “a united Iraq is a stronger Iraq,”[viii] but she could not be more incorrect. A more accurate statement would be that a united Iraq is impossible to achieve, and the international community must face the reality of its inevitable split. In fact, with the establishment of the Islamic caliphate declared by ISIS, technically Iraq has already broken up.[ix] In response to ISIS gains, Shiites have formed their own militias to meet oncoming Sunni ISIS insurgents.[x]

The disintegration of Iraq and the associated violence is taking place south of Kurdistan, thus supporting Talabani’s statement that Iraq is violently breaking away from a peaceful Kurdistan. While Iraq is burning, the Kurdish Peshmerga army has effectively secured the city of Kirkuk, which was also abandoned by the Iraqi army.[xi] They have been thus far effectively protecting the city and its surrounding villages from ISIS control. ISIS recognizes that the Peshmerga, or “those who face death” in Kurdish, represent a much more motivated and disciplined force than the Iraqi army and are not to be trifled with.[xii]

Kurdistan is virtually its own country, on its way to attaining financial independence with an already booming economy, growing at approximately 12% a year and a GDP per capita 50% higher than that of Iraq.[xiii] Kurdistan’s ties with neighboring Turkey have grown since the ISIS insurgency.  Kurdistan ships two million barrels of oil through Turkey. [xiv] Turkey now sees Kurdistan as a buffer zone to a disintegrated Iraq, thus providing security in addition to economic benefits. [xv]

The gains the Kurds have made in their autonomous region together with their memory for their long suffering at the hands of successive repressive Iraqi regimes, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan are more determined than ever to protect their region from the onslaught of ISIS that the rest of Iraq is facing.

Momentum seems to be gaining for Kurdistan’s independence. Thus far, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been the most vocal international supporter of formal Kurdish independence. [xvi] Even Turkey, wary of aspirations of its own Kurdish population, has signaled its support for the Kurds if they choose to officially proceed with independence. Spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Hussein Celik has recognized that Iraq’s divide is inevitable, and reported that Turkey would support the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Irbil.[xvii]

So, no matter how long the United States continues to fantasize of a united Iraq in which Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds all are equally represented in its government, the independence of Kurdistan is inevitable and in effect here already. Whether the United States should continue to pursue this ill-advised policy will soon become irrelevant. The question at hand will be how the international community should respond to the break-up of Iraq.


Hitting The Ceiling

By Desmond Molloy

Lagos may be one of the most underrated cities in the developing world. Compared to Asian counterparts such as Mumbai or Jakarta, or even other African cities such as Nairobi, Nigeria’s commercial capital suffers a severe image problem on the global stage. Ever since international relations scholar Robert Kaplan used the city as a case study for what he dubbed the “Coming Anarchy” in the developing world, Lagos has been seen as dirty, dangerous and backward. Yet its economy and quality of life are the envy of the rest of Nigeria. In a 2015 article discussing the city’s surprise recovery over the first decade of the 21st century, The Economist pointed out that unlike many of its counterparts, Lagos has built a taxation system capable of harnessing a US$90 billion regional economy for public good. Consequently, the city has been able to invest in infrastructure without hunting for funds in the fetid swamp of Nigeria’s central government.

But Lagos is approaching a limit to its development potential. Despite its recent growth and improved governance, the city still fails to provide clean drinking water to most of its citizens. In her 2014 Master in Environmental Science capstone project at the University of Pennsylvania, Judith Afooma Jideonwo explains that 90% of Lagosians rely on informal boreholes or water vendors to access clean water. The city has drawn up a plan to improve the publicly owned Lagos Water Corporation’s coverage to 100% by 2020. But it has its limits. Jideonwo warns that the city’s plan is focused almost entirely on building new pipes and other infrastructure without addressing governance.

Should the plan be unsuccessful, Lagos will face trouble translating its short-term success into lasting prosperity. Foreign investment in Africa has boomed in recent years, but cities with poor infrastructure are unlikely to capture a significant share. The Ebola epidemic of 2014-2015 and the Zika outbreak in Brazil two years later, both reinforced how the presence of standing and unclean water can undermine cities’ health systems. A Unilever or Google is interested in selling its products in any city with demand—something that the quickly growing Lagos megaregion has in abundance. Boards will balk, however, at locating new regional offices in cities with poor water supply, or in sinking funds into small firms located there. Jideonwo’s warning that a systematic approach is necessary to fix the city’s water problems is likely to prove prescient.

Honduran Democracy at Its Breaking Point

By Cecilia Godoy

Two weeks after incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernandez appeared to have lost a presidential election he was projected to win without any difficulties, Honduras finds itself amid a constitutional crisis. Honduras just recently had its presidential elections, with the two main candidates being incumbent President Juan Orland Hernandez and primary rival Salvador Nasralla. The day after the election, Nasralla was ahead by five points with 58 percent of the vote counted, a margin an electoral tribunal member described as unforeseen as well as irreversible.[1] Then, the tally was mysteriously stopped for more than a day. Soon after it resumed, Hernandez inexplicably pulled ahead with the slimmest of leads. Many judged this to be indicative of an unlawful manipulation of votes with many Hondurans now protesting this clear violation of democratic procedures. Protesters have been met with a violent crackdown, in many cases with US-trained forces, a curfew and a suspension of constitutional rights that has left at least fourteen people dead and hundreds detained Some of the restrictions have been lifted, but the country remains in critical political conditions.

The electoral process has come to a standstill, with no winner being announced. the opposition filing a legal challenge to the tabulation process. Many people living in Honduras are impoverished,  making this election critical for citizens to be able to move forward and have better opportunities for change. However, some opposition activists fear that Nasralla will be pressured into accepting a forced compromise that subverts the will of the people, or that Hernandez will try to wait out until December 26th, the date at which an official result must be made. By waiting until the 26th, Hernandez would be able to act without international attention and pressure and work to secure an even tighter grip on power.

Honduras is currently one of the most dangerous places to be an activist and to protest the strict policies of a human-rights-abusing illegitimate government. It is imperative that people make their voices heard and protest to gain international attention for their cause. An incredibly repressive regime however, makes it unlikely that conditions of social mobilization and change will arise. It begs the question: what are the options available to citizens to fight against the government and the people who are being paid and elected to represent and protect them? What conditions are needed for a state to be considered unfit to provide for its people and for higher forms of power and organizations to step in?

Currently, the parties remain at an impasse. The opposition alliance has demanded a total recount of votes with active supervision of the electoral process by international agents. International actors, such as the European Union and the Organization of American States, agree that the Honduran elections were manipulated. “The demand for a full and transparent recount is eminently reasonable considering the myriad irregularities that have tainted the election”[2] and the National Party's control of the state apparatus overseeing it. Hernandez and his party have agreed to a partial recounting of the votes, but refuse to allow international agents to supervise the integrity of the process.

It is essential that continued international attention is devoted to this issue to ensure that the best outcome is delivered, as well as to safeguard the lives of protestors on the streets demanding their democratic rights. In a country progressively making its way into human-rights abuse territory, it is up to the international arena to keep Honduran legislative and executive power at bay.


Emmanuel Macron and his Budgets: the assets and liabilities of soft and hard power policy - Part 2

By Chris Brown

To contextualize what Emmanuel Macron’s budget cuts mean to the status quo of French military action, one must first observe the status quo of the French military. Beginning with spending, it is clear that the French have one of the larger militaries in the world. Research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has French military spending at a relatively constant 50 to 55 billion USD. Under François Hollande’s administration, this budget underwent a steady increase as France became engaged in more conflicts. Macron’s proposition of approximately one billion USD in cuts would represent the first major decrease in military spending since Hollande’s election.


Though Macron’s proposed budget would hardly bring military spending down to pre-Hollande levels, it would force him to pull back from increasingly more commitments abroad. The French Army is already being pushed to its limits, currently engaging in numerous actions in conflicts across west Africa and in the Middle East. This has been shown throughout operation “Barkhane” in Mali. Barkhane covers 5 of the largest countries in Africa, stretching effectively across the sub-saharan Sahel region, with a force of 4,000 French soldiers on guard. Covering this expanse of territory with only 4,000 troops already requires a logistical miracle in order to achieve any advances on jihadist forces in the region.

A report done by Le Monde on one of the 70-man commando mobilizations, operation “Dague” which took place earlier this year shows the futility of progress in the region. The operation, despite pulling on the resourcefulness of reaper drones flying 24 hours and a 19 hour Tigre attack helicopter flight, 60% of the jihadists escaping the combat zone as a few were left behind in what the French officer equated to a “martyr tactic”. Results such as these tend to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the military command. The same officer who bore witness to the “martyr tactic” used by his opponents has called for a loosening of the rules of engagement required of the French forces in the region.

This discontent comes at a critical point in Barkhane, when the political opposition in the region has begun to amass under a tribal leader with links to multiple islamist groups. The situation in Mali currently has the potential to go haywire, according to General Lecointre, who was recently appointed to observe the status of the Army in the region.

When Macron proposed to change the budget for his armies, it became clear that there would also need to be a fundamental change to how the operations performed in the Sahel would be run. This led to the creation of the G5 Sahel force to run the majority of operations in the region, with French forces mostly pulling back to around the Mali area. The remarkable aspect of this force is that over 50 million of the dollars invested into its budget comes directly from the European Union, with only 8 million coming from France in equipment. This significantly reduces the cost of French operation in the Sahel region while slowly warming up the European Union to the idea of participating in international interventions through other means besides direct troop displacement.

The principle of Macron’s fundamental change in plans is made clear by how this program is run, and highlights the main international actor he is trying to awaken by reducing his own military spending. Macron wants to bring in the European Union to take on the responsibilities that France could, and perhaps should not…



Meghan Markle and Racial Tensions in Great Britain

By Katie Maningas


On Monday morning, the world rejoiced over the engagement of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle. News outlets from around the world reported on the happy couples’ engagement and the exciting years to come for the two of them. But, unsurprisingly enough, their union was also met with opposition.

When the couple came out publicly last fall, British tabloids and right-wing media attacked Markle for her American citizenship, her previous marriage, and her identity as a mixed-race woman. Following their engagement announcement, The Daily Mail promptly tweeted “marrying into royalty does not earn you a right to the throne,” and The Spectator thought it appropriate to mention “Obviously, 70 years ago, Meghan Markle would have been the kind of woman the Prince would have had for a mistress, not a wife.” Though Prince Harry issued a public statement denouncing these remarks, it still goes to show that racism in Great Britain has always been prevalent, and if anything, may even been on the rise.

After Brexit in 2016, incidents of racial abuse noticeably increased with reports of over 100 crimes just three days after the vote to leave. Leaflets littered the streets that said “no more Polish vermin,” individuals harassed Muslim strangers on the streets and in front of schools, and other disturbing acts of racial abuse were reported all over social media, to the point where the Muslim Council of Britain filed a complaint with Home Security to provide extra protection for minority groups.

Britain’s tension with race is also reflected within the royal family. Markle will be the first woman of color to be given the title of Her Royal Highness (HRH), a feat that even twenty years ago would never have been considered possible. In 2000 Lady Kate Gavron, a British baroness, suggested in a report that Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles, should have married a black woman as a movement towards promoting racial integration and acceptance. Although she hoped for a wave of support, she was met with complete with a wall of opposition. Opposers claimed that giving the title of HRH to a black woman would “dilute” the royalty pool and would revert the royal family to the “loveless, strategic marriages” that Great Britain was once so famous for, which also insinuates that marrying for love and marrying a black woman are mutually exclusive. And this attitude was reflected in the public as well. Writer Afua Hirsch describes her experiences growing up as a British woman of color under this dynamic: “I struggled growing up with the feeling that the monarchy were fundamental to Britishness, but that the Britishness they represented was one that excluded me. This exclusion mattered. It made other people perceive being truly British, and being black, as incompatible identities.”

Gone are the days where royalties married for political gain (hopefully), but nonetheless, this bond is highly symbolic for both the royal family and for its peoples. It suggests a change; a movement towards more genuine acceptance of other people's’ identities that differ from your own. Though only time will tell if Markle will step-up as an advocate for not only bi-racial British citizens, but other individuals of color, (click here for an extensive analysis on the relationship between Markle, blackness, and royalty) the engagement nonetheless is an opportunity to drive conversation surrounding race and a chance for more genuine integration of all cultures in Britain.

The Dominican Republic and the Question of Diversity

By Sabine Tessono

Many associate Caribbean islands like the Dominican Republic as tropical

paradises filled with diverse languages, rich cultures, and people with various ethnic

backgrounds. Part of this is true, but there is unfortunately another side to the story to which

the masses are not aware. The history of the Dominican Republic reveals an ugly side

of racism, oppression, and unchecked violence that spills into its modern day society and

affects the relationship it has with its neighbor, Haiti, and even its own citizens.

In October 1937, the Parsley Massacre, one of the most horrific extermination

attempts occurred on the island of Hispaniola. Dominican citizens refer to it as “El

Corte”, or the cutting, while Haitians remember it as “Kout kouto”, or the knife blow.

Under the orders of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, soldiers would conduct several

raids on the countryside and test dark-skinned civilians, and killed them if they were

suspected of being Haitian. Even those who were proven to be Dominican were

murdered due to the color of their skin or for harboring Haitian fugitives. The

justification behind these actions were that “Dominicans [were] complaining of

the…thefts of cattle, provisions, and fruits…and were thus prevented from enjoying in

peace the products of their labor”. Yet, even with such harsh treatment, and

thousands of people killed in cold blood, this massacre is widely unknown to the modern

world, and even the residents of Hispaniola.


This ignorance, inaction, and the hateful ideas it continues to carry have been left to fester in the Dominican Republic’s way of life. And as a direct result, Haitians and darker skinned citizens living in the DR have to suffer the consequences.

The obvious example is the recent deportations of Haitians seeking refuge and

Dominicans of Haitian descent. According to Amnesty International, “the Dominican

Republic has unlawfully expelled hundreds of Dominicans to Haiti who have been caught

in the middle of a wave of returns and deportations of more than 100,000 people”. Many

of those who have been forcefully ejected from their homes have had to live in refugee

camps across the border, with unstable shelters and no running water or sanitation.

Other have been marginalized in their communities and threatened by local soldiers to

leave under the threat of violence. Even children who were born to such parents and who

lived their whole lives not knowing about their ancestry are suddenly caught in a

legal limbo due to the fact that they are considered to be “in transit”, or just passing


However, this oppression of the minority, or the “other” in Dominican society

does not only affect those in danger of imminent deportation. Citizens who contribute to

the mistreatment of these people by remaining silent are doomed to live in a hateful,

isolationist culture with a government that stifles their own personal freedoms as well. If

Dominicans choose to remain complicit in such immoral actions, they are doomed to

consistently repeat an abhorrent history. No amount of claiming to embrace diversity

will change that. Action will.