There's the image we have of ourselves, and then there's the image others have of us. Before I came to Europe, I allowed myself to believe that the 10 years I had spent living in the Bronx as a kid somehow made me American, but now I see things differently.
I came to the Netherlands, where I registered with my US passport. But that's not what they noticed here, and I presume the cops never even bothered to look beyond the fact that I was born in the Dominican Republic when they sent me a letter identifying me as a Dominican citizen.
Despite my US passport, I have received the Dominican treatment here in Europe, and it pains me to imagine how much worse it must be for Dominicans who unlike me are not fortunate enough to have a passport from a wealthy country, or who are not fortunate enough to have legal status in the EU. If I didn't have a US passport, and if my mom weren't a citizen of this continent, I would be even more afraid of leaving my house than I currently am, even though I've always been entitled to a Spanish passport and currently have legal status in Holland.
A Dominican man in Europe, even if he's a US citizen with a Yale degree and no criminal record, will be automatically treated as guilty and as an undocumented immigrant. Police officers will take it upon themselves to enforce immigration law when they find out you're Dominican-born, without even bothering to ask if you're a US citizen or residing on the continent legally.
I made the mistake of being friendly and honest with a couple of cops here, and I got completely fucked over. I presumed that I was speaking with intelligent, liberal people, but the fact is that they were extremely religious and racist and judging me from the lens of superiority. I got a policewoman demoted, and I shot down a prosecutor in court because she wasn't aware that misprision of felony was still on the books in US federal law, and today I have the largest English-language Dominican-owned website, but I know that when I'm talking to a white person in Europe, all they see is a kinda-Moroccan face, and all they know about the Dominican Republic is that is that it is a very poor country where there are criminals and unintelligent, aggressive people who maybe will rape them.
I could be angry about this reality, or I could adapt to it. The fact is that publicly we Dominican-born people with brown faces cannot see ourselves as anything but, because otherwise we leave ourselves vulnerable to targeting by people in power who do see us as nothing but Dominican filth.
Do I smoke cannabis? This is not something that a Dominican man should ever admit publicly, as it doesn't cast him as a progressive guy who believes America's war on drugs is misguided or who perhaps believes that cannabis is a legitimate medicine. You should always deny to smoking cannabis, and you should even scornfully call it a drug, maybe even suggest that the country should be busy killing traffickers.
Are you into transgender women? Don't let your neighbors see "him." Most European people aren't really tolerant to that kind of stuff, and they see it as a dangerous disorder, so it's best to criticize it publicly in order not too appear to be a guevedoce-lover.
Are you an atheist? Keep that to yourself, otherwise you'll lose your own people, the only ones who'll still back you despite your un-Europeanness.
After living in Europe for half a decade, all I know is that I need to wear a mask publicly, and that sometimes the mask crosses into my personal life, especially after a couple of beers. But when I'm drinking and writing at 4am, as I am now, I really do regret not wearing the mask earlier, for it could have saved me from suffering the worst of calamities on this continent.
Maybe one day Dominican men of Arab appearance will be able to afford liberalism, but for now I know I have to shave my head and wear a suit and keep myself out of coffeshops and bars; so that it can't be used against me.