The ethnic composition of the Dominican population is 73% multiracial, 16% white, and 11% black. The multiracial population is primarily a mixture of European and African; research has shown that at least 15% of Dominicans have Taíno ancestry. The country's population also includes a large Haitian minority. Other ethnic groups in the country include West Asians—mostly Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians. A smaller, yet significant presence of East Asians (primarily ethnic Chinese and Japanese) can also be found throughout the population. Europeans are represented mostly by Spaniards, Germans, Italians, Portuguese, British, and French. There are also tens of thousands of people from the United States.
A system of racial stratification was imposed on Santo Domingo by Spain, as elsewhere in the Spanish Empire. Its effects have persisted, reaching their culmination in the antihaitianismo of the Trujillo regime, as the dictator used racial persecution and nationalistic fervor against Haitians. A U.N. envoy in October 2007 found racism against blacks in general, and Haitians in particular, to be rampant in every segment of Dominican society. According to a study by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, about 90% of the contemporary Dominican population has West African ancestry to varying degrees. However, most Dominicans do not self-identify as black, in contrast to people of West African ancestry in other countries. A variety of terms are used to represent a range of skin tones, such as moreno/a (brown), canelo/a (red/brown) ["cinnamon"], indio/a (Indian), blanco/a oscuro/a (dark white), and trigueño/a (literally "wheat colored", or olive skin).
Ramona Hernández, director of the Dominican Studies Institute at City College of New York a.sserts that the terms were originally a defense against racism: "During the Trujillo regime, people who were dark skinned were rejected, so they created their own mechanism to f!ght it." She went on to explain, "When you ask, 'What are you?' they don't give you the answer you want ... saying we don't want to deal with our blackness is simply what you want to hear