Another Take on Racism in Cuba

By Repatriado

What were you thinking about? Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — An article was recently published on HT under the headline: “Are racist genes what’s consuming the nation?” 

I personally share the scientific community’s opinion who claim there are genetic differences which are worthy of classifying racial differences within the human race, the greatest evidence of this being the differences between races when it comes to medical prognoses for some diseases.

Meanwhile, I defend, as a verifiable truth, that differences in behavior, as groups that is, depend infinitely more on the environment in which these individuals develop, than on their genetic predisposition to behave in one way or another.

Therefore, I would like to point out that if Cuba’s prison population is mainly Black, and the university population is mostly White, this has absolutely nothing to do with Black people being more criminal or White people more intelligent, genetically-speaking, but rather has to do with the fact that the environment in which Black and White Cubans develop is markedly different.

An abyss was created between White free men, rich or poor, but both with the chance to develop within society, heirs of the Enlightenment, culturally predisposed to intellectual self-improvement and to proactive and interconnected association in family networks which would uphold and rescue entrepreneurs, among an infinite list of many other advantages.

On the other hand, Black people who were mostly brought over were from cultures that barely surpassed the Neolithic and didn’t share the same religion or language most of the time and were even sometimes ancestral enemies. They were separated by any previous family ties, exposed to traumatic and dehumanizing experiences, with their freedom limited and minimized by “scientific” theories which were an attack against their self-esteem, among many other infinite disadvantages.

You might think that since the end of slavery in 1886, 132 years ago, that this might be enough time to make this past, which seems so distant to us, seem like an excuse, but that’s not the case; my wife’s great-grandmother was a slave, and that time span is nothing in sociological terms.

The Abolition of slavery was the beginning of a process, a process where Black people, the vast majority of whom are poor, uneducated, without a group conscience and able to articulate mutually beneficial and self-defense associations. For the most part, they didn’t possess long term plans, heirs of traditions strange to the community, which were rejected, stigmatized and feared. They had to integrate themselves and compete with White people for the few job opportunities available to them.

The worst thing about these disadvantages is that they are reproduced time and time again in every generation that comes in a vicious cycle where every new generation of Whites and Blacks inherits advantages or disadvantages, where personal efforts have to go hand-in-hand with public policies that lean towards making opportunities more equal and a lot of luck so that some Black people can break down the barriers of their particular evolution, very slowly, which they have suffered as a group on this island and manage to leave behind their marginal position, maximizing their descendants’ chances of being able to compete in the future.

Marginalization isn’t indecency, as it’s a situation which precedes and conditions our conscience, it’s living and growing up in an environment where personal self-improvement has profound disadvantages because of a build-up of factors which might include greater crime rates, addictions, broken homes, living further away from financial or university hubs of cities and a lack of accumulated capital between families which can help them to get their businesses up and running.

During the Republican era (1902-1959), not very much was done to encourage racial equality, which doesn’t mean that great advances and achievements weren’t made within the Black community, normally by individuals. However, the Government’s little social intervention moved away from this.

The post-’59 Government took control of private businesses for the State and decimated Cuban civil society with horrifying results. However, just like a broken clock even tells the right time twice a day, the authoritarian government forced society to move towards making opportunities more equal, making noteworthy advances in this regard.

Today, Black Cubans have greater self-esteem, nobody thinks to discriminate against them at a school or hospital, at least not overtly. If they are still segregated in the labor force, it’s not down to racism but because more White Cubans have professional training than Black Cubans, and if our prisons are still full of Black Cubans it’s because the majority of those who live in slums continue to be Black.

The vast majority of Cubans who emigrate are White, whether that’s because they had family who emigrated beforehand, or because they managed to get hold of a job contract because of their better education. Therefore, the Cubans who then return or send money are mostly White and this is where racial imbalances in Cuba’s budding private sector comes from, as it’s people from abroad who normally come with their pockets full to put up the initial capital for small private investments.

The openings of Cuba’s economy, which is necessary, is going to have a direct impact on class segregation and of course, the fact that many Black people will be among those who miss out the most. The government that will continue on once this dictatorship ends will have to make a great effort to correct this inheritance.

There is so much more that could be said about the subject and I have only briefly touched the many different causes for racism, but let’s leave this here and keep what’s essential in mind: differences between Black and White people aren’t due to there being a better race, but rather to the fact that one of these races has had advantages which are greatly superior to those of the other, leading to a cycle which feeds itself.

Mixing up the idea of Cuban genetics and racism is counter-productive, as ignoring the origin of racism and upholding a determinist explanation is dangerous because it paralyzes society by giving biological excuses which grow in simple minds and lack any real grounds, as there is no such thing as Cuban genetics.

7 thoughts on “Another Take on Racism in Cuba

  • April 17, 2018 at 12:01 pm
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    “…differences in behavior, as groups that is, depend infinitely more on the environment in which these individuals develop, than on their genetic predisposition to behave in one way or another.”

    This statement is false.

    Genetic and environmental factors have, for decades, been scientifically shown to offer roughly equal influence on one’s personality, interests, and IQ. While many don’t want to admit this–because racist people use this truth to defend their harmful beliefs–it doesn’t make the truth any less true. And denying this truth then makes the denier appear unscientific and lacking credibility. Meanwhile, racist people are the only ones espousing this truth, making them look more legitimate.

    “Arguing that no substantial differences among human populations are possible will only invite the racist misuse of genetics that we wish to avoid.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/23/opinion/sunday/genetics-race.html

    Reply
    • April 17, 2018 at 3:29 pm
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      As humans, we all have, and that is an opinion very popular right now in the scientific community, the same influence from genetic and from environment for IQ for example, but I am talking specifically about difference among races. From a father to a son the environment and the gens have the same influence, but between a black poor prisoner and a rich Asian college student the differences are more in the environment than in the gens.

      I quote myself “I personally share the scientific community’s opinion who claim there are genetic differences which are worthy of classifying racial differences within the human race” so I am not one of those who denies genetic difference between human races, and with you I agree than to defend the contrary is first false, second inconvenient in the fight against racism.

      Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed or Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies from Jared Diamond, The Great Divide: Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New from Peter Watson, Sapiens. From Animals into Gods: A Brief History of Humankind from Yuval Noah Harari, The prehistory of the mind: a search for the origins of art, religion, and science from Steven Mithen, this are books that demonstrate that difference of environment shape different human conduct.

      Other books like The Bell Curve, from Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein try to prove than the success or failure of American economy rest in genetic, this authors sustain than the 15 point in IQ difference between blacks and whites, as groups in America, are perpetual and genetic certain.

      The part of psychology that study “genética de la conducta” I do not know the exact translation, is referred to individuals and never to groups, there are not such a thing as gens for human conducts.

      Reply
  • April 20, 2018 at 11:34 am
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    One of the things that struck me about this article was how many stereotypes and historically false statements it relies on.

    “Black people who were mostly brought over were from cultures that barely surpassed the Neolithic (historically incorrect) and didn’t share the same religion or language most of the time (again incorrect) and were even sometimes ancestral(one never refers to the French and Germans as ancestral enemies) enemies. They were separated by any previous family ties, exposed to traumatic and dehumanizing experiences, with their freedom limited and minimized by “scientific” theories which were an attack against their self-esteem, (systems and rationales for racial subordination are more complex than self-esteem) among many other infinite disadvantages.”

    What is remarkable is that this essay could have been written by a North American because similar views were common to the American psyche and limited historical knowledge. Fortunately, our struggle to create African American Studies Departments at some of our best universities have allowed for an incredible amount of scholarship in all disciplines that reveal the true experience of African people in North America.

    I don’t know if Cuban history departments have done the same. They should. There are many primary sources that paint a very different picture of Afro-Cuban history, sociology, anthropology, literature, art, music, family life and religion that seems to be as far from the average Cuban as the African American experience is from the average white American.

    Reply
    • April 21, 2018 at 8:33 am
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      Hi Victor, when you say that one never refers to the French and Germans as ancestral enemies I smell a tone of accusation, I think you are really saying that I use “ancestral” as an ethnic word from some racist point of view.

      I don´t know others, but I do have to improve my language to clean it up from racist phrases, when I am upset with a black person I think to myself, fucking nigger, but racist expressions do not make me a racist, make me an asshole as many others, including black people that also use racist phrases, or sexist, or homophobic.

      Anyway, the ancestral conflict is between Germans and Germans, only after that with the rest of the world, fucking Nazis?

      In Africa there were civilizations like Ashantis and Yorubas much more developed than a Neolithic culture, but there were a lot of other groups that were and some still are close to Neolithic. Ashanti as well as Yorubas were very active hunting and selling enemies or other Africans in general to Europeans, and of course they also suffered this treatment.

      Did I deny that systems and rationales for racial subordination are more complex than self-esteem? I didn´t, but I appoint this very important aspect in black people life in order to appoint later in the essay that Cuban Revolution improve black Cubans self-esteem, aspect that for me, as a psychologist, is absolutely crucial and basic for black people future, their own view about them self in a world where standards of beauty and success are normally white.

      History department in Cuban universities, like all the other Social Sciences departments depend highly in political issue, depending on the view or the interest of the government in a moment they allow or command to investigate in a way or another, African studies have never being a priority.

      I would appreciate if you give me some reference to increase my knowledge about African cultures and their history in America.

      Reply
  • July 2, 2018 at 10:10 am
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    Really?

    ‘Today, Black Cubans have greater self-esteem, nobody thinks to discriminate against them at a school or hospital, at least not overtly’.

    That statement would be a joke if it weren’t so damaging. White Cubans today ARE overtly racist.

    I have just got back from Cuba and was racially profiled by security guards whilst staying in a 5-star Cuban hotel IN 2018!!!

    Sorry but to state that modern-day white Cubans are not overtly racist is just laughable….

    Reply
    • July 2, 2018 at 2:37 pm
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      Max, firstly I am deeply sorry about your personal racial experience in Cuba, I ask your pardon in behalf of the many Cubans that are not racist.

      Second, yes, police and security in general targets black people more often than white people, black people in Cuba still suffer discriminations and the idea or assumption of danger hang over them.

      Is that racist? Yes, is there racism in Cuba? Yes, Are Cuban especially racist? I think they aren´t

      My statement begin with the word “today”, I am trying to indicate is that black people are today better than they were before the Revolution, that is a fact for me, I hate what this so called Revolution did to my people, but I do not share the idea of a racist Revolution, in the contrary, it brought a more human and worthy treatment to black population.

      Even when I am not black so my perspective about this topic is as an observer, I think I am closer to the truth that those than accuse to the Revolution and the Cuban of Racist.

      Anyway, my post was mainly an answer to a previous post from a black activist, a Cuban who live in USA, he matched racism and gens in Cuba, I am absolutely against that idea, racist people are normally mistaken by education and culture but they are nor bad people per se.

      In Cuba for example you will find the most aggressive language against black people coming from black people.

      Reply
  • September 2, 2018 at 7:19 am
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    While the revolution may not have been overtly racist, don’t quote me on that, it kept black people in a perpetually disadvantaged position by freezing economic development.

    Reply

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