By Erasmo Calzadilla
HAVANA TIMES – I’ve always been interested in the US’ sadly infamous racism. It’s a complex issue that has taken me a lot of time and some encounters to understand.
It’s nothing like what we imagine it is in Cuba. The Government there is determined for us to have the worst opinion about the US, and racism is the perfect target for these brainwashing antics.
During the four years I’ve lived in Texas (Confederate yesterday, a stronghold of conservatives, republicans, rednecks and Trump followers today), noone has ever insulted, openly rejected or expressed scorn towards me as a Hispanic and non-White person.
In line with my work experience (which includes working with the public), I would say that people here tend to be a lot more respectful in this regard than they are in Cuba.
More than racism in a literal sense, what I’ve suffered in the places I’ve worked at (which have been quite a few), is a kind of discrimination based on your ability to speak English.
The person who discriminates against you can be a native English speaker or an immigrant from any other country. They could be Chinese, Congolese, even another Hispanic person… they just need to have been here a few more years than you and be more fluent than you are.
More difficult and better paid jobs are obviously given to people who can communicate better in the language of Shakira… sorry, I meant Shakespeare. But above this justified discrimination from a functional point of view, there is a more human one in the worst sense of the word; we could say it’s cultural.
Earning enough to get to the end of the month or finding yourself instead forced to get a second job, which means sleeping very little and spending less time with your family; working in an unhealthy environment or in a clean one; a day shift or working nights…
Your quality of life and social status (the respect and dignity others give you) will depend drastically not only on how well or badly you do your job, but on how you are able to deal with an atmosphere of gossip and jams. Also, in how you understand jokes, tiptoeing amid internal conflicts, understanding the psychological triggers of the people around you, stopping the rude, opportunists, those who want to manipulate you or blame you for mistakes…
Just about functional English that you grasp from studying in your own free time won’t be enough to do the above. If you can’t communicate in English at a native level or almost that, you’ll be left behind, in a vulnerable situation.
Let me clarify that I’m NOT denying “classic” racism in the US. I’m not even trying to make sweeping statements, but I’ll dare to guess that as globalization continues to make progress and this country fills up with people with different origins, birthplaces, colors and religions (it’s what you normally find in unskilled labor), the issue takes on new dimensions and adapts itself to the new situation.
Resilient social strata (resilient in terms of structural components in the system) will reconstruct themselves based on other parameters and barriers, linguistic and cognitive ones this time.