Negritude in Cuba

Regina Cano

Photo by Caridad

Many people assume that being black is one of my daily concerns, as if that condition condemns me to always being a victim.

Each one of us has felt discrimination at some time in their life: for being fat, bald, homosexual, or very thin, for being left-handed or shy, elderly or a kid, for belonging to the female sex, or for being slow or very intelligent, for being Russian, Arab, Chinese or African.  My goodness! – the list is long.

In Cuba, where black slaves were once brought, the issue remains touchy.  The problem is that there always existed a thousand ways to humiliate, subjugate, control and relegate, as well as to subdue and sway blacks.

Some people here treat us with paternalism, which becomes annoying.  And referring to us as “people of color,” morenos (brown-skinned), prietos (blackish) or “the darkest,” they continue to mark the difference.

It’s worth mentioning that interracial discrimination also subsists and divides us.  Some blacks react aggressively if you refer to them directly as “black” (which is the “color” of our race); they look at this as if you had intentionally “shit on their mother.”*

Accepting ones blackness in an atmosphere that is discriminatory (though generally muted), in a country that formally declares itself non-discriminatory with regard to race, entails much practice and great effort at being a full “human being,” above everything else. It means being aware of wanting to live this short life with whatever it brings for each living soul, and by this I’m referring to the consciousness and valuation of who I am from my inner self.

Therefore, among my people there are those who have already surpassed this obstacle, while others are at different points on the map of discrimination.

I have heard and seen how we as blacks coexist with this atmosphere.  I’ve witnessed the defenses that are created that discriminate against the rest, such as:

– That’s a black thing.

– People of our color have to help themselves.

– Black people are something else.

– (S)he’s a black piolo (Uncle Tom).

– or ridiculing a white for certain things they do.

Likewise, there are discriminatory phrases toward others, such as:

– If a black person doesn’t do it at the entrance, they’ll do it at the exit.

– You didn’t do so badly, for a black person.

– Need makes you give birth to mulatto children.*

Or notions of self-marginalization like:

– He/she thinks like white people (so they’ll do better).

– Those are white people’s things.

I think that if black Cubans subjected to discrimination would see the reality from the perspective of the observer who analyzes the pros and cons, the origin and the consequences of what holds us down; they would notice that what really paralyzes us is self-discrimination.

That need was created for us to compare ourselves with the others, but it was based on the very conditions that the others imposed.

Black people, genetically and socially, possess the same conditions here as everyone else to develop themselves.  In addition, our being greater in numbers and our strength, opinions and social incidence should not be dismissed.

Pain doesn’t allow us to look beyond, and the capacities possessed allows for seeking a place within integration.  Though others insist on making us feel different but we have sufficient weapons to confront that.

I believe that discrimination against blacks in Cuba is something to leave to the minds of those who are not black or who don’t consider themselves as such, and who suffer because the race exists.

* Referring to children born of black and white parents. Well! It seems that having sex with blacks is done out of necessity.

6 thoughts on “Negritude in Cuba

  • A socialist society will have a conscious, well-thought-out policy of encouraging all citizens to engage with @ other as human beings 1st & 4most. Our “identities” & (racial/ethnic) “heritage” should B about as relevant as the color of our hair & eyes & the disposition of our various personalities, under socialism. & progressing 2 complete irrelevance under communism. My own rather modest problems with overcoming the various ‘ethnic/lifestyle-relations’ gaps I have been confronted with in my life have demonstrated to me conclusively — aside from any theory proving it in other ways — that the dialectic of social unity vs. discrete individuality does indeed have a ‘happy medium’ which *can* be found, if even with some effort: a happy medium which no doubt will remain a moving target 4 the duration of our long social march from socialism-capitalism to communism.

    Simply put: the cuban government absolutely must come up with the resources to unify the working-class.

  • It should B clear by now that the focus by much of the so-called Left (including many self-described marxists) on what can generally B called “Identity Politics” — including ‘Negritude’ — has been 1 of the major forces *dividing* us all in the face of the class enemy. This process has been SO helpful to the bourgeoisie in fact, there is little doubt in my mind that ‘helping it along’ has been a major focus of their ongoing class warfare operations against us. Especially since the `60s.

    Socialism OTOH is about unifying all people around their objective class positions in relation to the mode of economic production of society — which determines so much else at the outset. Dividing ourselves from the bourgeoisie, in fact, is an *encouraging* fact actually — & not something to be regretted & overcome, as is the case with the political stance & outlook of the totally clueless, ‘middle-class’ petit-bourgeois Left, which loves to play up our (bourgeois) “individuality”.

  • Dany Regina..One more thing..U and i share the same birthday..i was born at 1;33 am

  • Regina, i am back again..This time i want to say that although i agree with your complete thoughts here..i know that had we as a people in amerikkka had found the wherewithal, hutzpah, cojones, guts whatever! to to stand up and struggle against what one of Cuba greatest leaders tried,..ERASE RACISM perhaps none of us with our beautiful skin melanin would have ever had these discussions.

    Since returning from Haiti, i have seen the issue of race and particularly our race as a prob for whites and those like them. Therefore, my new vision has allowed me to place this phenom directly into the laps of whites..Its thier problem not ours.
    The inbred hate, racism, and pain they are suffering has its root in white supremacy, thus there is no deliverance unless and until each indiviual human decides to change thier modus operandi.

    One thing however that makes me smile.”.Its ole souljahs” who carry on the supremacist thought and social construct..Our young and thiers have none of it!

  • Regina, i have missed u a lot..However this is the best i have read from you. Not saying others were bad, but this is SUPERIOR..why ONE MAY ASK..BECAUSE U SPK MY LANGUAGE!
    As the editor in chief will tell u i am very very much a defender of being Africcan vs black negro negrazho prieto mulatto octoroon quadroon ni nada..However i agree with you (out of the mouths of babes) and love u for sharing something that for years has bothered me..and to which u address superbly
    I believe that discrimination against blacks in Cuba is something to leave to the minds of those who are not black or who don’t consider themselves as such, and who suffer because the race exists.

    * Referring to children born of black and white parents. Well! It seems that having sex with blacks is done out of necessity. LOL..
    The fact is..when white parents were telling myth about the Africans mans penis etc. They had no idea that it would end up as such?

    love it and thanks! i need not defend so…

  • I’m a cuban who has lived in the United States for the past thirteen years , I went to school in cuba and also worked there before I left, I have to be frank, besides some phases that some people say I never ever noticed that black people were under such a discrimination there , I knew there were some racists, mainly from olders generations but nothing big, nothing like the KKK or the aryan brotherhod, and I also remenber as a kid being called “whitie” (blanquito) or “lousy white” ( blanco piojoso) that sounds racist to me too. but I never took it that way , I think it’s just the way we cubans are , we like to pick on averybody and call everybody different names , but from that to being racists is a long way, besides if white cubans were such a racist bunch , how come there are so many people of mix race (mulatos) in Cuba?, that’s what I have seen lately, specially teenagers, I think if most of the cuban whites were racist they would have never married blacks in the first…

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