De Marti, Maceo, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X y Mandela
Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — “Being black does not make the black man inferior or superior to any other man. The white man who says “my race” is as redundant as the black man who says “my race.” Everything that divided men, everything that specifies, separates or drives men to a corner is a sin against humanity,” wrote Jose Marti.
When Nelson Mandela was about to proclaim his country’s new constitution, he delved into the issue of the human races. The scientific answer he came upon is still considered valid today: we are all the children of a primordial Eve born 190,000 years ago, probably near the great African lakes, and of a primordial Adam of similar origins, who roamed the Earth 50 thousand years later. Human beings, in fact, share more than 99% of their genetic makeup. There are no races, or, better, there is but one race: Homo sapiens.
In his book Hombradia de Antonio Maceo (“The Courage of Antonio Maceo”), Raul Aparicio tells that, one day, when the Bronze Titan (as Cuban independence leader Maceo was known) fully recovered from his war injuries, a party was held. Maceo did not drink or smoke, and he made a habit of speaking in a low tone of voice, using no curse words. People started dancing and Quintin Banderas, a corpulent, courageous, proud black man who was something of a womanizer, was hounding a fair-skinned peasant woman for a dance, unsuccessfully. The scorned combatant then approached the generals’ table. “What’s the matter, General Banderas?” asked Maceo. “General Antonio, you’ve been witness to how much I struggle and risk my life to end slavery and for freedom.” “I appreciate all that, Quintin, but, what’s that have to do with anything?” “Well, a lady, a white lady, won’t give me this dance, most likely because I’m black.”
General Maceo frowned, smiled and quickly and drily replied: “General Banderas, as far as I know, any lady has the right to choose who they wish to dance with. If she won’t have you, try your luck with another, see if they will. You may go.”
Few anecdotes offer us as clear a lesson on the universal issue of racism. The Bronze Titan, a man every bit as proud and courageous as the eternal warrior Quintin Banderas was, bequeathed us an undying example to follow. Combatting racism entails a serious commitment that is immune to vanity and which steers clear of that danger known as demagogy.
I now turn to another, extremely intransigent combatant, whose difficult life helped shape his political maturity, whose life was cut short by those who were unable to step beyond the narrow margins of their religious fanaticism. Below is an account narrated by Malcolm X, reproduced by his brilliant friend (a black Muslim like him), Alex Haley:
“Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant — the one who wanted to help the Black Muslims and the whites get together — and I told her there wasn’t a ghost of a chance and she went away crying? Well, I’ve lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping black people. Something like this kills a lot of arguments. I did many things as a Black Muslim that I’m sorry for now. I was a zombie then — like all Black Muslims — I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man’s entitled to make a fool of himself if he’s ready to pay the cost. It cost me 12 years.”
The charge against the actions of political zombies demands our undivided attention. Every day, the media bombards us with news about different forms of discrimination. Cases directly related to skin-color abound, particularly in the United States, a country that, despite its proclaimed democratic spirit, required nearly a century following independence to formally abolish slavery, and another century of blood, sweat and tears to bring about equality of civil rights, a process that cost Martin Luther King Jr. his life.
Malcolm X was able to shake off the condition of political zombie, though he did not get to live much after that. Martin Luther King Jr., the Baptist reverend, like Marti, Maceo and Mandela, struck that difficult balance between personal pride and crucial common sense, indispensable if one wishes to make history.
I wish to conclude with a statement by the brilliant US orator that invites us to reflect on these issues:
“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.”
Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]