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.