By Alberto N Jones
HAVANA TIMES — After 350 years of slavery in Cuba and 60 years of racism during the pseudo-Republic, it was naive to think that this monster could be wiped out with a speech made by Fidel Castro in February 1959 and others which he made throughout his time in office.
Fifty years after that historic speech, President Raul Castro had to publically admit that “he is extremely ashamed at how little progress has been made in regard to Cuba’s racial problem” and nothing has changed since them.
Nothing points to Fidel and Raul being racist in any way, but the presence of this phenomenon at all levels of Government is undeniable. You don’t need to find a text or recording to explain the persistence of racism in Cuba, because the facts speak for themselves.
Cuba is the country of government meetings, assemblies, check-ups, conferences, symposiums, plenary sessions and congresses par excellence, however, this subject has never formed a part of any of their agendas for over half a century, which has allowed a vast collection of international documents criticizing and denouncing racism in Cuba as well as conferences, seminaries and charges against Cuba to exist.
The Cuban Government has stubbornly refused to tackle this social tragedy claiming that it would divide the country, while it provides a string of sweet-talkers and distorters all of the means and resources necessary to tarnish the country’s reputation, by assuming that they can eliminate this serious problem by disguising or ignoring it.
Millions of people believed that we were living in a post-racial Cuba, that was until the Soviet Union came crashing down. Very few people could anticipate that something that had taken place thousands of kilometers from our shores could be the detonator that would make racism resurface like a contained, dormant case of tuberculosis which took over society with a brutality and virulence that had never been seen before.
Development of the tourism sector, corporations, management, mixed companies, trips and studies abroad, cars, expenses and other personal advantages drove the lowest passions, evil deeds and society’s worst emotions, which were expressed in exclusion, marginalization and a more aggressive racism, than what had been practiced by the bourgeoisie ousted from power in 1959.
Many academics picked up on this anomaly in the ‘90s and tried to warn the Government however they could, but the government ignored them, blaming the counter-revolution for Cuba’s racism problem, which allowed this monstrosity to spread throughout society like a cancer.
Meanwhile, the US Government detected this social crack and capitalized on it, creating a countless number of small groups who organized themselves like independent libraries, independent unions and others with pompous names such as Rosa Park or Martin Luther King, who they didn’t know, but could refer to society’s injustices, lack of social opportunities and material needs.
However, the same racial problem that the Cuban government refused to admit existed, led to a counter-attack orchestrated by the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. taking Cuban reality to the US Congressional Black Caucus, universities, churches and hundreds of social organizations, to initially neutralize the US Department of State’s anti-Cuban barrage.
However, instead of making the most of the calm before the global storm that was created by the open letter “Acting on our Conscience” http://www.jpanafrican.org/edocs/e-DocActingOnOur.pdf in 2009, which was signed by distinguished professor Abadias Nascimento and another 60 Black intellectuals, Cuba carried on like nothing had happened.
This incongruity led many people who had shown solidary with the island to question Cuba’s “Liberator” reputation in the Southern Cone of Africa and humanist image in the third world, with Cuba’s current situation characterized by racism, marginalization and segregation.
Quite a few Cubans and foreigners who support the principles of the Revolution have asked themselves (without finding an answer) how the small Hebrew community in Cuba has beautiful synagogues, cafes and a hotel in Havana, while the Caribbean Association which is meant to promote AfroCuban culture between the over 60 embassies belonging to African and Caribbean nations remains dormant, ignored, without life, instead of being the natural bridge between Cuba, Africa and the Caribbean.
The tiny Asturian Society has luxury restaurants in the capital, the Chinese have a buzzing China Town and the Arabs have a beautiful cultural center, while the Ministry of Justice which oversees these activities prevents food establishments from being set up at the British West Indian Welfare Center and at the French Tumba Association in Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba and doesn’t even think about reviving an Athens Club in Havana.
Arbitrarily, and influenced by a strong racist force which has been established in key seats of Government, this issue hasn’t been discussed with the energy it needs, nor have laws leaning towards its erradication been passed, unlike what happened with illiteracy and contagious diseases or the counter-revolution, as they argue that the Black issue could divide the nation, failing to see that not talking about it has led to precisely this.
The huge political risk that Barack Obama took by reestablishing diplomatic relations and traveling to Cuba, was received with a wave of skepticism, intrigue and demands that they knew were outside his reach. Others resorted to the insult of “Look here Black man, you’re a foreigner”, until his term in office came to an end without any advance in US-Cuban relations or some of the many projects that were possible at that time coming to light.
And then Donald Trump arrived in the White House, a raging lunatic who has only known how to destroy the little progress that had been made, literally paralyzing relations between both countries and nobody has said anything, not even an insult, about the irrational behavior of this madman.
This is why it’s very hard for the Cuban Government to persuade millions of people all over the world who are concerned about racism, if Mariana Grajales is respected as she should be, if the massacre of the Partido Independiente de Color hadn’t been watered down and their killers pardoned by the media, just like we can’t explain (without excluding race) the absurd demands and pressure applied against Barack Obama and the obvious tolerance of Donald Trump.
Together, these actions have had a negative effect on the country, as many men and women in Africa, the Caribbean, Afro-Americans and Latin Americans who once supported the Revolution unconditionally, today have doubts, and their huge financial resources which could help the country make progress are instead being invested in other countries in the world.