Blacks and the System in Cuba

Esteban Morales

esteban-2HAVANA TIMES — Many black people and persons of mixed racial background in Cuba believe that a change in the country’s political system is needed to improve the lives of this non-white sector of the population, which today continues to endure stereotypes, discrimination and racism.

For more than three centuries, Cuba’s black and mixed race population suffered the onslaught of racial stereotypes, discrimination and racism. No government of the republican period (post 1902), save Fulgencio Batista’s, which demagogically opened the doors of the country’s armed forces to this sector of the population, did absolutely anything for them.

The reason was not that these governments were unaware of the problem. During his presidential campaign, Carlos Prio Socarras made the cause of black people his own in a speech delivered at Havana’s Club Atenas, but did nothing once in office.

Before the “war” of 1912, black people and mixed race persons had patiently waited for each new government to bring some measure of improvement to their situation on the island.

But, even though this sector already represented over 30% of Cuba’s voting population at the time, nothing was ever done: once the presidential campaigns were over, as I’ve written many times, all of their demands were put “on the backburner”.

The revolutionary government, which came to power in 1959, was the first to seriously address the problems faced by black and mixed race peoples and the poor in general.

So, when I hear black people say that a change in Cuba’s current political system would benefit this sector of the population, I can only feel sorry for them for their historical ignorance.

What do people mean when they speak of a change in Cuba’s current political system? Does it mean, among other things, that those biding their time in Miami should return and take power in Cuba, bringing back the racism that prevailed on the island before 1959 and is today openly practiced in their Miami community?

Esteban-1Even Carlos Moore, a supporter of the idea that a regime change in Cuba is needed, has spoken against this on numerous occasions, incurring the deep animosity of Miami’s white Cuban Americans. This is because he knows that the immense majority of the members of this community are consummate racists.

Where in this hemisphere which includes the United States, the country with the world’s most powerful black middle class, are black people best off in terms of what they have gained historically, if not in today’s Cuba?

On the basis of what model, drawn from any system in today’s world, can we be justified in saying that the lives of black people could improve through a change in Cuba’s political system? When, before the revolution, did black people have the right to employment, equal salaries, and free education and healthcare, to name a few of the things they enjoy in Cuba today? Where in the world today is this a widespread phenomenon among non-whites?

It is true that Cuba’s current political system is still fraught with deficiencies and imperfections, that wealth hasn’t yet been distributed as we’d hoped, that access to employment opportunities is still not the same for blacks and whites (see my recent article for Havana Times).

These facts, which suggest that racial discrimination and racism still exist in Cuba, are not part of a historical burden the country still shoulders, but the result of these imperfections, which Cuban society has not yet managed to eradicate.

Acknowledging that pending agenda is one thing while another is saying that this means that these imperfections will be eliminated by renouncing socialism, a system which, in spite of its problems, continues to be the only one that has secured for black people, on a massive scale, what no other has yet offered them anywhere in the world.

It is a question of perfecting and expanding the system through which our social situation has improved, not of eliminating it. The latter would be a fool’s solution to our problems.

Suffice is to observe the struggle of the nearly 140 million African descendants scattered across Latin America. For nearly all of them, the achievements Cuba can boast of continue to be unreached goals, rights that Cuba has already secured for blacks and that today only struggles to preserve and broaden in scope.

In their alleged struggle against racism in Cuba, these critics, whom I am tempted to call the “racial Right”, often wear a “mask” to conceal their real objective, which is nothing other than deploying the issue of race as part of the subversive political campaign aimed at a “regime change” in Cuba which the United States supports.

esteban-4The truth is, these black people are not engaged in a struggle against racism and racial discrimination in Cuba; they are, rather, the “blacklegs”, the “fifth column” of the United States’ current Cuba policy.

The chief commitment of these individuals is not the struggle against racism and racial discrimination in Cuba, but the United States’ anti-Cuba policies. They merely use racial issues as a kind of “umbrella” or cover for their actions.

I believe these individuals are also smart enough to have realized that their thesis that Cuba’s racial problems could be solved through a “regime change” cannot be defended, neither historically or politically.

The immense majority of black people in Cuba know this well and won’t be seduced by the “siren-songs” of the counterrevolutionary racial Right.

The racial Right would have us believe that black people who have been imprisoned in Cuba for common crimes are activists engaged in a civil rights struggle. Its members are also allies of the Ladies in White and establish political parties and organizations to oppose the Cuban government.

They identify with the interests of U.S. policy in order to get their hands on USAID money and enjoy the privileges afforded by the US Interests Section in Cuba.

They must lay their cards on the table, once and for all, and reveal their true political affinities and intentions, and not use the issue of race as a standard and cover, to pretend to be engaged in a struggle which isn’t theirs, for they are ultimately mere defenders of the idea that capitalism, that same system which never did anything for black and mixed race people in Cuba, ought to return to the island.


14 thoughts on “Blacks and the System in Cuba

  • April 18, 2015 at 8:50 am
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    there are not many blacks with good jobs in the tourist hotels. the police regularly stop blacks on the streets of havana thinking they are all jineteros. cuba is yet a long way from equality when it comes to its population of color.

  • May 28, 2013 at 12:12 am
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    hahaha, the article says that black cubans are doing ok within the island. yeah, right.

  • May 27, 2013 at 6:57 am
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    As an Afrikan when given an op ( i am an Atty ) every Afrikan with the desire would/could achieve in Cuba. The issue here is fairplay and foreigners who control the masses

  • May 27, 2013 at 6:55 am
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    One would have to be as old as i am to know what white supremacy is and what Cuba was like antes Fidel..Those same people who are now biting at the bit in Miami and elsewhere are part and parcel of what continues to be part of a radial divide in Cuba However had Fidel not done as he had done Afrikans would not exist in Cuba
    Carlos Moore cannot speak of it and neither can Esteban One left and the other was not born Hello?

  • May 27, 2013 at 6:52 am
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    People are not in slavery in Cuba and for those who think so they must be a the sons of former slavemasters

  • May 26, 2013 at 11:22 pm
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    Of course things are not has bad has they were in the past but things have changed every where and in many places things have improved way faster and better than what is the situation in Cuba. Just to give you a simple example, prior to the revolution, in Cuba, a person of color, a “mulatto” was the president; Batista, no matter what you may think of him as a leader was able to break the color barrier for himself and was the one to allow blacks to serve in the Cuban military. So one can make an argument that already under Batista things were changing in Cuba.
    At the same time Batista was president, a person of color in the USA was not even allowed to use the same restroom that white were using. Segregation was the law of the land.
    Now, in the very same USA we have a mulatto president whom was elected with 63% of the votes in a country were black population is only 14% of the total population. Wouldn’t you say that things have improved just has much if not more in other places?

    Moreover, I have to disagree with you also on your final point when you said that “blacks in Cuba may be poor, but they are free, at least as free as everyone else”. I don’t think anyone is free in Cuba. If I remember well up to a few months ago no one was able to even leave Cuba without first asking and being approved by the government. What kind of freedom do you have if you cannot even choose to leave a place? What kind of freedom do you have when a government teaches every body how to read but than it tells you what books to read and what books not to read? What kind of freedom do you have when most of the world, with a few exemption, as access to the internet but in Cuba it is forbidden? What kind of freedom do you have when you are confined to work for a state that pays you a wage that does not allow you to provide for basic needs? What kind of freedom do you have when you are prevented from achieving your true economic and personal potential? The achievement of 60 years of revolution did not to make blacks free, it froze Cuba and Cuban society in a time warp. What 60 years of revolution achieved was to make all Cubans “equally poor”.

  • May 25, 2013 at 5:17 pm
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    Certain people capitalize on others ignorance. If there was no embargo, BLACK Cubans would flourish but imperialist white right wingers in Miami political elite circles pressure congress to sustain the embargo. It benefit white supremacist in the US as well . Cuba is a diamond. And the white right wing elites is bidding their time. I pray Shango step in and intervene for righteous before hand.

  • May 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm
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    White supremacy is white supremacy. In pre Castro Times or now. The whites from Cuba are still bitter about giving up their power and prestige. In Miami I see the same white supremacy that affect and marginalize people of color all over Latin America . Pan Africanism is the only way to fight. As long as we are hoodwinked to believe any Eurocentric political ideology has our best interest at heart we will continue to struggle for survival.

  • May 23, 2013 at 5:24 am
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    No. He says that bad as things are now they are a big improvement to how they were before and in any case the racist scum moved to Miami after 1959 and along the hatred for the Castros they keep nurturing their bigotry toward black people. An in case, if the Cuban government falls, chances are those same people will most likely take control of the Cuba politic arena and most likely will bring with them their old hatreds.

    And all black people know that very well, saying the opposite is not just being disingenuous, is lying through your teeth. If you ever chatted online with a random group of Cubans from Miami, you should know that their trolling style is quite childish and there is two things they consider deadly insults: being called communist or black. For them, those are even worse than being called gay even when homophobia issues in Cuba are way way worse than racial issues.

    And you are mistaken, blacks in Cuba may be poor, but they are free, at least as free as everyone else. And there is a word for ex-slaves trying to put their masters back in power: being stupid.

  • May 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm
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    Esteban’s argument is that everything is wonderful for blacks in Cuba and if anybody says otherwise they are agents of imperialism and have no right to speak.

    There’s a term for a black man who is granted the privilege of living in the BIg House in exchange for helping the master to keep the slaves in chains.

  • May 22, 2013 at 8:26 am
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    Brilliant article Estaban. Like Norway, Sweden and Denmark, you have a successful social system that of course, cannot satisfy every citizen in its system but boy, Cuba has shown the world, against all odds, what can be done not only for whites and right-wingers but for everyone. I keep saying this over and over — Stand proud Cuba! You are a social success story!

  • May 22, 2013 at 7:14 am
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    While I am in total agreement with your argument and I too share your view that “when I hear black people say that a change in Cuba’s current political system would benefit this sector of the population, I can only feel sorry for them for their historical ignorance,” I also believe that you should be careful not to come up with derogatory stereotypes like, “they are, rather, the “blacklegs”, the “fifth column” of the United States’ current Cuba policy… The racial Right.” This I believe risk diminishing your argument – which is a great argument without it! Blacks in Cuba had never before enjoyed the liberation, self respect and sense of equality and dignity that the revolution gave them. The revolution gave pride and dignity back to the Black man in Cuba – and that is a fact. However, because Blacks make up a great minority group among the poor in Cuba generally, then it is natural that they would affiliate with other minority causes/groups like “Ladies in White”. Minority groups like for example the Trade Union movement, usually find solidarity; support, strength with other minority groups. Those poor disgruntled Blacks in Cuba may simply want political change in Cuba and an improvement in living standards since the revolution – which most Cubans including the Government seem to want nowadays – and not necessarily be “the “blacklegs”, the “fifth column” of the United States’ current Cuba policy”.

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