Cuba: Playing the Race Card

Vicente Morin Aguado

Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba, there are people playing the race card, irresponsible demagogues in search of fame. Rosa Park’s protest would never have taken place in Havana, not under Batista and not under Fidel – it is a gesture foreign to our reality. Our hack writers milk the expectations that exist in our places around the world, where their messages are well received.

Is there racism in our country? Of course. How could we be free from it, carrying the historical burden of slavery on our shoulders? However, our history differs greatly from the Anglo-Saxon tradition that prevailed in our northern neighbor, the privileged target of any media attack launched by our country.

It is absurd, completely senseless and blind to the facts to attack Cuba’s revolutionary process as racist, to claim it has encouraged and supported discrimination over the past 56 years.

The claim that a racial ideology has prevailed in Cuba is historically baseless. In the case of the United States, however, there are plenty of eloquent examples:

Though, in 1776, Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” 90 years following Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and an additional century of blood, sweat and tears were needed to secure equal civil rights for all, a process that cost Martin Luther King his life.

Cuba proclaimed itself a Republic for the first time in Guaimaro, on April 10, 1869. On December 27 of the previous year, those who took up arms against Spain had already proclaimed the abolition of slavery, a transparent document signed by the country’s first president Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, a decree issued on December 25, 1870.

Cuba’s emancipatory and revolutionary leadership showed no hesitation or confusion on addressing the issue. Even though slavery was legally sanctioned until 1886 by the colonial power, a dark-skinned giant who, in the words of Jose Marti, “had a mind as powerful as his arm,” reached the rank of Lieutenant General of the Liberation Army, that is to say, he became the second-in-command of Cuba’s troops.

It is culture that most vividly reflects the difference between Cuba and the United States in terms of the issue of racial discrimination. We didn’t have anything even remotely resembling the KKK and, tellingly, our predominant religion, freed from restrictions following the agreements adopted at the 4th Congress of the Communist Party (held in 1991) clearly reveals the amazing syncretism on the island, something difficult to grasp beyond our borders.

The cultural creations of African origin remain intact in Cuba, without any considerations regarding skin-color getting in the way. A “pure-blooded” Spaniard lives next door to the writer of these lines, a renowned Babalao (Yoruba priest), the godfather of stepchildren who are far darker than I. The same is true of institutions as significant as that of the Abakuas, bound by anti-racist principles since the day one of them tried to save a group of medical students from an unjust execution. Though all these students belonged to Cuba’s aristocracy, some were suspected of ties to the said secret society of black people.

Cuba’s syncretic national identity grows unchecked, nourished by the arts and intimate unions, removed from any consideration of people’s skin color.

There are no government actions that favor racist practices – the entirety of revolutionary legislation is opposed to such abominations.

Discrimination as such, political discrimination in particular, stemming from the concept and practice of the one Party and ideology, is another thing. This is regrettable, for Marxism proclaims the end of all discrimination and full freedom for all peoples. Contrary to what it preaches, the Party consolidated different forms of discrimination, some of which are still effective – but they are never linked to the racial issue.

There is a kind of intrinsic racism that affects people and is highly regrettable. It is understandable from the point of view of human nature, loaded with prejudice and characterized by petty interests, spurred on from the beginning of history. Whenever such dark and low feelings arise, any action taken against them must be applauded.

But confusing these things, bringing together certain details capriciously in order to be applauded abroad, speaking of the sort of racism that exists in the United States (nowhere to be found in our country) is quite another matter.

11 thoughts on “Cuba: Playing the Race Card

  • Hahahahaha! Are you suggesting that the disjointed, almost incoherent, factually incorrect comments that you post are “Sound speech”? At the very least, your comments are as negative and anti-US as my comments are admitedly anti-CASTRO. In your next Bible study, you should read Matthew 7:5, especially the part about the ‘log in your own eye’.

  • Moses, I thought that I was the only person who analyzed you as being a person who sees everything negative. There are some books on positve thinking and you need to read some of them. Stop the griping man! Give Jack his jacket. The people of Cuba have made great strides under the 1959 Revolution. It is a fact which only you and others of your ilk would dispute, but your disputing of the historical fact does not make them less of a reality, for facts are facts and concrete facts are indelible facts which cannot be erased regardless of the tool used. Truth is truth! There is a Biblical passage of Scripture, Titus 2 :8. “Sound Speech which cannot be condemned.” Change course my negative friend or you will be far out distanced by us who present Titus 2 :8 facts!!

  • I firmly believe the Revolutionary Government in Cuba has done much to promote racial equality and harmony, but a lot of racism still remains to be dealt with. It all comes down to the legacy of slavery (1454-1886) and the re-injection of European and North American racist attitudes during the time of the pre-revolutionary republic 1901-1959. Afro-Cuban culture considered work to be demeaning, because it always was for them either as a slave or later, as the lowest-paid worker under the harshest conditions. This fact of life for Afro-Cubans was best expressed by Nicolás Guillén, Cuba’s National Poet, when he wrote:

    “Me matan si no trabajo, y si trabajo me matan
    Siempre me matan, me matan, siempre me matan”
    (They kill me if I work and if I don’t work they kill me
    Always they kill me, they kill me, always they kill me)

    Many Afro-Cubans did not “buy” the promises of the Revolutionary Government, they had heard too many empty ones already, and did not take advantage of the opportunities to learn and to train being offered to all. Many did not have an adequate support system at home, and making money to bring home now came before any education for later rewards; others did not have the most basic social skills to deal with team work or interpersonal relations or office culture because of the terrible social conditions in the shantytowns where they grew up and developed. But lots of White Cubans, on the other hand, could talk the talk and walk the walk because that is the kind of life they grew up around. Their whole family supported their quest for education and training, and they did not mind working really hard towards future gains because that was their experience, having never been a slave or an Afro-Cuban. Sub-conscious racism also played a part on who was promoted or chosen and who you networked with. Today, the higher one goes in the Cuban Government echelons, the whiter the faces.
    There are lots of Afro-Cubans who did take advantage of all the Government offered and who got ahead; and there are Afro-Cuban and Chinese-Cuban faces in important positions, more than would have been under any other regime in the past, but there is much that must change before the hordes of White American tourists that are about to descend on us re-inject racism into the Cuban economy again.

  • The lifting of sanctions against Cuba is an event that I have long awaited and provides an opportunity to for all parties to wrap their heads around the racist issue and defeat it. I would encourage a read of “They Came Before Columbus” by Ivan Van Sertima and his videos that appear on YouTube. This ancient history reaches out to us today regardless of its critics and distractors and paints an insightful and imaginative picture of the Ancient African mariners who shaped the new world for a time with their pre Greek and Roman intellectual and social accomplishments. I suggest that a copy of this book be placed in the bedside drawers of all Cuban hotels.

  • It’s subtle and not so subtle. I’ve been to parties where there have been no blacks (only light skinned mulatos) and its not like they are being specifically excluded but at the same time they are. They know that they aren’t welcome and that’s a subtle and dangerous form of racism.

    It’s also interesting to see the dynamics of racial relations in Miami. A white Cuban will meet a black man and if they realize that he speaks Spanish, and especially is Cuban, will stop seeing him as black and see him as Cuban….to a certain extent.

    My point is that racism is more of a human condition. No one country has any special claim to it.

  • Yes.

  • What? Reread my comment. As the income differential grows, the racists will increasingly explain this differential as a function of race as opposed to the many other real reasons.

  • Just got back from Cuba. I am in the marina business and doing some research on yachting tourism in Cuba. I love the people and the country. Also paid a visit with my Cuban Doctors and Nurses that took care of me when I fractured my hip due to a fall the day I arrived on my first visit back in February; I spent seven days in Clinca Central Cira Garcial. My visit was like a family reunion. My only concern is that whatever good happens from the U.S. lifting the embargo flows down to the people. And contrary to all the rhetoric from nay sayers, I believe it will happen.

  • Moses, now I have a fair picture of who and what you are, and it has nothing to do with the color of your skin. I am a believer of that line in Dr. King’s “I have a dream speech” — I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    I believe the majority of U.S. citizens judge people by their character, not the color of their skin. And not as the race baiters try and promote it, by blaming anything negative toward a black person as racist.

    Moses, have you got anything positive to say about anything?

  • And there is a classic example of playing the race card. Diddums Patterson!

  • As a victim of racism in both the US and Cuba, I can say wholeheartedly that from the victim’s perspective, it all feels the same. US racism is worse because it has been used (and continues to be used ) to justify violence. But Cuban racism is alive and expanding. As more white Cubans improve economically and more black Cubans grow worse off, racists views expand.

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