By Carlos Cabrera Perez (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — A video showing a group of Cuban dissidents protesting in front of the Cuban parliament in Havana to demand a series of liberties and rights has once again revealed the profound racism that continues to exist in Cuba.
Today, 56 years after the triumph of the revolution, we hear the voice of a woman yelling: “They’re a bunch of blacks who had no rights before and now want everything handed to them.” The woman was referring to the 12 activists from Cuba’s Orlando Zapata National Civic Resistance and Disobedience Front who were arrested on Thursday morning for demonstrating to demand the elimination of the absurd Ley de Peligrosidad (“Potential criminality law”).
In addition to being a false statement (for black people weren’t denied everything in the past, and they aren’t offered everything today), the woman’s comments reveal the profound contempt that some Cubans feel towards other Cubans, equal only in their condition as victims of totalitarianism. The woman we hear in the video, however, feels superior, as though fully espousing a Nazi concept.
White and Absolute Power
Castroism is a form of white, absolute power. One of the sociological bases for Castro’s triumph was the profound contempt that the sugar industry aristocracy, the middle class and the population in general felt towards the mixed-race dictator Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar.
In the 1980s, after the Cuban government noted that dozens of black and mixed-race people had left the country in the Mariel exodus, Fidel Castro made a point of increasing the number of black people and mulattos employed by government entities. This was, to be sure, a cosmetic rather than real measure, as none of these reached any positions with any real power. To be fair, neither did the new white recruits, as Castroism has always been a top-down, hermetic system.
Racism and other forms of discrimination on the basis of political and religious affiliations and sexual orientation were not invented by the Castro regime. The world is full of racists, intolerant people and countless individuals who suffer discrimination. What is surprising, however, is that a revolution that alleged to have been carried out by the humble and for the humble should produce such racist attitudes.
This is a serious issue, revealing the problematic perspective that has taken root in the mind of this woman and of those who think like her: one can be black, mixed-race, homosexual or whatever one wants to be, provided one supports the Castro regime.
This spells a terrible dilemma for a mixed-race, poor and sentimental country saturated with empty speeches about equality and justice, intent on the moral assassination of those who dissent, are different or respectfully – and justifiably – decide to break with the herd that feigns contentment and unshakable loyalty.
An Ailing Nation
Regrettably, Cuba is a morally sick nation, a victim of the totalitarian monologue that Castroism managed to establish thanks to the acquiescence of the majority of the population. And the regime continues with its tired spiels about racism in the United States, despite the fact that Barack Obama is still in office, after having been democratically elected for a second term.
This is why it struck me as significant that, at the sessions held this week before the US Senate and House of Representatives, most of the testimonies from dissidents and civil society representatives came from black and mixed-race individuals, reminding us that they are the ones who suffered the most and were most heavily trampled on by the deceitfully liberating stampede of Castroism.
The most recent Population and Housing Census conducted in Cuba confirmed that black and mixed-race people are the poorest in Cuba, a problem that will be difficult to overcome by any post-Castro government. A future Cuba will also have to devote considerable efforts to come in aid of an aged population, the chronically ill, alcoholics, drug-addicts and the numerous single-mother families where fathers have been absent for three generations.
Some will likely claim that what we hear in this video are the regrettable statements of a single woman, faced with a group of Cubans who demand democratic rights for all citizens, including the woman who insults them.
It’s a shame this is not an isolated incident and that it embodies the perverse effects of a political discourse that has taken shape in the course of more than fifty years and has sought to transform citizens into obedient soldiers, criminalizing all dissent and labeling those who defend a Cuba where there is room for everyone (including those who think differently) as enemies or, what’s worse, as enemy agents (hired by the CIA or USAID).
“They’re a bunch of blacks,” the offensive woman said. I say: They are Cuban, just like you, Madam, even if you can’t and probably never will see them as your equals.