Black on the Outside, White on the InsideMarch 5, 2016 | Print |
Common racist expressions used in Cuba.
Jorge Milanes Despaigne
HAVANA TIMES — “The situation is black,” an elderly woman says to another while choosing tomatoes at a market stand, referring to how difficult things are and, as the context suggests, the high price of food products.
Hearing this, I am suddenly curious about certain racist expressions some people use out on the street, using the color black to refer to something negative.
When I approach the fried-snack stand, the vendor, who apparently knows me since my primary school days, says:
“You don’t get old, blackie…”
“I try to stay young,” I reply.
“Well, you folk have better skin than whites do. And you can tell you’re white inside.”
I go away, unable to reply, because the bus is coming, but my curiosity grows as I think about that statement, “white inside.”
I arrived a meeting with colleagues and friends, an encounter in which my friend Grace Lynis Dubinson, an architect who has studied the issue of discrimination and the history of racism in the United States, the founder of Cinnamon Travel Heritage, speaks to us of a community gardening project she’s set up in Atlanta.
In her presentation, she offers details about a work group trying to protect crops from animals that cross the fences to eat the havest. On hearing this, one of my colleagues interrupts her.
“Don’t you have that plant that people in Cuba call “the black trap”? Farmers plant it around their fields to protect the crops.”
Confused, Grace makes an effort to understand. She speaks very little Spanish and, to confirm she’s heard right, she asks me to translate. I give her a detailed explanation.
Very much put off, she reclines in her chair, sits up and categorically condemns the use of the name many people here have given this thorny plant. She didn’t know that was its popular name.
When I got home, I asked my mother about the plant’s name and she says she’s always known it as a “Cardona.”
I repeated the name several times so as not to forget it and, the next day, told Grace. Someone had already given her a specimen.
These racist expressions are the results of numerous social problems which society is often blind to, repeating historical patterns unconsciously.