The Persistent Racial Crisis in Cuba

August 26, 2016 | Print Print |

By Alberto N. Jones  (Photos: Juan Suarez)

HAVANA TIMES — Recent controversies in Havana Times and other online media about the heated issue of racism in Cuba sadly confirm my predictions decades ago. That the unfounded fear of the Cuban government to recognize and confront the increased racism in the country and its intent to pretend this tragedy does not exist, would serve only for this malady to metastasize and end up devouring the victim, if an effective and aggressive therapy is not applied.

I read carefully an article written by Lenin Ledo Galano about Guillermo Fariñas on 8/8, Elio Delgado’s response on 8/16 and Yusimi Rodriguez’s counter-response on 8/24, all of which touch on the signs, symptoms and clinical appearance, while ignoring the sinister racist past that our country has dragged for 500 years.

Because the cases of Fariñas, Zapata, Berta Soler, UNPACU, Ladies in White and similar are signs and symptoms of an enormous pathological issue that is devouring our country, I will not refer to them although I have a personal opinion.  Neither will I refer to articles written by Elio, Iroel or the panelists that have taken part on the national TV show The Round Table, who are prone to present these evils in technicolor or as if, they were the sole result of a campaign by the United States.

Thousands of historical documents before and after Cuba’s independence demonstrate categorically, the existence of a racist, supremacist trait in people in position of authority and influence in Cuba, who have imposed with blood and bullets their Eurocentric philosophy. Recently, authors such a Rolando Rodriguez have tried to mask and justify with a  tendentious inflammatory description  of the massacre of the Independent Party of Color in 1912, as a ”mistaken uprising” or “the conspiracy of equals”.

The cruel, brutal and shameful experience of blacks in Cuba remains as a pending task and a wretched, festering wound that exudes a scornful and fetid odor, which everyone including our illustrious Nicolas Guillen thought was eradicated with the triumph of the Revolution as he wrote in his memorable poem “I Have”.

An irrefutable lack of political will has ignored the depth, gravity and malignancy of racism in Cuba, which some have tried to resolve by closing their eyes, applying band aid remedies or intimidating all discussions and analyses with fear of social division.

The government’s complicity in the persistence of racism in Cuba and its sequel, do not require academic studies or bibliographic compilations. Suffice a comparative analysis with the form, energy and determination that the same government has dealt with and resolved educational, social, political or military problems, far more complex than the oldest defect the country have dragged for centuries.

  • The Revolution taught the entire nation to read and write in less than a year and in less than a quarter of a century, turned the country into the most educated in this continent.
  • The Revolution liberated women and conferred upon them the most advanced social rights in our region.
  • The Revolution recognized in less than a decade, equal rights for homosexuals, bi-sexual, transgender etc., in a country with an engrained sexist, prejudiced and homophobic mentality.
  • The Revolution defeated every military, economic, financial, political and isolationist attack against the country by the most powerful country on earth and its allies.
  • The Revolution placed the country ahead of Latin America in education, arts, culture, sports and the sciences.

How can we explain to ourselves, that racism, which is much easier to eradicate, has been able to survive, reproduce and constitutes today the greatest derision and obstacle to the country’s development, rides freely in plain sight of the authorities and which is spoken of tangentially sporadically without any law enforcement or consequences for violators?

The persistence of supremacist, sectarian and segregationist mentalities that reside in the minds and heart of many Cuban government officials, are determining factors in the continuance and development of this plague.  Absolute power and the unwillingness to change course is drawing the vessel dangerously close to a reef and shipwreck, as is demonstrated by absurd and stagnating decisions that are fossilizing the nation.

As a result, Cuba has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in food production and deprived the population of basic nourishments. The government has preferred to keep millions of acres of fertile lands idle and devoured by weeds rather than reverse a cruel and unjust entry law into the country for Caribbean migrants, who were responsible in the past for the production of sugar, coffee, cocoa, fruits and small animals.

Had governments before the Revolution acted in a similar fashion, the country would never had a Teofilo Stevenson, Lesbia Vent Dumois, Regino Boti, Rita Manley, Lidia Turner or Wilfredo Lam and others.

While Cuba spends millions of dollars promoting tourism in Europe, Asia and Oceania, it has never made a similar effort in the Caribbean or among the Afro American community, although it holds a GDP of over 960 billion dollars a year.

How can Justice Institutions in Cuba explain the disparity in the administration of the law between whites and blacks? Minor crimes committed by blacks are severely punished while extremely grave crimes committed, by even high ranking white government officials, against the integrity and stability of the nation, are only denounced, reprimanded verbally and the offender returned to society without further consequences.

What other reasons except the fear of blacks and the horrors of poorly hidden racism can explain the self-inflicted harm to the country by forcing into poverty and decimating an entire sector of the population. By exclusion, being subjected to hunger and forced into crime, tens of thousands of blacks are incarcerated, which constitutes today a flagrant and undeniable accusation of race-relations failure in Cuba.

Either Cuba musters the moral fortitude to eradicate the Sowetos it has created or it will be forced to live with an international stigma as it succumbs to the flames of racial strife like in Baltimore, Ferguson, Miami or Europe.


What's your opinion?

  • George

    What is needed is “Black” architects and “White” labourers.

    • Eden Wong

      Good luck with that.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      George, if you examine the history of Cuba from 1492 onwards the Spanish exploited others to do the physical work. It started with the Taino – as Christopher Columbus wrote in his dairy that the Tainos only weapons were simple spears and that: “With fifty men we could make them do what we wanted.”
      Having practised genocide initiated by following Spanish Catholic practice and burning Hautey at the stake, the Spanish required others to do the work. So the slave trade commenced bringing Tefilo’s and many others forebears and continued until slavery was eventually ended in 1886 – the last country to do so in the western hemisphere. Threatened with the idea of actually having to pursue physical work themselves, the Spanish then imported Chinese coolies – hence Wilfredo Lam. As democracy threatened, the Spanish became concerned about the number of blacks exceeding the number of whites and so as government policy encouraged Spanish Catholics from Galicia (where the Castros father came from as an immigrant) to farm in Cuba with land and subsidy provided.
      Racism in Cuba is alive and well as I have previously written in these pages. Why else did the Castro regime ask question number 6 in the 2012 national census?
      “6. What is the colour of your skin?
      But they are always prepared to claim credit for the international sporting successes of Cuban athletes – and just look at the colour of their skins!

      • George

        Thank you Carlyle for your reply. I believe the question “What is the colour of your skin?” was introduced in direct response to calls from “Black” intellectuals for the government to take into account skin colour and collect statistics, see for example the writings of Esteban Morales. I understand as someone who is Irish, you are particularly sensitive to the use of skin colour in determining needs and justice. The Irish have pale skin but were severely oppressed by the “Whites”. If you are interested in pursuing this issue you might like to read “How the Irish became White” by Noel Ignatiev, which details how in the States at least, the Irish took advantage of their skin colour within the racist climate to leverage themselves into higher positions at the expense of solidarity with those with more melanin.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          I don’t have a single drop of Irish blood in my veins. Sadly for the Irish, the history of educational opportunity has been dismal, largely as a consequence of the Catholic Church domination. As recently as 1964 in my native heath, I employed Irish itinerant labourers who signed for the pay by using an X and their given names were then written by staff beside that X.
          If you seek to know about my origins and the abilities of my race, then read a very excellent book by an American professor of Germanic lineage who was professor of history at George Mason University and Georgetown University.
          Arthur Herman’s book is:
          ‘How the Scots Invented the Modern World’
          For Americans especially it is an important book to read as it analyses much of their history especially educational and political.
          I read your personal opinion about why the Castro regime included Question Number 6 in the 2012 National Census. It has enabled them to reduce the percentage of blacks in Cuba from 10.1% in 2002 to 9.9% in 2012.
          Any visitor to Cuba can see quite clearly that the figures are bogus manipulations, which enable the regime to minimise the number of blacks appointed to positions of authority and management. Yes, there is a ‘token black’ as President of the so-called equivalent of parliament, but otherwise where are the blacks within the hierarchy?
          Having a black skin in Cuba inhibits opportunity for advancement.

  • Moses Patterson

    I agree with 99% of what Dr. Jones has written in this article. And they say there are no more miracles!

  • Bruce Allen

    I think it is time for a tour of Cuba by members of Black Lives Matter.

    • Dro

      Hell. NO! While BLM at its core has a genuine purpose, we don’t need violence and destruction to solve race issues everywhere else, especially when it’s not even working here in the USA.

  • Vicktor Skarsgard

    If we’re going to touch social issues, let’s not forget the sexism and rampant machismo. Then again all other issues are always addressed first before gender even though this is the most important one since women are the ones producing and raising our next generation…. And the machismo is ingrained deeply even within the Cuban monarchy. So how can it ever be addressed if the regime itself is leading an example in favor of machismo.

    • oaguilar

      “Cuban monarchy”, please we are talking racism, leave it alone for a while, would you?

    • Eden Wong

      It’s hilarious how you always up-vote yourself.

      How macho of you! LOL

  • oaguilar

    racism, much easier to eradicate”, you are a fool.

  • N.J. Marti

    What the black man in Cuba needs is the same thing everywhere. Freedom. Freedom to educate himself, the freedom to work for real income, the freedom to start and build a business. Give the the man his freedom and get out of the way.

    • Chuck1938

      Really!!!! Do you have Baltimore, Staaten Island, Miami Gardens, Chicago, Overtown, Flint or Detroit in mind as you arrived at this cosmic conclusion?

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        It is evident to anyone reading the contribution by N.J.Marti that he is talking about Cuba. That is not surprising as this is the Havana Times. But you Chuck1938 find it necessary to prattle about the USA – presumably the only place you have any knowledge of.
        You as a US citizen already have freedom – what your abilities enable you to make of that freedom is for you to decide. Cubans do not have freedom being subject to the oppression of the Castro family communist regime – something you should learn about before making further contributions.
        If you really don’t appreciate freedom and wish to experience being part of the ‘mass’ where individuality is regarded by the regime as threatening, move to Cuba – or even better why not North Korea?

      • N.J. Marti

        The institutional structures that keeps the black man down in these inner cities is no where near the obstacles of Cuba. In most of those cities Blacks now run elected Governments, not so in Cuba. America has a racism problem and it knows it. Neither major political party is offering satisfactory solutions. Still, I would rather be black and some what free in America than stuck in a system that will not even admit it has a problem. Freedom means getting same equal shot at success. When I see blacks represented in a representative share in government leadership in Cuba and in tourist industry then Cuba is making progress and not just talk.

      • Dro

        What on earth does this have to do with NJ Marti’s comment??? Also, blacks in America and blacks in Cuba have totally different mentalities and goals, only paralleling in desire for equal rights as everyone else. Please do not come here and be closed minded…

  • Mercer Brown

    Infinita gracias to Dr Jones for the courage to expose the internationally well-hidden but internally flagrantly-practiced policy of racism and “gallego” supremacy in Cuba.

    No discussion of the malady will get anywhere without subjecting the structure of tbe Cuban government to analysis. It is the universal principle of measure that the government of a country should look like the people of the country. The so-called “historic leadership” of Cuba has looked anything but lime the people of Cuba! The Castros have had no shame but only guile in practicing political just-us for half a century in Cuba while engaging in internationalist largesse to African nations and other peoples of colour. The appointments of the Castros speaks volumes about their feelings towards black Cubans. Given the notorious racial exclusion practiced shamelessly by both Fidel and Raul, one has to ask where are the equally competent Afro-Cubans raised by the revolution? We know they exist! We know there are competent Afro-Cuban experts in every field. The problem is not supply bit exclusion!!! The time is long overdue for progressive Afro-Cubans and progressive people everywhere to agitate for an inclusive system on Cuba.

    This commenter does not speak with the same voice or ideological perspective as the CIA operative and collaborator of the murderous imperialist puppet Jonas Savimbi, Carlos Moore. I stand for a progressive society in Cuba and stress that in the first place you cannot have a progressive society without true peoples democracy! I have supported the historic leadership in the past but no more! I am completely disillusioned by their racism and lack of democracy. No democractic government appoints its successor!!! Dias-Canel is not the peoples choice! Let Castros stop Gallego supremacy in Cuba now!

    • George

      It is a mathematical fact that perfect representative democracy is impossible (see Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem). Athenian democracy was not a representative democracy but direct democracy (although it excluded women and slaves). This was possible given the much smaller population involved. With the internet it is possible for us to have direct democracy again. The whole island can be turned into a parliament, with everyone (this time without exclusions) able to vote on policy. Cuba currently lacks the infrastructure to do this, however I am convinced this is the future, and will resolve much of the “racial” issues that currently exist.

      • Mercer Brown

        Not buying this apology for the regime nor any convoluted theories of electronic democracy and the lack of infrastructure for that. No system of governance anywhere in the world is perfect. One needs no intellectual studies to see what is glaringly visible that the Cuban government is overwhelmingly “Gallego” whereas the population is ultimately, on balance, overwhelmingly mixed. The regime knows the imbalance! There is a speech by Fidel at the 1st Congress or one of the early congresses of the PCC where he talks about promoting Afro-Cuban cadres into governance positions. And I defended the regime with this apparent lie whenever charges that the Cuban govt was all white but the Cuban basketball team was all black. In the early 90s there was much brouhaha about Juan Robinson, the Secretary-General of the PCC in Santiago de Cuba, as some promising future leader. He disappeared from the face of the earth under charges of corruption and abuse of power, never to be heard of again. One has to watch Cuban TV to realize that Afro-Cuban children and youth have no role models from their race in posotions of authority and responsibility. Do you really believe there will be an Afro-Cuban leader of Cuba? A Cuban Obama? No, not in another 50 years!

        I call on Dr Jones and others such as Professor Esteban Morales to start a campaign of making known to the world the existence Afro-Cuban intellectuals, distinguished technical, military, and professional experts in all fields as one way of combatting the flagrant marginalization, exclusion and discrimination against Afro-Cubans. Please make and publicize the list now!