Racism and its Perpetuation Mechanisms

October 23, 2013 | Print Print |

Alberto N Jones

Havana barrio. Foto: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — People who still visit libraries and other places related to science know books that document and honor the memory of those who have contributed with their inventions, science and technology to the development of the world.

In one of them I found: Benjamin Bannecker was born in 1731 in Baltimore and was the main assistant of Army Mayor Andrew Ellicott.

French Pierre L’ Enfant was assigned by President George Washington to survey and design the capital of the United States in the District of Columbia. When he became annoyed by the hostility and criticism, he resigned, returned to France and asked Bannecker to finish that monumental work.

Charles Drew was born in Washington DC in 1904, he graduated in Biology from the University of Amherst and Medicine from McGill University in 1933. He worked as a pathologist at Howard and Columbia Universities, where he wrote his lecture on “Blood Bank”. In this presentation he described the methodology to be used to separate blood plasma from red and white cells and how to preserve  this vital product during a long time. This has saved the lives of millions of people around the world.

Norbert Rillieux was born in New Orleans in 1806. He studied engineering at L’ Ecole Central Paris where he graduated with his famous thesis of “Functions and economic implications of the steam engine.” Years after, he designed the sugar cane juice evaporators at high temperatures, revolutionizing the global sugar production.

George Edward Alcorn was born in 1940 in Indianapolis and was the pioneer in the field of semiconductors. He invented the imaging X-ray spectrometer which used thermomigration of aluminum.

Cuban junior high students. Photo: Caridad

Fred Jones was born in Covington in 1893. He invented the portable X -ray equipment, the system of refrigerated trucks and the supermarket refrigerators for food preservation and transformed silent cinema into the spoken.

Andrew Beard, who was born in Alabama in 1897, saved thousands of railway workers from being crushed during the trains coupling, when he invented the horizontal “coupling.”

Dr. Patricia Beard was born in Harlem in 1942.  In 1981 she invented a method for removing cataracts using a laser device.

Despite receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, Arthur Lewis from St. Lucia in 1979, Vidiadhar S. Naipaul fromTrinidad and Tobago in 2001, Saint – John Perse from Guadeloupe in 1960 and Derrick Walcott from St. Lucia in 1992, their works and merits are not part of the cultural heritage of our children, Why?

Simply, these people and thousands more are black and live or lived in a racist world, where there accomplishments are overshadowed, buried and ignored. Their contribution to the world are not exalted, or perpetuated by monuments, academic curriculum, public buildings or in the mass media.

This criminal action deprives our children of their self-esteem, history and positive models in life while they are bombarded with messages that illustrate and record all the despicable acts they commit.

This ancestral fear of the black, savage, the witch doctor, that some people assumed is part of the past, still exists in different forms in the XXI Century.

In Cuba

Despite the great efforts made by the Cuban government to achieve racial equality, social justice, and reduce stereotypes and racism, these problems have clashed with powerful forces masked in key positions inside our society, who are determined to halt and prevent the most important moral project in the country. They project the victims as mongoloides or manageable with pieces of mirror in exchange for their dignity.

Foto: Caridad

In the mass media the marginalization of black people in Aviation, Tourism and even in some specialties of Health services, Architecture and others has been often discussed.

Often, the allocation of economic resources of the state runs parallel with the ethnic composition of the province, cities and neighborhoods. The development of Old Havana, Vedado and Miramar have nothing to do with Centro Habana, La  Lisa or Los Hoyos in Santiago de Cuba. The provinces of Cienfuegos, Holguin and Santi Spiritus, have overshadowed Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.

Five years after the opening of the Coppelia parlor in Havana, its products expanded to Santa Clara, Isla de la Juventud and Matanzas. Santiago de Cuba had to wait 40 years for such ice creams, and Guantanamo is still awating.

The British West Indian Welfare Center in Guantanamo was founded in 1945 as a nongovernmental organization. It did excellent social and cultural work for the thousands of English-speaking immigrants and their descendants. The request to the Ministry of Justice for a license to rebuild the disastrous building, operating a cafetaria or an inn, has been denied over and over again, while a handful of Asturians, Jews, Arabs and Chinese descents in Cuba legally own and operate cafes, restaurants, rental houses and a hotel.

The serious damage of this selective marginalization of blacks in the country can be seen in the stagnation, frustration and demoralization of black youths. In the period 1960-1975, blacks from Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba, constituted the bulk of doctors, nurses, dentists and teachers graduated in Cuba. Today, the presence of blacks in these same professions is on the edge of extinction.

This brutal socioeconomic segregation that tries to decimate blacks in Cuba, provides fertile ground for the proliferation of crime, violence, prostitution and the development of activities that threaten the independence and sovereignty of the country, which we all will regret.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    I suspect Dr. Jones that as the socioeconomic changes in Cuba continue to manifest themselves along racial lines, that is to say that as the upperclass which tends to be white becomes better off economically and the lowerclass which tends to be black sinks deeper into poverty, the racial undertones will become more pronounced. Black Cubans will better see the hopelessness of their plight and White Cubans will justify their paintball and 3D movie fun with the ‘fact’ that they work harder. They will forget about the monthly remittances they receive. They will easily discount the fact that they can more easily ‘resolve’ their problems because they work in tourism, or restaurants that use CUC. Racism, unfortunately, will not be resolved in Cuba once political freedom finally emerges. If that were so, the US would be racism-free. Rather, I fear that Cuba will continue to devolve into a racial quagmire, especially when democracy is finally a Cuban reality. Solving racism in Cuba, anywhere for that matter, is a tough one that I can’t figure.