Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Is America a racist society? Yes. Absolutely and categorically so. Facts abound to exemplify the assertion. A review of some of the incidents of more immediate times reaffirms it.
However, it is not only the acts of violence, of police brutality, especially against Blacks and Latinos, nor the rise of extreme right-wing, xenophobic and fascistic groups and organizations, that show this visible trace. Neither do the economic and educational inequalities that undermine development opportunities.
In the first days of May, the governor of the state of Idaho, Republican Bradley Jay Little, signed a bill whose purpose is supposedly not controversial: to prohibit public schools and colleges from teaching that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin is inherently superior or inferior”.
It might seem positive; however, this sidesteps, indeed, eradicates, conversations about race and equity, as if they have no relevance in a society where they remain one of the biggest and most divisive problems, rooted in a historical development that had as its roots the near annihilation and dispossession of native peoples and the enslavement of men and women forcibly brought from faraway Africa.
Idaho is not unique in the trend, as a dozen states, including Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia, have also introduced bills that would prohibit schools from teaching “divisive,” “racist” or “sexist” concepts.
According to a paper published by USA Today, such legislation attacks “critical race theory,” a movement of scholars and civil rights activists, which questions and critically examines how the legacy of slavery (in August 1619 the first cargo of enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of present-day U.S. territory) and systemic racism still affects American society today and are everyday experiences for people of African descent.
Thus, this legislative pattern – especially in Southern and Republican-dominated states – is seen as a backlash against teaching anti-racist lessons in schools, a barrier to learning true and hidden histories in order to entrench the racism against African descendants in the U.S. society.
The pattern is seen as a backlash against the teaching of anti-racist lessons in schools, a barrier to the learning of true and hidden histories to enthrone the socio-economic dominance of white elites, who also cover up class-based profiteering, whatever the skin color of the exploited.
Two key events
These final days of May mark two dates a century apart, the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, when the relentless knee of policeman Dereck Chauvin squeezed his neck for more than eight minutes and prevented him from breathing. It was a crime that shook America and continues to shake it, and outraged the world. Then there is the centennial of a massacre of which very few in the northern nation are aware: the Tulsa massacre.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, dozens of Black citizens were murdered -some estimates reach more than 300 victims of the racist barbarism of white mobs, joined by the police and the National Guard-, between the night of May 31 and June 1, 1921, in the Greenwood area, which was known as the Black Wall Street, due to the economic prosperity and intellectual development achieved by its inhabitants, and which was reduced to ruins and ashes in the fires.
Baptist minister and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times: “Few even know about the massacre. It has not even been taught in Tulsa public schools until this year. Though a hundred years old, the massacre raises questions of justice and decency that
of justice and decency that America cannot avoid.”
Yet a significant part in size and power of the United States avoids it and does its best to sidestep it.
The detractors of critical race theory, the conservative elements that deny the existence of systemic racism in America, hoist its eradication and not only try to “discredit” it by calling it “Marxist”, above all they impute it to be a plan to “teach children to hate their country”, therefore, they are a threat to American society and the nation.
The Trump administration opposed the teaching of that history in public schools, asserting that it was “divisive and un-American propaganda.” Trump said, “Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doctrine that holds that America is an evil, racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed.”
A recent study by Reflective Democracy, a group working to build a democracy in America that works for everyone “because it reflects who we are and how we live in the 21st century,” found that white men hold 62 percent of all elected offices despite being only 30 percent of the nation’s population, exercising minority rule over 42 state legislatures, the House of Representatives, the Senate and state offices from coast to coast.
The analysis added that women hold only 31 percent of the offices despite being 51 percent of the population and “people of color” hold only 13 percent despite constituting 40 percent of the population. It also recalled that 43 states in the Union are considering or have already passed laws that would allow them to apply voter suppression, which targets precisely those vulnerable segments – Blacks, Latinos, native Americans and women.
Some analysts recall that this wave against critical race theory only “crystallized” with Trump, but was awakened when Barack Obama came to the White House, which “was shocking and traumatic for people who had always imagined the United States as a white nation,” according to Adrienne Dixson, a professor at the University of Illinois and author of the book Critical Race Theory in Education.
On both sides, the debate has grown over the past year with the nationwide, ethnically diverse, age-group-wide activism of Black Lives Matter which burst onto the social scene of the national conservative organization Parents Defending Education, whose purpose is to confront what they consider “divisive and polarizing ideas in the classroom,” as Critical Race Theory sees it.
On their website Parents Defending Education released a study in which they claim that 70 percent of respondents said it is not important for schools to “teach students that their race is the most important thing about them.” that 74 percent opposed teaching students that whites are inherently privileged and that Blacks and other people of color are inherently oppressed. They also say that 69 percent opposed teaching in schools that America was founded on racism and is structurally racist. Likewise, they say and that 80 percent oppose the use of classrooms to promote student political activism.
Is American society polarized? Undoubtedly, and in my opinion, this is an extremely dangerous element, a boiling cauldron with no safety valve.
By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
For Cuba, the scope of the election of the first non-white, non Anglo-Saxon president in the history of the United States was not derived only from the global superpower politics and had nothing to do with skin color or ethnicity. What it was unique for the island was the fact that it raised the hope that he would lead to the renunciation of the fierce hostility policy against the Cuban revolutionary project that culminated a process of struggles for independence begun 140 years ago.
Cubans understood, from their own experience, that the promises made by Obama which decreed the historical significance of his election –if met– would fatally convene a powerful counteroffensive by the powerful financial consortia embodied in Wall Street and the military-industrial complex whose grim interests would be affected.
To defend the status quo and their privileges, these forces count on the strength of their weapons, the control of the media, education and culture to manipulate consciousness and to lead large masses of people to act against their own interests and rights in the context of a legal and social order governed by money and market competition. These guarantee the domination of their resources on the natural human aspirations for peace, solidarity and equality.
Cubans had reason to harbor hope for the election of a president who had promised to open the way to a new period in the relations between Havana and Washington.
They were aware that, in order to meet almost all the promises he made to the popular movements and humble families who led him to victory, the newly elected president of the United States would have to face in his own country the same backward forces that for half a century have hampered the progress of the revolution on the island.
That equation would imply –by simple arithmetic rule of three– that the character of the links Cuba and the United States have had all throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first century would have to change dramatically.
And, to realize such a utopia in the Caribbean Sea, the US government would have had to renounce not only its long-term ambition of ruling the future of the island, but also its imperial global endeavors. This is because Cuba could not ignore the debt of gratitude with the peoples of the Third World and the poor in industrialized nations whose solidarity has been the main support in the resistance war that Cuba has been waging.
For example, to Obama’s victory millions of African Americans contributed their vote. This ethnic group had suffered slavery –legally authorized until 1865– followed by a century of harsh racial discrimination known as “Jim Crow” with the terrorist outrages of the Ku Klux Klan and, later, the violent repression of their struggles for civil rights in the late 60s of the twentieth century who gave remarkable leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
The Cubans –who do not vote in these elections, but who have been victims of the same cruel policy– had come to appreciate that such a victory in the American nation could serve to initiate a period of peace and good neighborliness in the region, in the context of a broad democratization of international relations.
The hopes of the Cubans would come to pass if, by the will of its people, in the United States, there arose a government that would be respectful of Cuba’s independence.
After more than 90% of the presidential term for which he was twice elected, something has changed, at least formally, during Obama’s term. Diplomatic relations were restored and there are ongoing talks about various important issues. However, the essence of the economic blockade and other humiliating manifestations of the unfair relationship remain in place. Among these are the occupation of the territory of Guantanamo by the US naval base, the persistence of the US overt and covert subversive plans, and the media campaign against Cuba.
There are only a few months in Obama’s final term and there are many hopes that threaten to remain only as the unwavering hopes of the Cuban people in the bilateral relationship with the United States after the end of the term of the allegedly “different” President.
January 20, 2016.
Para Cuba, el alcance de la elección del primer presidente no blanco ni anglo-sajón en la historia de los Estados Unidos no derivaba solamente de la política global de la superpotencia y nada tenía que ver con el color de su piel o su etnia. Lo singular para la Isla era que suscitaba la esperanza de que condujera a la renuncia a la política de feroz hostilidad contra el proyecto revolucionario que el pueblo se diera como culminación de un proceso independentista de luchas iniciado 140 años antes.
Los cubanos comprendían entonces, por su propia experiencia, que las promesas de Obama que decretaron la histórica ocurrencia de su elección, en caso de cumplirse, fatalmente convocarían a una contraofensiva de los poderosos consorcios financieros encarnados por Wall Street y el complejo militar industrial cuyos torvos intereses se afectarían.
Ellos disponen, para defender el mantenimiento del status quo y sus privilegios, de la fuerza de sus armas de guerra, del control de los medios de información, educación y cultura para manipular conciencias y llevar a grandes masas de personas a actuar contra sus propios intereses y derechos en el contexto de un orden jurídico y social regido por el dinero y la competencia en el mercado, que asegura la superioridad de sus recursos sobre las aspiraciones humanas naturales de paz, solidaridad e igualdad.
Los cubanos tenían motivos para albergar la esperanza de que la elección de un presidente que así lo había prometido abriera el camino hacia un nuevo período en las relaciones entre La Habana y Washington. Estaban conscientes de que, para poder cumplir casi todas las promesas que formulara a los movimientos populares y las familias humildes que lo llevaron al triunfo, el recién electo presidente de los Estados Unidos tendría que enfrentarse en su propio país a las mismas fuerzas retrógradas que durante medio siglo han obstaculizado el avance de la revolución en la Isla.
Esa ecuación supondría, por regla aritmética de tres, que el carácter que han tenido los vínculos entre Cuba y Estados Unidos a todo lo largo del el siglo XX y los años iniciales del Siglo XXI tendrían que cambiar de manera espectacular. Y para hacer realidad esa utopía en el Mar Caribe, el gobierno norteamericano tendría que renunciar, no solo a la ambición secular de tutelar los destinos de la isla, sino a sus afanes imperiales a nivel global, porque Cuba no podría ignorar la deuda de gratitud contraída con los pueblos del tercer mundo y los humildes de las naciones industrializadas cuyo apoyo solidario ha sido, en última instancia, su sostén principal en la guerra de resistencia que ha venido librando.
Por ejemplo, a la victoria de Obama contribuyeron con su voto millones de afroamericanos –grupo étnico que sufrió la esclavitud legalmente autorizada hasta 1865, seguida por un siglo de cruel discriminación racial conocido como “Jim Crow”, con los desmanes terroristas del Ku Klux Klan y, más tarde, la violenta represión de sus luchas por los derechos civiles en la década de los años 60 del Siglo XX que dieron líderes de la talla universal de Martin Luther King Jr. y Malcolm X.
A los cubanos, que no votan en esas elecciones, pero que han sido víctimas de esa misma cruel política, les ha llevado a apreciar que aquella victoria de la nación estadounidense podría servir para iniciar un período de buena vecindad y paz en la región, en el contexto de una amplia democratización de las relaciones internacionales.
La esperanza de los cubanos se concretaba en que, por la voluntad de su pueblo, surgiera en Estados Unidos un gobierno respetuoso de la independencia de Cuba.
Transcurrido más del 90% de período presidencial para el que fuera electo dos veces, algo ha cambiado, al menos formalmente, durante el mandato de Obama. Se restablecieron relaciones diplomáticas y se conversa sobre diversos asuntos importantes, pero se mantienen vigentes la esencia del bloqueo económico y otras manifestaciones humillantes de la inicua relación, como la ocupación del territorio que ocupa la base de Guantánamo, la persistencia de los planes subversivos, abiertos y encubiertos, y la campaña mediática contra Cuba.
Quedan pocos meses para que concluya el mandato final de Obama y son muchas las esperanzas que amenazan con subsistir como anhelos irrenunciables del pueblo cubano en la relación bilateral con Estados Unidos tras el fin del período de gobierno del presidente presuntamente “distinto”.
Enero 20 de 2016.
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