Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Renowned essayist, political scientist and professor Esteban Morales Domínguez died Wednesday at the age of 79, victim of a heart attack.
Through Twitter, the First Secretary of the Party Central Committee and President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, wrote about the intellectual:
“The surprise death of Esteban Morales pains us. We will miss his intelligent, incisive and committed assessment of the problems of our time. My condolences to his family, friends and the Cuban intelligentsia, which he gave prestige to with his work”.
A member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) and of the José Antonio Aponte Commission, in whose bosom he developed an intense work, he bequeathed important written work in the field of the study of the links between Cuba and the United States.
Among the most significant titles in this field are Cuba-United States Relations: A Critical History and From Confrontation to Attempts at Normalization: U.S. Policy Toward Cuba, the latter in collaboration with essayist Elier Ramirez.
In another sphere, one of his books of greatest impact was Desafíos de la problemática racial en Cuba, published in 2007 by the Fernando Ortiz Foundation.
Morales’ intellectual career was linked to the University of Havana, where he was initially trained as an economist, devoted himself to teaching, and served as dean of the Faculty of Humanities and founding director of the Center for Studies on the United States.
Speech by Miguel Díaz-Canel, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, at the High-Level Meeting during the General Debate of the 76th Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Author: Redacción Digital | email@example.com
September 22, 2021 10:09:29 am
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Photo: Estudios Revolución
(Shorthand Versions – Presidency of the Republic)
Mr. Secretary General;
The world should be ashamed to observe the poor scope of universal agreements that were once the hope of the excluded and the dispossessed.
Twenty years after the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, the objectives set out in those documents for the fight against all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have not been achieved.
Structural racism persists. Hate speech, intolerance, xenophobia and discrimination proliferate at worrying levels, including on social media and other communication platforms.
Developed capitalist countries try with demagogic speeches to divert attention from their historical responsibility in the enthronement and persistence of these scourges and their debt to the peoples who are victims of the slavery to which they were subjected. There is a lack of political will on the part of these same countries to make the promises of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action a reality.
The multidimensional crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the structural inequalities and exclusion inherent to the prevailing unjust economic order, which subjects the poor, those of African descent or migrants to all kinds of discrimination.
In Cuba, beyond skin color, African, European and Native American genes are all mixed . We are one people, Afro-Latin, Caribbean, mestizo, in which several roots were fused to forge a unique, vigorous trunk, with its own identity, open to the world from a sense of belonging in which cultural values are assumed from an ethic of solidarity.
With a colonial slave-owning past, the black and mulatto Cuban population suffered for centuries the consequences of a system in which racism and racial discrimination were part of everyday life. Only with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 did a process of radical transformations take place that demolished the structural bases of racism and eliminated institutionalized racial discrimination forever.
The advocacy of hatred, the promotion of intolerance and supremacist ideas on the basis of national, religious or ethnic origin and xenophobia are alien to the political, social and economic life of the country.
The new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba ratified and strengthened the recognition and protection of the right to equality, as well as the prohibition of discrimination.
The Magna Carta provides that all persons are equal before the law, receive the same protection and treatment from the authorities and enjoy the same rights, freedoms and opportunities; but laws and decrees are not enough to erase centuries of discriminatory practices in societies.
To make further progress in the emancipating work of the Revolution, the National Plan against Racism and Racial Discrimination was approved in November 2019, as a government program that favors the most effective confrontation of racial prejudice and social problems that still exist in our society.
Cuba’s commitment to the eradication of racism transcends its borders. Thousands of Cubans supported national liberation movements in Africa and against the opprobrious apartheid regime. Thousands of others have contributed their solidarity aid, particularly in the area of health.
We will not relent in our pursuit of social justice. The peoples of the world will always be able to count on Cuba’s contribution so that the commitments we assumed 20 years ago in Durban become a reality.
Thank you very much. The Cuban Genetic Map, 2015 Cuban Academy of Sciences Award, indicated that on average, without distinction by skin color, genetic crossbreeding marked the presence of European ancestral genes in a proportion of 73.8%, 16.8% of African origin and 9.4% of genes of Native American origin.
#UNGA76 Aniversario 20 Declaración del Programa de Durban | Participará el Presidente @DiazCanelB a partir de las 11:00 am de hoy. El Sitio de la Presidencia se unirá a la transmisión junto a sus canales en:
➡️PICTA#EliminaElBloqueo #Cuba🇨🇺 pic.twitter.com/J2g8OM5srD
— Presidencia Cuba (@PresidenciaCuba) September 22, 2021
Translated by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
June 30, 2021
Although it still causes many prejudices, misunderstandings and challenges, there is no choice but to pay attention to skin color. Above all, in its consideration within the media and national statistics.
Cuban society is a multiracial society, or rather, multicolored, mestizo. And that reality has to be registered statistically. Not by handling the Census as a simply numerical matter, but as a cultural demographic one.
It is about the fact that color is a legacy of slavery. It is not possible to avoid it, since it has marked Cuban society since its origins.
When the Spaniards arrived in Cuba, in 1492, they did it with white credentials and that is how they stayed. Those who came of their own free will did so in search of a fortune, which they often found.
But Spain is not White. Colonized by the Arabs for 800 years, it is impossible to consider it as such. Even when the Spanish do not assume that identity.
So, the colonizers of our Archipelago were not white. Their power did not consist in being white, but in having arrived with the cross and the sword.
They arrived in a territory of indigenous people, of low culture and they only used them to find gold. They exploited them mercilessly and their population mass did not last long, although we still have representatives of that original population in Cuba.
Chinese also came, brought by means of a system of contracts that turned them into slaves. The so-called “culíes” [coolies], who since then added their beauty to the population of the Island, becoming a part of our nationality. These three large groups were the ones that formed the Cuban population. Later, other Antilleans joined, although not in the magnitude of the first ones, also merging with our population.
Although the Spanish Crown, put rules for the care of the indigenous population; anyway, the ambition of the colonizers, together with the regime of the Encomiendas and slavery, reduced that population to its minimum expression.
In little more than 100 years, the so-called Tainos, Siboneys and Guanahatebeys, almost disappeared, because they were not of an advanced culture, as it happened for the rest of America. Cultures, Aztecs, Mayas, Toltecs, etc. Those that did, culturally, had practically nothing to envy to the European cultures of their time.
But the existing indigenous population in the Cuban Archipelago lacked the strength that comes from belonging to a superior culture.
Along with the Spaniards came the first blacks. Not from Africa, but directly from Spain. Those blacks were called “Ladinos”. They were slaves in Spain. They knew how to speak the language and had a certain culture, acquired in the work of servitude, for which they also arrived in Cuba. But they did so in reduced numbers.
The vast majority of the blacks who arrived in Cuba, massively, did so later, as a result of the slave trade. And massively, after the Haitian Revolution of 1791, they settled in the eastern end of the island. They had a great cultural impact, since they were accompanied by their French masters. This is how the French contradanza and the so-called Tumba Francesa arrived in Cuba. All of which, we know as antecedents of our national dances, the Danzón.
Through the eastern region, the Antillean groups entered to participate in the sugar production, hence the mixture that characterizes that region, which covers up to the current province of Camagüey, where we find many descendants of French (Haitians), or English (Jamaicans) and other Antillean groups. This made the situation of racial discrimination in the aforementioned regions more complicated.
However, they did not give rise to the formation of minorities, as in the United States, but merged with the Cuban population, keeping their English and French surnames.
Then, the blacks were brought as slaves to Cuba, first for the work of construction and later for the work of sugar production, within a colonial regime already organized. To say black in Cuba was to say slave.
These slaves, practically, since the XVI century, could buy their freedom.
As the Spaniards arrived, they were men alone. Immediately, they began to mix with the Indians and blacks, thus initiating the mestizaje of the Island. And within a complex mestizaje, because it was formed by free or enslaved people, mestizos or blacks. Not so the Spanish whites, who never suffered the condition of slavery.
Unlike the blacks who were brought to the territory of the Thirteen North American colonies, which later became the United States of America; those who arrived, also brought from Africa as slaves to the aforementioned territory, could not speak their languages, but only English, they could not practice their religions or their cultures. They were not allowed by the colonizers. In this sense, the slave regime coming from England was harsher, with an almost absolute separation between blacks and whites. That is what has ended up characterizing the American society.
To blacks brought to Cuba, also from Africa, the Spanish colonization allowed them to speak their languages, worship their gods and practice their cultures.
It was that, for historical and cultural reasons, the Spanish were more inclined to coexist with the cultural practices of the slaves in Cuba and with the different colors.
Unlike in North America, in Cuba, the Spaniards coexisted better with the differences in color. This also contributed to the differences introduced in black slavery by the existence of domestic slavery and plantation slavery.
In Cuba this did not take place, but in the American colonization, there was a type of colonizer who, not having money to cover the expenses of his transfer to America, requested a loan, which obliged him to work, practically as a slave or serf. Once the loan debt was paid, he received a piece of land, becoming a poor farmer. Except for the existence of some slaves, who did not live in the barracks and cultivated a small piece of land, to supply the master’s house, in Cuba there were never serfs as such.
On the plantation, blacks had to work from sunrise to sunset, under the whip of the Foreman or Overseer. Meanwhile, in domestic work, the tasks were deployed in the house of the slave owner, intertwined with the activities of service to the family. There one could be a coachman, cook, seamstress, wash and iron, set the table, mend the master’s clothes and made him a concoction, when he was ill, etc. Performing tasks that practically prepared him for a trade, in case one day he was able to obtain his freedom, bought or manumitted.
The contact with the family instructed them and endowed them with a certain culture, which differentiated them from the plantation slaves. They were only allowed to work in sugar cane cutting or sugar production.
Blacks, wherever they were, were still slaves, and the trap, before the slightest disobedience, was over him, like the Sword of Damocles. For the white master did not allow them those freedoms that could inculcate in them a culture of independence, which was closely guarded. But, in domestic work, in fact, the advantages, they had them and not few took advantage of them very well.
For example, the girl of the house took a liking to the nice, docile little black man, and could even teach him to read and write. In the domestic context, the skillful, respectful, docile Negro was intimate with the father of the house and got to know him even certain secrets, such as his affairs with the black women, from which, not infrequently, “bastard” children were born within the family.
The black man, a connoisseur of herbs, prepared a concoction that cured the master of pain. And within this intimacy, the master practically began to see him as part of the family. He gave him chores, shared certain secrets with his slave and thus, sometimes, this one, already old, earned manumission, or the letter of freedom.
Within the master’s house, living together as a domestic slave, the black man achieved advantages, which he often took advantage of and which made him advance in social life, even while maintaining his status as a slave.
Domestic slavery generated a certain culture and within it, a level of permissibility, of which the black could take advantage. This allowed him to become part of society, even with all the disadvantages of a slave society.
Meanwhile, in the United States, after the Civil War, slavery was abolished in the North, but they had to continue to struggle with it in the South. Blacks escaped to the North, where they became free, but not infrequently, they left behind relatives who remained as slaves in the South.
Not in Cuba, where slavery was a homogeneous system throughout the island. Therefore, when the laws that attenuated it began to appear, such as the so-called Law of Free Wombs, until its official abolition in 1886, this had a national effect.
Of course, slavery began to disappear after a long process, in which Spain abolished it, as a first step, giving freedom to blacks who had fought, on both sides, during the First War of Independence (1868/1878) until it was finally abolished in a general way in 1886.
However, in America, slavery took color. And with it came racism and racial discrimination, which were not born with capitalism, but which hit it very well, as an instrument of power and exploitation.
Therefore, slavery disappeared, but racism and discrimination, which it engendered, for more than 400 years, remained imbricated within the structure of Cuban society. And so, since the middle of the 19th century, a society with a racist, mestizo and white hegemonic culture began to emerge. Therefore, racism, racial discrimination and white hegemony, within our mestizo society, have not yet been eliminated, although they have been attenuated.
Therefore, the Revolution that triumphed in 1959, found a society in which there was a well-defined structure. The so-called whites had the power, they always had it. Mestizos were, more or less, in an intermediate position, some few had access to power; the blacks were, almost always, in the subsoil of society. This is the result of a distribution of wealth that colonialism inaugurated and Cuban-dependent capitalism took charge of solidifying.
In Cuba, poverty was also massively white, but wealth was never black, and almost never mestizo.
After Fidel, almost since the triumph of the Revolution, began to treat it systematically, racism, racial discrimination and white racial hegemony have not disappeared.
The social policy that the revolution inaugurated in 1959 has always had a profoundly humanist character, but, from the beginning, it focused only on poverty, making no differentiation among the poor, treating poverty as unique, which was never homogeneous, without differentiating within it, according to skin color.
Would it have been possible, so early on, to have considered poverty, taking into consideration its differences and levels, according to skin color?
I don’t think so. I believe that this would have greatly complicated the fight against racism and racial discrimination that was beginning at that time. I believe that if Cuban society was not prepared, as it became clear, to assimilate Fidel’s speech against racism, much less would it have been prepared if, in addition, the existing differences in the levels of poverty according to the color of the skin had been introduced. I believe that this would have implied the introduction of a certain level of affirmative action, for which whites, mestizos, and not even blacks themselves were prepared.
That is why, I believe, social policy, in Fidel’s speeches, began by demanding employment for blacks, while everything else: health, education, culture and sports and social security, fell under its own weight and equally for all. When there was an equal distribution for all, blacks and mestizos got what, in general, had never been given to them before. Because the blacks and, to some extent, the mestizos, had never enjoyed free and quality education and much less, blacks, health. Sport was the opposite. And so, it began to produce a distribution of national wealth, which the nation had never known. And, within which, to blacks and mestizos, almost never, almost nothing had touched them. For this reason, although skin color was not taken into account, blacks and mestizos benefited as never before in the history of the nation. For this reason, it was not difficult for blacks and mestizos to understand that the revolution was their revolution and that Fidel had been concerned and fought for their welfare.
This is one of the aspects that, in the last 40 years, we have managed to fine-tune. Without yet reaching, as such, so-called Affirmative Action. Forms of the latter have been gradually appearing in Cuba, but almost indirectly. And we are still in the process of perfecting the initiated path. What is beginning to take shape, by means of concern and an occupation by the political leadership that there is no one left behind.
Having demonstrated that race does not exist, that it is a social invention. But that, however, color does, and that, in our country, after 500 years [M1] of colonialism, skin color continues to behave as a variable of social differentiation. Against which, we have proposed to fight.
This tells us why, since the beginning of the Republic, in Cuba, there were black and mestizo societies. It is true that they acted within a racist and discriminatory context, which made them respond to it. But they also functioned as fraternal societies, which helped the black and mestizo members to train themselves, on the basis of free courses for their young people, social and cultural activities, which in general helped this population to face the problems of inequality. Sometimes they made it easier to find employment and, in general, helped blacks and mestizos to have a certain recognized social presence.
However, after the triumph of the Revolution, these societies began to disappear, as a result of the consideration that they were not necessary, since the revolution assumed the defense of blacks and mestizos and that they could contribute more to the racial division within the Cuban society.
However, paradoxically, at the same time, the Spanish Societies, considered as white, were maintained in Cuba until today. The question still remains unanswered: Why did the black ones disappear and these, coincidentally, of whites, did not?
This is something that has brought controversy and uneasiness, although not only among blacks and mestizos. Today, it is even questioned whether black and mestizo societies should not reappear. Today, the subject tends to re-enter the debate. Especially because the problem of racism and racial discrimination has not yet been completely overcome.
But the blacks and mestizos, from the beginning, did not make any demands and everything remained as it was.
Here in Cuba, after 60 years of a radical Revolution, of profoundly humanist essence and of an extraordinary struggle against poverty, injustice and inequality, to the very edges of egalitarianism, still, from the point of view of social position, access to certain resources and certain advantages in social life, it is not the same to be white, black or mestizo. This is not a burden, but it responds to a structural dysfunctionality that even Cuban society drags along and is capable of reproducing.
In particular, the so-called Special Period showed that the economic crisis had not affected all racial groups equally. Blacks and mestizos suffered the most. This became evident.
Our government also realized that the difficulties with racism, which surfaced with some force during the Special Period, were indicating that it was a problem that, having been considered as solved, was not really solved; or at least, it was not being solved at the pace that many had imagined, but rather, racism had been hidden in the midst of the difficulties experienced during those years of the mid-eighties and early nineties.
Until then, there had been a long period of general silence on the subject, which Fidel broke on several occasions, both inside and outside Cuba, but without achieving then that the racial issue would definitely occupy its rightful place in the struggle for a better society in Cuba today.
I think that, in this, we have to start from the existence of inequalities, to reach real equality. Unfortunately, inequality is what we find at every step. Equality is a social project, not yet achieved by Cuban society as a whole.
Therefore, we should not mechanically assume that all Cubans are equal, because that was also wielded as a hypocritical slogan of Republican Cuba.
All Cubans are not yet equal. We are equal before the law, but not socially. They are two very different phenomena. Equality before the law has been achieved. But achieving social equality is a much longer and more complex process. Equality before the law is not social equality. It is, perhaps, only a step towards the latter.
Today, there is a clear awareness that we must continue to fight against inequality, pursuing it to those places where marginality still assaults members of our society and not only blacks and mestizos. Therefore, the work with the so-called Community projects gains unusual strength.
It is possible to observe the Party and the government, extraordinarily busy, mobilizing qualified human forces and resources, which are put in the function of the solution of multiple material, spiritual and social problems, which the Cuban society still has to overcome.
This task of the Community Projects is strongly intertwined with the Government Resolution, which serves as an instrument for the fight against racism and racial discrimination.
Fidel had already become aware of all this and began to take action. He conducted in-depth investigations in several underprivileged neighborhoods on the situation of sometimes marginalized sectors.
It was also, then, when the experience of the so-called Social Workers was carried out; most of them blacks and mestizos, which resulted in many young people, who neither studied nor worked (it is said that there were 80,000 in Havana) reaching the Universities. Those that had been “whitened” during the Special Period.
Then, at the end of the eighties, we took up the subject again. Which, I think, is the period in which we find ourselves now, at the height of 2021.
Previously, during the 20’s and 30’s, above all, the racial issue had been present in the written media, especially in the press of the time. Personalities such as Juan Gualberto Gómez, Arredondo, Guillen, Deschamps, Chailloux, Ortiz, Portuondo, and others, had produced important texts on the subject. And they managed to keep it within the debate in the press of the time, even in Diario de la Marina.
But that momentum was not maintained and by the triumph of the revolution, it had almost disappeared.
But, since the 80s, many publications of books, articles, essays, documentaries, and research in some universities began to reappear. Cinema frequently brought up the subject, as well as plastic arts, theater and literature. Discussion groups and community projects arose, which today deal with the racial issue and have given it a growing presence in the national culture and life. In fact, it had been years since the subject had such an important place in the national debate.
Miguel Díaz Canel, who dealt with the issue before becoming president and continues to do so now, together with the Aponte Commission of the UNEAC. The Aponte Commission replaced the group “Como agua para chocolate” (Like water for chocolate), led by Gisela Arandia. She was the initial promoter of the racial debate in UNEAC. Already, previously, the racial issue had been taken to the party and later located in the National Library, but it was, finally in the UNEAC, where it found its definitive location. And now it is unfolding. Through the work of the aforementioned Aponte Commission.
All this movement has concluded, with the appearance of a Governmental Resolution, above mentioned, where the guidelines for the attention and treatment of the racial topic at national level are proposed. With the presence, also, of all those groups interested in the subject. Aspects of participation, which still require development.
However, I consider that, although we have made progress, we are still far from giving the racial issue the impetus it requires. There are still many situations to be resolved.
Although our society is culturally mestizo, the presence of racism, racial discrimination and a certain [amount of] white hegemonism are still felt in the following matters:
-Inequalities, persist within the racial population structure, formed by whites, blacks and mestizos. This is not a burden, but a phenomenon of social dysfunctionality, which even Cuban society is capable of reproducing.
-Differences in access to employment also persist. With privileges for the white population, in the most important and better-remunerated jobs: tourism, corporations, state positions, etc. Not so in political positions, especially within the party, Popular Power and Mass Organizations, where the participation of blacks and mestizos is becoming more present.
-Differences by color, in the access to possibilities of higher studies, Universities, masters, doctorates, etc.
-Racism, prejudice and discrimination against the black and mestizo population, which tends not to manifest itself aggressively, but are still present.
-Marked presence of an insufficient number of interracial marriages. With a marked tendency towards racial mixing among young people, which is indicative of the fact that young people are shedding their prejudices.
Discrimination in the mass media, mainly on television, in which white faces have dominated, and only recently have black and mixed-race faces begun to appear. In response to a recent specific claim made by Army General Raúl Castro in the National Assembly.
-Our written press barely reflects the problems of the racial issue. There is no systematic treatment on the subject. Nor is there any promotion of writers who deal with the subject. Almost never in our press there is an article that deals with the subject.
-Our Political and Mass Organizations do not debate the racial issue. They do not promote its discussion, nor do they consider it in their work agendas.
-Discrimination in classical ballet.
-Racist jokes and expressions abound in cabaret activities.
-Only recently, the teaching of history has begun to reflect the place of blacks and mestizos in the formation of our national history. And teachers are being prepared to address it.
-Until very recently, the bibliography used, with honorable exceptions, and very well known, did not reflect the role of the black and mestizo population in the construction of our nation. Now a strong and arduous bibliographic work is being carried out by the Ministries of Education, aimed at solving this insufficiency of vital consideration for the teaching of history.
-There is neither a Social History of the black nor of the black woman, produced in Cuba.
-Even dealing with the racial issue, at any level and in any social space, can generate certain discontent, prejudices and discomfort.
-It is only recently that our national assembly has begun to present a structure that almost faithfully reflects the racial composition of Cuban society.
-For those who deal with the subject in a systematic way, their discussions are not disclosed, always remaining in the frameworks of groups and interested persons.
-In Cuban schools there is no mention of color, leaving it to personal spontaneity to deal with the problem.
-In our universities, the racial issue is hardly studied. Nor does it appear in the teaching curricula.
-Our academic research hardly refers to the racial issue sufficiently and it is practically absent from the student scientific work.
-Only recently, we have begun to observe that an effort is being made to attend to the racial composition of workgroups, activities, or situations in which the black and the mestizo should be represented. This can be seen with particular emphasis on television.
-In reality, our statistics, social, economic and political, are colorless. Throwing centuries of national history into the dustbin. They fail to appreciate where the problems lie.
-Our economic statistics do not allow to cross color, with variables of employment, housing, wages, income, etc. This prevents us from investigating, in-depth, how the standard of living of the different racial groups is advancing. Especially those who were previously disadvantaged.
We consider that as long as the racial issue is not treated systematically and coherently, at a comprehensive level, and is reliably reflected in our statistics and in our media, we cannot aspire to socially advance the country on the subject.
Our inherited culture is racist; that is to say, the practice of racism is cultural, instinctive, responding mainly, but not only, to inherited mechanisms that work, not infrequently, unconsciously.
Therefore, until the issue enters education, is strongly discussed socially, is part of the systematic work of the media and is statistically considered, we cannot expect it to become part of the culture, nor can we aspire to advance in it, banishing it from the usual forms of behavior of citizens in our country.
The fact is that the absence of attention, almost generalized, for a long time, of the racial issue, has very negative consequences. This is because its knowledge, understanding and consideration at the social level, as something that harms the Cuban nation. This is a very serious problem to overcome if we want our society and its culture to advance in an integral way, guaranteeing the success of the social project of the revolution.
June 30, 2021.
Autor: Esteban Morales Domínguez
Junio 30 del 2021.
Aunque mueve todavía a muchos prejuicios, incomprensiones y desafíos, no queda más remedio que atender al color de la piel. Sobre todo, en su consideración dentro de los Medios y las Estadísticas nacionales.
La sociedad cubana, es una sociedad multirracial, o más bien, multicolor, mestiza. Y esa realidad tiene que ser registrada estadísticamente. No manejando el Censo como un asunto, simplemente numérico, sino demográfico cultural.
Se trata de que el color es una herencia de la Esclavitud. Que no es posible soslayar, pues esta marca desde sus orígenes a la sociedad cubana actual.
Cuando los españoles llegaron a Cuba, en 1492, lo hicieron con credenciales de blancos y así se quedaron. Los que vinieron por voluntad propia, lo hicieron buscando una fortuna, que no pocas veces encontraron.
Pero España no es Blanca. Colonizada por los árabes, durante 800 años, se hace imposible considerarla como tal. Aún y cuando al español no asume esa identidad.
Entonces, los colonizadores de nuestro Archipiélago, no eran blancos. En ser blancos no consistía su poder, sino, el haber llegado con la cruz y con la espada.
Llegaron a un territorio de indígenas, de baja cultura y solo los utilizaron para encontrar oro. Los explotaron de manera inmisericorde y su masa poblacional, no duro mucho tiempo, aunque todavía en Cuba, tenemos representantes de esa población originaria.
También vinieron chinos, traídos, por medio de un sistema de contratos, que los convertía en esclavos. Los llamados culíes, que desde entonces agregaron su belleza a la población de la Isla, integrando nuestra nacionalidad. Ésos tres grandes grupos, fueron los que formaron la población cubana. Después se sumaron otros, antillanos, aunque no en la magnitud de los primeros, fundiéndose también con nuestra población.
Aunque la Corona Española, puso reglas para el cuidado de la población indígena; de todos modos, la ambicion de los colonizadores, junto al Régimen de las Encomiendas y la esclavitud, redujeron esa población a su mínima expresión.
En poco más de 100 años Los llamados Tainos, Siboneyes Y guanahatebeyes, casi desaparecieron, pues no eran de una cultura avanzada, como si ocurría para el resto de América. Culturas, Aztecas, Mayas, Toltecas, etc. Las que sí, culturalmente, no tenían, prácticamente, nada que envidiar a las culturas europeas de su tiempo.
Pero la población indígena existente en el Archipiélago cubano, carecía de esa fuerza, que da el pertenecer a una cultura superior.
Junto con los españoles, vinieron los primeros negros. No de Africa, sino directamente, de España. A esos negros se les llamaba “Ladinos”, eran esclavos en España, sabían hablar el idioma y tenían cierta cultura, adquirida en el trabajo de servidumbre, para lo cual, también llegaron a Cuba. Pero lo hicieron en número reducido.
La inmensa mayoría de los negros que llegaron a Cuba, masivamente, lo hicieron después, como resultado del comercio de esclavos. Y de modo masivo, a partir de la Revolución Haitiana de 1791.Se asentaron en el Extremo Oriental de La Isla. Teniendo un gran impacto cultural, pues venían acompañados de sus amos franceses. Asi llego a Cuba, la contradanza francesa y la llamada Tumba Francesa. Todo lo cual, conocemos como antecedentes de nuestros bailes nacionales, el Danzón.
Por la región oriental, entraron los grupos antillanos, para participar en la producción azucarera, de aquí la mezcla que caracteriza a esa región, que cubre hasta la actual provincia de Camagüey, donde encontramos muchos descendientes de franceses (haitianos), o de ingleses (jamaicanos) y otros grupos antillanos. Lo cual, hizo más complicada la situación de la discriminación racial en las regiones mencionadas.
Sin embargo, no dieron lugar a la formación de minorías, como en los Estados Unidos, sino que se fundieron con la población cubana, manteniendo sus apellidos ingleses y franceses.
Entonces, los negros, fueron traídos como esclavos a Cuba, para el trabajo de las construcciones primero y el trabajo de la producción azucarera después, dentro de un régimen colonial ya organizado. Decir negro en Cuba, era decir esclavo.
Estos esclavos, prácticamente, desde el siglo XVI, podían comprar su libertad.
Como los españoles llegaron, hombres solos. De manera inmediata, comenzaron a mezclarse con las indias y las negras, iniciándose así el mestizaje de la Isla. Y dentro de un mestizaje complejo, pues estaba formado por personas libres o esclavas, mestizas o negras. No así los blancos españoles, que nunca sufrieron la condición de esclavitud.
A diferencia de los negros que fueron traídos al territorio de las Trece colonias de América del Norte, lo que después fueron los Estados Unidos de América; los llegados, también traídos de África como esclavos al territorio mencionado, estos no podían hablar sus lenguas, sino solo el inglés, no podían practicar sus religiones, ni sus culturas. No les estaba permitido por los colonizadores. En tal sentido el régimen esclavista procedente de Inglaterra, resultaba más duro, con una separación casi absoluta entre negros y blancos. Que es lo que ha terminado caracterizando a la sociedad estadounidense.
A los negros traídos a Cuba, también de Africa, la colonización española, les permitían hablar sus lenguas, adorar sus dioses y practicar sus culturas.
Se trataba, de que, por razones históricas y también culturales, los españoles eran más proclives a la convivencia con las prácticas culturales de los esclavos en Cuba y con los colores diferentes.
A diferencia de América del Norte, en Cuba, los españoles, convivían mejor con las diferencias en el color. A lo que contribuía también las diferencias que introducía en la esclavitud del negro, la existencia de una esclavitud doméstica y otra de plantación.
En Cuba esto no tuvo lugar, pero en la colonización americana, venia un tipo de colonizador, que no teniendo dinero para correr con los gastos de su traslado a Anerica, solicitaba un préstamo, que le obligaba a trabajar, prácticamente como un esclavo o siervo. Una vez pagada la deuda del préstamo, recibía un pedazo de tierra, convirtiéndose en un granjero pobre. Salvo la existencia de algunos esclavos, que no vivían en el barracón y cultivaban un pequeño pedazo de tierra, para abastecer la casa del amo, en Cuba nunca hubo siervos como tal.
En la plantación, el negro debía trabajar de sol a sol, bajo el látigo del Capataz o Mayoral; mientras que, en el trabajo doméstico, sus tareas se desplegaban en la casa del hacendado esclavista, imbricadas con las actividades del servicio a la familia. Allí podía ser cochero, cocinero, costurero, lavaba y planchaba, ponía la mesa, arreglaba la ropa del amo y le hacía un brebaje, cuando este enfermaba, etc. Realizando labores, que, prácticamente lo preparaban para hacerse de un oficio, por si algún día lograba obtener su libertad, comprada o manumitido.
El contacto con la familia los instruía y dotaba de cierta cultura, que lo diferenciaban del esclavo de la plantación. A quien no estaba permitido más que trabajar en el corte de la caña, o la producción de azúcar.
El negro, donde quiera que estuviese, no dejaba de ser esclavo, y el cepo, ante la desobediencia más mínima, estaba sobre él, como Espada de Damocles. Pues el amo blanco, no les permitía aquellas libertades, que pudiesen inculcarle alguna cultura de independencia, lo cual se vigilaba mucho. Pero, en el trabajo doméstico, de hecho, las ventajas, las tenían y no pocos las aprovechaban muy bien.
Por ejemplo, la niña de la casa, le tomaba cariño al negrito simpático, dócil, y hasta podía enseñarlo a leer y escribir. En el contexto doméstico, el negro hábil, respetuoso, dócil, intimaba con el padre de la casa y llegaba a conocerle hasta ciertos secretos, como sus andadas con las negras, de las cuales, no pocas veces, salían hijos “bastardos” dentro de la familia.
El negro, conocedor de las hierbas, preparaba un brebaje que le curaba un dolor al amo. Y dentro de esa intimidad, este, prácticamente, comenzaba a verlo como parte de la familia. Le daba tareas, compartía ciertos secretos con su esclavo y así, a veces, este, ya viejo, se ganaba la manumisión, o la carta de libertad.
Dentro de la casa del amo, conviviendo como esclavo doméstico, el negro lograba ventajas, que no pocas veces, aprovechaba y que lo hacían avanzar en la vida social, aun manteniendo su condición de esclavo.
Es que la esclavitud doméstica, generaba cierta cultura y dentro de ella, un nivel de permisibilidad, de la cual el negro podía aprovecharse. Lo cual le permitía, irse introduciendo en la sociedad, aun con todas las desventajas de una sociedad esclavista.
Mientras, en los Estados Unidos, posterior a la Guerra Civil, la esclavitud fue abolida en el norte, pero había que seguir bregando con ella, en el sur. Los negros escapaban al Norte, donde devenían en libres, pero no pocas veces, dejaban atrás familiares que se mantenían como esclavos en el Sur.
En Cuba no, la esclavitud era un sistema homogéneo a nivel de toda la Isla. Por lo que, cuando comenzaron a aparecer las leyes que la atenuaban, cómo la llamada Ley de Vientres libres, hasta su abolición oficial en 1886, esto tuvo un efecto nacional.
Claro, la esclavitud comenzó a desaparecer, a partir de un largo proceso, en el que España la abolió, como primer paso, dándoles la libertad a los negros que habían peleado, de ambos lados, durante la Primera Guerra de Independencia (1868/1878) hasta que finalmente, fue abolida de manera general en 1886.
No obstante, en América, la esclavitud tomo color. Y con ella llego el racismo y la discriminación racial, que no nacieron con el capitalismo, pero que le pego muy bien, como instrumento de poder y explotación.
Por ello, la esclavitud desapareció, pero el racismo y la discriminación, que ella engendro, por más de 400 años, quedaron imbricados dentro de la estructura de la sociedad cubana. Y así, desde mediados del siglo XIX, comenzó a surgir una sociedad, con una cultura racista, mestiza y de hegemonía blanca. Por lo que, el racismo, la discriminación racial y el hegemonismo blanco, dentro de nuestra sociedad mestiza, aún no han podido ser eliminados, aunque si atenuados.
Entonces, La Revolución que triunfo en 1959, se encontró con una sociedad, en la cual, existe una estructuración bien definida. Los llamados blancos tienen el poder, lo tuvieron siempre; los mestizos están, más o menos, en una posición intermedia, algunos pocos tuvieron acceso al poder; los negros están, casi siempre, en el subsuelo de la sociedad. Lo cual es resultado de una distribución de la riqueza, que el colonialismo inauguro y el capitalismo dependiente cubano se encargó de solidificar.
Es que, en Cuba, la pobreza fue también, masivamente blanca, pero la riqueza nunca fue negra, y casi nunca mestiza.
Después de que el Cro. Fidel, casi desde el triunfo de la Revolución, lo comenzó tratando de manera sistemática; el racismo, la discriminación racial y la hegemonía racial blanca, no han desaparecido.
La política social que la revolución inauguro desde 1959, ha tenido siempre un carácter profundamente humanista, pero, desde el principio, se enfocó solo en la pobreza, no haciendo diferenciación entre los pobres, tratando como única la pobreza, que nunca fue homogénea, sin hacer diferenciación dentro de ella, según el color de la piel.
¿Habría sido posible, de manera tan temprana, haber considerado la pobreza, tomando en consideración sus diferencias y niveles, según el color de la piel?
Me parece que no. Creo que ello habría complicado sobremanera la lucha que se iniciaba entonces, contra el racismo y la discriminación racial. Púes creo, que si la sociedad cubana, no estaba preparada, como se puso de manifiesto, para asimilar el discurso de Fidel contra el racismo; mucho menos lo habría estado, si, además, se hubieran introducido las diferencias existentes en los niveles de la pobreza según el color de la piel. Creo que eso hubiera implicado, introducir cierto nivel de acción afirmativa, para lo cual blancos, mestizos y ni los propios negros, estaban preparados.
Razón por la cual, creo, la política social, en los discursos de Fidel, comenzó, por reclamar empleo para los negros; mientras, que todo lo demás: salud, educación, cultura y deportes y seguridad social, cayeron por su propio peso y de manera igualitaria para todos. Al producirse una distribución para todos por igual, a negros y mestizos, les toco, lo que, por lo general, nunca les había tocado. Porque los negros y en alguna medida los mestizos, nunca habían disfrutado de educación gratuita y de calidad y mucho menos, los negros, de la salud. El deporte, fue la contra. Y asi, se comenzó a producir una distribución de la riqueza nacional, que la nación nunca había conocido. Y, dentro de la cual, a negros y mestizos, casi nunca, les había tocado casi nada. Razón por la cual, aunque no se tuvo en cuenta el color de la piel, de todos modos, negros y mestizos, resultaron beneficiados, como nunca antes en la historia de Nación. Razón por la cual, a negros y mestizos no les resulto difícil entender, que la revolución era su revolución y que Fidel, se había preocupado y luchado por su bienestar.
Tratándose lo anterior, de uno de los aspectos, que, en los últimos 40 años hemos logrado ir afinando. Sin llegar aun, como tal, a la llamada Acción Afirmativa. Han venido apareciendo paulatinamente formas de esta última en Cuba, pero de manera casi indirecta. Y aun nos encontramos en ese perfeccionamiento del camino iniciado. Qué comienza a perfilarse, por medio de una preocupación y una ocupación de la dirección política de que no haya nadie desamparado.
Habiéndose demostrado que la raza no existe, que es una invención social. Pero que, sin embargo, el color si, y que, en nuestro país, después de 500 años[M1] de colonialismo, el color de la piel, continúa comportándose como una variable de diferenciación social. Contra la cual, nos hemos propuesto luchar.
Lo que nos dice, porque, desde principios de la Republica, en Cuba, hubo sociedades negras y mestizas. Es cierto que las misma actuaban dentro de un contexto racista y discriminatorio, que las hacia responder a él. Pero que también, funcionaban como sociedades fraternales, que ayudaban a la membresía negra y mestiza a capacitarse, sobre la base de cursos gratuitos a sus jóvenes, actividades sociales y culturales, que en general, ayudaban a esta población a enfrentar los problemas de la desigualdad. A veces facilitaban conseguir empleo y en general, ayudaban a los negros y mestizos a tener una cierta presencia social reconocida.
Sim embargo, al Triunfo de la Revolución, estas sociedades, comenzaron a desaparecer, como resultado de la consideración de que no eran necesarias, pues la revolución asumía la defensa de negros y mestizos y de que las mismas, podían contribuir más a la división racial dentro de la sociedad cubana
Sin embargo, paradójicamente, al mismo tiempo, se mantuvieron las Sociedades Españolas, consideradas como blancas, que en Cuba se mantienen hasta hoy. Aún queda sin responder la pregunta: ¿Por qué la de los negros desparecieron y estas, casualmente, de blancos, ¿no?
Se trata de algo que ha traído polémica y malestar, aunque no solo entre negros y mestizos. Hoy, incluso, se cuestiona, si las sociedades de negros y mestizos, no debieran reaparecer. Hoy el tema, tiende a entrar de nuevo en el debate. Sobre todo, porque el problema del racismo y la discriminación racial, aún no están totalmente superados.
Pero los negros y mestizos, desde el principio, no hicieron ningún reclamo y todo quedo asi.
En Cuba, después de 60 años de una Revolución radical, de esencia profundamente humanista y de una lucha extraordinaria contra la pobreza, la injusticia y la desigualdad, hasta los mismos bordes del igualitarismo; todavía, desde el punto de vista de la posición social, del acceso a determinados recursos y de ciertas ventajas en la vida social, no es lo mismo ser blanco, negro o mestizo. Lo cual no es un lastre, sino que responde a una disfuncionalidad estructural, que aun la sociedad cubana, arrastra y es capaz de reproducir.
En particular, el llamado Periodo especial, demostró que la crisis económica no había afectado por igual a todos los grupos raciales. Siendo negros y mestizos los que más lo sufrieron. Lo cual se hizo evidente.
Nuestro Gobierno, además, se percató, de que las dificultades con el racismo, que afloraron con cierta fuerza durante el Periodo Especial, estaban indicando, que se trataba de un problema que, habiéndolo considerado como resuelto, realmente no lo estaba; o al menos, no se estaba solucionando, al ritmo que muchos habían imaginado, sino que más bien, el racismo, se había ocultado, en medio de las dificultades vividas durante esos años, de mediados de los ochenta y principios de los noventa.
Había tenido, hasta entonces, un largo periodo de silencio general sobre el tema, que Fidel rompió en varias ocasiones, tanto dentro, como fuera de Cuba, pero sin lograr entonces, que el tema racial, ocupara definitivamente el lugar que le corresponde en la lucha por una sociedad mejor en la Cuba actual.
Pienso que, en ello, tenemos que partir de la existencia de las desigualdades, para llegar a la igualdad real. Lamentablemente, la desigualdad es lo que nos encontramos a cada paso. La igualdad, es el proyecto social, no alcanzado aún por la sociedad cubana como totalidad.
Por tanto, no debemos asumir de forma mecánica, que todos los cubanos somos iguales; porque eso también fue esgrimido como un hipócrita slogan de la Cuba republicana.
Todos los cubanos, aun no somos iguales. Lo somos ante la ley, pero no socialmente. Son dos fenómenos muy diferentes. Ha podido ser lograda la igualdad ante la ley. Pero alcanzar la igualdad social, es un proceso, mucho más largo y complejo. Igualdad ante la ley, no es igualdad social. Sino, solo, tal vez, un paso, para llegar a esta última.
Hoy, se observa que existe una conciencia bastante clara de que contra la desigualdad hay que continuar luchando, persiguiéndola hasta aquellos lugares en que la marginalidad aun agrede a miembros de nuestra sociedad y no solo a negros y mestizos. Por lo que el trabajo con los llamados proyectos Comunitarios gana fuerza inusitada.
Pudiéndose observar al Partido y al gobierno, extraordinariamente ocupados, movilizando fuerzas humanas calificadas y recursos, que se ponen en función de la solución de múltiples problemas materiales, espirituales y sociales, que la sociedad cubana aún debe superar.
Esta tarea de los Proyectos Comunitarios, se entrelazan fuertemente de la Resolución Gubernamental, que sirve de instrumento para la lucha contra el racismo y la discriminación racial.
Ya Fidel se había percatado de todo ello y comenzó a realizar acciones. Orientando profundas investigaciones, en varios barrios desfavorecidos, sobre la situación de sectores, a veces marginados.
Fue también, entonces, cuando se realizó la experiencia de los llamados Trabajadores Sociales; la mayoría negros y mestizos, que trajo como resultado, que muchos jóvenes, que ni estudiaban ni trabajaban, (se dice que eran 80,000 en La Habana) llegaran a las Universidades. Las que se habían “blanqueado”, durante el Periodo Especial.
Entonces, a partir de finales de los años ochenta, retomamos nuevamente el tema. Que pienso, es el periodo en que nos encontramos ahora, a la altura del 2021.
Con anterioridad, durante los años 20 y 30, sobre todo, el tema racial había tenido presencia en los medios escritos, especialmente, en la prensa de la época. Personalidades como Juan Gualberto Gómez, Arredondo, Guillen, Deschamps, Chailloux, Ortiz, Portuondo, y otros, habían producido textos importantes sobre el tema. Y logrado mantenerlo dentro del debate en la prensa de la época, incluso en el Diario de la Marina.
Pero ese impulso no se mantuvo y al triunfo de la revolución, había casi desaparecido.
Pero, ya desde los años 80, comenzaron a reaparecer muchas publicaciones de libros, artículos, ensayos, documentales, e investigaciones en algunas universidades. Un cine que frecuentemente traía a colación el tema, la plástica, el teatro y la literatura también. Surgieron Grupos de Debate y Proyectos Comunitarios, que atienden hoy el tema racial y que lo han dotado de una creciente presencia dentro de la cultura y la vida nacional. En realidad, hacia anos, que el tema no tomaba un espacio tan importante en el debate nacional.
Comenzaron, entonces, las reuniones con el Cro. Miguel Díaz Canel, que atiende el tema, antes de ser presidente y lo continúa haciendo ahora, junto a la Comisión Aponte de la UNEAC, que sustituyó al Grupo, “Como agua para chocolate”, dirigido por Gisela Arandia. Que fue la promotora inicial del debate racial en la UNEAC. Ya, con anterioridad, el tema racial había sido llevado al partido y posteriormente ubicado en la Biblioteca nacional, pero fue, finalmente en la UNEAC, donde encontró su ubicación definitiva. Y ahora se desenvuelve. Por medio del trabajo de la arriba mencionada Comisión Aponte.
Todo este movimiento, ha concluido, con la aparición de una Resolución Gubernamental, arriba mencionada, donde se proponen las pautas para la atención y tratamiento del tema racial a nivel nacional. Con la presencia, también, de todos aquellos grupos interesados en el tema. Aspectos de participación, que aún requiere un desarrollo.
No obstante, considero, que, aunque hemos avanzado, todavía estamos lejos de darle al tema racial, el impulso que requiere. Púes quedan muchas situaciones aún por resolver.
Aunque nuestra sociedad, es culturalmente mestiza, la presencia del racismo, la discriminación racial y la de un cierto hegemonismo blanco, se hacen sentir todavía, en los asuntos siguientes:
-Las desigualdades, persisten dentro de la estructura racial poblacional, formada por blancos, negros y mestizos. No tratándose de un lastre, sino de un fenómeno de disfuncionalidad social, que aun la sociedad cubana, es capaz de reproducir.
-Persisten también las diferencias en el acceso al empleo. Con privilegios para la población blanca, en los aquellos más importantes y mejor remunerados: turismo, corporaciones, cargos estatales, etc. No así en los cargos políticos, en especial dentro del partido, el Poder Popular y las Organizaciones de Masas, donde la participación de negros y mestizos se está haciendo más presente.
-Diferencias por el color, en el acceso a posibilidades de estudios superiores, Universidades, maestrías, doctorados, etc.
-Racismo, prejuicios y discriminación, contra la población negra y mestiza, que tiende a no manifestarse de modo agresivo, pero que aún están presentes.
-Marcada presencia de una insuficiencia de matrimonios interraciales. Con una tendencia marcada a la mescla racial entre los jóvenes cual es indicativo de que los jóvenes se van desprendiendo de los prejuicios.
-Discriminación en los medios masivos, principalmente en la Televisión, en la que han dominado las caras blancas, pues solo recientemente, han comenzado a aparecer caras negras y mestizas. Ante un reclamo especifico, reciente, del Cro.General de Ejército, Raúl Castro en la Asamblea Nacional.
-Nuestra prensa escrita, apenas refleja los problemas del tema racial. No existiendo ningún tratamiento sistemático al respecto. Ni promoción de escritores que traten el tema. Casi nunca en nuestra prensa hay un artículo que aborde el tema.
-Nuestras Organizaciones Políticas y de Masas no debaten el tema racial. No promueven su discusión, ni lo consideran en sus agendas de trabajo.
-Discriminación en el ballet clásico.
-Chistes y expresiones racistas, abundan, en las actividades de los cabarets.
-Solo recientemente, la Enseñanza de la Historia ha comenzado a reflejar el lugar de negros y mestizos en la formación de nuestra historia patria. Y se están preparando profesores para abordarlo.
– Hasta hace muy poco, la bibliografía utilizada, salvo honrosas excepciones, muy conocidas, no reflejaba el papel de la población negra y mestiza en la construcción de nuestra nación. Ahora se realiza un fuerte trabajo bibliográfico arduo por los Ministerios de Educación, dirigido a solucionar esta insuficiencia de vital consideración para la enseñanza de la historia.
-No existe una Historia Social del Negro ni de la mujer negra, producida en Cuba.
-Aun tratar el tema racial, a cualquier nivel y en cualquier espacio social, puede generar cierto descontento, prejuicios y malestar.
-Solo recientemente nuestra asamblea nacional, ha comenzado a presentar una estructura, que refleja casi fielmente, la composición racial de la sociedad cubana.
-Para los que tratan el tema de manera sistemática, sus debates, no son divulgados, quedando siempre en los marcos de grupos y personas interesadas.
-En la escuela cubana no se menciona el color, dejando a la espontaneidad personal el comportamiento frente al problema.
-En nuestras Universidades apenas se estudia el tema racial. Ni aparece recogido en los currículos de enseñanza.
-Nuestras investigaciones académicas, apenas se refieren el tema racial de manera suficiente y el mismo está, prácticamente ausente, del trabajo científico estudiantil.
-Solo recientemente, comienza a observarse, que se hace un esfuerzo por atender a la composición racial de grupos de trabajo, actividades, o situaciones, en que el negro y el mestizo deben quedar representados. Esto se observa con especial énfasis en la televisión.
-En realidad, nuestras estadísticas, sociales, económicas y políticas, son incoloras. Lanzando al cesto de la basura siglos de la historia nacional. Soslayando apreciar donde están los problemas.
-Nuestras Estadísticas Económicas, no permiten cruzar color, con variables de empleos, viviendas, salarios, ingresos, etc. Lo que impide investigar a fondo, cómo avanza el nivel de vida de los diferentes grupos raciales. Especialmente de aquellos antes desfavorecidos.
Consideramos, que mientras el tema racial no sea tratado con sistematicidad y coherencia, a nivel integral y este fehacientemente recogido en nuestras estadísticas y en nuestros medios, no podremos aspirar a que socialmente, el país avance en el tema.
Es que nuestra cultura heredada, es racista; es decir, la práctica del racismo, es cultural, instintiva, respondiendo, principalmente, aunque no solo, a mecanismos heredados, que funcionan, no pocas veces, de manera inconsciente.
Por tanto, hasta que el tema no entre en la educación, sea fuertemente debatido socialmente, forme parte del trabajo sistemático de los medios y sea considerado estadísticamente, no podemos aspirar a que pase a la cultura, ni se avance en el mismo, desterrándolo de las formas del comportamiento habitual de los ciudadanos en nuestro país.
Es que la ausencia de atención, casi generalizada, durante mucho tiempo, del tema racial, tiene consecuencias muy negativas, para su conocimiento, comprensión y consideración a nivel social, como algo que perjudica a la nación cubana. Tratándose de un problema, muy serio a superar, si queremos que nuestra sociedad y su cultura avancen de manera integral, garantizando el éxito del proyecto social de la revolución.
Junio 30 del 2021.
Received by email from the author for translation.
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.
José Luis Estrada Betancourt |firstname.lastname@example.org
March 8, 2021
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
I couldn’t help but think of my mother as soon as I started watching Madam C. J. Walker: Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, the miniseries released by Netflix in 2020 and now broadcast by Cubavisión on Saturdays at around 9:15 p.m. And not only because the extraordinary actress Octavia Spencer brings my Juana to mind, but because the story she stars in and for which she was nominated for Emmy awards, brought me back to those years of my childhood in which so many times I found the mistress of my days girdled with a hot comb to smooth her hair soaked in fat smelly grease.
It frightened me that I had to try, by fire, to make them find her beautiful, sliding that red-hot iron through the bundle of strong and unruly hair that she inherited from our ancestors, to leave them shiny and straight. I preferred to leave so as not to witness a possible accident, an alternative that did not disappear when it was the turn of the curling iron and the curl began to bend in a more permanent way with a chemical treatment that does not even spare the scalp.
I didn’t even wonder then what would be wrong with natural hair. It seemed to me the most common thing in the world that some people wanted to “advance the breed”, or that, before inquiring about their health, they were concerned with finding out how the newborn had turned out: It is evident that I was not ready to understand then that the centuries of slavery, of colonialism, imposed a Eurocentrism that later capitalism and imperialism were in charge of accentuating, to the point that this racist concept, which is so discriminatory, is so impregnated in my mind, that I was not ready to understand then that the centuries of slavery, of colonialism, imposed a Eurocentrism that later capitalism and imperialism were in charge of accentuating, to the point that this racist concept, discriminatory, is so impregnated in us (still today) that it can be common that in many spaces what does not comply with the “white beauty” is taken as dirty, unkempt, inappropriate, unprofessional, and is associated with poverty and marginality.
Undoubtedly, the theory of the existence of human races (over time up to 63 were classified, although Cuba must have surpassed that figure with so many mulattoes, mulatos blanconazos, jabaos, capirros, Indians…) was a great “invention” for those who sought to establish their social and cultural supremacy. The truth is that, although scientifically it has been destroyed, the direct derivative of this concept: racism, has not disappeared at all.
Madam C. J. Walker: A Self-Made Woman, a story that aims to bring us closer to the life of Sarah Breedlove (who later became C.J. Walker when she remarried publicist Charles Walker and took his name for her business), the first African-American woman to achieve the status of millionaire in the United States, could speak more forcefully about all of this, but does not.
However, viewers should not think that they will get to know much about this revered figure by African Americans with the four 45-minute chapters that Netflix offers us, because suddenly we will find her as a notable businesswoman and philanthropist when in a scene filmed in broad daylight, we discover her dressed in beautiful blue, as if she were dressed for an Oscar award ceremony, protecting herself from the sun, strolling outside her mansion where she will be noticed by her neighbor Rockefeller.
“To whom God gave it…”, those who think I’m envious are probably thinking right now. It’s just that no divine force must have given her anything, but she certainly had to fight very hard to be able to create an empire in the cosmetics industry with hair products. How did a black woman, who came into the world in 1867, on a cotton plantation in Louisiana, orphaned at the age of seven, more than poor, without any education, a domestic servant who lost her knuckles washing, manage to impose herself in a United States living in full racial segregation, in that lamentable period (1877-1950) when more than 4,400 African-Americans were victims of terrible lynchings? How was she able to achieve this, subjected to men, as women were in the early years of the 20th century, and despised for her sex and her skin?
We will not know it from the series Madam C. J. Walker... It will remain as a pending task to approach in depth the existence of this totally unknown woman (at least for me). In this production, such historical context is just a postcard in the background. Of course, we will be moved by the image of some being hanging in a tree, but the story of the protagonist played by Spencer will move along other paths.
It begins when the beautiful Addie Munroe (Carmen Ejogo), a mulatto whose white genes gave her a long and abundant mane, is shown before Sarah with the “crecepelo”, a product that will not only solve her hair loss problems, but will also give her back, above all, her self-esteem. Seeing that it works, the future tycoon, excited, will propose to her savior to let her participate in the sale, but the first one, who in a “rapture of kindness” provided it, was not willing to give that miracle to darker people with bad hair. Just what writer Alice Walker (The Color Purple) calls “colorism” to describe that other expression of “internal” racism.
You don’t have to be too imaginative to know how the script will develop in the future: Sarah and Addie, who will give her one setback after another, will become bitter enemies, although those who are familiar with Madam C. J. Walker’s biography assure that this is one of the many licenses taken by the authors of the scripts, in order to provide the ingredients that would make the melodrama move forward in the right direction.
In fact, if one is to go by the events presented to us from the novel On Her Own Ground, by A’Lelia Bundles, on which this biopic is based, Madam C. J. Walker, rather than the enormous injustices that African-Americans had to face in the early 20th century, was made more difficult by Addie (who, let’s face it, ended up stealing her invention, which she miraculously copied and obtained) and the men around her – such as Charles Walker (Blair Underwood), the husband jealous of his wife’s success; and John (J. Alphonse Nicholson), the ungrateful husband of her daughter, Leila Walker (Tiffany Haddish). She becomes betrayed, even by some of the very women to whom she gave support and work…. Nothing, the series seems to reinforce the popular saying that there is no worse wedge than the wedge of one’s own stick.
In any case, the undeniable fact is that with her efforts Madam C. J. Walker overcame poverty, humiliation, discrimination, classist and sexist prejudices… to rise as a true exponent of the American dream and to honor the title of this dramatization that was released in March, just two months before George Floyd ended up dead under the knee of ex-cop Derek Chauvin.
For me, Madam C. J. Walker: A Self-Made Woman stands out, above all, for the superb performance of Octavia Spencer (who also serves as executive producer), ever so believable, ever so convincing. Yes, Spencer is an actress of the highest caliber. She reminded us again this Sunday thanks to the film Hidden Figures, which was put on by Arte 7. We saw her, as splendid as her two other co-stars (Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe), also with her hair ironed, chemically straightened or in wigs, because that’s what is generally expected of black actresses and models on TV or in the movies. As beautiful as diversity is! But it is difficult to overthrow what has been coined for so many years in the sociocultural field.
The So-Called “San Isidro” case
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
I believe that what is happening there is a consequence of not having taken care of four fundamental issues in time:
1- The marginal conditions of some of our neighborhoods in Havana.
2-The lack of attention or delay in recognizing and using the Social Sciences.
3- In spite of Fidel’s early warning, having neglected, for a long time, the racial question.
4-Some deficiencies in our political-ideological work.
On the last three points, I have warned enough.
But as a result of my warnings, I was never called to the Round Table, and when the faces of its protagonists appear, mine is never there. In spite of having been, individually, among those who have attended the Round Table the most.
None of those who used to publish me now publish me. They have not called me anymore to Cuban Television. Luckily TELESUR gave me a job.
I have also written many works on the racial question, three books and dozens of articles, always warning about the role that the Social Sciences should play and about the importance of ideological work. I am sure you have read some of them. In them, I have had to fight many battles, so that they do not accuse me of being a racist, accept my criticisms as necessary and do not believe that because I have traveled a lot to the United States, I have brought these things from there. Of which I have been accused more than a few times. Racism and discrimination were not brought by anyone, from anywhere. They are here, because they were born, with us, as a nation. And from here we will eliminate them someday. For the glory of all Cubans. We are already working on it within a Governmental Commission, presided over by Miguel Diaz Canel, President of the Republic.
We have slums, which I know very well, because I have visited them, so that no one can tell me about them. And, in addition, because when I had to come from my town, to Havana, in October 1958, I lived, beyond the triumph of the Revolution, in the Jesus Maria neighborhood, in Vives Street No. 258 between Alambique and San Nicolas. I know the neighborhood very well, because I participated in the La Coubre, joined the Young Rebels there and worked in the Provincial Directorate of 26th of July, which was on Arroyo and 27th.
In those neighborhoods, the standard of living is very low, it always was. They are plagued by delinquents, prostitutes, and poor people, who live on the day-to-day things they can get. It does not mean that all their neighbors are prostitutes, antisocial and delinquents.
Many decent and revolutionary people also live there. But this is the environment that has always tended to dominate. In general, social relations, forms of behavior and mentality are still far removed from what is reflected in our journalistic, radio and television media. The state of the houses, the streets, the material conditions, do not contribute to generating a healthy social environment. As a result, many families struggle to move to other neighborhoods and the worst remains in the neighborhood.
Thus, attitudes, forms of behavior, colloquial language, philosophy of life are generated, all of which are very different from the environment in which most of us live and develop.
In general, there are no reading habits, interest in studying is very low, the sense of intellectual and cultural improvement is also very low. Access to the University is very limited.
Most of them are interested in earning money, or rather in having it, even if they do not seek it by lawful and moral means. Therefore, whoever offers them money, buys not a few, with relative ease, even if it is to carry out antisocial activities, and sometimes even counterrevolutionary activities.
Excessive drinking is very common among the type of person who live in this neighborhood. Rather, not a few of them are interested in partying and getting drunk. As a result, the vast majority of them, within the environment in which they live, are not interested in standing out for the positive, but for the negative, which not a few exacerbate. In their dress, their speech, their behavior, the way they behave socially, the way they treat women.
So then, the people, let’s call them normal, who live there, suffer a kind of cornering. That forces them to move away, so as not to suffer the negative consequences of being forced to live under such conditions.
The environment in which they live, tends to generate an ethic of permissibility, before any crime. A similar type of behavior is the treatment that women generally receive. Women often react in the same way, with a tendency to associate with these types of men, who some consider more “macho”. Generally, this type of woman, when receiving from the man any cultured attention, respectful treatment or delicacy, confuse them with homosexuality, as a lazy and effeminate type. This serves to fuel rude and disrespectful behavior, with a tendency to brutality towards them. Without realizing, sometimes, that they themselves contribute to the worse treatment they are subjected to. So then, feminism, the struggle for equality and recognition of women’s status, does not have much space among many of them.
They despise the laws, those who apply them, the police, in particular, they hate them and do not deserve any respect. They see them as their enemies and never as agents of order or guardians of good morals. For this reason, the tendency is not to inform on anyone, regardless of the crime they may have committed. This is considered as an act of “snitching”, lack of manhood, which many consider should be punished, even with a beating or death. Revenge is a typical phenomenon of social behavior.
They were not born this way, but, not infrequently, the example they receive at home, is forming them in this way; because, not infrequently, the same parents, inoculate them with customs, forms of behavior, values, ethics, inverse to those that the average of the society demands of them. From here also, sometimes, developed their behavior regarding education, respect to teachers, authority and government institutions.
In their eyes, the ideological work that is done is looked down upon, the work of the UJC seems to them as elitist and that of the rest of the organizations do not manage to attract them to good manners.
Fidel was very concerned about this, when he spoke several times about the racial question and generated the “Social Workers”, in view of the reality of the number of young people who neither studied nor worked. It was said that there were about 80,000 in the province of Havana. I also oriented to make investigations to know what was happening with the children in these neighborhoods. If the mothers had enough money to buy food for them, if the children had a television set and toys, etc. Trying to alleviate a social situation that could already be considered critical.
But all this remained in Fidel’s good intentions and the work that was being done was not continued. We were coming from a situation in which prostitution, drugs and these social problems were not considered to have a place in our society. But Fidel perceived them clearly from the beginning and oriented work toward them.
Today then, these neighborhoods are affected by delinquency, drugs, people without ideology, the unclassed, the marginalized, to whom we have already arrived too late. The consequences are manifesting themselves.
In these neighborhoods, in general, the revolution has not been able to reproduce itself and the counterrevolution, which has always stalked them, does not find it very difficult to attract them. If we add to this, the Pandemic and the difficult economic conditions we are going through today, I would say that we are in the most complex situation to address their problems. Although I am sure we are going to do it. Because our social policy and the interest that “no one is left helpless” are real. And they are being reinforced within the current economic policy.
They would not have been counterrevolutionaries, in their immense majority, but we, with our inattention and deficient political-ideological work, have been giving them away to the counterrevolution. Perhaps, without realizing it. So, if the revolution had managed to work more strongly against inequalities, the racial question, marginality, invisibilization; if our television and our media in general, had always been more visible of the differences, had debated more our problems, of things about which we are only beginning to talk about now, it would have been less difficult to fight against that environment and rescue its victims from the problems that now afflict them. And that the counterrevolution takes advantage of.
But we concentrate on the advances, neglecting the fact that not all of us have arrived in the same way to the current Cuban society and those have been left behind. Being the majority, blacks and mestizos, unfortunately, poor in general. They are the ones who were more directly affected by the “starting points”, farther away from the social and cultural welfare that the revolution, from the beginning, has lavished on many.
San Isidro is not the only neighborhood in Havana with these inequalities, marginalities and social disadvantages that have degenerated into the counterrevolutionary attitudes of a few.
There are other neighborhoods. And not only in the Capital.
What should we do now?
I believe that we should pay attention, with urgency, to the following issues:
1- We must pay attention to the material needs of those neighborhoods, in order to improve them. No promises, no propaganda. Just start. To make people see that their material situation begins to improve.
2- It is necessary to work on those neighborhoods with quality ideological and cultural work. Not with speeches or talks. Nor with master classes.
3- The situation of all those neighborhoods, Cuasi cuaba, La Lisa, Siboney, Atares, Luyano, etc., must be reviewed. If they have not turned around, it is because there are community projects and positive neighborhood leadership.
4- It is necessary to dust off everything that the Social Sciences have investigated and put it into execution. Formulate new projects and finish giving the Social Sciences the place they deserve, within the general scientific work and in the treatment of problems, in particular. There is scientific potential to do so.
5- The party must thoroughly review the work of the Ideological Apparatus and turn part of the tasks of its cadres in the directions that this situation demands.
6- The neighborhood of San Isidro, it is necessary to negotiate with them. See what they want. Take them to the logic of what they can ask for. And try to convince them of what cannot be given to them.
7- Formulate a strategy to help the nuclei of the party in situations of this nature. Because I am convinced that this struggle continues. And the insurmountable ones, already on the side of the counterrevolution, will continue, as long as they can, taking advantage of the complex situation the country is going through, to fulfill their purposes linked to the current US policy towards Cuba.
Biden already gave them the human rights policy, in his recent report, with which they will continue to pressure and perhaps do nothing to help the country solve its difficulties. On the contrary, they will try to exacerbate them. Generating a waiting period to see how the story ends.
Havana, April 18, 2021
Author: Pedro de la Hoz | email@example.com
March 4, 2021 23:03:32 PM
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
One fine day, looking for proximity between home and work, Tomás Fernández Robaina left behind his job as an accountant in a light industry establishment and joined the José Martí National Library. That was not a simple job exchange, but a radical change of life, because it was the beginning of the parallel takeoff of a substantive work in Cuban bibliography, and in the historical research related to the African legacy in national culture and the fight against discrimination because of skin color.
On the verge of 80 years of existence, five and a half decades of which he has spent at the prestigious cultural institution, Tomasito inspires respect and admiration for the impetus and passion he puts into every intellectual endeavor.
Those qualities nurtured the construction of one of his exemplary contributions to the field of island librarianship: the General Index of Periodicals. It was the result,” he recalled, “of an analysis of the indexes that had traditionally been prepared in the Library after the Revolution. As Salvador Bueno’s assistant, looking for information for the work I had to do in view of the popular literacy campaign, I realized that finding information was not very easy, because it was necessary to register a large number of directories. There were so many indexes that had been compiled that we really had to find a new way. I envisioned the project in two ways: to consolidate all the contents of the indexes that had already been compiled, and to begin to compile a repository that would include the contents of all the periodicals that were emerging”.
Having been the compiler of the Bibliografía de estudios afroamericanos (1969) and the Bibliografía de temas afrocubanos (1986) allowed researchers, professors, students and readers in general to have valuable tools of knowledge, and in his personal case, to confront sources that would be extremely useful for monographs and essays.
In 1990, one of his most far-reaching and impactful works, El negro en Cuba 1902-1958, was published. Although the author modestly stated that he was limiting himself to offering notes for the history of the struggle against racial discrimination, the documentation provided and the judgments derived from it, as well as the punctual record of the milestones, turn this essay into an essential reading.
Tomasito’s publications also include Hablen paleros y santeros, Recuerdos secretos de dos mujeres públicas, Cuba: personalidades en el debate racial and Identidad afrocubana: cultura y nacionalidad.
A member of the Cuban Association of Librarians (Ascubi) and of the Association of Writers of UNEAC-he is one of the most resolute activists of the José Antonio Aponte Commission-, Tomasito maintains, as a currency, to share what he has, to stimulate the spiritual growth of the new generations and never stop fighting to complete the work of social justice of the Revolution, especially with regard to the conquest of the fullest equality.
By Fernando M. García Bielsa
December 23rd, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The latest incidents of police brutality and racist killings in many U.S. cities are not a recent phenomenon. They are long-standing events, stemming from the days of slavery and, as now, developing alongside the violence of paramilitary and white supremacist groups.
The warlike projection of the country and its having reached the point of being permanently involved in a series of wars in various confines, has permeated the psyche of thousands of people and is reflected in a growing militarization at the domestic level. In addition to police brutality, it is clearly expressed in the proliferation of violent groups, as well as in government agencies such as the prison system, the militarization of the border with Mexico, and violence against immigrants.
In addition to the violent and racist tradition with which the U.S. nation was formed and the impact of imperial militarism, there are also the social fractures, polarization, and growing inequalities that this society has shown in recent decades. There are tens and tens of millions of people inserted in a vicious circle of residential segregation in unsafe neighborhoods lacking basic services.
The question of race and racism against Blacks has been a major factor in shaping American culture and policy from colonial times and the formation of the republic to the present. Much of national politics revolves around them. The historical and current location of African Americans is – in many ways – central to the country’s problems.
In turn, Black political movements and activism have historically been at the forefront of struggles for progressive change in the United States, a vast and diverse country where class and other movements have been co-opted or fragmented. This is influenced by historical reasons, immense institutional obstacles, as well as the dimensions of the country, the tensions arising from the multi-ethnic character of its population, and the growing weakness of the labor movement.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, so-called “communities of color” began to understand that society, as it existed, would never address their needs as they were perceived and felt. It was in this period that exploring their cultural heritage and building their own institutions became their greatest strength. The Black Power slogan had electrified Black communities across the country.
A dramatic transformation in the self-image of Black people began, in the context of one of the most effective social movements to date in the country, of racial pride, collective consciousness and community solidarity, with enormous repercussions in society as a whole.
After the impact of the great struggles and mobilizations of the Black civil rights movement, it became evident to sectors of power that the strength of such movements was being enhanced given the serious social problems in those communities. For this reason, since the 1960s, a whole series of government programs and assistance projects for the “development” of marginal areas and Black communities had been spreading.
Among the results of these programs was the strengthening of reformist groups and economic interests, as well as contributing in the long term to the formation of a whole layer of African American and Latino professionals and politicians with possibilities of access, public presence, and supposed representation of the interests of so-called ethnic minorities.
The Black bourgeoisie, including that which developed during the Obama administration, has continued to make false promises of inclusion. Except in the recent context in reaction to the wave of killings and police violence, organized political activism by African Americans has reached this stage after a long period of ebb.
Black groups have remained atomized, uncoordinated, focused on immediate economic and social concerns, and their energies have become diffuse, marked by the needs and life emergencies of their social bases, internal divisions, and the social polarization in their communities. External manipulations of all kinds do the rest.
The appearance of greater political influence by the Black population given the access of a few of their own to positions of some visibility has been misleading. Despite some advances in participation and representation, Blacks continue to fare worse than whites in having their political preferences and interests legislated.
The increase in class diversity that has taken place within these ‘communities’ and the nefarious role played by the Democratic Party in presenting itself as a champion of the underprivileged when in fact it is subject to the interests of the country’s financial elite, were felt.
The United States shows a growing number of very deep social divisions. Racism and the dangerous ideology of white supremacy is a serious obstacle to social cohesion, and is sometimes conducive to and at the root of serious outbreaks of violence. Demographic trends, some warn, suggest that the nation will not be sustainable in the long term unless marked inequalities between populations of diverse ethnic backgrounds are corrected.
Analyst Tim Wise said (on the Truthout website, March 2, 2012) that, in 25 or 30 years when non-whites will be half the population and the majority in several states, it will not be sustainable for the country to maintain that population as it is now. Blacks today are three times more likely to be in poverty than whites, twice as likely to be unemployed, with several times less assets and with an income less than the other half of the citizenry, and with nine years less life expectancy.
Behind that reality, repressive conceptions prevail. These are not only fed by overflowing militaristic mentalities or fears of ungovernability, but they are backed up by calculations of profit generation. These are derived from the so-called wars on drugs, mass incarceration in private prisons, outsourcing to private “security” agencies, and institutionalized repression against immigrants and marginalized populations.
The focus of repressive state activity is directed against Black groups and progressive organizations, which has led to the violation of civil liberties, the criminalization of social movements, increased surveillance and infiltration of Black, Latino and poor Muslim institutions and communities, including the deployment of undercover police, informants and intimidation in homes and public spaces.
A woman protests in New York against the ban on Muslims in Trump. Photo: Stephanie Keith/ AFP.
Muslim communities in the country face an environment of growing intolerance and hostility since the September 11, 2001 attacks. State and local police forces gather information and spy on law-abiding Muslim citizens. They become targets of violence as an extension of racism and xenophobia to our day, virtually demanding submission and near abandonment of their cultural and identity expressions.
So far, anger and despair have replaced the organizational strength and momentum of the civil rights era.
U.S. society is deeply fractured politically and across class, regional, economic, ethnic, religious, and cultural interests. Racial issues intersect with class differences and class oppression, and are often instrumentalized for political purposes. Levels of violence resurface; disparities are enormous. There are pockets of the population where people live in constant paranoia.
Even after the great rebellions against racism and the successes of the civil rights movement in the middle of the last century, including the partial dismantling of many of the legal structures that supported segregation, racial inequality remains a palpable fact. The racial chasm is widening and has not been altered by changes in government.
Racial prejudice in the United States has a strong negative impact on the lives of African Americans. It expresses itself in forms of discrimination in all areas and conditions of existence: segments of the population caught in a vicious circle of residential segregation, inferior opportunities for education or health services, marginality, increasing rates of incarceration, and discrimination in employment. Black workers receive 22% less than white workers in their wages, with the same levels of education and experience. The average income of African American households is just over half that of white households.
In most cities and urban areas of the country there are separate areas where the Black population resides,. This reflect the historical racial segregation that shaped the country and the policies created in the past to keep Black people out of certain neighborhoods. Many of these slums have high levels of poverty and face an intense and unwanted police presence.
In such an atmosphere and because of such deep-rooted prejudices, any activity, no matter how innocent, in which a Black man is involved generates suspicion, alarm and often danger to his life. Consider also that the rate of Black citizens in prison is five times that of white citizens. Despite being only 13% of the population they constitute 40% of all incarcerated men.
Highly peaceful neighborhoods coexist with others where violent death ravages the usually poor. Entire communities of Black, Latino, Muslim or Asian populations feel their communities are under increasing police occupation.
U.S. society has not been able to address the root causes of the outrage and anger that consume millions and are behind the recent powerful demonstrations against repression and racism. Neither politicians nor public institutions have established effective government programs to mitigate at least these gross inequalities, ultimately produced by the prevailing capitalist system.
On the other hand, what that society has done quite effectively is to divide and co-opt many of the struggles and organizing efforts that were going on in those communities.
The re-emergence of a “new Jim Crow,” that is, of a climate of brutal segregation, based on the mass imprisonment and repeated police killings of unarmed Black men, shows that the old systems of repressive control have increased in the present, always maintaining the dividing line of skin color.
In contrast, white hate groups, nationalists and racists, as well as their armed paramilitary branches, proliferate and carry out violent actions, often being overlooked or even in collusion with authorities in certain regions. Many of President Trump’s words and actions have seemed to encourage such groups.
All of this demagogic rhetoric, which has a fascist slant and is a mirror of the country’s war policies, encourages desperate sectors to organize themselves into militias to wage crusades of various kinds. It is a propitious environment when more than 300 million firearms, many of them of high caliber, are in the hands of the population, when a part of the hundreds of thousands of war veterans live with their frustrations, resentments and traumas of their war experiences.
In this context, hundreds and hundreds of right-wing armed militias throughout the country are operating, whose ideology and motivations are a combination of paranoia, fear and aggressive claims of their rights to carry firearms, receptiveness to elaborate conspiracy theories and extreme anti-government anger. Many claim that the country’s government has been subverted by conspirators and has become illegitimate, and therefore see themselves as patriotic by organizing themselves paramilitarily, confronting the authorities, and fomenting racial warfare.
Many authorities, in conjunction with the media, continued to criminalize protests and progressive groups, going so far as to characterize minor actions as violent crimes and even “terrorism.
Raising alleged “security” interests, the so-called program to Counteract Violent Extremism (CVE) was begun under the Obama administration (2009-2017), that openly resembles the repression against radical groups and the COINTELPRO program of the 1960s and 1970s, and that was added to the actions deployed after the passage of the Patriot Act in October 2001 and other actions.
On the basis of sections of that law, federal agencies are able to make more and more inroads into areas of civil and personal life. The FBI, for example, can demand information such as telephone and computer records, credit and banking history, etc., without requiring court approval and without being subject to controls on the use that the feds make of such personal information.
Abuses and violations of the law often occur. Such is the case when attention is drawn to controversial sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which allow for the conduct of mass spying on Americans communicating abroad. Recently the National Security Agency (NSA) has admitted to improperly collecting several hundred million phone calls from U.S. citizens.
According to William I. Robinson, a specialist on these issues, in his January 2018 article Global Police State, as war and state repression are privatized, the interests of a wide range of capitalist groups converge around a political, social, and ideological climate conducive to the generation and maintenance of social conflict.
For some time there have been signs that the government was anticipating the possible occurrence of serious civil problems and disturbances.
A video entitled “The Urban Future and its Emerging Complexity,” created by the U.S. Army to be used in the training of special forces, is revealing of the mentality and attitude in state entities regarding citizenship and the so-called “problems” that the government must be prepared to face through the use of martial law.
Already in 2008, a report from the Army Defense College stated that in the face of the possibility of a wave of widespread civilian violence within the country, the military establishment planned to “redirect its priorities under conditions of exemption to defend domestic order and the security of the people.
In its 44 pages, the report warned of the potential causes of such problems, which could include terrorist attacks, unanticipated economic collapse, loss of legal and political order, intentional domestic insurgency, health emergencies, and others. It also mentioned the possibility of a situation of widespread public outcry that would trigger dangerous situations and that would require additional powers to restore order.
In recent years, the U.S. state has radically expanded its punitive and surveillance capabilities. To limit protests, control dissent and popular opposition, as part of the well-known actions of the FBI and local police forces in previous decades, the system used administrative and legislative methods, espionage and covert infiltration, discrediting actions, massive “preventive” arrests, police attacks even against authorized peaceful protests, and so on.
The FBI’s budget for funding undercover agents, much of it within progressive organizations, rose from $1 million in 1977 to several tens of millions today.
In the United States, Black deaths are not a flaw in the system. They are the system.
Racism, whose historical cause lies in the pursuit of the most brutal exploitation as a means of enrichment, is also in its essence and necessarily a cultural phenomenon. That is why it does not end with the elimination of the economic bases that sustain it.
By Ernesto Estévez Rams
July 5, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The kidnapping of the black from the white is not exclusive to a single country with a slave-owning or slavery-like past; rather, it is the rule. In Cuba, it can even be sought from what is sometimes considered our first literary work, Mirror of Patience, written by an acriolated canary. [from the Canary Islands]
The story, in the words of Eduardo Torres-Cuevas, is an aesthetic recreation of a lie and, at the same time, the creation of a myth. The first, associated with the fact that the work tries to hide the context of smuggling that causes the events portrayed; the second refers to the intention of enhancing the heroism of the Bayamese Creoles.
But it can also be read in other ways. In the work, black appears, fundamentally in the figure of Salvador Golomón, an “Ethiopian worthy of praise”, who puts an end to the unfortunate life of the buccaneer Gilberto Girón, kidnapper of Bishop Cabezas de Altamirano. With this courageous action, the black man achieves his freedom. Salvador’s virtue, in the eyes of Silvestre de Balboa, author of the poem, is to have served the white masters courageously in a battle for commercial reasons – for a traffic from which he did not benefit at all – in which he was only a participant in his condition as a slave. Black was seen through the eyes of white, this time in his utilitarian function.
Racism, whose historical cause lies in the search for the most brutal exploitation as a means of enrichment, is also in its essence and necessarily a cultural phenomenon. That is why it does not end with the elimination of the economic bases that sustain it. It endures over time beyond the elimination of the explicit or implicit laws that codify it, beyond the economic relations that need racism. And discrimination is not completely stopped unless the cultural fabric that supports it and which, in many cases, forms part of the structural core of countries is also stopped.
Nations such as the Cuban were shaped from the Christian Eurocentric with a significant racist component. Significant actors in the formation of this nationality saw the black as a factor of social backwardness. The Creole elites justified concrete proposals for eugenics and other more genocidal proposals.
Such racist positions, whether in their most extreme or most paternalistic variants, were the norm among defenders of the colony, annexationists, reformers, or autonomists. But racism was also present in pro-independence sectors, despite our most distinquich heroes and the profoundly anti-slavery roots of our deeds. Martí’s preaching of thinking of an inclusive and peerless republic in all its ethnic diversity did not mean by far the acceptance of an anti-racist stance by the frustrated society that emerged from the war of independence.
The intervening power favored actors who shared its anti-black vision. From the elites, Cuba’s progress was to “whitewash” it, appealing equally to processes of “advancing the race” by means of mestizaje, as to relegating the black “to his place”. Such ideas, projected from the class hegemony of the subordinate bourgeoisie of imperial power, were also used as a mechanism of fear to justify violence against components of the humble masses of whites, blacks and mestizos. They were used to justify crimes like the killing of thousands of Black people during the 1912 uprising. The fear of the Black people, which had been stirred up as a mechanism of domination in the colony, was transferred to the nascent republic for the same purpose.
The black, in the neo-colonial republican design that emerged, was a symbol of incivility, backwardness, and a hindrance to the nation’s progress. Its culture was not such, it was ignorant, lascivious, perverse and incompetent, and to the same extent that its rebellious presence in authentic Cuba was unstoppable, it made more of an effort to create its “white”, “civilized” variant, whether in music, theater or literature. That perspective is still there in sectors of the Cuban social imaginary, even after 60 years of systematic effort to change it from the political power that the Revolution gave to the dispossessed, including in them the black.
Any process of gestation of the national, essentially symbolic, necessarily generates an organic intellectuality to that effort. We know the white intelligentsia, most of them representatives of sectors of the owning class within the Creole population. The memory of the black woman was largely lost, either through the lack of her own written testimony or through an exercise that she sought to forget. But, although recovering it for the social imaginary is difficult, we have the emancipatory duty to continue doing so. We still have a debt to the Aponte of our history and we will not succeed in crowning our aspirations until we pay it off.
These shortcomings persist despite years of effort to study the country’s black roots and the intellectuals who have made and continue to make this study the reason for their scientific endeavors. Studies to which the Revolution managed to incorporate the Black himself from his literate empowerment, as a prying into his past and shaping his history. This systematic effort to discover our Black history has not been accompanied by the same success, in spite of all the progress that has been made there too, in its incorporation into the educational systems. Nor is the generation of tangible and intangible symbols of that memory sufficient.
Beyond laws and concrete efforts to eliminate the economic and social roots of racism, the Revolution set in motion gigantic cultural decolonization processes that are still in progress today. Entire spaces in society acquired dark colors, especially in artistic culture, but far beyond it. Never before in the history of this country has a more monumental effort been made to incorporate the Black, not as something grafter on, but as an essential part of the trunk of what is Cuban. This was done at the same time as the methodological tools were being developed to achieve this, based on the urgency of taking the sky by storm here too. Like all emancipatory social processes, much was achieved in a very short time and it was also erred as a result of doing and, also, not doing enough.
The special period, with the social and economic processes that it unleashed, gave rise to processes of re-marginalization of tangible and symbolic areas of Cuban society that joined others that had never ceased to be marginal, where the Black presence is marked. This pointed to structural problems of inequality or vulnerability, associated with skin color, which have not been resolved in our society. Racism is still present in Cuba today, because it underlies, often dormant, in the social consciousness of not a few compatriots and is invisible in not a few social and even institutional spaces.
Today, the symbolic marginalization has as a new component the influence of colonizing globalization. It is in this context that the fight against racism in Cuba also acquires even more peremptory connotations and scope, as part of the common cultural front against the onslaught to which we are subjected as a nation.
We also see this marginalization in the loss of civility reflected in reprehensible social attitudes, the rise of misogynistic lyrics in songs and other manifestations. When this phenomenon occurs, the underlying racism tends to re-visit it in terms of race: the Black is antisocial, the Black is the ill-mannered, the Black is the uncivilized… This image is reflected in common places that persist among us, such as when it is associated with doing things right with “let’s do it like whites” or when a person is reproached for behaving like “a Black man”.
In our current society, wide spaces, where racism has been defeated, coexist with others where it persists and expands. We can proudly see tremendous advances in this fight against racism: firstly, its banishment as a phenomenon inherent to a capitalist society, but we also have to recognize its stubborn permanence as a real social phenomenon.
We recognize our formal dress, symbolically legitimized for protocol and official acts, in the very Cuban guayabera, but also in the jacket and tie imported from white and symbolically exclusive Europe, and none other. We do not incorporate into the garments accepted as formal the beautiful clothes of our African heritage. It is a simple and “innocent” example of all those symbolic dimensions of racism that go unnoticed among us.
Some monuments erected in the bourgeois neo-colonial republic have not been adequately intervened to re-describe them in the light of an anti-colonial and revolutionary vision of our history.
We carry with us the consequences of those centuries in which the Black, culturally speaking, was forcibly inserted into a society shaped from the white and its codes. Their culture, as an everyday attitude, is still seen by many as peripheral, another reality not incorporated into a supposed white root; it is perceived as a culture of folklore. It persists in segregating certain social behaviors, such as Black behaviors. The most explicit reaction on the part of those attacked to this symbolic aggression is then reduced by some to a supposed threat to social coexistence.
A relentless struggle must be waged, on the real economic, social and cultural levels, against racism, which not only persists but threatens to advance. It must be fought with the tools that we have used and are using in all these years of immense and insufficient effort. We have a tremendous arsenal of ideas that we didn’t have before, which is also the result of what has been done since the Revolution, and which we can and must incorporate into this battle, the one we owe to all the Salvador Golomóns of our history. They did not fight to reproduce patterns of exploitation, but to open up paths to seek full human potential. We owe it to ourselves, regardless of color, all the children equally of Martí and Maceo, of Camilo and Almeida.
George Junius Stinney Jr. was convicted in March 1944 of the murder of the two girls, ages 11 and 8, in a speedy trial by a jury of white men. George was executed in the electric chair on June 16 of that year.
By Raúl Antonio Capote | firstname.lastname@example.org
August 4, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
A boy looks scared into the camera of the Clarendon police photographer. After long hours of brutal interrogation, he had just confessed to a crime he had not commit.
Whoever pressed the shutter of the camera captured the pure image of fear and innocence; George Stinney’s police photo is not just any photo.
Stinney was a boy from Alcolu, Clarendon, a small town in South Carolina. His life was the life, you might say, of an African-American boy in that region.
George was tending the family’s cows with his sister Amie that day when two white girls, Mary Emma Thames and Betty June Binnicker, approached them to ask about some medicinal plants they were looking for. George and Amie did not know the plants, so the girls went on their way.
Hours after the meeting, the girls’ parents, concerned, went out to look for them. George offered to help when they passed by his family’s farm and told the parents about the conversation he had with the girls.
The bodies of the girls were found near a Missionary Baptist church, showed signs of sexual abuse and had been killed using a 25 kg wood.
The police arrested George and took him in for questioning, in a process that involved many irregularities, physical abuse and psychological torture. The child was not represented by any lawyer and was not allowed the company of his parents, despite being a minor, he was only 14 years old.
They said that he had confessed to the crime, but no evidence of the confession was ever produced, it was the word of the police against that of the black child. His sister–witnessing that Stinney had been with her all afternoon, so she could not commit the crime–was threatened and harassed, so she had to flee the area in the face of the real possibility of being lynched, as some villagers had promised to do.
George Junius Stinney Jr. was convicted in March 1944 of the murder of the two girls, aged 11 and 8, in a speedy trial by a jury of white people. George was executed in the electric chair on June 16 of that year.
In 2014 the case was reviewed and justice ruled that the boy had not received a fair trial and he was found not guilty. The problem is that this verdict came 70 years too late.