Fast forward to the nation of Cuba, a communist country that has been present as an example of how communism, unlike capitalism, can lessen, even eradicate racism. However, a recent article suggests otherwise. The article entitled “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun” was written by an editor of a Cuban publishing house, Roberto Zurbano, who since the publishing of the article, has been removed from his post. I guess he was exposing dirty linen or something. A major goal of the Cuban revolution was to level the playing field for all Cubans, and its defenders point out that racism which was endemic pre-Castro Cuba, has been lessened, and the nation has many black doctors, scientists and intellectuals as proof.
Zurbano said that change “is the latest news to come out of Cuba, though for Afro-Cubans like myself, this is more dream than reality. Over the last decade, scores of ridiculous prohibitions for Cubans living on the island have been eliminated, among them sleeping at a hotel, buying a cellphone, selling a house or car and traveling abroad. These gestures have been celebrated as signs of openness and reform, though they are really nothing more than efforts to make life more normal. And the reality is that in Cuba, your experience of these changes depends on your skin color.”
Zurbano points out that the Cuban government provides a strong safety net of housing, education and healthcare for its citizens. Fidel in the 1990's after the cold war ended, embarked on economic reforms that his brother and successor, Raúl, continues to pursue. Once Cuba had lost its greatest benefactor, the U.S.S.R., her economy plunged into a deep recession. This period, known as the “Special Period,” was marked by frequent blackouts, a failed transportation system, food scarcity, and general civil unrest. To quell the unrest, the government opened up the economy, creating a sort of mixed economy: part traditional socialism; part private businesses and foreign-oriented enterprises, which essentially allowed trade in U.S. dollars. He continues, “The private sector in Cuba now enjoys a certain degree of economic liberation, but blacks are not well positioned to take advantage of it. We inherited more than three centuries of slavery during the Spanish colonial era. Racial exclusion continued after Cuba became independent in 1902, and a half century of revolution since 1959 has been unable to overcome it.”
The ideas expressed by Zurbano have been supported by several books, and studies published recently. Esteban Morales Dominguez has pointed to institutionalized racism in his book The Challenges of the Racial Problem in Cuba (Fundación Fernando Ortiz). A more recent survey has shown that white Cubans believe that Black are "less intelligent than whites" (58%) and "devoid of decency" (69%). Morales says that according to the latest census, 65% of the Cuban population is white and 35% black or mixed, but 57% of the jail population is black or mulatto and 42% white. In addition, according to anthropologists dispatched by the European Union (EU), racism in Cuban is systemic and institutional. Black people are systematically excluded from positions in tourism-related jobs, where they could earn tips in hard currencies. The study also showed that Black people are relegated to poor housing, were excluded from managerial positions, received the lowest remittances from relatives abroad, and were five times more likely to be imprisoned. Blacks also complained of suffering the longest waits in healthcare. Carlos Moore, who has written extensively on the issue, says that "there is an unstated threat, blacks in Cuba know that whenever you raise race in Cuba, you go to jail. Therefore the struggle in Cuba is different. There cannot be a civil rights movement. You will have instantly 10,000 black people dead" He continues, that a new generation of Black Cubans are looking at politics in another way since the election of Barack Obama. His victory has has raised disturbing questions about the institutional racism in Cuba.
Jorge Luis García Pérez, who was imprisoned for 17 years, states that "the authorities in my country have never tolerated that a black person oppose the regime. During the trial, the color of my skin aggravated the situation. Later when I was mistreated in prison by guards, they always referred to me as being black." As a black prisoner of conscience, Oscar Elias Biscet wrote to Coretta Scott King in January 1999, "They [black Cubans] have a very low political, economic, and judicial representation in contrast to the numerous prevailing black penal population. This situation is never publicly manifested by the government but is a component of Communism's subtle politics of segregation." Black Cubans such as Biscet and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez have been allegedly forcefully separated from their families for criticizing Fidel Castro.
Even Fidel Castro expressed disappointment in the progress Cuba was having in addressing racism and race relations. He was quoted as saying: “One of the most just battles that must be fought, a battle that must be emphasized more and more, which I might call the fourth battle—the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. I repeat: the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. Of all the forms of racial discrimination the worst is the one that limits the colored Cuban's access to jobs.“ Castro pointed to the distinction between social segregation and employment, while placing great emphasis on correcting the latter.
Many who argue that Cuba is not racist base their claims on the idea of Latin American Exceptionalism. According to this concept, a social history of intermarriage and mixing of the races is unique to Latin America. The large mestizo populations that result from high levels of interracial union common to the region are often linked to racial democracy. For many Cubans this translates into an argument of “racial harmony,” often referred to as racial democracy. According to Mark Q. Sawyer, in the case of Cuba, it is this very idea of Latin American Exceptionalism that has delayed the progress of true racial harmony in Latin America.
Racism is alive and well all over the world. There is no post-racialism in the U.S., and Latin American has never been exceptional. Racism may never disappear but once there is authentic Black/Afrikan power, who cares about racism--it becomes just another prejudice. And it no longer becomes our burden, just theirs--the racists. As long as they can no longer impose their will on us—that's what matters. Racism without white supremacy is a paper tiger. So, the only way to render racism ineffective is to develop our power. Let's build Afrikan power period!!!