RSS

Cuba and Race

23 Mar

The diaspora after the Cuban Revolution actually did the country a huge favor in terms of race relations. Like other places in Latin America and the Islands who got jobs, ownership of import-export franchises, and business opportunities was largely driven by the racial strata of their chief customer (and sometimes occupier) the United States until late in the 60’s. And that meant the lighter and whiter the better.

As such the Cuban population of first generation refugees look nothing like the population on the Island.

Despite protestations to the contrary, including in the American Press – the Revolution did not entirely kill the Devil. It just drove it underground and made it a bit more nefarious.

One of the major issues of rapprochement, either by the US or European countries is who specifically will benefit from the emerging tourism and product marketplaces. And whether the “new invasion” of foreigners will apply or wittingly or unwittingly support the old color structure. I would guess there is some trepidation in welcoming the Cuban-American diaspora back.

The diaspora aren’t going to be real high on the list for either this, or the next Democrat President, because they, alone among Hispanic and Latino groups in the country have been a reliable voting block for Republicans.

Cuba Says It Has Solved Racism. Obama Isn’t So Sure.

President Obama spoke of his Kenyan heritage. He talked about how both the United States and Cuba were built on the backs of slaves from Africa. He mentioned that not very long ago, his parents’ marriage would have been illegal in America, and he urged Cubans to respect the power of protest to bring about equality.

“We want our engagement to help lift up Cubans who are of African descent,” he said, “who have proven there’s nothing they cannot achieve when given the chance.”

Mr. Obama’s speech on Tuesday, in an ornate Spanish colonial-style hall in Havana, was not only strikingly personal. It was also an unusually direct engagement with race, a critical and unresolved issue in Cuban society that the revolution was supposed to have erased.

For many Cubans, Mr. Obama’s comments were striking for their acknowledgment of racism in both countries. His remarks served as a reminder that their particular kinship with him — as reflected in dozens of conversations and responses to his history-making three-day visit this week — involves not just policy, but also identity.

“It’s a revolution,” said Alberto González, 44, a baker who was one of the few Afro-Cubans to attend a discussion with the president about entrepreneurship on Monday. “It’s a revolution for everyone with a background descended from Africa.”

Defensiveness has long hovered over the subject of race, in part because Fidel Castro said shortly after the revolution that racism had been solved, making the subject taboo.

The discomfort, in part, came from pride: Some of the revolution’s most visible achievements involved ending institutionalized segregation, at beach clubs, at schools and in neighborhoods where the homes of wealthy white Cubans who fled were often given to Cubans of color.

Socialized medicine and education also helped create a society more deeply shaped by interracial interactions and marriages than the United States.

And yet, Cuba is no more postracial than anywhere else. Many Afro-Cubans in Cuba and abroad have been quick to point out that the presence of Mr. Obama, the first black president of the United States, only highlights that the Cuban government does not reflect the demographics of their country.

On an island that is around two-thirds black and mixed race, according to a 2007 study by the Cuban economist Esteban Morales Domínguez, the civil and public leadership is about 70 percent white. He also found that most scientists, technicians and university professors, up to 80 percent in some fields, were white.

“The images of the meetings, the agreements, they’re all shameful for many black Cubans — I’m including myself in this — because it’s difficult to feel represented,” said Odette Casamayor-Cisneros, an associate professor of Latin American and Caribbean literatures and cultures at the University of Connecticut and a scholar at Harvard University.

She added that elements of Mr. Obama’s trip reflected some of the same dynamics: The Cuban-Americans traveling with the president were nearly all white, as were the Cuban officials who interacted with him on the island. Indeed, much of the audience for his speech on Tuesday was white.

In that context, the president — along with his wife, daughters and mother-in-law, who joined him on the trip — offers a clear contrast.

“What you see is confirmation of black empowerment, which has generally been denied in Cuban society,” Ms. Casamayor-Cisneros said. “For black Cubans, the mere existence of Obama is unusual and overwhelmingly symbolic.”

Some Afro-Cubans, like the hip-hop artist known as Soandry, linked the president to “what can be achieved in a capitalist system.”

Other Cubans brought up race more directly, without prompting, arguing that because Mr. Obama is African-American, he understands their country.

Mr. González, whose bakery counter is adorned with photographs of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, said it was not just the president whom people admire. “Look at that family,” he said, smiling broadly. “Can you imagine? Have you ever seen a more beautiful family?”

The challenge, Mr. González and other Cubans said, is turning that inspiration into something more substantial, starting with a more open conversation about race….Read The Rest Here

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 23, 2016 in The Post-Racial Life

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: