Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Black Caucusian Bone Picking

I've got a bone to pick with the Congressional Black Caucus members' remarks after their recent trip to Cuba; but first a quote from a source within Cuba:

In primary [Cuban] education, skin colour is not mentioned," ... If we are still living in a society where white people have the power, and we don't mention colour in education, we are in practice educating [Cuban] children to be white.

Cuban history as we teach it is a disgrace, because it is predominantly white history, and explaining the role of black people and mulattoes in building this society and its culture is not given its due importance.

Esteban Morales
University of Havana
Centre for the Study of the Hemisphere and the United States
My bone has nothing to do with President Obama's recent (and curiously announced by his press secretary) monumental decision to change a major visiting policy to the unfortunate Caribbean island prison of Cuba; but first another Cuban quote: carry on "hiding" the issue [of racism in Cuba] would lead black people to think that "they belong to another country, and that there are two Cuba’s as there were in the 19th century, a black Cuba and a white one."

Roberto Zurbano
Casa de las Américas publishing house
What my bone deals with is the spectacular lack of historical background that the various Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members' showed when commenting about their meeting with the Castro brothers.

Not that their highly complimentary comments about two bloody, murdering dictators would offend me. It does and it should offend anyone and everyone who loves and admires liberty. One would think that any comments about a nation with one of the world's worst human rights records, where Amnesty International has been denied access to (except to that bit of Cuba where the Guantanamo Naval Base is located); a nation where gay people were once given lobotomies to "cure" them; and where HIV+ Cubans were detained and segregated in guarded colonies away from the general public.

But what really bugs me, in my own pedantic hell, is how a bunch of historically and socially clueless African American legislators would praise the leaders and the government of one of the world's most racist dictatorships, a government which talks a talk of equality while walking a walk of institutionalized racism against its own black population.

Cuba has a long and agonizing history of racial issues, starting with its long bloody history of slavery, which didn't end on the island until 1886, and continuing through its freedom from Spain, birth of the Republic, and the triumph of the Castro Revolution in 1959. It continues to this day.

Cuba even had its own race war.
Antonio Maceo

General Antonio Maceo, known as "the Bronze Titan." He was the true warrior leader of the Cuban Wars of Liberation. His father was white of French ancestry; his mother was black, of Dominican ancestry. After the first Cuban Liberation War ended in a truce with Spain, some say that Maceo was so disillusioned with the realities of life in Cuba as a black man, that he left Cuba and lived in Panama, until he was called back to lead the Cuban rebels in a new rebellion in 1895. He returned to Cuba and was killed in battle against the Spanish Army in 1896.

In 1912, black Cubans in Oriente province had enough of the new Cuban government's racist practices and the degrading treatment of Cuban black veterans, who had been the bulk of the Cuban rebels in the wars of independence against Spain. The Cuban government moved on a path of genocide and eventually the United States had to send in troops to end the war between the white Cuban government and the black rebels in Oriente.

As I recall from the CIA Factbook of 1959, on that year the island was about 70% white, about 20% black and mixed, and the rest Chinese, Jewish and other. The Cuban Diaspora which started a few months after the Castro takeover and continues to this day, with the exception of the Mariel boat lift of the 1980s, saw a mass exodus of mostly white Cubans, and as a result the island's racial balance shifted dramatically to where most people estimate that today the island is about 60% black or biracial.

But Cuba's black population has not seen a proportionate share of the power and a quick review of the governing Politburo/Parliament reveals few black faces in the crowd. In fact, "the Cuban cultural journal Temas published studies by the governmental Anthropology Centre in 2006 that showed that on average, the black population has worse housing, receives less money in remittances from abroad and has less access to jobs in emerging economic sectors like tourism, in which blacks represent barely five percent of managers and professionals, than the white population."
"I think silence is worse. The longer nothing is said, the more the racism fermenting underground is rotting the entire nation..."

Gerardo Alfonso
While the Cuban constitution of the 1940s (since then abolished by the Communist government) outlawed segregation and racism, and the current Cuban Constitution guarantees black Cubans the right to stay in any hotel and be served at any public establishment, as it has been documented by many foreign journalists, black Cubans will tell you in private that those rights exist only on paper.

The harsh Cuban reality today, they claim, is that "black Cubans won't be served" and that Cubans, regardless of race are in general barred from places frequented by tourists.
Unfortunately, these things [disparities in the treatment of blacks and whites] are very common in Cuba.

Ricardo Alarcón Quesada
President of the National Assembly of People's Power
Cuban Parliament
Do these Cuban voices from within Cuba itself sound like the subjects of a government whose murdering tyrants should be hugged and complimented by our African American legislators, in view of our nation's own racial history? Would they hug the criminal government leaders of the apartheid South Africa of the 20th century?

We have practically apartheid in this country sometimes... racism is deeply rooted in Cuba's history and will not disappear overnight."

Rogelio Polanco Fuentes
Cuban Communist Party-owned Juventud Rebelde newspaper.
Shame on you CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Ca.), shame on you Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Il.), shame on you Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Ca.), shame on you Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), and whoever else of you historically ignorant bobos praised the leaders of that unfortunate prison island.


I've been on the road since 4AM on Tuesday morning, and driving in the rain sucks...