12 December 2009

Cuba's Daltonic Racism: José Steinsleger

In a declaration directed at President Raul Castro, more than 60 intellectuals and ‘Afro-American’ political leaders demanded an “end to the unnecessary and brutal harassment of Black citizens in Cuba defending their civil rights”.

The answer was not late in coming. A group of prominent Cuban intellectuals felt that such an exhortation “… would appear to be a delirious reflection were it not that behind those fictions was a malicious intent to add respectable voices from the Afro-North American community to the anti-Cuban campaign that tries to undermine our sovereignty and identity”.

This time the stage was not occupied by those who live the business of freedom for Cuba but by personalities like Cornel West, preacher and professor of Princeton University, the veteran actress Ruby Dee Davis or pastor Jeremiah Wright, who was convinced that god cursed his country “… for treating our own as second class citizens” and someone that Barack and Michelle Obama wanted to erase from their family album after he married them and baptised their daughters.

Racism in Cuba? In ophthalmology, the irregularity of one eye in relation to the other is called squint, presbyopia is straining of the eye and Daltonism is a defect which hinders distinguishing colours. I do not know if in matters of ideology, politics, history and sociology analogous terms exist to name similar deficiencies.

Manning Marable, historian at Columbia University and biographer of the leader, Malcolm X, seems not to have found them. In a research on racism, Marable says that the “new racial control” in the United States would be a lethal or diabolical triangulation of structural racism: massive unemployment, massive imprisonment and massive deprivation of the right to vote.

Marable called this triangular cycle “of economic marginalisation and exclusion which culminates in civil and social death” Daltonic racism. That is, a variety of racism oriented at dismantling the ethno-racial Manichean (dualistic) signposting, remodelling language and dealing with race in neutral and Daltonic form.

Is there no racism in Cuba? A categoric ‘yes’ would be equivalent to believing in a confusion as deliberate as intentional and a categoric ‘no’ runs the risk of being underestimated by frivolity (blah, blah), ignoring a reality which needs to be approached without presbyopia, squint or a Daltonic look.

A century ago, the celebrated Cuban thinker Enrique J. Varona said: the colony is alive in the Republic. In 1959, the revolution demonstrated that the Republic was colonial and headed for the road to Socialism. But, half a century later, paid libertarians claim that racism is daily bread of the revolution.

Well, what percentage of Whites manifest it and what percentage of Blacks suffer it: 90%, 50, 20 or 10%? It is of no interest. For the sociologist Charles Moore, all Cuban Whites are racists and, more than that, the leaders of the revolution are “White supremacists”. This delirium sells. And more so when accompanied by the “academic seriousness” of figures like Enrique Patterson, former professor of philosophy at the Department of Marxism-Leninism at Havana University.

Franz Fanon said racism was not a constant in the human spirit but a disposition written onto a certain determined system. But would ideology be enough to end racism in Cuba? Intellectuals like Professor Marable have to be realists and, inevitably, fatalists at the same time. In contrast, Professor Desiderio Navarro, one of the most complex and diligent intellectuals of Cuba, maintains that in place of worrying about the colour of the past we have to see the colour of the future.

Marable lives in a directionless capitalist system and Navarro in a Socialist society that turns the issue over. And we are in a colonised and alienated society, in which 80% of the population is poor and 90% of this population is indigenous, negroid or mestizo. And that the first abolitionist cry in America was launched in 1811 by the Mexican Deputy Guridi Alcocer before the Court of Cadiz.

The Cuban revolution has to face up to the challenge. Nevertheless, it remains to be known how clear its thinkers are that racism is not a mere epiphenomenon of class struggle or something written in a “determined system” as Fanon thought.

Racism, as I understand it, is a sentiment. The most slippery, terrible, hypocritical and twisted of sentiments. It can be used by counter-revolution and can be used by revolution. Julius Lester, activist and lucid thinker of the U.S. Black movement, wrote a brief article suggestively titled, ‘The White radical as revolutionary’ (1967): “What the Blacks feel in the guts, the Whites feel with their head”.

Source: La Jornada

1 comment:

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Joan Stepsen
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