What Obama’s Trip To Havana Revealed About Race In Cuba And The U.S.

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-05-06 01:56Z by Steven

What Obama’s Trip To Havana Revealed About Race In Cuba And The U.S.

African American Intellectual History Society
2016-05-04

Devyn Spence Benson, Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies
Louisiana State University

During his groundbreaking visit to Havana last month, President Barack Obama suggested that the embrace of U.S.-style democracy and capitalism would “help lift up” Cubans of African descent. Following the speech, former Cuban President Fidel Castro reminded Obama that the Cuban Revolution had already eliminated racial discrimination in the 1960s.

The contemporary state of racial inequality casts doubt on both men’s assertions: black and brown North-American youth still face police brutality (murder), voter suppression, and low graduation rates, while Afro-Cubans have less access to the emerging tourist sector than ever before. “Democracy” or “socialism”—despite the propaganda and good intentions of our leaders—does not naturally uplift people of African descent.

The symbolism of a black U.S. president eating at one of Havana’s few black-owned restaurants and talking about Afro-Cuban access to the new economy should be celebrated. Missed, though, was the opportunity to reestablish coalitions and activism between people of African descent in both countries. Instead, debates about which country had been most successful in battling racism abounded. Similar to previous interactions between Cuba and the United States, this event showed how both countries invoke celebratory histories that reinforce national racial mythologies, rather than the controversial present…

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Amid sweeping changes in US relations, Cuba’s race problem persists

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-08-16 21:58Z by Steven

Amid sweeping changes in US relations, Cuba’s race problem persists

Al Jazeera America
2015-08-13

Julia Cooke

In 1959, Fidel Castro said he would work to erase racial discrimination, but inequality is still widespread

Official Cuban census figures say black and mixed-heritage people are about 35 percent of the island’s population, but a quick stroll around any Cuban town will provide visual confirmation of just how many Cubans of color deem themselves “white” when the government is asking. That may not be surprising, given that race is not an objective scientific category, but rather an organizing principle of political power — both before and after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

The black and mixed-heritage share of Cuba’s population is closer to a two-thirds majority, according to other sources, including the U.S. State Department (which puts the figure at 62 percent), the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (also 62 percent) and Cuban economist and political scientist Esteban Morales Domínguez (who says it may be as high 72 percent). Most of these assessments break down the population into roughly equal blocs of white, black and mixed.

Even the dominant Cuban terminology signals the issue’s knotty intricacy: the decidedly un-PC term mulatto is used tenderly in conversation, defiantly on official documents, and derisively by the concerned neighbor who asks what color skin a robber had.

Now, as the country enters a new era of fast and sweeping change, a long-taboo political conversation about race is on the table as never before in art, music, film, and writing; in both official and dissident narratives; and in diverse circles across the socio-economic strata…

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Market-style reforms widen racial divide in Cuba

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Economics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2014-09-05 15:32Z by Steven

Market-style reforms widen racial divide in Cuba

Reuters
2014-09-02

(Reuters) – Cuba’s experiment with free-market reforms has unintentionally widened the communist-led island’s racial divide and allowed white Cubans to regain some of the economic advantages built up over centuries.

Under President Raúl Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2008, Cuba has expanded its non-state workforce, loosened travel restrictions and promoted private cooperatives and small businesses.

As the communist government relinquishes its once near-total control of the economy, inequality has widened, undoing some of the progress seen since the 1959 revolution.

Much of the funding for new businesses such as restaurants, transportation services and bed-and-breakfast inns – targeted at tourists, diplomats and dollar-earners – comes from family members who emigrated to the United States over the last 50 years, especially Miami.

They sent almost $3 billion to relatives back in Cuba last year and, as they are mainly white, their investments put black and mixed-race Cubans at a disadvantage as they try to set up their own businesses…

…Before Castro’s revolution, education was largely off limits to blacks and mestizos and they were shut out of universities and jobs that involved interacting with customers. Whites had their own social clubs, beaches and private parties.

As soon as he assumed power, Castro eliminated segregation and attempted to abolish inequality by giving all Cubans access to free education and health care. The government hails those as among the revolution’s greatest accomplishments.

Today Cuba is largely a mixed-race society, though one in which lighter skinned Cubans still enjoy advantages in all but sports and entertainment.

Many Cubans are of ambiguous racial heritage, and a panoply of names exist to people of various hues. The terms are more descriptive and not considered offensive.

Some Afro-Cubans say they have not experienced racism under the revolution, advancing in education and careers without impediment.

Echevarria, the sandwich shop co-owner, said he was content with his humble business and not too bothered by inequality. “Racism exists. Not like before, but it exists.”

But other black and mixed-race Cubans say they feel racism, and experts say whites still have better access to good jobs and higher education…

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