Racism in Cuba and The Failure of the American Left

by Sidney Brinkley

“All citizens have equal rights and are subject to equal duties. Discrimination because of race, color, sex or national origin is forbidden and will be punished by law.”
-The Cuban Constitution 1959

“I think we should see more black representation in the higher positions of leadership now. In the middle leadership, for example, in the youth organizations. This is a social problem we have not resolved. But there are economic problems that are critical at the moment, so it’s difficult.”
-Fidel Castro, “Crossroads,” October 1993

What impressed me the most [about the meeting with President Fidel Castro] was the way in which his grounding in the history and reality of Afro-Cubans informs his view of Cuba; the sense of personal outrage he has over racial discrimination; and his willingness to be critical of how the revolution has not done all that must be done about racism and therefore the resolve to figure out what must be done.
-Dr. Johnnetta Cole, “The Cuba Report,” TransAfrica Forum January, 1999

The TransAfrica Forum delegation, comprised of fifteen prominent African-Americans, arrived in Havana on January 2, 1999, to begin a five day “fact-finding” visit which concluded with a three hour meeting with Cuban president Fidel Castro. In addition to Dr. Cole, the delegation included Drs. Alvin and Tina Poussaint, author Walter Mosley, actor Danny Glover and Randall Robinson, president of TransAfrica Forum. The visit was described as a “watershed” event.

It’s no surprise the Dr. Cole would be “impressed” by her meeting with Castro. The American Left are overwhelmingly impressed by Castro, sometimes to a fault. In the Cuba Report that followed the visit, TransAfrica praised the Cuban government for it educational system, its universal health care, its low infant mortality rate.

Following close on the heels of the TransAfrica visit, a six member delegation from the Congressional Black Caucus, led by CBC chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) arrived in Cuba on February 17, for its own five day fact finding tour. “We have come with our minds open to study the impact of the embargo on the Cuban population,” Waters said. “We hope to exercise some leadership, even a modest amount, in the future debates on a resolution about U.S.-Cuban relations.”

On February 19, the CBC delegation met with Castro for six hours. As with TransAfrica, the CBC delegation saw what Castro wanted them to see, talked with whom Castro wanted them to talk and came away with the “facts” that Castro wanted them to know.

In the July 1999 issue of “Essence” magazine Randall Robinson authored a simplistic article titled “Why Black Cuba Is Suffering.” He lambasted the U.S. government embargo, saying it was the sole blame for the plight of Afro Cubans. There was no mention of the role the Cuban government plays in that suffering, and they do indeed play a part. Castro is invariably portrayed as victim but Castro is also victimizer but that’s a fact that Robinson and most of the Left prefer not to acknowledge.

Robinson offered a qualified criticism of Castro’s Cuba. “While Cuba has a one-party system and suppresses dissent, it still has a better record with respect to human rights than many Latin American governments the United States has steadfastly supported,” Robinson wrote. What kind of reasoning is that? I would imagine the political prisoners languishing in Cuban jails would find little comfort in that statement. The same people that go ballistic over human rights abuses in China, go mute when it comes to Castro’s human rights abuses in Cuba.

Cuba has a population of over 11 million people. Approximately 60% are Black. However, while the Cuban constitution declares everyone equal, Cuban society is stratified by race and color of skin. Viewed as a pyramid, White Cubans are at the apex, mulattos or mixed race are in the middle and Afro-Cubans are at the bottom. The same position they occupied before the revolution.

There are virtually no Afro-Cubans found in the hierarchy of the Cuban government. And they are not found anywhere else in anything close to their numbers in the population. When it comes to addressing Cuba’s entrenched racism Castro plays the American Left like a fiddle. He knows that all he has to do is acknowledge the sorry fact and that will be enough to impress the Left. That Castro has done nothing to correct it is overlooked.

The truth is, the Black majority is being ruled by the White minority. If that wasn’t acceptable in South Africa, why is it acceptable in Cuba? Indeed, that’s one reason the Castro regime is so strongly opposed to democracy. There’s the very real possibility, indeed probability, that for the first time in the history of Cuba, White Cubans would no longer be in control.

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