Cuba, Race, & Racism: The Difficult Dialogue (Like here in the U.S.)

I wish I could get Miguel BarnetDarsi FerrerKaren Lee Wald, Amiri Baraka, Cornel West, Jeremiah Wright, and Susan Taylor, along with Danny Glover, Sonia Sanchez, Bill Strickland, Ahmed Obafemi, Agustin Lao-Montes, Former Brazilian minister of racial equality Matilde Ribeiro, Mt. Holyoke College’s Kenan Professor of Latin American & Caribbean Studies Roberto Marquez, UMass Amherst Du Bois Department professors Kym Morrison, et al, together with the panelists of our Cuban Revolution at 50  series: Carlos Moore, Lillian Guerra, Damian Fernández, Alejandro de la Fuente, Mark Sawyer, and Odette Casamayor Cisneros. Like the Cuban people at their best, I hold that all these folks want the same thing: A Cuba and a world where a color line does not hold people  back from development, opportunity, and self-realization. While no doubt there has been change over the past half century, in Cuba as in the U.S. or South Africa, serious racist realities remain. It is good to encourage struggle, clear-headed and productive struggle on these issues. Nonetheless, I need to see more about what Cornel West & Co., are saying. I smell a rat here. As for Carlos Moore, Amiri Baraka doth protest too much. /az

Roberto Vargas <> put this out there yesterday:

Here are 2 responses from our friends Karen Lee Wald, and Poet Amiri Baraka, both brilliant authors and knowledgeable of Cuba’s social dynamics, current and historical/they are responding to the AP “article” below their posts that  Will Weissert wrote about Cuba’s race problems….

All  This is the work of a notorious Anti Castro Cuban  negro, Carlos Moore, who was in Miami last month trying to get people to sign a  questionable “petition” accusing the Cubans of racism. Moore has been pushing this style of vicious undermining since the 60’s. I had an animated discussion with him while refusing to sign such BS.
Apparently (at least I hope so) some well known Black people who signed the petition were ignorant of Moore’s historical backwardness. We shd speak out on Moore and as well continue to  support the Cuban Revolution.Of all the places in the West or the World to attack racism, to attack Cuba is the work of Gusanos  or the CIA.
Moore lives now in Brazil, does he think that a paragon of “post racial” harmony?
Amiri Baraka

To get an idea of the extent of bias behind this article, you need only read Weissert’s absolutely unfounded statement near the end: “While blacks hold many seats in Cuba’s rubber-stamp parliament [sic], there is virtually no Afro-Cuban representation at the highest levels of the communist government.” Unfortunately, only those who have been to Cuba and are familiar with its reality would know how blatantly falste both parts of this assertion are. To say that Cuba is still struggling to erase the last vestiges of 5 centuries of racism, and still has a long way to go, would be a truth any Cuban or objective observer would agree with.  For people outside to act as though they uniquely were aware of this is arrogant and uninformed, to say the least. And Weissert’s statement is off the wall. Cuba’s elected National Assembly meets in working commissions year round, and if the short public sessions throughout the year seem to be fairly unanimous, it is the result of the work of those commissions. To say there are no Afro-Cubans at the highest levels of the government in Cuba is to simply ignore reality.
klw/Karen Lee Wald/ Cuba-Inside/Out Google Groups

Cuba blasts US black leaders for charges of racism
Associated Press
December 4, 2009

HAVANA – Cuba hit back Thursday at 60 prominent U.S. black leaders who challenged its race record, with island writers, artists and official journalists calling the criticism an attack on their country’s national identity.

The five-page signed statement, distributed by Cuban government press officials in an e-mail, defended Cuba’s progress in providing social and personal opportunities for blacks and people of mixed race.

But it focused more on Cuba’s past than the racial inequalities of contemporary Cuban society that came under criticism from Americans such as Princeton University professor Cornel West; Jeremiah Wright, former pastor
of President Barack Obama’s Chicago church; and Susan Taylor, former editor of Essence magazine.

Cuba’s response said the country has proven its racial credentials by sending troops to Angola and Ethiopia during the 1970s and offering free education through exchange programs and medical schooling to youngsters from Africa. It also recycled past Fidel Castro comments on race and noted that the 1959 revolution his bearded rebels “dismantled the institutional and judicial bases of a racist society.”

It also accused the signers of the U.S. statement, which was released Tuesday, of being unaware that Cuba offered to send medical assistance after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans – a gesture the U.S. State Department turned down.

“To say that among us exists a ‘callus disregard’ for black Cubans, that their civil liberties are restricted ‘for reasons of race,’ and to demand an end to ‘the unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights’ would seem a delusional farce,” Cuba’s response read.

It accused the U.S. black leaders of being part of a campaign “that is attempting to suffocate our sovereignty and national identity.”

The reponse was signed by, among others, Miguel Barnet, a renowned author on race who heads the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists.

Many artists and leaders in the U.S. black community have traditionally supported Castro’s government, but this week’s statement said that “racism in Cuba … must be confronted.”

It also called for the release of Darsi Ferrer, a black physician and political opposition leader who is celebrated in the U.S. but virtually unknown on the island.

Ferrer was arrested in July for obtaining black-market building materials to repair his home in a country where the state controls nearly all construction. Human rights activists say officials prosecuted Ferrer for a crime they often overlook in order to silence him.

Government statistics put the island’s black or mixed-race population at about 35 percent, though some U.S. academics believe it is far higher.

While blacks hold many seats in Cuba’s rubber-stamp parliament [sic], there is virtually no Afro-Cuban representation at the highest levels of the communist government.

The Cuban statement said the island is not a racist society, saying blacks have opportunities “like never before in our country.”

Copyright C 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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