Point-blank / Manuel Aguirre

Roberto Zurbano. Source: DiariodeCub.com
Roberto Zurbano. Source: DiariodeCub.com

… Any solution that may result somehow in violence or discord is neither a sensible solution nor can it bring us any good.   

Juan René Betancourt

If there is something the communities of African descendants in America can’t forgive, and especially in the United States, particularly in the fight against racism and the related forms of exclusion, it is the lie with respect to the issue of abuse towards blacks and their descendants wherever it occurs.

It is precisely this, the lie, that some of the most well-known Cuban official spokespeople try to pass off, sadly blacks and mixed-race for the most part, to overwhelmingly and furiously attack, from the digital weekly La Jiribilla, the declarations in the New York Times from the Cuban intellectual Roberto Zurbano— until now the head of the Editorial Board of the Casas de las Americas — with regards to the racism that Afro-Cubans confront on a daily basis.

The most commendable work of the Cuban historian Silvio Castro is having published a book about the 1912 massacre of the Independents of Color. Through ideas and arguments caught on the rebound, he concocted a literary rehash, which passed with little notice, good or bad. Short-sighted on the issue of race, he extends his offenses against Zurbano and tries to articulate a manipulated text which tries to assert that only under the Castro regime was the rise of black and mixed-race intellectuals in all spheres of knowledge possible.

Something along the same line is expressed by Esteban Morales, a sociologist who considers the race issue too big, not because it lacks clarity, but simply for lack of a scientifically rigorous analysis and viewpoint that Sociology requires to be open and transparent.

There is also an article by Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera. You don’t have to try too hard to see that — whether from spite or envy — he doesn’t hide his racism. Rodriguez Rivera says, “For Zurbano, as in American culture, whatever isn’t pure white is black. To call a mixed-race person black only captures a portion of their identity. Zurbano demands what he calls ‘an accurate count of Afro-Cubans,’ but this precision would be compromised by counting mixed-race people as black, given that Spanish ancestry includes African.”

Ernesto Pérez Castillo’s article, far from being amusing, folklorizes the racial issue in the most bitter and humiliating way that a black person could withstand only with a sense shame and their own pride. Perez Castille says, “Zurbano is very black but very empowered — like few are — and gives ridiculous examples: blacks have the worst houses and so they can’t host anyone or aspire to create snack bars and restaurants.”

Before the Castro regime came to power in 1959, about one-third of the so-called middle class in Cuba was made up of blacks and mixed-race. The majority had not reached that status, it’s true; and neither had the white population for lack of a fair distribution of national wealth. But it was more than a third in a population of fewer than six million people, and where blacks and mestizos were a minority, at least in the documentation. What might they not have achieved in if democracy hadn’t been clouded with the arrival of Castro?

Blacks and mixed-race in Cuba before the Castro revolution were engineers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, architects and owners with some financial solvency.

The policies of inclusion through affirmative actions undertaken by the Castro revolution in its first decade are undeniable: they gave the opportunity to access all levels of education for whites, blacks and mestizos. But the citizens of a country–José Martí already said it–need education but they also need, individually and collectively, to be prosperous. In this Castro’s revolution has failed in all its stages, not because of lack of financial liquidity, but by the deliberate manipulation of man in order to keep him subdued, dependent, and lacking his own space.

These restrictions on rights, coupled with the emergence of a privileged class devoid of social conscience, wasteful of the national economy without contributing anything in return, are what make the differences in the social fabric of the nation, where blacks and mestizos suffocate in the background.

Faced with this tangible reality it is difficult for any analyst on issues of race and marginalization in Cuba, or a sociologist, to identify a variable capable of justifying the unjustifiable.

I have no doubt that Roberto Zurbano will continue to pursue the discredited process of exclusions and fear of blacks, but at least for once, he had the audacity to put on the table, point-blank, the institutional racism experienced by Afro-Cubans.

7 May 2013