A few days ago, in the hairdresser’s, the woman who went ahead of me started to chat with me while she waited for them to finish cutting the person’s hair ahead of her. In the conversation she told me about her daughter who “was advanced enough”; she said that while she softly brushed her fingers on her other forearm to refer to the color of her skin. “Why ‘advanced’, señora?”, I interrupted. “Do you consider that being black or belonging to your race is a setback?”
I couldn’t help but butt in with a constructive and educational criticism because I was surprised that such a comment could come from a person of the black race. These were questions that just sprung out of me unexpectedly because I am sick of hearing expressions of this kind, as well as that many black and mestizo people should think that all white people are racists without giving any thought to whether we are doing everything possible to eliminate the traces of this scourge from today’s Cuban society.
Because the shop is little, in one form or another everybody there was involved somehow: with an assertive gesture, an interested look, or simply with silence, but this too could become an opinion when not refuted with a different point of view.
I analyzed with her and the rest of those present why we were repeating prejudices that were instilled in us down the years. If we want to really fight racism, we should erase those forms of expression from our speech. I pointed out how, for example, we sometimes hear references to children as a “negrito“* to emphasize the difference. Are we talking about children or colors? Why describe skin color when nobody has asked? Why do the police chase a “black man” and not a man? Why, when a white man commits a misdeed, does nobody comment on the color of his skin? Why are 7 or 8 out of ten detained by the National Police for lack of ID cards black? Why do they prevail in the Cuban penal population despite that one of the banners carried by today’s political model is the struggle against racism?
After these and other reasonings, we could only propose among ourselves to erase color from our sense of justice so that fairness improves. We should eliminate expressions that are obviously discriminatory and shed light on our actions and on our words; we should not shrink from obscurity and segregation, nor should we leave this for tomorrow, we should begin right now!
* Translator’s note: ‘negrito’ = “little black boy”
Translated by: JT
January 17 2011