Since Castro the Elder left office, Cuba has undergone important changes. I think the pace of change is only going to increase over the next few years. But, you know that old saying about how the more things change?
As if a few more dark faces in the official apparatus could really be an answer to the profound problems that have so much to do with economics and social thought and so little to do with the utopian volunteerism of our leaders who, in the end, are simply practicing politics with their “anti-discrimination” decrees.
Then there is this gem:
Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, the definitive answer to this problem demands new and more dynamic policies that, unfortunately, mostly depend on an island bereft of economic possibilities for white, mulatto and black Cubans so in need of improvements in their real and everyday life.
Padura also describes the the comparatively poor living conditions of black Cubans and abuse by the police. So many questions arise from the manner in which Padura describes racism and the attempts to counter it. Primary among them is to account for the the scorn that is paid to leaders attempt to use public policy to counter racism and injustice (that is the ‘practicing politics’ jibe). Was LBJ practicing politics when he signed the Voting Rights Act? Even if he was, so what?! Didn’t it help bettering the conditions of African Americans by allowing them to be full fledged citizens? Many political theorists from the Greeks to contemporary times will acknowledge that politicians are selfish. That’s why citizens need means of influencing their leaders.
Moreover, the issue is not really whether anti-discrimination laws exist, it is the extent to which these laws are actually enforced. In a country where the state has such a huge influence over housing and job allocation, these disparities are inexcusable. Given the political context which not only permits, but necessitates state involvement, and the existence of laws to combat racism, this failing could be considered even more egregious than what obtains elsewhere.
Lastly, I am again puzzled by the commentator’s call for new ‘dynamic policies’ to address these disparities. Well, if that kinda obvious. The issue is what form this reform should take. No advice is given in this critical area. When I hear ‘dynamic’ capitalism comes to mind. But, that can’t be it since Cuba’s record on health and education are far better than what obtains in most capitalist countries. And the reference to economic constraints must be a reference to economic growth. However, as anyone who studied a bit of economic and economic history will tell you, growth is nothing without equity.
One of the disappointments I had with the coverage by The Root is the failure to capture the lived experience of racism in Cuba. What do average, everyday black people think about how their country has addressed (or not) racism? Afro-Cubans have to know what substantive change will not come easy or cheap.
Cuba’s racial dynamics is not only not the paradox the author sets out to portray it as, but Cuba itself is a very polarizing subject. The last thing I want is for this commentary to be interpreted as a Cuba-bashing rant. In President Obama’s inauguration speech he intoned that it is not what leaders destroy, but what they can build which is the true testament to the quality of their leadership. I agree.
The Cuban state has important domestic
achievements which cannot be dismissed. But they can’t be given a pass on the fact that they went half way around the world
to fight for the rights of black people, while failing to change the evil that lies under their own roof. Justice is like charity, it must begin at home.