Some Cuban academics and social activists participate in the Latin American and Caribbean social movement of Afro-descendants. The Cuban participants maintain that the gains of the Cuban Revolution with respect to race have to be acknowledged (see “Fidel, Martin, and Malcolm” 10/26/2018). They affirm that, because of these gains, the situation of Afro-Cubans is significantly better than that of Afro-descendants in other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and it is completely different from the situation of Afro-descendants in the United States. However, the Cuban participants maintain, the Cuban story must not be romanticized. The Cuban Revolution has not attained the full liberation of blacks, in that equity in employment, income, and resources has not been attained; and in addition, a certain level of racial prejudices persist in Cuba.
The Cuban participants in the Latin American and Caribbean movement of Afro-descendants would like to increase their visibility in Cuba. However, they recognize that they confront various difficulties in doing so. First, the movement in Cuba consists of a few academics and social activists, and it has not attained an institutionalized participation in public discourse; nor does it have a high level of recognition in Cuban society, from the Party and the government; or among the people, including Cuban Afro-descendants. Secondly, the movement has not been able to establish clearly that it has a revolutionary discourse that seeks to improve the revolution; and not a counterrevolutionary discourse that seeks to undermine the revolution. This is in part a consequence of the fact that counterrevolutionary strategies emerging from the United States include claims that there are in Cuba systemic forms of racial discrimination and racial inequality. Thirdly, in Cuba, there has been considerable race mixing, such some that persons that appear to be white are Afro-descendants. It could be argued that the great majority of Cubans are Afro-descendants, taking into account race mixing on the island and the prior Moorish colonization of Spain. Fourthly, systemic equality of educational and employment opportunity has been attained in Cuba, as a result of its historic revolutionary strategy of overcoming racial discrimination through free, universal, and integrated education (see “The teachings of Fidel on race” 10/22/2018). The Cuban situation of structural equality of opportunity is very different from the situations found in the other countries of the Americas, and especially the United States, in which there is unequal funding of public schools as well as an invidious distinction between private and public schools. The Cuban situation of systemic equality of opportunity limits the reach of the movement, because racial inequality in social status and income it is often perceived as occurring as a result of class differences that are rooted in historic pre-revolutionary racial discrimination and exclusion, and not as consequence of racial inequality of opportunity in the current political and social context. Fifthly, Cubans today are far more concerned with inequality in general, and especially with the fact that some persons have difficulty purchasing necessities with respect to nutrition, housing, and clothing. The present prevailing political will, among the people and in the Party and the government, is to provide greater support for people in need, be they black, white, or mixed race. Sixthly, perhaps as a reflection of these five difficulties, the movement has not been able to formulate specific proposals and demands to the party, the government, or the organizations of civil society.
So where do we go from here in Cuba? I imagine that the movement of Afro-descendants will continue to evolve, and that it will eventually find an institutionalized place in socialist Cuba. The development of academic centers dedicated to the theme seems to be a logical next step in its evolution, so that social scientific research can identify the causes of the remaining socioeconomic inequities, and practical strategies and programs could be proposed on this foundation.
The Cuban counterrevolution, based in Miami, has sought to fabricate a race problem with respect to Cuba. This is a clever maneuver, because it is able to exploit the actual situation, in which racial equity has not been fully attained, and remnants of racial prejudice remain. Thus, it is able to obscure the fact that, although Cuba has not attained perfection, it has registered exemplary gains, as a consequence of the formulation and implementation of revolutionary teachings and programs in 1959. Cuba has established systemic equality of opportunity, on the basis of universal, free, public, and racially integrated education, in which there is equal investment, in money and human resources, in the education of every Cuban child, regardless of that child’s race or social class; and for all schools, whether they are located in the city or the country. In addition, it has established the unambiguous message, disseminated in all institutions, that racism and racial prejudice have no place in the socialist society that the people and the Party are seeking to construct. On this foundation, Cuba has established a society that in its fundamentals is different from the other societies of the Americas with respect to race, even though its people are human, subject to all the imperfections that are known to the human condition.
A few Cubans give support to this counterrevolutionary conversion of the issue of race into a social problem. Some do so as counterrevolutionaries of the Right; others as ultra-leftist critics of the Revolution (see “The Party and the Parliament in Cuba” 6/19/2018). I have observed that some U.S. academics and activists, both whites and blacks, have been confused by the distortions and exaggerations of this ideological campaign with respect to race in Cuba.
In seeking to understand what is true, we always should endeavor to keep the fundamentals clearly and consistently in mind. The issue of race remains in Cuba, but it expresses itself in a social context structurally different from Latin America and especially the United States. Reflection on the theme of race in Cuba best proceeds with consciousness of the alternative social and political context that the Cuban Revolution has forged for the past six decades. In Cuba today, race is an issue but not a social problem, thanks to the decades-long commitment of the Cuban Revolution to the needs of the people.
For posts on the issue of race in Cuba written in 2016, see “Black political organizations in Cuba” 4/18/2016; “Using race to discredit Cuba” 4/19/2016; “Racial inequality in Cuba” 4/21/2016.