Goodbye Manning Marable, 4/6/2011 (en español) de Gisela Arandia
Articles on Cuba:
"Cuba says discrimination against blacks resolved by Revolution", Along the Color Line, 1996
The Institute for Research in African-American Studies,Columbia University Symposium: "The Cuban Revolution in Transition: Black Reflections on Race, Politics and Culture Today.", 11/1/97
Director, Institute for Research in African-American Studies
Biographical History: Professor, History and Political Science, University of Colorado at Boulder 1989-1993; Professor of History and Chairperson, Department of Black Studies, Ohio State University 187-1989. Founding Director, Africana and Hispanic Studies Program, Colgate University 1983-1986.
A.B., Earlham College, 1971; M.A., University of Wisconsin at Madison, 1972; Ph.D., University of Maryland at College Park, 1976
(Dr. Marable is professor of history and political science and director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies, Columbia University, 758 Schermerhorn Extension, New York, NY 10027.)
During my recent visit to Cuba, I met many government officials, intellectuals and community leaders who -provided many critical insights. But one of the highlights was having a lengthy conversations with Assata Shakur. She had been a prominent Black American activist in the 1970s who had been unjustly imprisoned.
Escaping from prison, she somehow managed to reach Cuba. Today, she is a lecturer and teacher, active in local affairs and remains an astute judge of society and politics.
Shakur emphasized that while Cuba has its problems, some of the Castro governments strongest supporters are Afro-Cubans. This is because the actual conditions of daily life for Black people incomes, educational opportunities, health care, etc. have greatly improved.
The old restrictions of racial segregation which had been imposed by the U.S. upon Cuban society have been dismantled for decades. The Castro government more recently has become supportive of Black cultural and religious groups such as Santeria, which draw their orientations from African spiritual traditions.
There are many Black Cubans who are proud of their African heritage and culture, Shakur said, but who also support the revolution.
Shakurs comments highlight the long and continuing relationship between African Americans and Cuba. Black abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and Henry Highland Garnet had actively supported Cubas struggle for independence from Spain over a century ago.
After the revolutionaries seized power in 1959, Castro made a powerful impression among African Americans by staying in Harlem during his first visit to the United Nations. Castros famous September 1960 meeting with Malcolm X to the great consternation of the U.S. government reinforced the solidarity felt by progressive Black Americans toward the revolutionary government.
A Black newspaper, the New York Citizen Call, described Malcolms private session with the Cuban leader at the time: "To Harlems oppressed ghetto-dwellers, Castro was that bearded revolutionary who had thrown the nations rascals out and who had told white America to go to hell."
Since the 1959 Revolution, Cuba has developed a special relationship with Black people throughout the world. Castro has personally and politically identified himself and his entire nation with the cultural heritage and legacy of Africa.
Since Afro-Cubans had been at the bottom of the social and class hierarchy before the revolution, they have gained the most from the vast societal changes which has occurred.
A quarter century after the revolution, employment, infant mortality and life expectancy rates were better for Blacks in Cuba than for Blacks anywhere in the world, even in the United States.
Nevertheless, when our Cuban comrades sometimes insist that racism has been completely uprooted and destroyed in their country, many African Americans have expressed strong doubts. Any multiracial nation which had slavery for many generations would still have a powerful legacy of racial discrimination. Even in a revolutionary context, old habits and attitudes would be difficult to uproot.
With the exception of some cultural reforms made in the first decade alter the revolution, Cuban television today is still monochromatically white. There are virtually no Black actors on television. Most Cuban playwrights and filmmakers dont want to address the contradictions of race within contemporary society, preferring instead to focus on the role of Blacks in earlier historical periods.
"White values and standards," which were the cultural background of the traditional Cuban upper-class before the revolution, continue to influence behavior. For example, no discrimination in employment is permitted, she observed, "but an employer can still manifest his prejudices by not hiring Blacks."
In many communities, Blacks and whites live side by side, working and interacting closely. But many of these same whites "dont want their daughters to marry Black men."
The struggle to destroy racism still remains a central challenge in Cuba: but on balance, the Cubans are far more honest about their shortcomings, and have achieved greater racial equality for Blacks than we have in the U.S.
This June, I led a delegation of fifteen prominent African Americans to the island of Cuba.
Members of our delegation included: Leith Mullings, Professor of Anthropology, City
University of New York; writer/editor Jean Carey Bond; political theorist Clarence Lusane;
Columbia University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis; and Michael Eric Dyson, Visiting Professor of
African American Studies, Columbia University.
The delegation identified four critical areas for examination: race relations and the status of Afro-Cuban people since the Cuban Revolution; the status of women and gender relations; the impact of economic liberalization and the introduction of private enterprise in Cuba since the end of the Cold War and issues of human rights, civil liberties and political freedom under the Castro government. The ground rules for our visit permitted us to travel anywhere in the island. We were encouraged to interview prominent leaders in government, culture and society. Always throughout our investigations, delegation members asked questions which had broader implications for Black folk not only in Cuba. but within the U.S.
We met with Alphonso Casanova, the Deputy Minister of Economic Planning, and the chief architect of Cubas economic transformation. Casanova explained that Cubas gross domestic product was cut in half after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of economic trade with socialist countries. Out of necessity, US. dollars were decriminalized and corporate investnent from Europe, Canada and Mexico was eagerly solicited. By 1997, there were over 300,000 Cubans who had registered as private entrepreneurs with the government. New resort hotels were constructed and a thriving tourist business developed. This year over one million tourists will visit Cuba.
This economic growth was achieved at a certain price. Prostitution is flourishing in major cities and especially at hotels and night clubs. Economic disparities between the well-to-do and the poor have grown dramatically. Casanova explained: "The main objectives of the Revolution have not changed. But when the world surrounding you changes so fundamentally, one has no other alternative but to transform your own domestic (economic) system. I believe that humanity moves from selfishness to solidarity, but this is a very long term historical process."
Cuban economists believe that it is possible to adopt elements of capitalism and corporate investment into a socialist system. Casanova states. "Capitalism is a major failure as a socioeconomic and political project."
Nevertheless, the Cuban people had to devise ways to avoid economic collapse and to integrate their economy into world markets. "Throughout the Third World, Cuba is the hope that things can be done differently," Casanova stated.
At risk in Cubas experiment with capitalism are the substantial accomplishments that small nation has achieved in terms of human and social development. For example, Cubas life expectancy is 75 years; illiteracy has been virtually eradicated; one out of every 15 adults is a university graduate; Cubas infant mortality rates are one half that of African Americans.
Safeguarding the interest of Cuban workers is Salvador Valdez Gonzalez, the Minister of Labor and social Security. The minister estimated that Cubas current unemployment rate is 6.5%. However, workers who were terminated from their jobs still receive a minimum of 60% of their former salaries. "Our main policy is to maintain the achievements of the Revolution," Valdez explained. Despite their current economic difficulties all healthcare in Cuba is still free, programs for the physically disabled were protected. No hospitals or universities were shut down. In fact, Cubas ratio of doctors to the general population, one out of seventy three, is by far the best of any Third World country, and better than many western societies.
What was also striking about Valdez was his physical appearance phenotypically the brother was clearly an "African." The Minister of Labor declared that "racial discrimination is not abolished by a decree, but by the actual performance of a societyaccess to schools, medical assistance, and the full exercise of political democracy without regard to race."
The members of the delegation sometimes felt somewhat at odds with our Cuban hosts over the issue of race. The Cubans tended to insist that the issue of racial discrimination had been "resolved" by the Revolution. This perspective was most vigorously held by the Black Cubans we encountered.
Dr. Manning Marable is a Professor of History and the Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies, Columbia University, New York City. Along the Color Line appears in over 300 publications throughout the US. and internationally.
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