Cuba racism charge rebuffed

Cuban and U.S. activists are strongly protesting a letter circulated among prominent African Americans alleging systemic racial discrimination in Cuba. The letter was circulated by Cuban exile Carlos Moore and actively supported by right-wing Cubans living in Miami.

The letter calls attention to the case of a Cuban doctor, Darsi Ferrer, who AfroCubaWeb says is "long a darling of the hard right in Miami." The letter alleges among other things that the socialist island employs a "racial system."

Several Afro-Cuban academics and artists responded immediately to the letter, dismissing the claim of systemic racial discrimination and pointing out that its legal and institutional basis had been overcome by Cuba's 1959 revolution.

"It is probable," they write, "that those who signed the document also ignore the fact that from the earliest days following the popular victory of 1959, the institutional and legal bases that sustained a racist society were dismantled."

They continue: "As never before in the history of our nation, black and mestizo Cubans have found opportunities for social and personal development in transformative processes that have been ongoing for the past half a century."

The Cubans indicate that despite considerable progress, problems persist, a phenomenon they say Fidel Castro spoke about several years ago as the persistence of subjective discrimination associated with "poverty and historical monopoly of knowledge." The Cubans also point to the foreign aid Cuba has rendered African countries, particularly Southern Africa, at the cost of thousands of Cuban lives, as further proof of a strongly anti-racist stance.

African Americans activists and scholars have also responded with a "We Stand With Cuba" statement calling the letter "divisive and misguided." The statement says, "We, the undersigned, believe that the Carlos Moore originated petition is designed to create a wedge in the African American support base for Cuba. Moore's petition is also an attempt to dismiss Cuba as a modern example of how socialism is a practical system that ensures an equitable distribution of its resources for ALL Cubans." The statement can be found here.

According to James Early, who visited Cuba recently along with Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover, Cuba is in the midst of an important discussion of racial discrimination. Early says there was "no doubt among themselves or among us that an important ideological and political debate about race and discrimination and what is to be done is under way, but in the context of the broader debate and policy formulation among all Cubans about all aspects of improving their revolution."

Communist Party USA Executive Vice Chairman Jarvis Tyner pointed out that Cuba more than any other country has made big contributions toward combating discrimination and training Black doctors, scientists, engineers, computer scientists and other workers. "I recall over 25 years ago visiting a dental clinic where all the dentists were Black women," he said. "There were probably more Black dentists in that room than in all of New York City at the time."

U.S.-Cuba relations have improved somewhat as indicated by an ease in travel restrictions. The Cuban government, however, has noted a recent uptick in hostile actions. Negotiations on travel are due to resume in February.