Racism in Cuba
Factors that have contributed to racial prejudice in Cuba throughout the 19th and 20th centuries
Racism in Cuba was and still is viewed as an ideology that offers justification to the social ill of racial segregation and oppression. Many factors promoted racism in Cuba in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1901, the constitution of the Cuban nation imposed practices on the black community, which served as discriminatory and oppressive. The major one among them was the legislation against the blacks voting rights. The legislation stipulated that voting was restricted to the males that were 21 years and over and who had a minimum wealth of 250 pesos. People who had fought in the liberation army and could be able to prove it were also allowed to vote. The government went further to ban the formation of political parties in terms of race. Therefore, the black community was not allowed to have any representation politically.
The blacks later rebelled with an uprising against the Cuban government. The war in 1912 led to a genocide against the blacks by the Cuban military. After the war, the oppression took a major turn to the worse where the government formed a systematic form of racial oppression. They formed movie theatres, social and nightclubs, restaurants and bars, which were exclusive to the non-black communities. Income levels were also termed as criteria for oppression in Cuba. Other factors that favored racism included the education system and the public formal social life. In the country, there were many private educational institutions and these offered the best education. The institutions however did not allow any black pupils and they charged hefty fees that the black people could not afford. In the social life, the public utilities such as parks were also divided into two. There were areas where blacks were allowed to pass through and those, which were restricted to them (Chomsky, 105).
In terms of occupational distribution, the black people had majority of the underpaying jobs and the jobs that required less skill. The immigration policies in the country invited white workers from neighboring countries to work with them even when they had shortages of labor. The mullatos who were the people born from black and white intermarriages, were later reclassified as white in order to wipe out the black people from Cuban History. This was a move instituted by the harsh Cuban government in a bid to chase the black man away or make him suffer. The racism in the country was also exacerbated by the stereotyping that was going on in a very high level. Stereotyping through media like radio, television the internet and popular art culture like books and music.
These media made sure that there was a definite possibility to build the stereo type. The youth of the country grew up in the exposure of such stereo types and assumed that that was how the state of affairs was supposed to remain. Therefore, changing their minds and introducing equality was very difficult. When these popular media like televisions and radios display negative opinions about specific races, then the overall opinions of the people will be affected as well. The unfamiliarity that was created between the black people and the white people also caused and promoted racism in Cuba. It is a widely known fact that people naturally fear what they do not know. If a person did not grow up around a different race, they are bound to be afraid of it and therefore be racist about it (Chomsky, Carr, and Smorkaloff, 98).
The person might have a chance of not becoming racist but when the stereotypes are added on the already sore wound of unfamiliarity, the situation worsens and makes it an almost definite chance that the person shall become racist against the race. In Cuba, the segregation of the different races meant that white children never encountered the black children and the vice versa. Therefore, they were not trained at a young age to get used to a different race and therefore a counterbalance to the falsehood in the stereotypes was never offered. Another clear support to the racism in Cuba was the selfishness the whites had. The whites cared only about themselves in the expense of the black people in the country. They had no respect for the blacks and they did not teach their young to respect them either.
Factors that have served to ease color barriers in Cuba
At around 1960, after Cuban President Fidel Castro assumed power the government started its first efforts to quell the racism experienced in the country. Egalitarian reforms followed and the president collaborated with international organizations to help in his quest to stop racism in the country. He specifically noted in his inaugural speech that his regime was going to fight the inability of the colored Cuban to access employment. He not only battled the racism but also the forces that reinforced it like the social segregation and legislations. He declared that all social amenities were to be used and accessed by everyone equally. The redistributive measures done there also work against racism in a major way. These measures include the land reforms where the black people were allowed to own land in the country and those who had had their land taken from them and had proof, were given their land back (Ferrer, 80).
There were also efforts to educate the black and the white children together in the public schools. These measures were encouraged since when the children schooled together, they would learn how to read together, grow up together, make friends and therefore later in life would maintain their socialism and end racism. This would create an understanding that no man is more special than the other is. Intermarriages were also encouraged by the government to promote the peace efforts. Castro also encouraged people to practice virtue, heroism, personal merit, generosity, and rate people by these things and not in the context of race. He also emphasized that there was no race, which would declare itself purer than the other. He stated that the enemies of the country are those who support racism as it only serves to divide the people so that they could be easily conquered. Therefore, the role of Castro as a leader strengthened the fight against racism in the country.
Introduction of various programs including the affirmative action campaigns that gave strength to the women and the Afro-Cubans were come of the moves made by the Castro regime to combat racism. There were also socio-economic changes instituted in the country that included the abolition of private medical care and private schools. These two were the major economic discriminations against the blacks and were abolished as a means to promote the interaction between the two races. The government later introduced free healthcare and education to benefit the already disadvantaged black community in Cuba. The black community made up majority of the people who worked in the country and therefore a special move had to be taken to end their suffering in order for them to become more productive. The discrimination in the public recreation centers also ended and the numerous repealed legislations that were against the blacks were abolished (Sawyer, 97).
Several other efforts and activities that were aimed to stop racism were conducted in the country. These included the marking of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that was every 21st day of March every year. This day was declared a national holiday in the country and children and adults alike visit museums and history galleries to view their history on how slave trade and slavery began and how it affected the society. There have also been formations of organizations, which deal with the issues of human rights and racism in the country. These organizations deal with the sensitization of the community on issues that deal with racism and how to stop it and how to increase cooperation and peace between the blacks and the whites in the country. Information through the mass media, the internet and the popular art media has also helped in the correction of the stereotypes that encourage racism. The information in the different types of media highlights the ills of racism and how stopping them would bring a whole lot of advantages to the people of Cuba.
There have also been seminars and forums conducted in institutions of learning, public institutions and various companies that talk of racism and its disadvantages. The targets here are getting the information to as many people as possible and preach the gospel that racism is wrong and needs to be abolished. There have also been increased participation by the sports people in the campaign. Here they encourage teams to have players of all kinds and the move by the government was to promote the selection of black participants in sports teams. In the schools, racist jokes were banned. The schools also organize music and film festivals that encourage intercultural participation (Resistance Books, Neville Spencer et al, 190).
Guests who are experts in the subject or who have experienced the racism and those who have learnt about it are invited to schools and institutions of higher learning to speak about the social ill. There are also films, which are shown in the institutions and in the televisions that educate the people about racism and urge them to stop the vice. The movies display the ills of racism and show how a society and a country could be torn down by racism. The government of Cuba has instituted regulations and legislations that prevent the popular media from displaying any stereotypical materials. This legislation inspects the contents of all material passed through popular media for any stereotypical materials. If found the media houses responsible are either closed down or given hefty fines. Companies and institutions organize days and runs that promote the cohabitation of the two races and reduce racism at all costs.
Ways that the ideology of Cubanidad has attempted to address racial differences
The Cubanidad ideology allowed for the reduction of the mentality of racism and the reduction of the racial divisions that existed in the economic and the social fronts of the country. However, the stereotypes that had been created were not corrected and the focus was not on correcting them at all. This therefore meant that the efforts to quell the racism were only half-baked. This is because the people who had been born and lived in Cuba during the racist period still had the concept in their minds and without the removal of the stereotypes, the efforts to end racism were not effective.
The ideology insisted on a free Cuba, one that had no special treatment on anyone due to the color of their skin and one that saw everyone a being the same. The president of the country also worked wit the ideology as it helped fulfill his vision to see a better and freer Cuba. The president that all Cuban people are the same and there is no Cuban culture that could have come about if there were not both black and white people in the country. Famous activists like Che Guevara helped in the struggle to free the black man from oppression and worked together with the Cuban government. Political participation was encouraged by the Castro regime and religion was incorporated into politics. The Afro-Cuban people received recognition from the people of Cuba and its government.
Housing in the country was also developed. Previously the black people lived in dilapidated locations that were filthy and with poor drainage systems. After the revolution, the blacks could access better housing facilities, their houses were renovated, and drainage systems fixed. The rents were reduced by half and the tenancy system of ownership was instituted. This system made sure that there was fairness in the issuing of houses and someone’s income decided which house they could live in. More black people ended up owning houses more than any other place in the world.
Chomsky, Aviva. A History of the Cuban Revolution. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2010. Print.
Chomsky, Aviva., Carr, Barry, and Smorkaloff, Pamela María. The Cuba reader: history, culture, politics. New York, NY: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.
Ferrer, Ada. Insurgent Cuba: race, nation, and revolution, 1868-1898. New York, NY: UNC Press Books, 1999. Print.
Sawyer, Mark Q. Racial politics in post-revolutionary Cuba. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.
Resistance Books, Neville Spencer et al. Cuba as Alternative: An Introduction to Cuba’s Socialist Revolution. New York, NY: Resistance Books, 2000. Print.