Colorism in Cuba … and Beyond

Go Lean Commentary

Image is a problem for Cuba. Most people in the Western Hemisphere may only know of one Cuban, perhaps Fidel Castro. What’s more, most people only knew of one Cuban before the Castro era, that was “Rickie Ricardo” of I Love Lucy fame. Unfortunately this demographic is not fully representative of Cuba’s population. Cuba has always had a large Black population; (though as a minority group during the Rickie Ricardo era). After the Cuban Communist Revolution, and the wholesale abandonment of most of the White community, today, Cuba is a majority Black nation … by far.

… and yet Majority Rule has eluded them.
… economic power has also eluded this population.

Change is now afoot!

This subject of managing change has been a familiar theme in the book Go Lean…Caribbean. Also the theme of preparing for and rebooting Cuba has been frequently detailed in previous blog commentaries. Now, the consideration is the unavoidable clashes regarding race that will surely take place in a post-Castro Cuba.

Many other societies have had these clashes. Whether violent or just political; change in the area of race has been hard-fought. Consider the upheavals for the US during the 1960’s. (See Photo below). Cuba did not benefit from this American civil rights movement; they did not sow, so they have not reaped. They were fresh into their own political revolution with the embrace of communism, alienation of American society and mass exodus of so many citizens.

This is the assertion of a prominent Cuban-American politician in Miami, Florida – a strong-bed for the Cuban Diaspora and Cuban-American communities. See his editorial here:

Title: Blacks in Cuba are poised to make gains
By: Ricardo Gonzalez

CU Blog - Colorism in Cuba ... and Beyond - Photo 1For the first time in more than a century, black Cubans might have a real opportunity to gain the enfranchisement and equality for which our ancestors fought so hard — and were on the verge of winning — only to see their hopes and aspirations frustrated when a U.S. naval ship was blown to pieces in the port of Havana in 1898.

The blood and sweat of our forefathers in the overwhelmingly Black Mambi army was shed for naught as our nation and the 20th century were born. Since Cuba’s inception in 1902, its black citizens never truly gained equal footing in that troubled country. Despite their decisive role in the struggle for independence from colonialism, blacks were almost totally excluded from all levels of power and denied full participation in the everyday life in the fledgling nation.

Unhappy with their exclusion and seeking a better compact, black Cubans were once again prevented from gaining the equality they thought they had earned in the battlefield when their nascent racial movement seeking social justice was violently decapitated — literally, in some cases — a decade later. What followed was a long, hard procession of years of drudgery — sprinkled with a few, incremental gains — under the suffocating hardships of Cuba’s tropical version of Jim Crow.

In 1959, the Cuban Revolution artfully gained control of every aspect of Cuban life and promised to eradicate all vestiges of racial injustice in the island. Shortly thereafter, la Revolución, loudly, proudly and unilaterally, proclaimed victory in its self-declared fight against racism and promptly proceeded to label anyone who dared bring up the topic of racial inequality as a counter-revolutionary and applied “revolutionary” punishment and penalties to those who dared to transgress.

More than half a century later, however, whether by government intent or simply as a result of misguided policies, black Cuba is immersed in its most difficult juncture; at a disadvantage economically (reduced access to foreign currencies), politically (little to no representation in government) and sociologically (i.e., marginalized, racially profiled, disproportionally incarcerated, etc.).

Truth be told, throughout its history, Cuba has never been kind to its darker citizens, regardless of who has been in power or his political ideology. It is time for that elephant in the room to be both acknowledged and dealt with.

Now the catastrophic dynasty that has afflicted our nation for almost 60 years finally appears to be near its end — Father Time and biology proving to be our only true and reliable friends. Add the surprising announcement of an attempt to normalize relations between Cuba and United States, and Cubans — black, mulatto and white — might soon have the opportunity to “reboot,” to recreate a new, more inclusive nation; a nation “with all and for the wellbeing of all,” as dreamed by Jose Marti.

Skeptics will say that nothing will change, that the Castro clan will never relinquish power, or that the generals and/or other parasites will cling to their perquisites by any means necessary. But the fact is that in the not-too-distant future, we can envision both brothers leaving the scene, either in a pine box or to convalesce at a well-appointed home for retired dictators.

With those two out of the picture, and with whatever new relationship that evolves from the recent rapprochement with the United   States, there is little doubt that our nation is headed to a new dawn, a different way of doing business.

Black Cubans, who by all measurable accounts have borne the brunt of the damage wreaked by the regime, are well positioned to finally savor their rightful — and so far elusive — share. By essentially heaping misery and squalor on the entire population and thus somewhat “leveling the playing field,” the Cuban Revolution has given Cubans of color, for the first time, the ability to compete academically, culturally and socially with their white compatriots. It is not an accident that a good percentage of the most prominent dissidents in the island are people of color.

And let us not forget that, contrary to the Cuban government’s official numbers, Afro-Cubans are no longer the minority. Malcolm X once said: “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” I will simply follow the advice of an old wise man who once said to me; “Stick always with the optimists, because life is hard even if they are right.”
Miami Herald Editorial – South Florida Daily Newspaper – Posted 03/07/2015; retrieved 03/10/2015:

We march with Selma!The Cuban revolution occurred in 1959 and the political intrigue (Cold War, Missile Crisis, Bay of Pigs, Embargo, Pedro Pan Exodus, etc.) was heightened all during the 1960’s. While the US and many other Western countries confronted their racial past and effected change accordingly, Cuba was on the sidelines. So now that Cuba may soon be graduating from alienation to participation in the world’s economic order, a lot of the changes that their society would have to assimilate are really questions at this time:

  • Did Cuban society formally end their pre-revolution segregation policies voluntarily or were they forced into compliance by the Communists Military Might?
  • Will Cuba immediately accept the new human/civil rights standards for race and gender equality that is the best-practice in Western society (North America and Europe)?
  • Will the Cuban Diaspora still long for the days of a Cuba segregated by the races or has the transformation of Western society really taken root?
  • Will the still-present US practice of colorism (see below) in the Black community – very much prominent in the Latin world – be even more heightened in a new Cuba?

These are valid and appropriate questions. Everywhere else when Communism fell, sectarian divisions and violence erupted; many times fueled by the same prejudices that predated the Communist revolutions; (think ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia: Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia). There will truly be a need for earnest reconciliation in Cuba.

CU Blog - Colorism in Cuba ... and Beyond - Photo 3

The issues of race reconciliation and Cuban reconciliation collide in this commentary. These have been frequently detailed in these Go Lean blogs. Consider these previous entries: Historical Black College most effective with Social Mobility Probe of Ferguson-Missouri finds bias from cops, courts Migrant flow into US from Caribbean (i.e. Cuba) spikes Restoration of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba CARICOM Chair calls for an end to US embargo on Cuba Miami’s Success versus Caribbean Failure Cuba mulls economy in Parliament session Sports Role Model – Playing For Racial Pride … And More Philadelphia Freedom – Community Model for Forging Change Miami’s Caribbean Marketplace Re-opens as a Welcome Mat A Lesson in History: 100 Years Ago Today – World War I Sports Revolutionary Issues Re: Racism against Black Athletes America’s War on the Caribbean

The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU); an initiative to bring change and empowerment to the Caribbean region, including Cuba. Since Cuba is the largest country – land-wide and population – in the Caribbean region, any changes there will have an impact on the rest of the region. The goal of this roadmap is to anticipate the change, forge the change and guide the changes in our society for positive outcomes. We want to make the Caribbean region a better homeland to live, work and play for every island, every language group; just everyone. There is some degree of urgency and imminence to this cause as Cuba’s current President, Raul Castro has announced that he will retire in 2017. At that point, there will be no more “Castros” at the helm of Cuba.

To accomplish this audacious goal, this Go Lean roadmap has the following 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The book describes the CU as a technocratic administration with many missions to elevate the Caribbean homeland. The underlying goal is stated early in the book with this pronouncement in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Page 12):

xii. Whereas the legacy in recent times in individual states may be that of ineffectual governance with no redress to higher authority, the accedence of this Federation will ensure accountability and escalation of the human and civil rights of the people for good governance, justice assurances, due process and the rule of law…

xiii.  Whereas the legacy of dissensions in many member-states (for example: Haiti and Cuba) will require a concerted effort to integrate the exile community’s repatriation, the Federation must arrange for Reconciliation Commissions to satiate a demand for justice.

Change has come to the Caribbean. But as depicted in the subsequent VIDEO, this same change came to the US, and yet strong feelings about skin color persist. The Go Lean book declares that permanent change is possible, but to foster success, a community must first adopt new ethos, the national spirit that drives the character and identity of its people. The community ethos of sharing, tolerance, equality and the Greater Good were missing from pre-revolution Cuba. It is a mission of the Go Lean movement to ensure these inclusions for the new Cuba. The Go Lean roadmap was constructed with these community ethos in mind, plus the execution of strategies, tactics, implementation and advocacies to forge the identified permanent change in the region. The following is a sample of these specific details from the book:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – People Choose Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – All Choices Involve Costs Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – People Respond to Incentives in Predictable Ways Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – The Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – Security Principles – Anti-Bullying and Mitigation Page 23
Community Ethos – Governing   Principles – Minority Equalization Page 24
Community Ethos – Governing   Principles – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos –   Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Manage Reconciliations Page 34
Community Ethos – Ways to Improve Sharing Page 35
Community Ethos – Ways to Promote Happiness Page 36
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Anecdote – LCD versus an Entrepreneurial Ethos Page 39
Strategy – Vision – Confederation of the 30 Caribbean   Member-States into a Single Market Page 45
Strategy – Mission – Celebrate the Music, Sports, Art, People and Culture of the Caribbean Page 46
Tactical –   Confederating a Permanent Union Page 63
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical –  Separation of Powers: Federal Administration versus Member-States Governance Page 71
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Planning – 10 Big Ideas for the Caribbean Region Page 127
Planning – Ways to Make the Caribbean Better Page 131
Planning – Ways to Better Manage Image – On guard against defamations Page 133
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Education Page 159
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance in the Caribbean Region Page 168
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage the Social Contract Page 170
Advocacy – Ways to Mitigate Terrorism Page 181
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Communications – To message for change Page 186
Advocacy – Ways Impact the Diaspora Page 217
Advocacy – Ways to Preserve Caribbean Heritage Page 218
Advocacy – Ways to Re-boot Cuba Page 236

The lessons in race relations and colorism are not perfected in the rest of the Caribbean. In fact, there are many human rights and civil rights abuses in the region. There is not one regional sentinel to be on guard against bad developments in race relations and work towards mitigating the effects. This is the charge of the CU. Nor, can the Caribbean region expect the US to lead in words or action for this serious issue. This VIDEO demonstrates many negative traits that still exist in the American homeland, and by extension, the rest of the Western Hemisphere:

VIDEO: Colorism –

December 11, 2011 – I know you all have heard of the whole “Light Skin vs. Dark Skin” debate. Tyra Banks has discussed this and associated topics on her talk show, The Tyra Show. What do you think about this subject? And more importantly, why is this still an issue TODAY?
Note: I do not own or claim rights to the featured material.

There is still clash-and-conflict in the African-American communities, dating back to the days of Booker T Washington versus the W.E.B. Du Bois. Some modern labeling may be “Old-School versus Nu School”, “Hip-Hop versus Bourgeois”, even “Thugs versus ‘Acting White'”; the underlying conflict often times is a reflection of colorism in the Black Community. While these are all informal divisions, the formal (legal) institutions in America also have hardened lines involving Black-White race relations. Despite the presence of the country’s first Black President, Barack Obama, there is hardened opposition of any efforts he tries to make; consider the reality of the Tea Party opposition to Obama’s initiatives (like his signature ObamaCare Universal Health Program) just because they are his originations. Many times, this opposition is willing to sacrifice the Greater Good with the Federal Budget and Foreign Policy just to be contrarian.

Many question whether in the deep trenches of their hearts if many Americans have not really matured from the racial mindsets of the America of 1908, or 1958 (the era before Cuba’s revolution). We have our own problems in the Caribbean to contend with, many which we are failing at. But our biggest crisis stem from the fact that so many of our citizens have fled their Caribbean homelands for foreign (including American) shores. Therefore the quest for change must come from us in the Caribbean, by us and for us. We are inconsequential to the American decision-makers, so the US should not be the panacea of Caribbean hopes and dreams.

The Go Lean movement seeks to be better than even our American counterparts. We must be vigilant. We have seen post-Communist evolution before. It’s a “familiar movie”, we know how it ends.

We welcome the imminent change in Cuba, but we are on guard for emergence of new negative community ethos … or a return to old ones. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

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