While the lily-white socialist Castro dictatorship jumps on the bandwagon to condemn racism in the U.S., it continues its blatantly racist and apartheid polices in Cuba.
Cuba’s Government Needs to Look Within as It Denounces U.S. Racism
Fidel Castro claimed the revolution eliminated racial discrimination, but it is alive and well.
Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Cuban government has consistently criticized the United States for failing to address institutionalized racism. During his famed trip to New York in 1960 to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Fidel Castro complained of unfair treatment in a Midtown Manhattan hotel and ended up at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, meeting with Malcolm X and making no bones about standing with African Americans in their fight for racial equality. Cuba has also famously given refuge to several high-profile Black nationalists sought by the FBI, most famously Assata Shakur (who still lives there) and dozens of Black Panthers, including Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver.
In recent months, Cuban state-sponsored news stations have provided extensive coverage of the protests provoked by the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this May, and the nation’s highest officials, including President Miguel Díaz-Canel, have condemned continuing racial violence against Black Americans. But when it comes to incidents involving Black Cubans, the media there tends to be very tight-lipped, providing few details.
Cuba has its own problematic history of racism that has been obscured, both by its long-standing nationalist discourse—the notion that racism can’t exist in a nation with a large population of mixed-race people—as well as its socialist orientation that views race as reducible to class. According to the most recent census count from 2012, Cuba is 64 percent white, 27 percent mulato (of mixed African and European ancestry), and 9 percent Black. Nonetheless, Cuba scholars have long been skeptical of the government’s census counts, believing the state undercounts nonwhite Cubans.
Leadership within the Cuban government has historically been mostly white, though former President Raúl Castro took steps to address this issue when he made way for the current president, Díaz-Canel, in 2018. However, when it comes to racialized police incidents in Cuba—including the very common racial profiling of Black Cubans on the streets of Havana—the government tends to deny the existence of differential treatment.
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