David Comissiong RESPONDS TO MOHAMMED IQBAL DEGIA’S NATION NEWSPAPER COLUMN ON CUBA AND THE ISSUE OF RACE.
How easy it is for the Nation Newspaper’s columnist of East Asian descent, Mohammed Iqbal Degia, to get up on his journalistic soapbox and assume a posture of being “blacker” than all the Pan-Africanists and Afro-centrists of Barbados by self righteously railing against what he characterizes as the Republic of Cuba’s inexcusable deficiencies in tackling and eradicating black inequality and anti-black racism.
But the “super black” Mr Degia conveniently doesn’t tell us what he is comparing Cuba’s record in tackling black inequality and anti-black racism with !
As we all know, in 1959 revolutionary Cuba — a society with a large minority black population — inherited a socio-economic system that was severely disfigured by entrenched black inequality and anti black racism from the pre-Revolutionary era. And therefore, if we are to assess the record of the Cuban revolutionary government in dealing with and transforming that negative heritage, we would have to make comparisons with other white majority/large black minority societies such as the United States of America, Columbia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the United Kingdom, France and the list goes on. And the reality is that not a single one of these countries have come anywhere close to Revolutionary Cuba in dismantling anti-black racism and black inequality!
The “super black” Mr Degia seems to be demanding that by now Cuba should have eradicated black inequality and all vestiges of anti-black racism. But lets be honest — which nation on the face of this earth can be credited with having eradicated black inequality and anti-black racism?
Can we make such a claim for our own Barbados — a nation that possesses a 95% black population? Do we possess a society of racial equality in Barbados? Have we rid Barbados of all or even most aspects of anti-black or anti-African sentiments and discrimination? I, for one, think not.
No-one — certainly not me — is claiming that Cuba is some exemplary post-racial paradise, but I truly find it hard to think of any other nation that has made a more solid contribution to the cause of Black dignity and upliftment over the past half century.
Perhaps Mr Degia could tell us– in measuring a country’s commitment to the cause of black dignity and equality– what weight should we attach to the fact that thousands of Cuban soldiers (most of them being volunteers) sacrificed their lives on the very soil of Africa fighting the forces of white supremacy?
Or what weight do we attach to the fact that for several decades now literally tens of thousands of Cuban doctors, nurses, engineers, and a host of other technicians have served in Haiti and in a plethora of other Black and African countries in an effort to contribute to their development?
In addition,what weight should we attach to the fact that Cuba has opened its schools and universities — free of cost — to hundreds of thousands of of black and African students over the course of the sixty odd years of the Cuban Revolution?
You say — Mr Degia — that Cuba made mistakes in its approach to fighting racism. You imply that it was a mistake for the revolutionary leadership to believe that the establishment of socialist programmes geared towards fostering social equality and delivering education, health, housing and other social services to the people at the bottom of the social ladder would be enough to disrupt and rectify the inherited racist social structure. Well, maybe it was too optimistic to think that a sheer commitment to socialist equality and human development would be enough,but which country has not made mistakes in its approach to fighting racism?
Mr Degia, you write vaguely and glibly of a white Cuban elite that represses black Cubans. But — tellingly — you provide not a scintilla of evidence, other than your nonsensical pointing out that the three Presidents of Revolutionary Cuba thus far have been white. In case you don’t know Mr Degia, two of those Presidents– the Castro brothers– were the historical leaders of the Revolution, and they happened to be white.
Though, truth be told, it is really difficult to think of Fidel Castro as merely a “white” man, for at an ideological level Fidel was such an enemy of the system of white capitalist supremacy that most of us consider him nothing less than a “black brother”. In fact the great Black Power advocate, Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) once described Fidel as the blackest man in the Americas!
Pray tell us Mr Degia, when was the last time you heard news of a police officer in Revolutionary Cuba shooting down an unarmed black man? Or when was the last time you heard of the state intelligence or law enforcement agencies of Revolutionary Cuba setting out on a campaign to subvert and bring down black office-holders? If you are looking for a society that is oppressive of black people, Mr Degia, you are looking in the wrong place— you have to shift your gaze a little further North.
Permit me to conclude — Mr Degia — by sharing with you the following FACTS about the racial make-up of the governmental administration that was elected to office in Cuba less than a week ago:-
(1) The National Assembly
The President of the National Assembly or Parliament of Cuba– Esteban Lazo Hernandez — is a black man, and of the 605 Deputies, some 36% of them are black or of African descent.
(2) The Council of State
The Council of State or Cabinet comprises 31 members, and close to half of its members (45.1 % to be precise) are black or of African descent.
(3) The Leadership of the Council of State
The leadership of the Council of State consists of eight persons — a President, a First Vice President, five other Vice Presidents, and a Secretary. Three of the eight members of this leadership cohort are black, including the First Vice President.
All the facts underlie that Cuba is making progress — very substantial progress — in solving the historic problem of racial inequality that the Revolution inherited! I wish the same could be said for several other countries that are well known to us.