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Is black America’s honeymoon with the Castros over?

Commentary: Is black America's honeymoon with the Castros over?
By Carlos Moore | Special to McClatchy Newspapers
* Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In a landmark "Statement of Conscience by African-Americans," 60
prominent black American scholars, artists and professionals have
condemned the Cuban regime's apparent crackdown on the country's budding
civil rights movement. "Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world,
is unacceptable and must be confronted," said the document, which also
called for the "immediate release" of Dr. Darsi Ferrer, a black civil
rights leader imprisoned in July.

The U.S. State Department estimates Afro-Cubans make up 62 percent of
the Cuban population, with many informed observers saying the figure is
closer to 70 percent.

Traditionally, African-Americans have sided with the Castro regime and
unilaterally condemned the U.S. which, in the past, explicitly sought to
topple the Cuban government. But this first public rebuke of Castro's
racial policies may very well indicate a tide change and a more balanced

Representing a wide spectrum of political opinion, the document was
signed by Princeton University scholar Cornel West; famed actress Ruby
Dee; former Essence magazine editor and current president of the
National CARES Mentoring Movement Susan Taylor; Bennett College
President Julienne Malvaux; UCLA Vice Chancellor Claudia
Mitchell-Kernan; Chicago's Trinity Church Emeritus pastor the Rev.
Jeremiah Wright; retired Congresswoman Carrie Meek; former Black Panther
activist Kathleen Cleaver; former Jesse Jackson presidential campaign
manager and current director of the African-American Leadership
Institute Ron Walters; movie director Melvin Van Peebles; and former
Miami-Dade County Commissioner, Betty Ferguson.

What could have caused that reversal?

Changing demographics in America and the election of a black U.S.
president, seem to have spurred African-American curiosity about the
fate of Afro-Latins south of the border. Through that process, many U.S.
blacks have realized that Castro, once admired for thumbing his nose at
America, is now an 82-year-old dictator, struggling to prolong five
decades of absolute power through terror and policies that deepen racial
inequalities in Cuba.

Victoria Ruiz, U.S. representative of the island-wide civil rights
group, Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, says Cuba's black
movement — vigorously suppressed in the 1960s, at the early stage of the
revolution — resurrected in the 1990s. She complains that young, black
Cubans suffer aggressive racial profiling by police. She claims that
about 70 percent of Afro-Cubans are believed to be unemployed, a
staggering figure by any standard. And 85 percent of Cuba's jail
population is estimated to be black, Ruiz reports.

Representing 25-odd different groups, black dissidents in Cuba argue
that racial disparities on the island are worsened by the Obama
administration's recent decision to allow Cuban-Americans to freely send
remittances (worth an estimated $1.5 billion yearly) to their relatives.
More than 85 percent of Cuban-Americans are white, they say, so the
beneficiaries in Cuba of the new remittances policy will also be white.

"These remittances could morph into start-up investment capital for its
recipients, thus creating a de facto new race-class inside of Cuba,"
says Enrique Patterson, U.S. spokesman for the Progressive Circle Party,
a major multiracial, black-led dissident group.

Clearly, Cuba's black-led, multiracial opposition movement is an open
embarrassment to the Castro regime. But it is also a disquieting
development for the traditionally right-wing, anti-Castro organizations
around the world that have long claimed to be the heralds of the battle
for "freedom and democracy" in Cuba. Taken by surprise by this new and
apparently growing opposition force in the island, many white exiles are
exhibiting confusion and frustration. When not openly hostile, the
right-wing representatives of the predominantly white Cuban-American
exile community seem unsure how to respond.

Cuba's new opposition has made no moves to elicit their support either,
said Ruiz, whose Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, a
multiracial organization led by the moderate black intellectual Juan
Madrazo Luna. The Progressive Circle Party, another large dissident
movement, led by Afro-Cuban academic Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a
self-identified Social Democrat, has shown no inclinations it desires
such support either.

Patterson believes that it may very well be the absence of right-wing
exile support for these social-democratic oriented and multiracial
movements, that now spurs African-Americans to rush to their defense.
"Therefore, the time has come for Washington to directly engage the
island's majority about matters that will affect bilateral relations in
the future," he said.

ABOUT THE WRITER Carlos Moore is an ethnologist and political
scientist. He is the author of the newly released, Pichón: Race and
Revolution in Castro's Cuba (Lawrence Hill Books, 2008). He can be
reached by e-mail at carlosmoore2000@gmail.com.

Commentary: Is black America's honeymoon with the Castros over? |
McClatchy (1 December 2009)

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