Black economist says Cuba needs affirmative action
Posted on Thursday, 05.12.11
Black Cubans, already with the worst jobs and lowest salaries, will need
"affirmative action" as the government tries to slash its inflated
payrolls, a black Havana economist and former Communist Party member
Esteban Morales, 68, made it clear in his lengthy essay that he supports
Cuba's "extraordinarily humanist" revolution and believes it took great
pains to outlaw racism and provide equal opportunities for blacks over
the past 52 years.
An economist who has written previously on race, he also attacked black
Cubans who criticize the revolution as racist, saying they have embraced
a U.S. strategy for sparking a "political confrontation" that would
change the island's regime.
In unusually direct language, however, Morales also complains that
blacks rank at the bottom of several economic measurements, that Cuban
schools do not teach courses on race, and that government socio-economic
statistics should be broken down by skin color.
He was "separated" from the Communist Party last year for a similarly
harsh essay in which he warned that a burgeoning string of corruption
scandals was a bigger threat to the country's stability than "the
Morales' latest essay essentially argues that questions about race must
be a priority for the Raul Castro government as it tries to fix the
stagnant economy by slashing state spending – on jobs and subsidies —
and allowing more private enterprise.
Blacks and mestizos "have always historically been the least qualified,
the most disadvantaged in the workplace, with the worst jobs, the lowest
salaries and the lowest retirement benefits," Morales wrote in his
4,311-word essay, published in his eponymous blog.
Castro himself spoke of the need to increase the number of blacks and
women in leadership positions during a speech last month to a Communist
Party congress last month. The 2002 census shows 65 percent of Cubans
identify themselves as white, and 35 percent as black or mestizo.
Morales went well beyond that, noting that fewer blacks than whites have
relatives abroad who can send them cash remittances. He added that black
Cubans in Florida also earn less – and therefore can send less to the
island – because of U.S. racism.
Blacks and mestizos on the island also have a harder time finding
well-paying jobs and tend to "take refuge … in illegal activities,
prostitution and pimping, the illegal re-sale of products," he noted.
They make up 57 percent of the prison population, he added.
Morales' essay notes that Cuba faces many challenges in race relations
but adds that he would focus only on four, — starting with the need to
create an array of school courses on modern-day racism.
"How is it possible that in a multicolor nation like Cuba … there's no
scientific treatment of those problems" he wrote . University-level
education is "especially plagued by prejudices on the racial issue, weak
institutional attention to it, ignorance and even fear of studying it."
Cuba's National Statistics Office (ONE) should include racial breakdowns
when it reports economic and social data such as unemployment, salaries,
housing conditions, education levels and life expectancy, Morales noted
in his second challenge.
In his third, he urged Cubans to demand equal racial representation in
all fields, and in his last he urged Cuba to embrace "the so-called
affirmative action" as a way "to balance out the different historical
points of departure for the racial groups that today make up our society."
Cuban government officials have long cringed at the possibility of using
affirmative action on the island, arguing that it would explicity admit
that the revolution had failed to eradicate race-based discrimination.
Morales' harshest criticism went to Carlos Moore, a black exile who has
attacked Cuba's leadership as almost exclusively white and argued that
blacks were denied the most visible jobs when Cuba opened its doors to
foreign tourism in the 1990s.
Morales alleged that some of Moore's publications were financed by
groups that received CIA money. Moore, a black rights activist now
living and teaching at a university in Brazil, could not be reached
immediately for comment.