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Race and Identity

Race and Identity / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on February 17, 2014

It’s just been born and in a few hours they will register the baby with
its brand new name. A few days will pass before the parents get the
birth certificate and then the so-called “minor card.” Without an
identification card you can’t receive products from the ration market,
enroll in school, get a job, travel on an inter-provincial bus, or put
your belongings in a bag-check at a shop. Every day of your life you
need this document, which at the top carries a unique combination of
eleven digits. On the little piece of cardboard your temporal and
geographic data is registered… and also certain physical details.

It looks just like a letter on the back of the identity card, but it is
an initial that describes the color of our skin. This consonant
classifies us as one race or another, divides us into one group or
another. Amid repeated institutional calls to end discrimination, the
Cuban Civil Registry still maintains a racial category for every
citizen. Along with the date of our birth, and our address, it specifies
if we are white, mixed or black. The assignment of a “B,” “M” or “N,”
(Blanco-white, Mestizo-mixed, Negro-black), in a nation with so much
race mixing, is often the result of a functionary’s subjective judgement.

Amid so many priorities, so many rights to demand and injustices to end,
it might seem trivial to demand the withdrawal of a letter on our
identify card. However, its small presence doesn’t diminish its gravity.
Especially when the document itself already has a photo of its holder,
where you can see his or her physical features.

No citizen should be evaluated by the color of their skin, nor placed in
a category according to the amount of pigment they carry in their
epidermis. Such bureaucratic backwardness speaks more to prison files
than civil registries. It’s not a question of melanin, but of principles.

17 February 2014

Source: Race and Identity / Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba –
http://translatingcuba.com/race-and-identity-yoani-sanchez/

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