I was 16 years old when I first returned to Cuba and met my large extended family. It was exhilarating to see so many people who looked just like me and to see so many beautiful Afro Cubans everywhere.
I swear that Diahann Carroll’s twin is living in my mother’s small town of Alquizar and the unsung diva rides a bicycle to work.
Even at that young age I couldn’t reconcile the dichotomy between the racial makeup of the Cuban population on the island versus the population in the United States.
Why aren’t there more Afro Cubans in America? I asked my mother.
“They’re going to unleash the dogs on you,” she recalled the popular phrase used to discourage black people from even wanting to go to America.
That phrase coupled with images of police actually unleashing dogs on civil rights activists was enough to convince many Black Cubans in the 1960s and 1970s that America was not the place for them.
So how ironic that this Sunday, almost 60 years since the Cuban revolution, in our not so post-racial society, the first American sitting president to visit the island since 1928 is also the country’s first African-American president.
It’s a sad irony when you think of the racial and economic inequalities that exist in Cuba today as a result of the regime’s propaganda and failure to address persistent racism.
The white exile community in Miami continues to help their families back home while most Afro Cubans have to fend for themselves. Check out this New York Times article for a better understanding of the racial issues that exist on the island today.
There is a long history of racism and discrimination on the island that the Revolution claimed to eradicate but did not.
There are still voices in Cuba attempting to address the disparities.
I only hope that when President Obama meets with dissidents he will learn more about the real state of race relations in Cuba and that in his address to the nation he will debunk this myth of Cuba as a “post-racial paradise.”
If you lived in the “post-racial” paradise that is Cuba I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts on race relations in Cuba and what would you like President Obama to say about it when he addresses the nation on Monday?
Everyone, please let me know what you want to hear Obama say in his historical address to the Cuban nation on Monday.