According to Afro-Cuban activists, racism against blacks in Cuba is systemic and institutional. They say, to this day, blacks are excluded from tourism related jobs, relegated to poor housing, have poor access to health care, are excluded from managerial positions and are more likely to be imprisoned.
Carlos Moore is an Afro-Cuban activist who has spent his life writing about racial injustice in Cuba and says race is the country’s most pressing issue. In 2008, he sent a scathing letter to Cuban leader Raul Castro demanding racial reform. In it, he states: “You are a descendant of Europeans born in Spain; I am a descendant of Africans born in the Caribbean. We are both Cubans. However, being Cuban confers no specific privilege on either of us as human beings”.
It was a luxury of civil protest he could only afford to write while exiled in Brazil. According to Moore, “There is an unstated threat. Blacks in Cuba know that whenever you raise race in Cuba, you go to jail. Therefore, the struggle in Cuba is different. There cannot be a civil rights movement. You will have instantly 10,000 black people dead”. He says a new generation of Cubans are looking at politics in another way.
That new generation is going the way of the world wide web. Henry Gomez, a White Cuban living in Florida, noticed that some of the most outspoken voices against racism in Cuba are bloggers. So he founded Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty (BUCL). | theGrio
Driven by the prospects of emancipation and an opportunity to play a prominent role in nation building, Afro-Cubans enthusiastically joined the struggle for independence against Spain. But any hopes for racial democracy were curbed shortly following the U.S. military presence in Cuba from 1898 to 1902 and again from 1906 to 1908 that emboldened the conservative ruling class, who pursued policies that actively sought a “whitening” of the nation (blanqueamiento) by subsidizing immigration from Europe, mostly Spain, and extricating Blacks and mulattos from every aspect of national life.
Cuban elites of the early twentieth century viewed Afro-Cuban cultural forms as the antithesis of European civilization and progress they sought to impose on their unruly societies. To be sure, the specter of an Afro-Cuban uprising styled after the Haitian Revolution—a common fear among the ruling establishment in many colonial societies—also animated this policy of whitening.
More than 600,000 Spaniards are estimated to have immigrated to Cuba between 1902 and 1931, and while ‘whitening’ lost all intellectual respectability in the wake of the death of scientific racism in the 1940s, it did serve to shift the demographics of Cuba, as the island nation was one of the more Spanish of the Latin American republics. But most damaging effects of whitening to the social and economic fabric of the young nation was the further marginalization of Blacks and mulattos, which contributed to an internalized oppression.
According to her studies, less than 20 percent of Cubans who leave the country in search of a better future are non-Whites. For that reason, most of the remittances sent home by immigrants—an essential source of income for much of the population—go to White families.
According to the 2002 census, while unemployment stood at 2.9 percent among Whites, it rose to 6.3 percent among the Black and mixed-race workforce. And with respect to higher education, 4.4 percent more Whites than non-Whites held a degree.
These figures have not been updated with information from the 2012 census.
President Raul Castro has referred to increasing the presence of Blacks in political office.
In the legislative National Assembly elected this year, 37 percent of seats are held by non-whites.