Cuban-Americans and racism

If my readers still have an interest in shocking conservative relatives, tell them that women can be misogynist, homosexuals can be homophobic, and Blacks can be racist. Utter the last sentence in front of a Cuban-American, pair it with the sour reminder that Cubans are people of color, and serve in a highball glass, a single block ice cube preferred. At most you might get an acknowledgment, extracted as if through a muzzle, of the Moorish influence in Spain.

I grew up steeped in bourgeois racism, no less malignant than the overt kind. Black Miamians were stupid because when they rioted they immolated their own businesses; if they lived in Overtown, Liberty City, and Miami Gardens, blame their lack of initiative. The Black Miamians who did put their children in private schools earned special praise: here, you see, was an example of merit, as if surprised these people could succeed in the first place. Having a Black friend — singular, please — was no big deal; it adduced the family’s ecumenical spirit. Interracial dating was out of the question, although it went unsaid until your daughter mentioned whom she was seeing. Referring to Cuban emigres after 1980 demanded the use of phrases like “not like us” or de otra clase social or otro nivel. While Cuba before Fidel Castro had no equivalent of Jim Crow, the races mixed most intimately in the bedroom, after which the white man or woman who enjoyed the pleasure had better prepare to pay for it: comments about their children’s kinky hair or the color of their skin. Otro nivel.

Removing myself from these vectors of condescension is one of the unintended blessings of our Age of Quarantine. I’ve also blocked from social media feeds the most venomous toads. Inspired by the George Floyd protests, however, traces of this aerosolized toxicity appear on friends’ walls. The Miami Herald published a story about the reckoning in the Cuban-American community:

Many conservative Cuban Americans believe that the #BlackLivesMatter movement and mainstream media exaggerate police excesses and racial discrimination issues to push a “leftist” agenda. Others, especially Afro-Cubans and those born or raised in the U.S., have expressed dismay at some responses that they believe are tone-deaf, especially when coming from Cuban activists concerned about human rights on the island.

Ávila told the Herald he is “in favor of demonstrations” but does not support “that many extreme leftist groups have hijacked the outrage and channeled it to legitimize their agenda.”

On Facebook, Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera said Ávila’s statements in the video showed “unprecedented political ignorance” and were the kind of comments typically uttered by “racist whites.”

“I remind Eliécer than in the U.S. he is not considered white because he is Latino,” she added.

Ariel Fernández, a hip-hop movement pioneer in Cuba who works as a music producer in Miami, also took issue with Ávila’s video.

“It’s a racist argument to say that Blacks are lazy and are unemployed because they don’t want to work,” he told the Miami Herald. “And you can be both supportive of the BlackLivesMatter movement and condemn vandalism.

Written with finesse by Nora Gámez Torres, the article obseres how “national myths have promoted ideas of racial fraternity” in Latin American countries — an important point to stress, for Argentines, Peruvians, and Venezuelans have shared some of the vilest nonsense I’ve heard. And while we may comfort ourselves with generational bromides, I worry about those kids in Westchester, land of landscapers and pool guys and home improvements, for whom acquiescence is less taxing, never mind less damaging.

One thought on “Cuban-Americans and racism

  1. The MOST racist people in Florida are in Miami-dade and a mostly Cuban police who would have been looked at by FBI , Civil rights organizations if they wren’t Hispanic .

    Lived there 12 years and shocked what I saw .

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