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Re: Nkrumahism, The Can Of Worms I Opened–Slavery and Racism 2

Fri, 21 Aug 2015 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

FIRST RESPONSE (ON SLAVERY AND RACISM)

Mr. Baidoo comes back again with his revisionist history. This is to be expected as seen in virtually all his articles, however. Like his other articles, this one on slavery and racism panders to paedomorphic simplicity. His articles are exceptionally weak on political economy. Granted, there is nothing really new about his article on the institution of slavery from the standpoint of a student of history. In other words all his commentaries about the institution of slavery are a familiar terrain for a casual reader of the political economy of slavery from ancient times to contemporary times. Notwithstanding, here are a few shortcomings of Mr. Baidoo’s uninformed essays on slavery and racism:

• Belgiam’s King Leopold’s decimation of 10 million Congolese due to Belgian capitalist greed for rubber; amputations of limbs, etc. (Hochschild). No discussion on conflicts in Africa (genocide, religious terrorism, etc.) and their proper historical contexts (Mamdani).

• European decimation of Native Americans via slavery, work, and diseases (Las Casas).

• European decimation of Australian Aborigines and Native Americans (Kiernan).

• British Nuclear Tests (1950s & 1960s) of lands inhabited by Maralinga Tjarutja and the contamination of their lands, to be followed by Operation Antler, as well as their cover-up (Parkinson).

• Stolen Generations (Stolen Children): Australia Aborigines and Native Americans. No discussion of the advanced native of pre-Columbian civilizations before European civilization destroyed them (Mann). No discussion of Native American reservations and the conditions there. No mention of Hernan Cortes and his signing of the first contract to ship a large number of enslaved Africans to the Americas (1549) as well as of the Age of Discovery, the Columbian (Grand) Exchange, and Conquistadors and how they wreaked havoc on civilizations, humanity, and so on.

• Royal Commission into British nuclear tests in Australia (The McClelland Royal Commission).

• Sir Governor George Arthur, the Black War, and the near-decimation of Tasmanian Aborigines.

• The Tuskegee Experiment, Thomas Jefferson using smallpox on slaves (before being tried on whites), experiments conducted on African Americans in the military and prisons, and drug experiments on African Americans as late as the 1990s, etc. (Washington).

• That while Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962, African Americans were “re-enslaved from the Civil War to World War 2” (Blackmon).

• That the Catholic Church (and other European states) tolerated castration of choir and opera boys of the Catholic Church (Read: Castrati/castrato) as late as 1959 (Carroll). The castrati entertained popes, emperors, and opera-goers.

• That white slavers/slave masters raped enslaved African women in the Americas, lynched and castrated enslaved African men (by the Klu Klux Klan).

• That the Nazis who were financed by the Wall Street and other Western capitalists also castrated homosexuals.

• That slavery was not actually “abolished” but continued through the so-called Scramble for Africa, colonialism, imperialism, neocolonialism, social Darwinism, Nazism, Apartheid, Jim Crowism, scientific racism, racial profiling, and so on.

• There is no word on capitalists who built some of Nazi Germany’s gas chambers, concentrations and extermination camps.

• That the capitalist West and the Catholic Church worked together in assisting Nazi and fascist war criminals to escape punishment since they (the capitalist West, Catholic Church) needed these men to fight communism during the Cold War (Aarons & Loftus; Phayer).

• There was no discussion of “ratlines,” escape routes for Nazi and fascist war criminals, etc., of which the Vatican and the capitalist West, particularly America, knew and used to help escapees (Michael Phayer; Goni). It has been speculated that America used the intelligence and guerilla expertise of Adolf Eichmann to capture and murder Che Guevara.

• No discussion of “Operation Paperclip” (Jacobsen; Loftus). Operation Paperclip brought Hitler’s/Nazi Germany’s great scientific minds and their families to the United States to work for the federal government.

• No discussion of the Australian, Canadian, and British governments’ knowledge of Nazis living among their citizens and their suppression of that vital information (Aarons & Loftus).

• No discussion of the brutality of French colonialism in Haiti where, among other diabolical techniques, the French put “dynamites” in the anuses of “rebellious” slaves and blew them up (James).

• No detailed discussion of the role Mr. Baidoo’s self-professed religion Judeo-Christianity (Christianity) played in slavery, colonialism, and the dehumanization of African humanity (as well as Native American, Australian (Aborigines), and Asian humanities), of the Dutch Reformed Church (Afrikaner Calvinism) and the South African Catholic Defence in the political formulation and defense of Apartheid, as well as of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints.

• No discussion of the so-called Hamitic Theory (the Curse of Ham; see Goldenberg; Azumah), or of how rabbinic writings (Judaism) such as the Babylonian Talmud came to influence and perpetuate the stereotypes of Africans held by European-Christians and Arab-Muslims (Brackman). The Hamitic Theory underwrote the ideological and moral foundations of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (European Slave Trade) and the Trans-Saharan Arab-Muslim Slave Trade (Note: The word “Arab” is not ethnologically monolithic. Arabia was multi-ethnic and -racial (Sertima). Thus the word has cultural, political, religious, historical, linguistic, and ethno-racial connotations).

• No discussion of how Roman and Greek stereotypes about non-Hellenes, his views on “natural masters” and “natural slaves,” and other such came to influence Arab-Muslim scholars, slave raiders, and clerics who sought an ideological and moral justification for the Trans-Saharan Arab-Muslim Slave Trade, and so forth, and to those European clerics, slave raiders and scholars who also wanted a justification for the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The writings of Leo Africanus (“A Geographic History of Africa”) and Cinthio’s “A Moorish Captain” may have influenced Shakespeare’s “Othello” (For more scholarly treatment of Moors as Africans, see Sertima and Lane-Poole).

• Nor a discussion of how the Age of Enlightenment itself came to embody this Greco-Roman-formulated ethnocentrism and stereotype of non-Hellenes. Yet the ethnocentrism of Aristotle, Plato, and other Greeks is well known. Again, Arabs imbibed these negative Greco-Roman stereotypical tendencies when they conquered Egypt (around 7 A.D.) and acquired collections of books from the eras of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemaic dynasty, and the Romans, collections of books whose ideas were in turn partly derived from ancient Egyptian extensive storehouse of knowledge. It is in this context that one researcher (Muhammad) wrote this: “Those Arab writers showing antagonism to people of dark color echoed the external traditions of the Jews, Greeks and perhaps others.”

These ideas were reintroduced into Europe (Southern Europe) where the Arabs ruled for some seven hundred years. It is a little-known fact Africans ruled with Arabs during this period (Sertima). Plato, Aristotle’s teacher, studied in Ancient Egypt. All in all, Greek thought and civilization were an extension of African thought and civilization by way of Ancient Egypt (as well as of Babylon, etc) (Martin; Diop; Herodutus; Obenga; Poe). What is more, according to Asante “Aristotle says in Physiognomonica that ‘the Egyptians and Ethiopians are very black’” and also that “Herodotus adds that the ancient Egyptian had ‘black skin and wooly hair’” (see also Volney).

Finally, other ancients who testified to Egyptian influence on Greeks include Homer, Iamblichus, Plato, Herodotus, Plutarch, Diogenes Laertius, Aetius, and Strabo (Asante). The great civilizations of West Africa (Ghana, Mali, and Songhai) and classical ones such as those of Nubia, Ethiopia, the land of Punt, Meroe (Kush), and Axum were as great as their counterparts in Asia and Europe. One ancient writer, for instance, wrote that the civilizations of Axum, China, Persia, and Rome were at one point the greatest civilizations on the planet. There was no discussion of these African civilizations (and many others we did not mention here).

• The negative views of Westerners about Africans from Thomas Jefferson, Arnold Toynbee, Louis Agassiz, Friedrich Hegel, and several others.

Let us look at the following statements (which Mr. Baidoo did not address):

DAVID HUME: “I am apt to suspect the Negroes and in general all the other species of men to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, or even any individual eminent either in action or speculation, no ingenious manufacturers among them, no art, no sciences.”

THOMAS JEFFERSON: “"I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race or made distinct by time and circumstance, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind.”

FRIEDRICH HEGEL: “This is the land where men are children, a land lying beyond the daylight of self-conscious history, and enveloped in the black color of night. At this point, let us forget Africa not to mention it again. Africa is no historical part of the world.”

ARNOLD TOYNBEE: “When we classify mankind by color, the only one of the primary races, given by this classification, which has not made a creative contribution to nay of our twenty-one civilization, is the black race.”

LOUIS AGGASSIZ: “…there has never been a regulated society of black men developed on the continent…”

GEORGES CUVIER: The Negro race (Ethiopians) “is marked by black complexion, crisped or woolly hair, compressed cranium, and a flat nose. The projection of the lower parts of the face, and the thick lips, eventually approximate it to the monkey tribe; the hordes of which it consists have always remained in the most complete state of utter barbarism.”

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races–that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people…There is a physical difference between the White and Black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality, and inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I was much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race …”

Let it also be known that the Civil War (and the so-called Emancipation Proclamation) was not waged to end slavery. It was not. The Emancipation Proclamation merely ended up getting more African Americans on the side of the Union in the Civil War. Moreover, some scholars and historians have studied the Abraham Lincoln Papers to come to the foregoing conclusions (Bennett; DiLorenzo; see historian Eric Foner’s critique of Bennett’s work on Lincoln and Kaplan’s critique of Foner’s work on Lincoln; see REFERENCES for details).

Kaplan has this to say about Foner’s work on Lincoln, “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery: “The book functions almost entirely as a narrative of Lincoln's attitudes toward slavery as a politician, providing more surface than depth…Foner's approach, though, is probably essential to his thesis: that ‘Lincoln's career was a process of moral and political education and deepening anti-slavery conviction…that the hallmark of Lincoln's greatness was his capacity for growth.’ True? Probably not. Foner's justification for ‘The Fiery Trial’ is that ‘there is value in tracing Lincoln's growth, as it were, forward.’ ‘As it were’ reveals a nice hesitancy or qualification that the book as a whole doesn't maintain.

“Foner's basic claim is at least an exaggeration, if not wrong. A stronger argument can be made that Lincoln hardly ‘grew’ at all on the issue of slavery, that he responded to changing circumstances that he did not create and that brought him into a public role in which he could not avoid taking the positions that led to the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. But Foner's narrative almost requires that his main character develop morally…”

We should stress the fact that Lincoln was no abolitionist. He endorsed a piece of law (1853) banning slaves from relocating to his state (Illinois), called for the deportation of slaves to Liberia and Panama among others (Gates & Stauffer) (merely meeting with more black leaders than his predecessors did does not cut it either; neither was his relationship with Frederick Douglass nor the Thirteenth Amendment (adopted in 1865–the same year the KKK made its first appearance) which his administration pushed via Congress. Read: Black Codes, Slave Codes, Convict Leasing, White Supremacy Violence, etc. (see Blackmon)). Further, there is some evidence that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and initiated the Civil War to prevent the British from recognizing the Confederacy. Compounding Lincoln’s checkered legacy is the controversy surrounding Juneteenth plus the fact that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation nearly three years into the Civil War.

Even more controversially, Lincoln directed the Emancipation Proclamation only at those states that had pulled out from the Union, that is, those particular states in conflict with the Union. It has therefore been argued that the document was issued as a military measure and that it never directly applied to those states that were already under the control of the Union (Tennessee, Maryland, Missouri, some parts of Virginia and Louisiana, and Delaware). Even the National Archives and Records Administration says the “Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory. Even more important, it says “the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation” though “it captured the minds and imagination of millions of Americans…”

Elsewhere Lincoln wrote: “I would save the Union…If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it…What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union. This and many other statements by him inform the conclusions of various scholars, researchers and historians who strongly believe Lincoln was insincere about his intentions of freeing slaves. Finally, for those like Mr. Baidoo who have limited knowledge of classical antiquity we may want to point out to them that, a great scholar of Greco-Roman history has shown that environmental determinism developed around 5 BC by Greeks (e.g. Hippocrates) preceded social Darwinism and also that the ideological or intellectual roots of racism lay in or are traceable to classical antiquity, Greco-Roman antiquity specifically (Isaac).

This development then informed the imperialist ideology of classical civilizations of the West right down to the modern era, namely, the Age of Enlightenment (Isaac, Ziegler, & Eliav-Feldon). It is still with us here today. Ironically Hippocrates was a Pseudo-Aristotle.

• No discussion of “dysaesthesia aethiopica” and “drapetomania” (Samuel A. Cartwright); monogenism and polygenism. Phrenology. Eugenics (racial hygiene). And of slave brutalization and dehumanization of Africans during the Middle Passage (Zong Massacre, La Amistad among others).

• No detailed discussion on the scientific racism of Carl Linnaeus, Arthur Schopenhauer, Georges Cuvier, Johann Blumenbach, Christoph Meiners, Karl Vogt, Arthur Gobineau, Benjamin Rush, Georges-Louis Buffon and several others.

• No discussion on the more than two-hundred slave revolts , insurrections, or rebellions or attempted ones in North America alone (from the seventeenth century via the nineteenth century) including such ones such as the Stone Rebellion and the German Slave Revolt, one at different times the largest slave revolts in American history.

• No discussion of slave revolts, rebellions, or insurrections in the British West Indies (Craton), Central America (Mexico), and across Latin America; the Maroon wars in Jamaica and across the Americas; Mau Mau Uprisings; the Algerian Revolution; Uprisings in Apartheid South Africa, etc.

• No discussion of the hundreds of slave rebellions, revolts, and insurrections across Africa (as well pre-colonial state-sponsored ones). No mention or discussion of Nazi collaborators such as Henric Streitman, Ignatius Trebitsch-Lincoln, Stella Kubler, Jozef Szerynski, Abraham Gancwajch, Chaim Rumbowski, Rolf Isaaksohn, Moshe Merin, Alfred Nossig, Stephanie Hohenlohe, and of Group 13m Jewish Gestapo, Jewish Ghetto, Police (Jupo Police Force).

• No discussion of capitalist sponsorship of Hitler and Nazi Germany (Sutton; Aarons & Loftus; Yeadon; Black); no discussion on how capitalist America financed Nazi eugenics (Black). No discussion on how the Namibian Holocaust (concentrations camps, eugenics, Germany’s working of the Herero and Namaqua of Southwest Africa (Namibia) to death, etc.) became a model for the European Holocaust (Olusoga & Erichsen). No discussion the relationship between capitalism and slavery (Williams; Grandin; Beckert. Note: Read “Re: Nkrumahism, The Can Of Worms I Opened–Hitler’s Mein Kampf 1”). No mention of the Tulsa Race Riots (1921) and the destruction of “Black Wall Street.”

• No allusion to the fact that passage of the Voting Rights Act (1965) and the Civil Rights Act (1968) was not achieved on a silver platter but that African Americans had to shed blood and lose precious lives for these things to happen (archival/declassified records and scholarly publications detail as well as attest to the brutality the FBI/CIA and American security services unleashed on African Americans and their sympathizers).

• No mention of Hitler and his Nazi clique hiding wealth stolen from German Jews and Jews across Europe in capitalist America and Switzerland (Finkelstein). No mention of how capitalist Henry Ford’s paper “The Dearborn International” and its serial publication, “The International Jew,” later compiled into a book, influenced Hitler’s authorship of “Mein Kampf” (Ryback) and a generation of Germans who later joined the Nazis.

• No discussion on “nominal” African collaboration in the slave trades (The Transatlantic Slave Trade (“European Slave Trade” and “Trans-Saharan Arab-Muslim Slave Trade”). No discussions on “nominal” Australian (Aborigines) collaboration with colonial Europe (Britain); Native Americans with colonial Europe; Chinese and Koreans with colonial Japan, America, Europe; African Americans with colonial Europe and colonial, post-colonial White America; Vatican-West with Hitler’s Nazi Germany; Judenrats (“Jewish Councils”) with Hitler’s Nazi Germany); Indians with Colonial Europe (Britain) in Asia…

No mention of Lancados, an assortment of Portuguese Jews (New Christians) who arrived in parts of West Africa (Cape Verde Islands, Senegambia, etc.) in the 15th century, and of their role in the slave trade. No mention of British and American (and some of their African stooges’) support for Apartheid South Africa. No mention of British (middle and ruling classes) support for the Confederacy and the Civil War. No mention of French (as well as Dutch and Spanish) support for America during the American War of Independence. No mention of collaborations between America (Franklin D. Roosevelt) and Britain (Winston Churchill) and Stalinist U.S.S.R. against Hitler’s Nazi Germany. No mention of the Spanish crown legally sanctioning (Asiento/the Treaty of Utrecht) the enslavement of Africans.

Finally, no mention of Martin Frobisher, John Hawkins, Francis Drake, and Bartolome de Las Casas, especially of the latter who advocated substituting enslaved Africans for Native Americans who had been enslaved by Europeans and worked to death (as well as through diseases, wars, sport). Las Casas later deeply his advocacy, expressing his remorse thus (Pierce): “I soon repented and judged myself guilty of ignorance. I came to realize that black slavery was as unjust as Indian slavery…and I was not sure that my ignorance and good faith would secure me in the eyes of God.”

• There is no mention of abolitionist Sir Thomas F. Buxton’s book “The African Slave Trade and Its Remedy” which, among other things, held the British and other Christian European states responsible for the organized way they plundered Africa through the slave trade. Sir Buxton argued that Christianity, commerce and civilization were key to Africa’s recovery from the scourge of the slave trade. David Livingston picked up on that idea. Unfortunately the concept “Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization” laid the groundwork for neocolonialism (see Thiong’o). No mention of the so-called Moresby Treaty.

• And while Mr. Baidoo mentioned the Quakers and their role in abolitionism, he did not mention discuss African resistance to slavery and the role black abolitionists played in ending the slave trade. We are not however saying there were no black Quakers at this point in history. Moreover, some African states, monarchs, and chiefs had been fighting the system of slavery and called for its abolition even before the idea of abolitionism was dreamed up in Europe and America.

Mr. Baidoo did not discuss the important role the Sons of Africa played in the abolitionist movement or mention the fact that both Anglicans and Quakers were founding members of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1787). Even so, Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,” published two years after the formation of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, influenced passage of the Abolition of Slave Act (1807) ending slavery in Britain and her colonies (1838) (Harriet B. Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin influenced the American abolitionist movement). There is no mention anywhere in Mr. Baidoo’s article that a vast majority of Quakers owned slaves (Wood; Fischer). Quakers were also involved in the slave trade (Moore).

In fact, Robert King, an American merchant, owned Equiano as a slave. There was no mention or discussion of John Newton as a captain of slave ships, even continuing the slavery business as an evangelical Christian (This was similar to the situation of Quakers and several others in Christendom and their connections to African enslavement). This was the checkered character of a man who would later pen the famous hymns “Amazing Grace” and “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” among others. Neither was there any mention or discussion of Christian organizations such as the KKK still haunting down African Americans.

No mention of some of the Pilgrims, supposedly Christians, being thieves who stole Native American lands, bushels of corn, and children and also robbed their [Native American] graves, etc. No mention of Quakers being involved in the cultural genocide of Native Americans. No mention of how European diseases contributed to the decimation of Native Americans. The Christian Pilgrims unabashedly displayed the head of Native American leader King Philip after his and his people’s defeat in a war with English colonists.

There is no discussion of the connections between European enslavement of Africans, their mistreatment and dehumanization, and the Inquisition (White). No mention or detailed discussion of Christopher Columbus as a Christian who initiated the genocide of Native Americans and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. And there is no mention or discussion of how Europe’s Industrial Revolution led to a drastic reduction in Africa’s elephant population (as a result of high demand of ivory for piano keys and billiard balls). No mention of how European enslavement of Africans, particularly regarding the role of Christian Portugal in East Africa, was responsible for a boom in the Arab-Muslim slave trade on the Swahili coast.

And, of course, no detailed discourse on the fact that Trans-Saharan Arab-Muslim Slave Trade research and its literary productions, particularly among scholars of African history and of historiography, are in a stage of infancy (Soyinka). Thus scholarship, research and literary production in this area lag far those of its counterpart, the Transatlantic Slave Trade (European Slave Trade). There is no discussion of the links between capitalism and slavery (see our three-part series “What Ghanaians Can Learn from Pope Francis”). Mr. Baidoo did not explore the lies that are taught to generations of Americans about slavery, Africans, Europe, Native Americans, Christopher Columbus and colonialism (Loewen). No discussion on slavery, colonialism, and Africa’s underdevelopment (Rodney).

CONCLUSION (FIRST RESPONSE):

We end the first part of the essay with an interview involving Dr. Joy Degruy and the late Gill Noble, host of the now defunct “Like It Is.” Dr. Degruy toured the slave dungeons in Ghana and gave this interview after her Ghanaian visit. Here it goes (with our emphasis):

“Even when you walk into one of the slave castles…men are taken one way and the women the other…they (the white Christian slavers) mention that fifty feet away they’ll rape the women in the presence of the men who were fifty feet from them…they did that for two things. One, your men can’t help you (enslaved women), protect you (enslaved women), and two, that you’ve no power here…that power we’ve now taken and broken…As people confused and hoarded naked in these places…The first thing they (the white Christian slaves) did was to make them (enslaved Africans) Christians, took away their names, their African names, strip them of African belief systems, religion, traditions and rituals…”

“So in the middle of Elmina Castle is a Church…right in the middle of the Slave Castle, middle of the Slave Fortress…It’s such a contradiction, such a hypocrisy that you can’t even believe it…Here is the other thing: The Governor…above the dungeon were the living quarters of the officers, the governor, his wife and children…There’s a staircase that the Governor had built from his bedroom to the female slave dungeon, had it built directly to the female slave dungeon so he could have access to the women. And if you had looked across the courtyard you’d see the church…”

Portland State University Dr. Joy DeGruy-Leary, author of “Post Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing,” speaks of White Christian brutality in Africa with host Gill Noble on “Like It Is.”

SECOND RESPONSE (ON CUBA)

Mr. Baidoo also raised the question of racism in Cuba. The point is that he writes in a way that clearly betrays a lack of deep conceptual understanding of political economy, of slavery and its legacy on race relations in Cuba in particular and across the Americas, of history, and of the comparative legacies of socialism and capitalism on race relations in Cuba. In other words, Mr. Baidoo should have conducted a comparative assessment of Cuban race relations under the Apartheid-style dictatorship of capitalist Fulgencio Batista (he made the Cuban Communist Party, later renamed the Popular Socialist Party (P.S.P), legal in the 1930s) and under the Castro administration.

Indeed, such a comparative assessment should have taken note of employment statistics for whites and blacks (and “mulattoes”), educational and professional opportunities, and other socioeconomic indices while adjusting or controlling for the number of years both administrations of Castro and Fulgencio ruled the country; the impact of American (and international) embargo and the fall of the Soviet Union on the Cuban economy; the carryover of the effects of slavery, racism, and segregation from the pre-Fulgencio and Fulgencio presidency into Castro’s presidency, the contributions of America’s Platt Amendment (1903), a treaty of relations with Cuba, to Afro-Cubans’ disenfranchisement, with the long-term effects of the Platt Amendment carrying over into the Castro presidency; the relationship among pigmentocracy, racism and ethnocentrism, and socioeconomic and political opportunities for racial groups across the Americas; and so. On the other hand the discriminatory behavior of the U.S. toward Afro-Cubans even goes further back in time. One writer notes (Tucker):

“Although slavery had been abolished in Cuba in 1888, the vestiges of slavery left sharp racial divisions within Cuban society. A few Cuban leaders, such as Jose Marti, had promoted racial equality and the idea of Cuba as a racial democracy during the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898), but this view was not shared by the majority of Cuban elites. After the Spanish-American War, the U.S. occupation government colluded with Cuban elites to deny Afro-Cubans a stake in the political future of their country. In 1899, the U.S. military dissolved the revolutionary army in which Afro-Cubans were overrepresented and denied promotions to Afro-Cubans within the Rural Guard of the new national army. In 1902, the United States also imposed a new immigration law in Cuba that restricted nonwhite immigration in favor of laborers from Northern Europe. Cuban elites took their cues from American administrators and formed their own parties without black participation...In 1912, Afro-Cubans violently rejected this policy, and a virtual race war began. With U.S. Marines serving as reinforcements, the Cuban government put down the revolt, killing as many as 6,000 Afro-Cubans in the process.”

Given the foregoing suggestions, Mr. Baidoo could have at least looked at the statistical character of race relations in Cuba against the backdrop of race relations across the Americas, just for an inkling of how Cuba fares overall in that larger geopolitical context. Some researchers have taken a broader look–if highly technical–look at the complex mix of factors and situations characterizing race relations in Cuba (Pena, Sawyer & Sidanius). The three authors then drew the following conclusions after their study of race relations in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico: “The aftermath of the Cuban revolution and its subsequent and consistent anti-racist discourse and activities on the world stage might well have transformed the interface between race and national attachment in Cuban society. If this interpretation of the Cuban case is correct, then one should expect this inclusionary construction of the State to attenuate once the presence and power of Marxist discourse dissipates, and the power and influence of the Market and American culture begin to reassert themselves in Cuba once again.”

They continue: “It might also change if the less progressive Cuban American community were to return to power. This glimpse into the Cuban revolution is a look at Cuban domestic politics through the lens of public opinion that has rarely, if ever, been seen before. It can only be hoped that that greater access to Cuba will allow greater understanding of the broad effects of the Cuban revolution and its successes and failures…The Latin American case seems to present a case where all ‘racial’ groups can stake an equal claim of ownership over and pride in the nation…In conclusion, the cumulative evidence clearly suggests that the dynamics governing the exact interface between national and racial identity are much more complicated that initially envisioned…we can affirm one important fact about racism: context matters, and peculiarities of national history, national myths of origin, state action, and racial discourse are all likely to be quite powerful in formulating inclusive national identities.”

In fact the authors clearly identify the complexity of studying the problem, a position Mr. Baidoo’s article did not explore or define. More significantly, the authors seem to suggest that capitalism and American culture are likely to undermine the seeming social inclusiveness of racial groups in Cuba should the influence or dominance of socialism wane. This theory may also seem to undergird the apprehension of many Afro-Cubans who believe the death of the Cuba Revolution may spell doom for the gains they have chalked under the revolution. Elsewhere, another American scholar advanced a highly controversial and provocative theory that capitalism underdeveloped Black America (Marable). There is also the question of remittances in the mix. It appears a vast majority of Cubans who remit their relations in Cuba are white, thus further adding to the metric of socioeconomic inequality between Afro-Cubans and White-Cubans.

What is more, the tourism industry, perhaps one of Cuba’s largest and profitable industries, turn to employ more White-Cubans than Afro-Cubans because, among other things, Europeans who patronize the industry turn to enjoy the services of White-Cubans than those of their Afro-Cubans. In one sense Europeans bring their prejudices and racist baggage to Cuba. In another sense White-Americans who do not like Castro for whatever reasons project their American racism onto the Cuban racial landscape, forcing the American “one drop rule” which does not exist in Cuba into the discourse. There is a famous saying in Cuba that whether a family is “mulatto,” black or white there is always an Afro-Cuban grandmother, a relative, in the kitchen cooking for the entire family. This popular saying somewhat underlines the phenomenon of “racial equality” in the island. It is therefore debatable labeling Castro racist on this basis (Brock & Cunningham).

Thus Castro would embark on a series of reforms specifically aimed at closing the class fissure between the largely poor Afro-Cubans and rich White-Cubans (Perez). It is important that Castro’s ethno-ethnic background is clearly understood when the policies of his government are discussed against the backdrop of Cuba’s race relations. It has been suggested in this context that Castro himself is a “mulatto” through his “mulatto” mother, Lina Ruz González (Brock & Cunningham). Likewise, it has also been suggested that Fulgencio, his predecessor, was a “mulatto.” Ironically segregation was such a big issue in Cuba that Fulgencio was denied membership in one of the island’s exclusive clubs (Havana Yacht Club. The kleptomaniacal capitalist Fulgencio made away with $300 million when he left Cuba in 1958 (PBS)). We are yet to know much Castro has stolen from the Cuban people). Yet, unlike Castro, he did little to desegregate Cuba. And Castro’s contributions to Africa’s decolonization are probably second to none in Latin America.

Castro’s central role in decolonizing Apartheid South Africa is probably not as widely known (Castro & Mandela). Mandela himself acknowledged the crushing blow Cuban forces (along with Namibian and Angolan) dealt the Apartheid army at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale (1988) as dissolving the political resolve of Apartheid South Africa and laying the foundation for the eventual dissolution of the Apartheid system. What were the conditions of Black South Africa before 1988, under capitalist Apartheid South Africa? What were/are the conditions of Black South Africa under capitalist presidencies of Mandela, Mbeki, and Zuma? What do the so-called Marikana Massacre and the recent xenophobic attacks that led to the slaughter of non-native Africans in South Africa all about? Why did Mandela reject the more egalitarian ANC Freedom Charter as part of his negotiated release from prison? And why are South Africa’s land and economic power still disproportionately concentrated in the hands of a “transplanted” white minority?

Again taking a swift detour to the Americas, one researcher titles his technical paper: “Why Is Poverty So High Among Afro-Brazilians? A Decomposition Analysis of the Racial Poverty Gap” (Gradin). Yet Brazil is a capitalist state, arguably one of the world’s richest countries with one of the world’s highest concentrations of billionaires. And then there is the anomaly capitalist elephant called Nigeria where, in the words of one commentator, until the 1990s her kleptomaniacal capitalist leadership allocated “the vast majority of it [oil revenue] was allocated to the large and powerful states of the ethnic majorities, especially in the Muslim north, with a disproportionately small amount returned to the relatively small oil-producing states populated by so-called oil minorities” (Watts). It is no use belaboring the kleptomaniacal crony capitalism of Teodoro Nguema, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Idi Amin, Augusto Pinochet, Mobuto Sese Seko, Eduardo dos Santos, and several others across the capitalist world.

On the other hand, Cuba under Castro has trained and educated thousands of doctors from Africa as well as sent out doctors to treat Africans, a recent case being the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Yet the question still remains that capitalism has not succeeded in uprooting racism and ethnocentrism in America, to mention but one capitalist hegemon, as the following poignant observations seem to confirm (Sawyer): “Afro-Cubans in South Florida tend to be less well off economically than white Cubans and to live in fringe areas wedged between well-off Cuban communities and very poor African American and West Indian communities. A 1991 ‘Miami Herald’ article offered one Afro-Cuban’s perspective on the racism of the white Cuban emigrant: Migdalia Jimenez is a black Cuban who says black Americans treat her better than white Cubans do. Jimenez was unable to rent an apartment in the Cuban area of Little Havana, while a white counterpart was able to rent the apartment and turn it over to Jimenez. ‘Because I am black,’ Jimenez said, ‘they didn’t want to rent to me’”…

“A New York Times article discussed two Cuban exiles, one black and one white, who had been neighbors and friends in Cuba. The Afro-American faced racism in Miami, some of it at the hands of white Cubans. Giunier and Torres recount the incident:

“‘The point is driven home to Joel one night when a white Cuban-American policeman stopped and frisked him. Joel had been celebrating Valentine’s Day in a popular Cuban restaurant with his uncle and three women friends. The policeman said to him, ‘I’ve been keeping an eye on you for a while. Since you were in the restaurant. I saw you leave and I saw so many blacks in the car, I figured I should check you out.’ The white Cuban-American police officer disconnected Joel from his national identity and placed him firmly on the black side of America’s principal divide, between whiteness and blackness. What Joel’s fellow Cubans had already discovered and what was expressed most clearly by this officer’s conduct, is that ‘whiteness’ in the United States is a measure not just of the melanin content in one’s skin but of one’s social distance from blackness. The Cuban-American policeman asserted his own shaky claim to whiteness by harassing Joel for being black…”

To sum up, there is no doubt that Afro-Cubans have done a lot for their country right from its founding. Another writer notes (Helg): “Yet from 1895 to 1898, by all accounts, Afro-Cubans were overrepresented in the army that fought for free Cuba, while Cubans–especially in the Western part of the island–often remained neutral or supported Spain. Afro-Cubans also died for independence in larger numbers than whites.”

The question is: Have Castro and the Cuban Revolution achieved a lot for Afro-Cubans by way of race relations? The answer depends on the respondent. Randall Robinson, the founder of the oldest and largest social justice institution in the U.S. (TransAfrica) dedicated to issues affecting the African world and a law professor and author, says yes. On the other hand Carlos Moore, a Cuban-born Jamaican Pan-Africanist, a biographer of Fela Kuti, and a holder of two doctorates from one of France’s leading universities (University of Paris7), says no. Researchers Jim Sidanius, Mark Sawyer, and Yesilernis Pena seem to share the space between Moore and Robinson.

Which of these intellectuals are correct in their assessment of race relations in Cuba? Perhaps we should leave that to the discretion of the reader.

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Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis