Challenging Cuba as the violator of black people’s rights? Really?

I’m struck by a letter that was apparently sent to the Cuban government a few days ago and endorsed by about 50 Africans in the U.S. — some with notable names. The document was entitled “Acting on Our Conscience: A Declaration of African-American Support for the Civil Rights Struggle in Cuba.”

The letter demanded that Cuban President Raul Castro — whose country according to the letter has a “racial system” — “stop the unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights.” It stated that those who signed the statement could not “be silent in the face of increased violations of civil and human rights for those black activists in Cuba who dare raise their voices against the island’s racial system. As of late, these isolated, courageous civil rights advocates have been subject to unprovoked violence, State intimidation and imprisonment.”

The document used as the justification for these statements the imprisonment of a man named Dr. Darsi Ferrer, who according to an article on Granma Internacional’s news website has been a recipient of funds from the anti-Cuban policies of various U.S. administrations.

I must admit that I don’t know who Dr. Ferrer is. In fact, I had never heard of him before this statement. I imagine that many, if not most, of the signers of this statement had never heard of him before either.

But what I am sure we are all aware of is history. Not of particular individuals, but of the United States government and the government of Cuba. It must be known by these brothers and sisters that the U.S. government is the greatest purveyor of violence and attacks on the right to self-determination of Africans and other peoples worldwide.

You sure you’re not talking about somebody else we know?

What I am struck by is how these Africans are able to step over all of the attacks against African people that they can see before them in the U.S. and, instead of writing a statement to Obama demanding an end to them, go all the way to Cuba to address contradictions that I’d bet most of them know nothing about.

I read the statement and could have sworn that they were talking about the U.S. government as opposed to Cuba. As I read it, my mind said they had to be talking about the FBI’s recent assassination of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, a brother so loved for the work he had done to solve the problems imposed on his community by the U.S. government that masses of people attended his funeral.

Perhaps they were talking about the attacks on the San Francisco Eight, eight former Black Panthers rearrested on charges they were acquitted of in the 1970s because the U.S. government used torture including electrocuting their sexual organs to force confessions.

Maybe when the statement talked about the violation of the rights of black activists it was talking about the countless Africans still locked down as political prisoners in the U.S. today just for struggling for freedom for black people. Or maybe it was trying to address the more than one million black people held captive in U.S. prisons today.

It had to be talking about the regular police murders of both young and elderly Africans in the U.S. like Sean Bell, Javon Dawson, Katherine Johnson or Oscar Grant.

I’m all for standing up for justice for our people, but I find it hard to give any credibility to a statement from Africans in the U.S. against the violation of people’s rights somewhere else in the world that isn’t preceded by a statement against the violation of African’s and other oppressed peoples’ rights right here!

On the side of the oppressed or the oppressor?

And I’m not even going to talk about Cuba and its history of standing in solidarity with African people’s struggles from sending troops to help fight against colonialism in Africa to sending doctors to places where Africans are suffering (including offering to send some to the Gulf Coast region after the U.S. government left so many Africans to die following Hurricane Katrina). I’m not going to talk about the role of Africans in the leadership of the Cuban revolution like Juan Almeida Bosque and others.

And this is not a statement that no contradictions exist in Cuba.

What I will say is this: the Cuban government today and historically has stood on the side of the oppressed peoples of the world. The U.S. government, on the other hand, both today under the Obama regime and historically, has stood on the side of the oppressor. And more than that, the U.S. requires for its continued existence the exploitation and oppression of the majority of the people of the world.

What will be helpful in determining who are our allies as African people is an understanding of the fact that “racism” is not our problem. Colonialism is our problem. As Chairman Omali Yeshitela says, racism is just the ideological justification for the colonial domination of our people by parasitic imperialism. Of course, Cuba has historically been opposed to colonialism.

In fact, Cuba has been home to Assata Shakur for decades after having been jailed in the U.S. for struggling for African people’s freedom. Even now, despite U.S. demands for her and ever rising bounties on her head, the Cuban government continues to provide asylum for her in solidarity with the Black Power Movement. Cuba has also served as a haven for Robert Williams and a host of other participants of the Black Power Movement escaping U.S. government colonial violence as they struggled for Black Power.

If we are not careful, we can find ourselves forwarding the foreign policy objectives of the imperialist U.S. government, which this statement does in fact do. Whether intentionally or not, the signers on this document place themselves in objective unity with the U.S. government that has for decades been trying to overturn the Cuban revolution through embargoes, assassination attempts and subversion among other means.

Recently, with the illness of Fidel Castro, it saw what it thought was an opportunity to get at a weakened Cuba. This statement falls right in line with the ideological assault on the Cuban Revolution.

I think if we are honest, the one we must be challenging is Barack Obama as the representative of the most backward, oppressive State power in the world. One that even as I write this intends to send more mercenaries and military troops to deepen the attacks on the people of Afghanistan.

If we are honest, we will sign on to the statements and actions of the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations.

The document states, “Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted!” African Internationalism, the theory of Chairman Omali Yeshitela, contends that if we confront and defeat imperialism (and the U.S. is the leading imperialist power) then racism — the ideas in the heads of our oppressors — will be a non-issue. I agree.



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