A perspective from CUBA: CENSUSES, SKIN COLOR AND SOCIAL ANALYSIS


Professor Esteban Morales – photo credit Fred Thomas, III

reprinted with permission


For nearly six years Professor Esteban Morales and I have enjoyed a very positive relationship. He has been a valuable source to me for most things CUBA, particularly on the issue of race and social issues.

This article was penned in late June, just days before the July 11th uprising. His article is a perspective and I encourage you to gain many viewpoints so you can better understand the situation.


Author: Esteban Morales.

Although it still moves many prejudices, misunderstandings and challenges, there is no choice but to attend to the color of the skin. Above all, in its consideration within the national media and statistics.

Cuban society is a multiracial society, or rather, multicolored, mestizo. And that reality has to be recorded statistically. Not handling the Census as a matter, simply numerical, but cultural demographic.

It’s about color being a legacy of Slavery. That it is not possible to ignore, because this mark from its origins to the current Cuban society.

When the Spanish arrived in Cuba in 1492, they did so with white credentials and stayed that way. Those who came of their own volition, did so in search of a fortune, which they not infrequently found.

But Spain is not White. Colonized by the Arabs, for 800 years, it becomes impossible to consider it as such. Even when the Spanish does not assume that identity.

Then, the colonizers of our Archipelago, were not white. Being white was not their power, but having arrived with the cross and with the sword.

They arrived in a territory of indigenous people, of low culture and only used them to find gold. They exploited them mercilessly and their population mass, did not last long, although still in Cuba, we have representatives of that original population.

Chinese also came, brought in, through a system of contracts, which made them slaves. The so-called culíes, which since then added their beauty to the population of the island, integrating our nationality. Those three large groups were the ones that formed the Cuban population. Then others joined, Antilleans, although not in the magnitude of the first, merging also with our population.

Although the Spanish Crown, put rules for the care of the indigenous population; in any case, the ambition of the colonizers, together with the Regime of the Encomiendas and slavery, reduced that population to its minimum expression.

In little more than 100 years the so-called Tainos, Siboneyes and guanahatebeyes, almost disappeared, because they were not of an advanced culture, as if it happened for the rest of America. Cultures, Aztecs, Mayans, Toltecs, etc. Those that did, culturally, had practically nothing to envy of the European cultures of their time.

But the indigenous population existing in the Cuban Archipelago, lacked that strength, which gives belonging to a higher culture.

Along with the Spaniards, came the first blacks. Not from Africa, but directly from Spain. These blacks were called “Ladinos”, they were slaves in Spain, they knew how to speak the language and they had a certain culture, acquired in the labor of servitude, for which, they also arrived in Cuba. But they did so in small numbers.

The vast majority of blacks who arrived in Cuba, en masse, did so later, as a result of the slave trade. And massively, after the Haitian Revolution of 1791.Se settled in the Eastern End of The Island. Having a great cultural impact, as they were accompanied by their French masters. Thus I arrived in Cuba, the French contradanza and the so-called French Tomb. All of which, we know as antecedents of our national dances, the Danzón.

Through the eastern region, the Antillean groups entered, to participate in sugar production, hence the mixture that characterizes that region, which covers up to the current province of Camagüey, where we find many descendants of French (Haitians), or English (Jamaicans) and other Antillean groups. This made the situation of racial discrimination in the above-mentioned regions more complicated.

However, they did not lead to the formation of minorities, as in the United States, but merged with the Cuban population, keeping their English and French surnames.

Then, the blacks were brought as slaves to Cuba, for the work of the constructions first and the work of the sugar production later, within an already organized colonial regime. To say black in Cuba, was to say slave.

These slaves, practically, since the sixteenth century, could buy their freedom.

As the Spaniards arrived, men alone. Immediately, they began to mix with the Indies and blacks, thus initiating the miscegenation of the island. And within a complex miscegenation, because it was made up of free or slave people, mestizo or black. Not so the White Spaniards, who never suffered the condition of slavery.

Unlike the blacks who were brought into the territory of the Thirteen Colonies of North America, what later was the United States of America; the arrived, also brought from Africa as slaves to the mentioned territory, these could not speak their languages, but only English, they could not practice their religions, nor their cultures. They were not allowed by the colonizers. In this sense, the slave regime from England was tougher, with an almost absolute separation between blacks and whites. Which is what has ended up characterizing American society.

The blacks brought to Cuba, also from Africa, the Spanish colonization, were allowed to speak their languages, worship their gods and practice their cultures.

It was that, for historical and also cultural reasons, the Spaniards were more likely to coexist with the cultural practices of slaves in Cuba and with different colors.

Unlike in North America, in Cuba, the Spanish lived better with differences in color. To which also contributed the differences that introduced in the slavery of the negro, the existence of a domestic slavery and another of plantation.

In Cuba this did not take place, but in the American colonization, came a type of colonizer, who not having money to bear the expenses of his transfer to Anerica, requested a loan, which forced him to work, practically as a slave or servant. Once the loan debt was paid off, he received a piece of land, becoming a poor farmer. Except for the existence of some slaves, who did not live in the barracks and cultivated a small piece of land, to supply the house of the master, in Cuba there were never serfs as such.

In the plantation, the negro had to work from sun to sun, under the whip of the Foreman or Mayoral; while, in domestic work, their tasks were deployed in the house of the slaveholder, intertwined with the activities of service to the family. There he could be a coach, cook, seamstress, washed and ironed, set the table, arranged the master’s clothes and made a concoction, when he got sick, etc. Performing tasks, which practically prepared him to make a trade, in case one day he managed to obtain his freedom, bought or manumitido.

The contact with the family instructed them and endowed them with a certain culture, which differentiated it from the slave of the plantation. Who was not allowed to work more than in the cutting of cane, or the production of sugar.

The negro, wherever he was, did not cease to be a slave, and the trap, in the face of the slightest disobedience, was upon him, like the Sword of Damocles. For the white master, did not allow them those freedoms, which could instill in him some culture of independence, which was very much monitored. But, in domestic work, in fact, the advantages, they had them and not a few took advantage of them very well.

For example, the girl in the house, took a liking to the nice, docile negrito, and could even teach him to read and write. In the domestic context, the skilled, respectful, docile negro intimated with the father of the house and came to know him even certain secrets, such as his walks with the black, from which, not infrequently, “bastard” children emerged within the family.

The black, knowledgeable of herbs, prepared a concoction that healed a pain to the master. And within that intimacy, he was practically beginning to see him as part of the family. He gave him tasks, shared certain secrets with his slave and so, sometimes, this, already old, earned the manumission, or the letter of freedom.

Inside the house of the master, living together as a domestic slave, the negro achieved advantages, which not infrequently, he took advantage of and that made him advance in social life, while maintaining his condition as a slave.

It is that domestic slavery generated a certain culture and within it, a level of permissibility, which the negro could take advantage of. This allowed him to enter society, even with all the disadvantages of a slave society.

Meanwhile, in the United States, after the Civil War, slavery was abolished in the north, but it had to continue to struggle with it in the south. Blacks escaped to the North, where they became free, but not infrequently, they left behind relatives who remained slaves in the South.

In Cuba, no, slavery was a homogeneous system throughout the island. So, when the laws that attenuated it began to appear, such as the so-called Law of Free Wombs, until its official abolition in 1886, this had a national effect.

Of course, slavery began to disappear, from a long process, in which Spain abolished it, as a first step, giving freedom to blacks who had fought, on both sides, during the First War of Independence (1868/1878) until finally, it was abolished in a general way in 1886.

However, in America, slavery took color. And with it came racism and racial discrimination, which were not born with capitalism, but which hit it very well, as an instrument of power and exploitation.

Therefore, slavery disappeared, but the racism and discrimination that she engendered for more than 400 years remained intertwined within the structure of Cuban society. And so, from the mid-nineteenth century, a society began to emerge, with a racist, mestizo culture and white hegemony. Therefore, racism, racial discrimination and white hegemonism, within our mestizo society, have not yet been eliminated, although they have been attenuated.

Then, The Revolution that triumphed in 1959, met with a society, in which, there is a well-defined structuring. The so-called whites have the power, they always had it; the mestizos are, more or less, in an intermediate position, a few had access to power; blacks are almost always in the subsoil of society. This is the result of a distribution of wealth, which colonialism inaugurated and Cuban dependent capitalism was responsible for solidifying.

It is that, in Cuba, poverty was also massively white, but wealth was never black, and almost never mestizo.

After the Cro. Fidel, almost since the triumph of the Revolution, began treating him in a systematic way; racism, racial discrimination and white racial hegemony have not disappeared.

The social policy that the revolution inaugurated since 1959, has always had a deeply humanist character, but, from the beginning, it focused only on poverty, not differentiating among the poor, treating as the only poverty, which was never homogeneous, without making differentiation within it, according to the color of the skin.

Would it have been possible, so early on, to have considered poverty, taking into account its differences and levels, according to the colour of the skin?

I think not. I believe that this would have greatly complicated the fight that was beginning then, against racism and racial discrimination. I believe that if Cuban society was not prepared, as was evident, to assimilate Fidel’s speech against racism; much less so would have been if, in addition, the existing differences in poverty levels according to the colour of the skin had been introduced. I think that would have meant introducing some level of affirmative action, for which whites, mestizos and not even the blacks themselves, were prepared.

That is why, I believe, social policy, in Fidel’s speeches, began by demanding employment for blacks; meanwhile, everything else: health, education, culture and sports and social security, fell under their own weight and equally for all. When there was a distribution for everyone equally, blacks and mestizos, I touch them, which, in general, had never touched them. Because blacks, and to some extent mestizos, had never enjoyed free, quality education, much less blacks, health care. Sport was the cons. And so, a distribution of national wealth began to occur, which the nation had never known. And, within which, blacks and mestizos, almost never, had touched almost nothing. That is why, although the color of the skin was not taken into account, in any case, blacks and mestizos, benefited, as never before in the history of the Nation. That is why blacks and mestizos did not find it difficult to understand that the revolution was their revolution and that Fidel had cared and fought for their well-being.

This is one of the aspects that, in the last 40 years, we have managed to refine. Without yet reaching, as such, the so-called Affirmative Action. Forms of the latter have been gradually appearing in Cuba, but almost indirectly. And we are still in that perfecting of the path begun. What is beginning to take shape, through a concern and an occupation of the political leadership that no one is helpless.

Having shown that race does not exist, that it is a social invention. But that, nevertheless, the color yes, and that, in our country, after 500 years[M1] of colonialism, the color of the skin, continues to behave as a variable of social differentiation. Which we have set out to fight against.

What it tells us, because, since the beginning of the Republic, in Cuba, there were black and mestizo societies. It is true that they acted within a racist and discriminatory context, which made them respond to it. But they also functioned as fraternal societies, which helped the black and mestizo membership to train themselves, on the basis of free courses for their young people, social and cultural activities, which in general, helped this population to face the problems of inequality. Sometimes they made it easier to get a job and in general, they helped blacks and mestizos to have a certain recognized social presence.

However, at the Triumph of the Revolution, these societies began to disappear, as a result of the consideration that they were not necessary, because the revolution assumed the defense of blacks and mestizos and that they could contribute more to the racial division within Cuban society

However, paradoxically, at the same time, the Spanish Societies, considered as white, were maintained, which in Cuba remain until today. The question remains unanswered: Why did blacks disappear and are they, coincidentally, white, right?

This is something that has brought controversy and unrest, although not only among blacks and mestizos. Today, it is even questioned whether the societies of blacks and mestizos, should not reappear. Today the subject tends to enter the debate again. Above all, because the problem of racism and racial discrimination has not yet been fully overcome.

But the blacks and mestizos, from the beginning, did not make any claim and everything stayed that way.

In Cuba, after 60 years of a radical Revolution, of deeply humanist essence and of an extraordinary struggle against poverty, injustice and inequality, to the very edges of egalitarianism; still, from the point of view of social position, access to certain resources and certain advantages in social life, it is not the same to be white, black or mestizo. This is not a burden, but responds to a structural dysfunctionality, which even Cuban society drags and is able to reproduce.

In particular, the so-called Special Period showed that the economic crisis had not affected all racial groups equally. Being blacks and mestizos the ones who suffered the most. Which became apparent.

Our Government also realized that the difficulties with racism, which surfaced with some force during the Special Period, were indicating that this was a problem that, having been considered as solved, really was not; or at least, it was not being solved, at the rate that many had imagined, but rather, racism, had been hidden, in the midst of the difficulties experienced during those years, in the mid-eighties and early nineties.

He had had, until then, a long period of general silence on the subject, which Fidel broke on several occasions, both inside and outside Cuba, but without achieving then, that the issue of race, definitively occupied the place that corresponds to him in the struggle for a better society in today’s Cuba.

I believe that, in this regard, we must start from the existence of inequalities, in order to achieve real equality. Unfortunately, inequality is what we find at every turn. Equality is the social project, not yet achieved by Cuban society as a whole.

Therefore, we must not assume mechanically that all Cubans are equal; because that was also used as a hypocritical slogan of republican Cuba.

All Cubans are not yet equal. We are before the law, but not socially. They are two very different phenomena. Equality before the law has been achieved. But achieving social equality is a much longer and more complex process. Equality before the law is not social equality. But only, perhaps, a step, to get to the latter.

Today, it is observed that there is a fairly clear awareness that against inequality we must continue to fight, persecuting it to those places where marginality still attacks members of our society and not only blacks and mestizos. So the work with the so-called Community projects gains unusual strength.

Being able to observe the Party and the government, extraordinarily occupied, mobilizing qualified human forces and resources, which are put in function of the solution of multiple material, spiritual and social problems, that the Cuban society still has to overcome.

This task of the Community Projects, are strongly intertwined with the Government Resolution, which serves as an instrument for the fight against racism and racial discrimination.

Fidel had already realized all this and began to take action. Guiding in-depth research, in several disadvantaged neighborhoods, on the situation of sectors, sometimes marginalized.

It was also, then, when the experience of the so-called Social Workers was carried out; the majority blacks and mestizos, which brought as a result, that many young people, who neither studied nor worked, (it is said that there were 80,000 in Havana) arrived at the Universities. Those that had been “bleached” during the Special Period.

Then, from the late eighties, we returned to the subject again. What I think, is the period we’re in now, at the height of 2021.

Previously, during the 20s and 30s, above all, the issue of race had had a presence in the written media, especially in the press of the time. Personalities such as Juan Gualberto Gómez, Arredondo, Guillen, Deschamps, Chailloux, Ortiz, Portuondo, and others had produced important texts on the subject. And he managed to keep it within the debate in the press of the time, including in the Navy Journal.

But that momentum was not maintained and by the triumph of the revolution, it had almost disappeared.

But, already from the 80s, many publications of books, articles, essays, documentaries, and research began to reappear in some universities. A cinema that frequently brought up the subject, the plastic, the theater and the literature as well. Discussion Groups and Community Projects emerged, which today address the issue of race and have endowed it with a growing presence within national culture and life. In fact, for years, the issue did not take on such an important place in the national debate.

Then, the meetings with the Cro began. Miguel Díaz Canel, who attends to the issue, before becoming president and continues to do so now, together with the Aponte Commission of the UNEAC, which replaced the Group, “Como agua para chocolate”, directed by Gisela Arandia. She was the initial promoter of the racial debate at UNEAC. Previously, the racial issue had been taken to the party and later located in the National Library, but it was finally in the UNEAC, where it found its definitive location. And now it’s unfolding. Through the work of the aforementioned Aponte Commission.

All this movement has concluded with the appearance of a Government Resolution, mentioned above, which proposes guidelines for the attention and treatment of the racial issue at the national level. With the presence, too, of all those groups interested in the subject. Aspects of participation, which still require development.

However, I believe that, although we have made progress, we are still far from giving the issue of race the impetus it requires. There are still many situations to be resolved.

Although our society is culturally mestizo, the presence of racism, racial discrimination and a certain white hegemonism are still felt in the following matters:

-Inequalities persist within the racial population structure, formed by whites, blacks and mestizos. Not as a burden, but as a phenomenon of social dysfunctionality, which even Cuban society is capable of reproducing.

-Differences in access to employment also persist. With privileges for the white population, in those most important and best paid: tourism, corporations, state offices, etc. Not so in political positions, especially within the party, the People’s Power and the Mass Organizations, where the participation of blacks and mestizos is becoming more present.

-Differences by color, in access to possibilities of higher studies, universities, master’s degrees, doctorates, etc.

-Racism, prejudice and discrimination, against the black and mestizo population, which tends not to manifest itself in an aggressive way, but which are still present.

-Marked presence of an insufficiency of interracial marriages. With a marked tendency to racial restraint among young people which is indicative that young people are getting rid of prejudices.

-Discrimination in the mass media, mainly in television, in which white faces have dominated, because only recently, black and mestizo faces have begun to appear. In response to a specific, recent complaint by Army General Raul Castro in the National Assembly.

Our written press barely reflects the problems of the racial issue. There is no systematic treatment in this regard. Nor promotion of writers who deal with the subject. There is almost never an article in our press that addresses the issue.

-Our Political and Mass Organizations do not debate the issue of race. They do not promote their discussion, nor do they consider it in their work agendas.

-Discrimination in classical ballet.

-Jokes and racist expressions, abound, in the activities of cabarets.

-Only recently, the Teaching of History has begun to reflect the place of blacks and mestizos in the formation of our homeland history. And teachers are preparing to address it.

– Until very recently, the bibliography used, with honourable, well-known exceptions, did not reflect the role of the black and mestizo population in the construction of our nation. A strong hard bibliographic work is now being done by the Ministries of Education, aimed at resolving this inadequacy of vital consideration for the teaching of history.

-There is no Social History of the Negro or of the black woman, produced in Cuba.

-Even dealing with the issue of race, at any level and in any social space, can generate some discontent, prejudice and discomfort.

Only recently has our national assembly begun to present a structure that almost faithfully reflects the racial composition of Cuban society.

-For those who deal with the issue in a systematic way, their debates are not disclosed, always remaining in the frameworks of interested groups and people.

-In the Cuban school there is no mention of color, leaving personal spontaneity to behave in the face of the problem.

-In our universities, the issue of race is hardly studied. Nor is it included in the teaching curricula.

-Our academic research hardly refers to the issue of race sufficiently and it is practically absent from the student scientific work.

-Only recently, it begins to be observed, that an effort is made to attend to the racial composition of work groups, activities, or situations, in which the negro and the mestizo must be represented. This is seen with special emphasis on television.

In reality, our statistics, social, economic and political, are colourless. Throwing into the trash can centuries of national history. Ignoring appreciating where the problems are.

-Our Economic Statistics do not allow to cross color, with variables of jobs, housing, wages, income, etc. This prevents a thorough investigation of how the standard of living of different racial groups is advancing. Especially for those who were previously disadvantaged.

We believe that as long as the issue of race is not dealt with with systematicity and coherence, at an integral level and is reliably reflected in our statistics and in our media, we cannot hope that socially, the country will make progress on the issue.

It’s that our inherited culture is racist; that is, the practice of racism is cultural, instinctive, responding mainly, but not only, to inherited mechanisms, which work, not infrequently, unconsciously.

Therefore, until the subject enters education, is strongly socially debated, is part of the systematic work of the media and is considered statistically, we cannot aspire to pass it on to culture, or advance in it, banishing it from the forms of habitual behavior of citizens in our country.

It is that the absence of attention, almost generalized, for a long time, on the racial issue, has very negative consequences for its knowledge, understanding and consideration at the social level, as something that harms the Cuban nation. In the case of a very serious problem to overcome, if we want our society and its culture to advance in an integral way, guaranteeing the success of the social project of the revolution.

June 30, 2021.

Racism: White Flight: Gentrification – A discussion about View Park and surrounding communities


[Exposition Park – Los Angeles, CA] This past Thursday the California African-American Museum (CAAM) hosted L.A. Commons and Mrs. Karen Mack in a community symposium titled the “Evolution of View Park.”  This was the second of a three-part series focusing on “Making Sense of Gentrification,” highlighting the community of View Park (Los Angeles), CA.

Mrs. Karen Mack welcoming attendees. photo courtesy of fredyt123

A standing room crowd came out to hear and discuss what is one of the hottest topics in the past twenty years.   Gentrification is not an easy topic to discuss.  The word evokes emotion and for many has a negative meaning.  Although from my lens those in attendance were predominately African-American, homeowners and female, for the most part there was a good degree of diversity from other ethnic groups.  What also made for a good discussion was the span of age groups.  In addition to the focus on View Park, some who have called the community home represented multi-generational families.  You also had representation from neighboring communities such as Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park, West Adams and Venice, just to name a few.  Additionally, there was representation from cities such as District of Columbia, Baltimore and other cities on the east coast.  Sprinkled in the audience were a few millenniums who were courageous to share their perspectives.

Mrs. Mack brought quite a team to inform those in attendance but to also motivate dialogue which is essential in fostering honesty about the subject matter.  She was joined by economist Dr. Devin Bunten who has researched the effects of gentrification throughout communities in the United States.  The data he was able to cull together to add to his presentation was unapologetic as it was supported by solid documentation.  This helped the audience frame a better understanding in answering the What and the Why, as well as the How of Gentrification.

View Park and neighboring Windsor Hills are just two enclaves where today African-Americans maintain over 70% occupancy.  They are treasured communities due to property type and proximity.

To view some of his presentation click here Gentrification and View Park


Also, joining Mrs. Mack was local community historian Mr. Robert Lee Johnson.  The grassroots work he has done was well received because he was able to dig back to the evolution of various communities and discuss how they have come to define themselves in 2018.

Lee pointed out how African-Americans migrated from the south.  For housing they were relegated to Central Avenue or the “eastside.”  Legal segregation was a reality.  However, as legal victories were achieved in the 60’s and racial property covenants were ruled unenforceable, African-Americans were afforded housing opportunities that those before them could not enjoy.  Many find it hard to believe that Compton, CA was once all white!

Those who were stacked in the Central Avenue corridor took advantage of the legal victories and moved in all directions.  Some went west to West Adams, Leimert Park as well as View Park and Baldwin Hills.

 


The motivation

Gentrification primarily occurs in the urban core and surrounding communities.  Communities such as View Park are desirable for a variety of reasons.   As beautiful are these areas are, for those looking to move closer to the urban core they must contemplate life in a more multi-cultural environment versus an area they may have grown up in, such as the Westside or other bedroom communities in the suburbs.

By selecting to relocate patient buyers are rewarded with savings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The biggest issue they face in coming to the new community is the realty of instead of being in the majority, they find themselves in the minority.  Also, part of their acceptance in relocating is understanding services they have come to accept, might be lacking in the new neighborhood, however they can be transformed.  Blending those needs into their new community is one of the biggest challenges of gentrification.  That is, making sure the new services are appreciated by the current residents so they don’t feel like outsiders.


After the presentations those in attendance came prepared to ask questions and provide their anecdotal realities.  The discussion was very candid and became quite emotional.  Some felt the current gentrifi’ers are more like invaders.

 

“THEY WALK THE NEIGHBORHOODS WITH THEIR DOGS AND TARGET PROPERTIES WHICH ARE VUNERABLE, PARTICULARLY WHERE SENIORS MAY BE LIVING ALONE”

 

“THEY COME TO THE COMMUNITY WITH A HAPPY FACE AND BRING COOKIES AS A RUSE TO DEVELOP FRIENDSHIPS BUT THE REAL MOTIVATION IS TO GET THE HOMEOWNER TO FEEL COMFORTABLE IN DISCUSSING PURCHASING THEIR HOME.”

 

“THEY WORK WITH LOCAL CODE ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES WHO SCOUR COMMUNITIES LOOKING FOR VARIOUS VIOLATIONS WHICH RESULT IN THE CURRENT OWNERS FEEL THEY ARE HARRASSED.  OR THEY RECEIVE FINANCIAL PENALTIES WHICH JEOPARDIZE THE CURRENT OCCUPANTS ABILITY TO PAY.”

 

“WHILE EVERYONE WANTS A POSITIVE COMMUNITY, THOSE WHO ARE ABLE TO MOVE IN HAVE THE FINANCIAL RESOURCES AND POLITICAL VOICE TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS THAT CURRENT OCCUPANTS MAY HAVE LACKED.  CONSEQUENTLY, AS COMMUNITIES ARE ENHANCED AND DEVELOPED THE RESULT IS HIGHER TAXES WHICH THREATENED CURRENT OCCUPANTS BASED ON THEIR INABILITY TO HAVE THE INCREASE IN INCOME NEEDED TO REMAIN IN THEIR PROPERTIES.” 

 

“THERE IS GREAT CONCERN CURRENT FAMILY’S WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SUSTAIN A LEGACY FOR THEIR CHILDREN AS BASED ON THEIR FINANCIAL PLIGHT, BATTLING RACISM AND OTHER SYSTEMIC ISSUES MAKES IT VERY HARD FOR THEM TO BE ABLE TO AFFORD THE WAY THEIR PARENTS DID.”

 


 

The majority of issues raised by the audience was well received as you could see many heads nodding in approval.  At the same time, some issues were like self-inflicted wounds as some claimed to be unfairly targeted or harassed.  Based on what they were representing their behavior is the type that falls prey to being targeted.  Illegal add-ons or other enhancements which might have made the property more livable, in fact are out of code.  The result may lead to financial penalties or decrease in value based on what they represent their properties to be.  The key, and most homeowners understand this, is to make sure their property is within code or not a target from any scrutiny, let alone a gentrifier who may feel their property is a potential purchase.

 

The bottom line is Mrs. Mack provided an opportunity for folk to gain information, network and become more empowered.  Gentrification may have a negative connotation but understanding how it works is essential so that one has a workable answer why and how groups are reclaiming parts of the city.   In the meantime, while people continue to move or relocate for a variety of reasons, much of it justified, those who remain are encouraged to take a page from the 1960’s which saw one of the early migrations of folk leaving the city for what they perceived as “greener pastures.”   Don’t Move!  Improve!!!


 

A Historical Perspective:

Racism, White Flight, Gentrification

 

As mentioned Racism, White Flight and Gentrification are words many have a difficult time discussing.

Racism is not a new clothing line!  White Flight is not a new dance step!  Gentrification is not a new gelato flavor!

Racism is a by-product of white supremacy.   Gentrification is the reverse of White Flight but still a by-product

Racism was most attributed to those who identify as “white” and whose ancestry is primarily European.  A construct or a system was created where their race was used to dominate other races and otherwise maintain superiority over others through oppressive tactics, hence the birth of white supremacy.

 

“IF YOU’RE WHITE, IT’S ALRIGHT……IF YOU’RE BROWN STICK AROUND….IF YOU’RE BLACK GET BACK!!”

the original jim crow character. It became the symbol of institutionalized racism in the united states

 

Racism became a world phenomenon as whites used their domination to conquer many ethnic groups.  The result was colonization.  Over the years some may have thought racism was eliminated by groups reclaiming their cultures, however EVEN in 2018 it still festers in our overall society and is quite prevalent.

Many voting age African-Americans had accepting the notion in their lifetime a fellow African-American would never ascend to the office of President.  That is why in 2008 they were happily stunned when Barack Obama was elected the 45th president.  Likewise, as long as racism has been around many feel it will not be eliminated in their lifetime.

 

“When we discuss the word integration, what we are stating is the sharing of: Resources, Power & Responsibility”  Rev. Dr., Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Racism is often confused with prejudice and other biases.  Disliking something or someone for whatever reason is much different from using race to oppress other groups.  Most people have prejudices but not everyone is a racist.  Therefore, many whites are not racist, per se.  However, the legacy they inherited shows up in many forms of behavior as other groups attempt to migrate into the larger society.

 

In the 1940’s, 1950’s, the 1960’s and beyond another phenomenon was created which has it roots in racism.  White Flight was the result of primarily African-Americans and other groups moving into areas once primarily occupied by whites.  While there are many reasons why whites fled communities and neighborhoods they once proudly called home, the common denominator was their dislike or being uncomfortable sharing space with those such as African-Americans or those who were not like them.  In other words, on the periphery they may have had friendly relationships with them, but living next could not be tolerated, thus they fled and established new communities, commonly known as suburbs.

 

A vital element of White Flight is acknowledging Whites or no group wants to be confined to neighborhoods were property values are decimated, or where there are inferior stores, shops or business opportunities, or where their children suffer the blow of an inadequate educational system.  Most important feeling fearful because of the lack of basic services.

A critical element of disparity

 

Racism has a specific pecking order or domination over others.  From economics, employment, housing, education and other factors necessary to fulfill the ideal of living, whites receive higher pay, better employment opportunities, more access to lending as well as better educational opportunities than non-whites.  That pattern still exists today as while many groups appear to enjoy a positive lifestyle, typically the person who is white is in a much better economic position, much of it the result of racism or white supremacy.  However, one must be careful to not assume whites do not make sacrifices in achieving a better lifestyle.  They too work very hard and are dealt some of the same blows as anyone else.  In our society they just do not have the burden of being considered “less-than” or other pitfalls which systematically stymies their growth.

“All things being equal if one could insure steady employment, thus steady compensation they too would be in a position to pay their debts in a timely manner resulting in stellar credit”

 

Gentrification

 

White Flight does not mean every white person left their community as soon as a non-white showed up.  However, as the dominant group shifted, communities across the United States, particularly those in major cities or those known as large urban Cities started a slow process of deterioration.  As whites left, they rightfully took their resources, especially in the form of a thriving tax base.

 

Compounded with the reality of a disparate economic condition, non-whites simply had an inferior economic standard based on the pecking order of racism and discrimination, so living standards were directly compromised.

 

Those urban areas once occupied by whites were always technically called ghettos.  However, the connotation drastically changed once non-whites claimed the space.   As resources necessary to maintain those areas took on a slow stream of deprivation, the result was the creation of blight and other negative consequences as well as social forces such as crime and a variety of factors which rendered those areas unattractive.

 

Gentrification is a subtle, yet specific process.  Communities which were defined as deplorable are stimulated with resources as they are redefined.  People who are part of the reclamation are for the most part white, and interestingly the off-spring of the very families who fled during White Flight.  Through the systemic reality of racism, they are in a better economic and educational position than those who will greet them as neighbors.   Thus, rebuilding the communities becomes strategic and transformational.  So instead of day-to-day survival, due to their economic standing they are able to execute a more sustainable lifestyle.

 

The core reality of gentrification is many who remain in those areas which are being reclaimed or who have paltry resources eventually are dealt the blow of being dislocated.  This is created from the basic notion of being priced out due to higher taxes or not fully comprehending the windfall they might receive for their property is never enough, thus communities are broken up; literally one house, one block at a time until it is transformed into an oasis for the current occupants.

 

Video courtesy of Victor Allen’s Local Zone


Additional resources:

Dr. Frances Crest-Wesling:  Definition of racism and white supremacy

Mrs. Karen Mack, LA Commons

Dr. Devin Bunten, Professor M.I.T University

Mr. Robert Lee Johnson, History Council – CAAM


Fred Thomas, III and his wife Judith have been residents in the West Adams community of Los Angeles for the past forty-two years.

The etiquette of Protesting: Respect or outright lack of Respect?


Students attending school are required to take United States history in the eighth grade.  The basic curriculum is intended to provide the fundamentals of how our government was created and how it has transitioned through the years.   Sadly, not everyone who took the class received a passing grade.  Or, perhaps they did at the time but as years have gone by they may have forgotten the basic tenets of what they learned, especially the facts of the United States constitution?

 

Protesting is a basic and fundamental privilege of citizenship. 

 

Protesting is a basic right covered in the first amendment.  It is very clear.  There is never a right time to protest.  The primary intent of protest is to raise awareness.  In doing so, some may feel institutions, symbols or things they view as sacred are being disrespected.  That is a false premise, especially with the Colin Kaepernik and the current NFL’s reaction.

Protest is meant to be disruptive.   Protesting is often non-violent, but it is not to be confused as a courteous gesture or something where the protestor’s say “excuse me.”

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” First Amendment of the United States Constitution

 

 

Is Trump allowing Puerto Rico to be his “Katrina”?

 

The Colin Kaepernick protest started over a year ago.  Just this past week it picked up steam as Donald Trump felt it was his duty to admonish the NFL teams for showing support for Kaepernick and disrespecting the flag, the anthem and anything else determined by him to be patriotic.

 

 

In doing so, sadly Trump demonstrated his sheer ignorance of the first amendment.  His public outcry was done and played out while Puerto Rico and victims of the recent hurricanes are in desperate need for government intervention.    He has been stubborn to understand the genesis of the protest and instead has insisted the narrative he created is the truth; the protest disrespects the flag, the anthem and the military.

Worse, this week he and his administration have taken to the airwaves to report how well the recovery is going, specifically in Puerto Rico.  Unfortunately, reporters on the ground and spread over the island have been in stark contradiction to the administration’s assessment.

“They require policy guidance from the president on what he wants them to do,” Honore said while reacting to the administration’s slow response time. “I think that’s where the gap is. Should have been moving the military last Saturday, the president was out playing golf and twittering.” Lt.Colonel (retired) Russell Honoree

The question begs for many?  With human life at stake, why in the world is Trump so focused on the NFL and the player protest?  Yet, while he claims such patriotism, he has never served in the military and has taken glee in criticizing and making derogatory comments about those who indeed have served or who have lost loved ones while in military service!

Is this a diversion?   Has Trump found yet another wedge issue where people lose focus on his lack of legislative success?   Is it a coincidence that the majority of NFL players are African-American and the obvious factor of race is quite clear?  Football is a game.  The current situation in Puerto Rico is real life.  People have short memories but they tend to remember who was in office during natural disasters.    They remember their actions, as well as their inactions.

 

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.  Colin Kaepernik, August 29, 2016

 

Facts get in the way

 

Whatever motivation Trump felt to unleash his tirade against the NFL players or his insistence to go on twitter spewing irritation of the protestor’s actions, history will be the ultimate judge.  The United States is replete with examples of those who staged protest and at the time suffered tremendous public scorn.  Yet, as time elapsed and their actions were better understood they took on martyrdom status and many are in the annals of historic figures.

 

The notion of Kaepernick disrespecting the flag might be a plausible conclusion or might make sense and convince the most patriotic person he is subject to treason.?   This becomes truer for those who support Trump and his ideology.  They refuse to accept anything contrary to what they believe, or have been told by Trump that it is the truth.  The problem and this is where so many who blindly follow others leave you shaking your head; Kaepernick got the suggestion to kneel and continue his protest from a decorated Green Beret, Nate Boyer!!!!  Now how patriotic can that be?  Kaepernick headed his advice and to the chagrin of many, to this day, they have a very positive relationship.  Why is this important?  Because Boyer has a better understanding of the privileges of the first amendment better than Trump or those like him who feel it is okay to dismiss this basic fact.  Why do they dismiss this fact?  It appears the narrative does not jive with the way they see things.

“Until that flag represents what it is meant to represent, ” Colin Kaepernick, August 29, 2016

Homework assignment

For Trump and those who support his position I would plead they do some homework and understand what and why was Colin Kaepernick protesting in the first place?   To be generous they will be given one week to turn in their assignment.  LOL.  Second, they must study protest movements and get a handle of the strategies used in protest movements?   Again, protest is not meant to be comfortable.  However, as mentioned many are very peaceful.

 

Who qualifies as the protest police?

Who among us can claim to be the authority on acceptable protest?  Donald Trump?  The Military?  Further, who can dictate which symbols we allegedly treasure within our society that are off-limits to protest?

While there are many traditions within our society that we treasure, over the years and surely with the Kaepernick incident those on the opposite side of whichever issue is being protest swear outright disrespect and crying foul by interpreting the actions as unacceptable.

The genesis of the Kaepernik protest

What is ironic is it appears the very people claiming the flag, the anthem or even the military is being trampled care very little of why Kaepernick protest in the first place.  If they did care, surely their position may be changed as why they still may have a problem with what they view as a sacred symbol, in the final analysis they would have to conclude Kaepernick and all those who took a knee or didn’t take a knee, stood or didn’t stand, clap or didn’t clap are well within the protections of our constitution.

Donald Trump takes great pride as a successful businessperson.  Some might conclude he is a master manipulator.  He appears to relish in the notion of speaking for “the America people.”   Perhaps, but over the past several years it has been documented his commentary is strategic in creating a divide.  Oftentimes the divide is on racial lines or to stoke discontent among various groups.    Yet, as mentioned those who support his ideology are swayed by the rhetoric being fomented and have been conditioned to marginalize any other perspective.

 

The Bottom-line

All you have to know is a person has the right to protest and does not require approval or permission! 

It is also your right or reaction to dismiss or despise the method of a person’s protest.  Just because you don’t approve of the method of protest, does not mean you are right and the protestor is wrong.  The first amendment gives protection for both positions.

 

It can’t be stressed enough, assuming you are truly seeking an objective analysis on protest that it you feel the person is protesting something you hold sacred, it is your right to not support them.  Period!  But, you must be very careful in maligning them as in the end, you wind up trying to dictate behavior.  So, you can’t claim allegiance to the Constitution while refusing the basic core of protest.