Monday, February 15, 2010

Finally, Cuba Seems to Be Grappling with Racism, and, Oh my, Race!

It’s about time. It seems that researchers from the University of Havana are now at least acknowledging the fact that racism exists in the Island and that, no, good will and ignoring race and racism as atavistic or residual legacy from the past won’t be sufficient.
Here goes, because it’s very brief, the transcription of Racism in Cuba from the Cuba Transition Project.
This January Esteban Morales, a senior researcher at Centro de Estudios Hemisfericos, University of Havana, was interviewed by Patricia Grogg from Inter Press Service (IPS) in Havana. The University of Havana, as well as other educational institutions in Cuba, are run by the Castro government. Following are excerpts of the interview translated by the staff at ICCAS.
• We need to perfect our civil/democratic rights, not only for the Cuban blacks, but for the whole of society.
• Cuban social and revolutionary projects did not take into account race.
• During the special period in the 1990s, we realized that the blacks were suffering most.
• In today’s Cuba it is not the same to be poor and white than to be poor and black.
• The subject of racism in Cuba reemerged with a vengeance in the 1990s. While the government claimed that the issue of racism has been resolved, in reality it is not.
• Cuba lacks racial consciousness. For whites that is not important because they have always been in power but the blacks must have racial consciousness to fight against racism and to find a place in society.
• Racial discrimination remains in people’s minds in the family, in interpersonal relationships and even in Cuba’s institutions.
• The problem of racism in Cuba should be included in the agenda of the forthcoming Congress of the Communist Party.
• What is affecting us in our external image is the fact that our discourse does not conform to our reality. Until very recently, we were emphasizing that there were no racial problems in Cuba.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yes, Immigration Reform Is an LGBT Issue

I was ecstatic when I heard the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey in her State of the Movement address at the Creating Change 2010. It's not always that you see people who are fighting for one cause take on the issues that supposedly pertain to another.

But we all know that's not true. We need big, really big coalitions to achieve the equality that we need in society as a whole, and to fight the real enemies: inequality, socioeconomic disparities, environmental degradation, and racism.

So, yes, civil and human rights cannot – and should not – be parsed out and divided. Nor should anyone be given the right to decide over the human rights of others. And certainly, sadly, as with the case of civil rights and blacks, society can't wait for the majority to arrive at a consensus when the morality of the issue is overwhelmingly clear. Human rights can't be put to a vote.

Rea Carey said that they will stand by their allies in the immigration reform movement come what may. I applaud that and I hope the Latino organizations and people, and, yes, the churches will heed her advice and also stand by our allies in the LGBT community – and the black community, and the uninsured community, and the disability community – come what may.

Here is an important fragment of Carey's State of the Movement speech:

Take immigration.

If we are truly a community and a movement committed to freedom, justice and equality then reforming our nation's cruel and broken immigration system must be on our agenda for action.

Today, there are 12 million immigrants, including at least half a million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are forced to live in the shadows of our society.

They are people like Harold, an 18-year-old gay man who came to this country from the Philippines with his parents when he was five years old. This is really the only country he has ever known. But today, because he is undocumented, he cannot get a driver's license, cannot get a job, cannot get a student loan, and is in constant fear of being arrested and deported to a country where he has no connections, no prospects and where he cannot speak the language.

They are people like Victoria Arellano, an undocumented transgender woman who was swept up by the immigration system, put into a detention jail where she was denied HIV medications and medical attention, even when she was vomiting blood. This cost Victoria her life. She died, chained to a hospital bed with two immigration guards at the door.

And, of course, there are at least 36,000 binational couples who cannot live together here in this country because federal law bans recognition of their relationships.

So, yes, immigration reform is an LGBT issue.

Read the whole State of the Movement speech.

Small Tribute to Howard Zinn

Those of us who teach know that the only thing we want at the end is a student who would say: She made me think. She made me enraged. She made me say "I'm not gonna take it anymore."
That's what we all got from professor Zinn. Those who are neutral are standing with the powerful, and he said it best: You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train.
Here is how he described his own approach to teaching:
From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than 'objectivity'; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble.

To that, I can only say Amen, and thank you, professor Zinn!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Aren’t You Sick and Tired of Health Disparities? Open Your Mouth, Then!

Time is running out to comment on the National Plan for Action. Changing Outcomes – Achieving Health Equity. The open period closes on February 16. I think we should all chime in and comment if we expect change to happen.

Yes, I'm as cynical as the next gal, and I know the government does not work always as the amount of taxes we put in would make us expect. But, if you have another choice right now, I'm all ears!

Even to change the system we have, we need to participate. Just say no, ain't cutting it either.

This plan was developed collaboratively with the private sector, several government agencies, and a multitude of non profits and foundation partners. A great step forward is that we are finally discussing health and health disparities in the larger context of the social determinants of health.

So, let me show you a bit of the National Plan for Action. Changing Outcomes – Achieving Health Equity, and I hope you'll go, check it out, comment, scream, make suggestions, demand that it starts from scratch. Whatever you do, just do not keep silent!

What You Can Do?

Read the Plan

Make general comments on the Plan

Read the Chapters

1 - IntroductionComment on Chapter 1

2 - The Current ContextComment on Chapter 2

3 - Strategies, Benchmarks, Actions and MeasuresComment on Chapter 3

4 - Implementing the National PlanComment on Chapter 4

5 - Evaluating ProgressComment on Chapter 5


You can download the Plan on pdf:


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

If you are uncomfortable, don’t ask. If you are happy, do tell!

Ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military is an idea whose time is long overdue. Obama has pledged to put an end to it, and there will be plenty of discussion today, when his top defense officials tell the Senate they won't be disciplining gay service members whose sexual orientation is revealed against their will.

So, you still can't tell. You still shouldn't ask. But if someone tells on you, you won't be kicked to the curve. Oh, that's much better. Isn't it?

Or is it? You come back to base after meeting with your lover, you're beaming with happiness and you tell that old story of boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Boy and girl make love. Boy tell the story to a room full of boys (don't they always), girl tells the story to her best friend. Boy and girl write letters to each other to and fro a dusty corner of the Iraqi desert. If the players change, if boy meets boy or girl meets girl, the celebration of love becomes an infringement of the law. And this is the most inconsequential of the problems. Imagine to dream of a family, to be lucky enough to live in a civilized state that has legalized same-sex marriage, to learn that your partner just had a car accident and is in the ICU. All of these situations would jeopardize your career and your life opportunities, as if you were an untouchable, a pariah of sorts.

But, if a friend from your unit sees you in a bar kissing another boy and tells on you…Well, actually that may almost be a blessing, because you won't be penalized now, and, since everyone know, you can then openly keep a picture of your partner under your pillow.

To me, without a doubt the rights of gays and lesbians are a top civil rights issue of our time. Equality is only so if is equal. Freedom is only so if we are all free.

I couldn't help by laugh at Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8 in the California trial, when he judge Walker ask him "how it (same-sex marriage) would harm opposite-sex marriages." His answer was, one has to admit, more straight forward than we usually get from the anti-equality crowd: "Your Honor, my answer is: I don't know. I don't know." (Read A Risky Proposal)

As a black Latina, I am particularly hurt by the reaction of both of my communities to the fight for equality of the LBTG community. A good African American friend told me that some of the reaction may be from the history of black rape at the hands of white owners. Of course, this black rape was not limited to the violation of black women, but to the doubly traumatic experience of the rape of black men.

Before anyone screams, I don't mean the rape of women is not the most horrendous possible crime with indelible scars that are difficult to comprehend. But in a patriarchal society, a black man being rape carries the added burden of being reduced to the supposedly worst, lower thing you could be: a black woman. On top of that, black men had to witness the rape of their women. Needless to say, there sure are examples of white women sexually raping black women – beyond the regular violation of their whole beings that was the slavery system.

In that sense, maybe the black community is particularly sensitive to issues related to same-sex relationships. Of course, the messages from the pulpit play a role too. But, those messages also allowed for the HIV epidemic to wreck havoc in the black community, and the stigma to settle over it.

At this point, the discussion of choice or genetics should be just as outdated as the one about race as a biological entity. Does it really matter? Assuming it was a choice or a lifestyle, does society has a right to discriminate against a group of people because they chose to be gay? Can society discriminate against a group of people because they chose to be Christians, or Jewish, or have pets?

The tactics used to stimulate homophobia are the same they have used to instill the fear of the black man, and to despise the welfare queen. We have seen this in operation before. Why do we allow it to go on when is not against us? "Gay men will touch you in the showers." "They will make advances onto you." "They will turn our children gay." "They will teach it in the schools." "They will raise gay children." As with race, it does not matter how much science shows regarding the lack of factual support for any of it, prejudice remains. And prejudice (or its impact) can only be curtailed by action, affirmative action to actualize the equality we say to value so highly.