MIAMI — Cubans are proud to be loud. But, when it comes to racial justice, South Florida’s loudest residents have been awfully quiet. I am proud to be Cuban-American. I am also embarrassed to see that pots and pans have failed to make their way onto the streets as thousands of Americans protest the murder of George Floyd. For once, the clanging is a sound I wish I heard.
The comfort afforded by being in the majority, decades of privileged immigration status, and our collective whiteness made Cuban-Americans feel safe about detaching from social justice issues. If you feel angry reading this, it is meant for you. It is time we had a candid conversation about race and class.
Miami-Dade’s climate has let us live without ever questioning our privilege. Our communities are so segregated, you can graduate high school and count the number of Black classmates you ever had on one hand. You can go a lifetime without ever realizing you were born into a legacy of internalized racism that predates the founding of the United States. If you even see it, you might even think it’s harmless: your grandparents refer to people by the color of their skin instead of by name. It’s just the culture, you say, “How can I be racist? My grandma is Black!”
The warmth of family has a way of making people honest. I share Christmas dinner (Noche Buena) with kind, respectable, white Latino law enforcement officers. Inviting one interracial couple to this dinner table is all it takes for conversation to reveal racial biases. First, I hope to God that their misguided views do not influence their work. Second, their comportment shows how much the white Cuban community needs to reflect and learn.
Repeat after me: We are not a part of this country’s super majority. We are not a part of white America. While living here has, fortunately, let us shed stereotypes and slurs, growing up here I, unfortunately, heard these stereotypes and slurs be repurposed and reserved for more recent Cuban immigrants, other Latin Americans, and the Black community alike.
I have listened as an older generation of Cubans justify the U.S. repeal of its “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy by saying, “The Cubans coming over now are not like the ones that came before.” Insinuating that their poorer compatriots do not deserve the same opportunity that they had. They use the same policy’s existence to create an artificial difference between Cubans and other Latin Americans, to paint Cubans as more deserving of asylum in the United States. Now that nothing exists to differentiate Cubans from any other group of Latin Americans fleeing violence or political oppression, what mental gymnastics will you do?
As a second-generation Cuban-American, I can never truly understand my predecessors’ struggle. The pain that the Cuban Revolution caused is still felt. After all, the revolution only ended in 1959, five years before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
The wounds of white Latinos scab, while the Black community’s wounds sting.
It is time to wake up.
Too many Cuban-Americans have fallen for the siren song of fascism. The events of the last week alone demonstrate that what you ran from —censorship, violence against dissidents— has reared its head here. Where will you go next?
The self-proclaimed Freedom Fighters need to show up for Black lives.
Manuel Gorotiza is a Cuban-American writer and recent Brown University graduate currently back home in Miami. He plans on continuing to write about law, politics, and culture, as he begins his studies as a law student.