Thursday, October 12, 2006

In black and white

Racism does not exist in Cuba. Not officially.

If you believe the official "history" of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro abolished institutional and social discrimination against non-whites on 1 January 1959. Since then, everyone in Cuba has been equal, regardless of skin colour. It is one of the great "achievements" of the Revolution, right?

Maybe not, according to a report today by the BBC.

The British broadcaster quotes figures confirming that despite the official pronouncements, black Cubans remain heavily disadvantaged, even when it comes to education - just three per cent of university students are black.

But it seems the biggest discrepancy is economic.

For instance, although blacks account for about 12 per cent of the population, only five per cent of workers in the tourism industry are black. Does this matter? Oh, yes.

The tourism industry is the fastest growing sector of what is left of the Cuban economy. This is where most Cubans want to work, too. Why? Because this is where you get tips from tourists - in hard currency, rather than useless Cuban pesos. It means waiters at a tourist hotel can earn more in tips in a day than a doctor or a teacher can earn in a whole month.

Now, when it comes to racism, Cuba is not alone. Sadly, discrimination based on race is still an odious social problem in many, many countries, to different degrees. Even in Australia. The difference is that here we don't pretend it doesn't happen.


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