By Mariela Castro
December 22, 2011
On December 20 I was invited to attend the regular meeting of the Education, Culture, Science and Technology Commission of the National Assembly of the People’s Power, held at the International Conference Center, where Heriberto Feraudy, who chairs the José Antonio Aponte Commission against Racial Discrimination of the Union of Cuban Artists and Writers (UNEAC) talked about the race problem in Cuba. It was the excellent presentation of a summary of previous discussions about this issue.
I asked from the floor from the section assigned to guests and took the opportunity to introduce myself as Director of the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and member of the Aponte Commission, and gave them my opinion about how we have approached and worked on this topic. As with any other form of discrimination, racism has a socioeconomic origin found in the relations of domination imposed by the power groups in class societies.
Whoever suffers from racial problems also suffers from other forms of discrimination based on their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, location, religion, ethnic extraction, language and many other excuses to blow up any individual or collective feature out of all proportion with a view to its use as a tool of domination.
My views sparked off an in-depth discussion among the legislators who made up this Commission. The most interesting thing about the debate was that it took the cross-sectional relationship among multiple forms of discrimination as the starting point for analysis, to which end plenty of eloquent examples were mentioned about Cuba’s present situation. Miguel Barnet, Abel Prieto, Ricardo Alarcón and Zuleica Romay made enlightening interventions in the same spirit.
I quoted Fernando Martínez Heredia, who says that socialism is a process of cultural transformation, which practice has proved to be true after 53 years of Revolution. If we don’t design permanent educational and communication strategies –as CENESEX has done in the last few years in the field of sexual orientation and gender identity– our society won’t be able to implement the cultural changes it intends to do for the sake of emancipation and full justice.
There were comments about the need to establish legislation against all forms of discrimination that, I believe, must make special emphasis on the definition of their specific ways of expression. Beyond any criminal penalties, we must undertake a far-reaching work based on dialogue about and participation in this complicated effort to change our way of thinking.