NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 58

Cuba, the U.S. and the Freedom to Oppress As the story goes, Gertrude Stein asked on her deathbed, “Alice, what is the answer?” No response. 56 Then, “Alice, what is the question?” Indeed, in order to find the best answer, you need to find, or choose, the right question. In this essay, I track several answers that search in themselves for the right question to be asked about the relationship between the United States and Cuba. When historian Gerald Horne argues that economic and political pressures from the African presence were major reasons the American colonial elite decided to wage a war for independence, he offers an answer to a question few have bothered to articulate1. The political outlook in the early American colonies was fraught with chaos and anxiety, much of it caused by the presence of the African. Abolitionists in London were attacking the slave trade, one of the most stupendous profit-making operations in history, while the Crown deployed Africans as sailors and soldiers for keeping the peace. The number of By CLYDE TAYLOR Africans in “the new world” had grown to an alarming ratio, and viewing Africans as commodity had become much more complicated than anticipated. Unlike rice, sugar and tobacco, this “commodity” was staging one insurgency after another. Real and rumored insurgencies had to be factored into every calculation, even more so when African rebels combined with Spanish or French enemies to attack settlements. The need to control these pressures was a major reason the colonists went to war for independence. John Adams and James Madison were in agreement with Benjamin Franklin when he declared, “Every slave might be reckoned a domestic enemy.”