NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 61

How does this relate to Cuba? Remember the Maine? I was taught to remember it as an atrocity to be avenged by Rough Riders charging up San Juan Hill. The Maine was a battleship that blew itself up in Havana harbor by letting fire get into its weapons storage. Nevertheless, the u.s. war party blamed the explosion on a Spanish naval mine, cranked up its mob patriotism and stole the revolution in Cuba at the same time as in the Philippines. At some points questions become answers and vice versa. Has the u.s. ever intervened in support of a movement for freedom, independence or self-determination for people of color? It s habit has been to watch for the rise of liberation movements, smell blood and move in for the kill like a shark. Peruvian sociologist Anibal Quijano analyses this aspect of White freedom as “the coloniality of power.” In his article, “Coloniality of Power,” he writes, “One of the fundamental axes of this model of power is the social classification of the world’s population around the idea of race, a mental construction that expresses the basic experience of colonial domination and pervades the more important dimensions of global power, including its specific rationality: Eurocentrism.”5 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE The multiracial and antiracist principles of the Cuban revolutionaries ran against the tide of social Darwinism and the pseudo-scientific racism of Arthur de Gobineau. “[I]t is clearly significant,” writes Ferrer, “that in an age of ascendant racism, the United States opted to temper the victory of a multiracial movement explicitly antiracist.”4 Once the u.s. took over the administration of Cuba from the Spanish, they disarmed the nationalist revolutionaries and gave favorable positions to Spanish bureaucrats. They engineered a reversal of the revolutionary ethos, demanding that Cubans prove their readiness for independence by miming “civilization and modernity” as defined by the occupiers. General William Shafter famously exclaimed, “Self-government! Why these people are no more fit for self-government than gunpowder is for hell.” One test of civilized behavior set up by this occupying army, which included many Texan troops, was to re-subjugate Blacks. The Cuban elites gave in with only a little resistance. 59 We mis-remember the accidental tragedy of the Maine. What we don’t remember at all is the Cuban revolution for independence from 1868 to 1898, because, as Ada Ferrer points out, u.s. Americans have a way of ignoring the realities of the people they engage with. In her book, Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898, Ferrer reminds us what a striking revolution it was! It was a steadfast stand-alone insurgency beside the raids for White freedom launched on the mainland from 1776 on. The planters bent to necessity and joined with slaves, who consequently became ex-slaves in an army that was deeply integrated, with troops of all races commanded by officers that included Black and Mulatto generals. The most illustrious of them was Antonio Maceo. Maceo and his successes against the Spanish colonizers were victories fought for the ideal of making Cuba a multiracial, antiracist society. There were, he declared, “no whites nor blacks, but only Cubans.” The U.S. snatched the prize, just like in the Philippines. “United States intervention,” Ferrer writes, “at its most basic level, blocked an independence sought by violent and peaceful means for three decades.”3