SeriesLIVE

Carlos Moore

Immigrant Archive Project
Carlos Moore is a writer, social researcher, professor and activist, dedicated to the study of African and Afro-American history and culture. Moore holds two doctorates, in Human sciences and Ethnology from the Paris Diderot University. At various periods he has lived in France, Africa, the United States, Brazil and the Caribbean. Professor Moore wrote the authorized biography of the Nigerian singer, saxophonist and activist Fela Kuti, Fela, Fela: This Bitch of a Life, which inspired the stage musical Fela.
Show transcript
00:00
America is a place which in which the basic, most fundamental
00:04
issues of our times have had to be dealt with.
00:08
And the most fundamental issue of our times is, is the question
00:11
of race.
00:18
I came here in Miami in 1987 I was a guest guest professor at
00:27
the University of the Florida International University
00:30
I was supposed to open up a course which didn't exist.
00:34
So the first time this course was going to be treated, going
00:38
to be given a course on sociology, Cuban, sociology and history
00:44
together.
00:45
In other words, Cuban society, what was Cuban society?
00:49
And as I started giving this course, I knew, I, of course, I
00:52
knew I was coming to Miami.
00:53
I knew what Miami was.
00:55
I knew that I did not agree with the political ideology of the
01:03
Cubans who were here, the majority of whom were white.
01:07
I knew what white Cubans had in their minds in Cuba, how they
01:12
viewed Black people in Cuba.
01:14
Because I grew up under that racism there in Cuba.
01:19
In fact, it was that racism that made me support the revolution
01:26
I primarily became interested in the revolution, became
01:30
interested in socialism.
01:33
And became interested in communism as an ideology because
01:37
of the racial oppression in Cuba.
01:40
That's what gave me a hunger for a type of society in which this
01:45
would disappear.
01:46
So when I identified communism, socialism, revolution,
01:51
with the disappearance of racism, I was wholeheartedly on
01:55
be embraced the revolution.
01:58
So the people who left Cuba who left Cuba in those first four
02:04
years run out of Cuba.
02:07
One of the reasons why they left Cuba.
02:09
It was because they said that the new government was empowering
02:12
blacks.
02:13
That was one of the reasons they gave.
02:16
They said this revolution is red is communist and it's black
02:22
this was the slogan, slogan at the time.
02:24
I remember that Castro even had to come out and make speeches
02:28
saying no, I'm not trying to empower the blacks because they
02:31
were accusing him.
02:32
They were saying you want black men to dance with our daughters
02:36
in our clubs.
02:37
And Castro made AAA very important speech in which he says
02:40
it's called dancing with the revolution.
02:43
It was on the I think the speech was made on, it was in March.
02:45
I remember of 1959.
02:48
Um when he said all of the public places, we will, we will no
02:53
longer allow discrimination in public places.
02:56
So they said, oh, so you want black men to come and you know and
03:00
dance with our daughters and be fresh with our daughters.
03:03
So it was, it was, it was a big thing.
03:07
In Cuba.
03:08
So Castro had to go on TV.
03:09
He made a long speech and he said, I am not saying that black
03:14
men should dance with white women in white clubs.
03:17
He said all I'm saying is that all Cubans will have to dance
03:21
with this revolution.
03:23
So that was that speech.
03:24
So I remember very well that those were the issues at the time
03:28
People were saying, oh no, no, no.
03:29
This revolution is, is red and is black is communist and is
03:33
empower, it is going to empower the black which happened to
03:36
a great extent.
03:38
But the empowerment of the black came because 20% of the white
03:42
population fled.
03:43
So the blacks became a majority in Cuba in the first four years
03:46
of Castro's government.
03:48
So I knew that the people who were in Miami, I knew very well
03:51
what type of mindset they had.
03:54
But I wasn't ready for what I was going to face when I came in
03:59
Not only was I facing the racism of Cubans in Cuba of the past
04:07
but I was facing a Cuban white Cuban population which had
04:13
reinvented completely.
04:16
The whole past of Cuba had lied to themselves to such an extent
04:21
that they had obliterated totally the fact that even blacks
04:25
existed in Cuba.
04:26
Now here was a Cuba which had already become black, a majority
04:30
black because they had left 20 to 25% of the whites fled Cuba
04:34
in the 1st 4 to 5 years of the Castro regime.
04:38
So Cuba having been 35 to 45% black before Castro immediately
04:44
there was a black majority.
04:46
So here was a population which not only had completely turned
04:52
things around the versions I was hearing here about Cuba pre
04:56
Castro, Cuba were just fantastic.
05:00
I said, but these people have gone crazy.
05:04
I mean, I was struck.
05:05
I said these people have really got lost their minds and it
05:09
was true that it was such a schizophrenia.
05:12
And here all of a sudden, I was seen as someone who came from
05:17
the moon because they would even question the fact that I was
05:20
Cuban.
05:22
They would say, but you are black when I came here.
05:26
I mean, it was really incredible here in Miami.
05:29
They would say, well, you are black.
05:30
We don't have blacks in Cuba and we don't have blacks in Cuba
05:34
who are that black.
05:36
So they were seeing me actually as someone who was from some
05:39
other planet.
05:41
And when I started teaching in my classes to the students saying
05:43
hey, listen, Cuba is a majority black country that was scandalous
05:47
to them.
05:47
And when I was talk, I began talking about the racism, the pre
05:52
revolutionary races.
05:54
I spoke about the black genocide in Cuba in 1912.
05:57
I mean, the students were horrified, these were majority
06:01
white Cubans.
06:02
They were, they grew, grew up in this country.
06:04
So they went back and told their parents that I this professor
06:09
this black professor who claimed to be Cuban was saying these
06:14
horrific things.
06:15
So they had it on Radio Mambi and Cuba.
06:18
So they started at the attacks.
06:20
So it was an it was infernal it in my life all of a sudden was became
06:25
an in hellish in this place with threats to my life.
06:31
Uh All of that started happening.
06:33
So what I had realized, I realized that what had happened is
06:37
that these Cuban immigrants did not consider themselves
06:48
How could I say it?
06:50
Uh These Cuban immigrants didn't had not really emigrated
06:55
They had simply dislocated themselves and taken a Cuba which
07:00
they had totally remade to their own image and implanted it
07:06
here.
07:07
In other words, they were even negating the fact that they
07:11
were in a, in a in another country in another setting.
07:15
So I felt this was schizophrenic.
07:19
I said somebody has to study this community because this community
07:23
is sick.
07:24
There is something profoundly sick about this community
07:27
Um It was not only a community which was um which was profoundly
07:31
racist and this is why the crisis with Black Americans emerged
07:36
very quickly because when the White Cubans came here in the
07:39
early 19 sixties, I mean, right in this, in, in Florida, South
07:44
Florida, the civil rights movement had begun.
07:48
So they had just begun when Florida was one of the last places
07:52
where the civil rights movement in the United States took
07:55
hold.
07:56
So they came at a time of transformation here in South Florida
08:00
When the black pop, the native black population was challenging
08:05
the status quo, the racial status quo and the whole status
08:09
quo of racial entitlements of the wasp population here.
08:14
So here come in comes in brutally suddenly this mass population
08:22
of whites who considered himself as whites.
08:27
They did not consider themselves as mestizos or as mixed.
08:31
No, they consider themselves as aryans.
08:35
They viewed themselves as aliens and they denied that Cuba
08:39
even had blacks.
08:41
So of course, they collided immediately with the black population
08:45
here.
08:46
It was collision.
08:47
It was it it was disaster.
08:49
So when I came, I saw this, I realized this.
08:54
So one of the first things that I proposed to the university
08:56
I said, hey listen, this university has to promote a conference
09:01
You see he has to organize a conference, an international
09:03
conference on Neg Tode so that this population here so that
09:09
the black population can identify with, with the trends of
09:14
the Black movement all over the world, the intellectual,
09:17
political um trends of neg and the white population, Cuban
09:26
white population.
09:27
I'm sure there are a lot of them who would be interested, who
09:30
I would because I already saw some, a number of people here
09:34
who did not agree.
09:35
There are a number of white Cubans already but they were afraid
09:38
to, to, to be vocal, others were more vocal, but there was a
09:43
a minority but a significant minority of people who were
09:49
sane who are saying this is insane.
09:51
People like Lucrecia Grand and a number of people who are already
09:56
here who I found at the university who told me, listen to them
10:00
you know, we would discuss and I would explain to them what
10:04
my views were and they, they said, well, yes, this is the, that
10:06
that is the Cuba that existed.
10:08
It is true.
10:09
That is the Cuba that existed.
10:11
So that's the type of situation I found here.
10:13
I found a, a really impossible situation here in 1987.
10:17
When I lived here, I lived here 87 and 88.
10:20
It was horrible, it was horrible.
10:23
What, what the White Cuban population had done here.
10:25
They had done violence to history, violence to the truth and
10:30
were doing violence to the their own environment because
10:33
they were creating a situation of hostility, multi ethnic
10:39
hostility.
10:39
Because not only were they hostile towards the, the uh the
10:44
African Americans, they were hostile towards the Haitian
10:47
Americans, they were hostile towards the Puerto Ricans.
10:50
They were hostile practically towards all other ethnic groups
10:56
And they had this vision that they were an entitled white minority
11:00
And of course, the Cuban, the American government encouraged
11:03
that because of the whole racial, because of the whole ideological
11:08
climate of the Cold War, they encourage it.
11:11
They, they gave them this sense of entitlement of white entitlement
11:16
in this country.
11:17
So therefore, this was a disaster for this country.
11:21
It was a disaster in terms of race relations because it prepared
11:25
the basis for a total distrust by the African American population
11:29
of anything which could be called Latin American.
11:34
They started distrusting everybody who came from Latin America
11:38
because their image was these, was these white Cubans.
11:43
You've been back numerous times since then.
11:46
Do you sense a change in?
11:48
Oh, yeah.
11:48
Oh, yeah.
11:49
Oh, yeah.
11:49
Oh, yeah.
11:49
Oh yeah.
11:50
Oh yes, tremendous change.
11:52
Uh In the first place, there has been a generational change
11:57
Um The younger generation, the younger generation of, of
12:00
of Cubans who grew up in this country, who were socialized
12:04
in this country because no matter what we say about America
12:09
America is a place which in which the basic, most fundamental
12:14
issues of our times have had to be dealt with and the most fundamental
12:19
issue of our times is, is the question of race.
12:23
It's not just class.
12:26
I mean, Marx has always said that the basic problem in society
12:30
was class, but race is an intractable issue because race is
12:36
not something which has to do with economy, it doesn't have
12:39
to do with political structures.
12:41
It's not simply something of interpersonal relationships
12:45
Race has to do with a diffused, overarching consciousness
12:49
which has been created historically and which is distilled
12:54
through the political system, through the economic economic
12:58
system and which permeates the, the system of interpersonal
13:02
relationship.
13:04
So it's in all these three domains, the interpersonal, the
13:08
purely systemic, the institutional and the symbolic world
13:15
In other words, the i the world in which people imagine others
13:20
other nests.
13:22
So in this country, this country had to confront that and confront
13:25
it very early because of, of the fact that the black population
13:29
in this country brought forth the whole question of the issues
13:33
of race.
13:34
I mean, Web Du Bois already was talking about race in the early
13:39
19 hundreds.
13:40
So he confronted American society, society with the question
13:43
of race.
13:46
So for the first time, young Cubans who were socialized in
13:51
this country were socialized within this, this new, this
13:55
new parameters.
13:57
So this other generation which started growing up in this
14:01
country, you know, meeting black people on an unequal level
14:04
which wasn't the case with their parents, their parents
14:07
never met with blacks except as servants, they didn't have
14:12
them um people in the universities, you know, who were their
14:19
fellow students, you know, they didn't date black people
14:23
in, in Cuba, they didn't have, they didn't have their parents
14:27
didn't do these things.
14:28
But these young Cuban Americans started going to school with
14:35
with, with black people, with other black people.
14:39
And the culture of this country is pretty much very much black
14:43
the music of this country.
14:45
So this new generation was being socialized with two black
14:49
music, the music that we're hearing from Cuba Celia Cruz,
14:52
they love, that's black music.
14:54
That's Afro Cuban music and then this whole rhythm and blues
14:58
and everything which led to hip hop and rap.
15:02
And all of that, this these generations of our Cuban Americans
15:07
were socialized in these symbolic areas which were black
15:12
and in the interpersonal area, which meant frequent interaction
15:18
with black people on a on an equal basis.
15:21
Going to school dating, going out these young girls, Afro
15:24
Cuban American, they would date, you know, black fellows
15:28
and they, their parents would never know the boys would do
15:32
the same thing.
15:32
So they were doing like any other American.
15:35
So they were being socialized in another whole system of values
15:40
And that created a totally different view.
15:44
It broke, it broke the paradigm that their parents live by
15:50
And of course, that's evident today.
15:51
I mean, it's evident today in how they vote, how they act, how
15:55
they conduct themselves.
15:57
Of course, Miami Today is, I mean, there's no, there is no comparison
16:02
no comparison whatsoever.
16:04
No comparison.
16:07
Immigration continues to be a very debated issue in this country
16:14
It's an issue that has divided the country along party lines
16:20
uh geographically.
16:22
And when the issue of immigration comes up today, uh it's in
16:27
the context of Mexican immigration, Latin immigration seldomly
16:32
Do you hear about the European immigrations normally thought
16:36
of in the Hispanic context?
16:38
How much do you think the issue of race plays into the heat associated
16:45
with that debate?
16:46
A lot?
16:47
You see race is a race happens to be such a profound issue for
16:56
the modern world.
16:58
It is so such a profound and intractable issue that people
17:03
don't want to talk about.
17:04
People, race is a non issue has become a non issue.
17:08
Precisely because it's so big.
17:11
It's so overarching, so overwhelming that people don't know
17:15
how to deal with it.
17:16
They can't deal with it because people on the one hand have
17:19
have learned one thing that it is not nice to declare yourself
17:23
a racist.
17:25
And anywhere you go in the world, people deny that they are
17:27
racist.
17:28
They practice racism.
17:31
They live according to the racist structures and structures
17:37
because race is not simply a matter of, as I said, of interpersonal
17:40
relations, it's something which is systemic, I mean, racism
17:45
is systemic.
17:46
So that means that people are racist because they have racist
17:50
entitlements, not simply because of what they, what they
17:55
say or how they behave, but they have racist entitlements
18:00
I mean, whites are entitled to certain things also because
18:03
they're whites in every country in the world.
18:06
You even go to Africa and whites have white entitlements in
18:11
South Africa and Zimbabwe.
18:12
Anywhere you go, race is an overarching situation.
18:21
So therefore when you have immigration, I people coming from
18:25
India, you having people coming from India where there is
18:28
a racialized structure.
18:32
I mean, there's no question.
18:33
Anybody who knows about India knows India is one of the most
18:38
racialize societies in the world and it is even worse because
18:43
it has the cast structure.
18:45
So the caste system and Hinduism have embedded race in the
18:53
very moral of that society.
18:55
So you can't talk about Indian society without talking about
18:58
race.
18:59
Yet race is taboo in India.
19:02
Then you move on to places like Iran, Turkey and the other Arab
19:09
countries.
19:09
The same thing, race is embedded in everything that you do
19:14
in this society.
19:15
The whole imaginary, the whole symbolic you see um symbolic
19:22
world in the Middle East is fundamentally racialized.
19:27
I mean black is inferior, white is superior, white is beautiful
19:34
black is ugly.
19:36
Blacks occupy the worst positions in the society and whites
19:42
occupy the ruling positions.
19:44
Why then you go to Latin America or what is called Latin America
19:50
you find that the native population so called Indian population
19:55
black population, it's the same thing as in the Middle East
20:00
and the same thing as in as in India.
20:05
Worst situations are for the blacks and whites are occupying
20:11
positions of power, prestige and pride.
20:16
PPP power, prestige and pride.
20:19
That's for what the exact opposite.
20:22
Lack of power, lack of pride, a lack of prestige.
20:26
That's for the blacks and the Indians.
20:28
So therefore what happens when these people, when these whites
20:31
immigrate into this country?
20:32
When the whites, the blacks and the Indians come as immigrants
20:37
they are coming from already an environment which is racialized
20:43
So they come in to another racialized environment which has
20:46
a different code.
20:47
So what they do they switch the codes?
20:49
The whites from Brazil come in, the blacks from Brazil come
20:53
in and the Indians from Brazil come in.
20:54
Three Brazilians come in but in their own countries, they
20:58
occupy different social racial positions.
21:04
The white has entitlement.
21:06
And when he comes into the United States, he's looking for
21:09
the same entitlements.
21:11
He hooks up with the system of white entitlements in this country
21:16
and he even this tweets and denies the Black Brazilian and
21:22
the Indian Brazilian.
21:23
So the same thing happened with the Indians, the Indians who
21:27
come from Northern India, from Gujarat, from the Punjab and
21:32
those Syrians who come from the south who are Dravidian were
21:34
black skinned from the lower costs, civilians, they come
21:39
into this country.
21:40
You don't find them into mixing and having mixed marriages
21:44
and those who come from the north and who call themselves indos
21:48
automatically hook up into the system of white entitlements
21:52
into this country and they hook up what they try to hook up with
21:55
the vast majority here.
21:57
They don't try to hook up with the Afro American population
22:01
So the immigrant who comes from India, he's coming and he's
22:04
bringing with him this baggage of race from India.
22:08
And the same thing what happens with the one who's coming from
22:11
Turkey, the one who's coming from Iraq.
22:13
I mean, recently we saw the declaration of the Black Iraqi
22:17
leaders.
22:18
People didn't even know that they were blacks in Iraq that
22:21
there are 2.5 million blacks in Iraq, in the south, in Basra
22:25
they have been there for the last 1200 years.
22:29
They were brought there as a consequence of the slave trade
22:32
which was conducted in the 8th and 9th centuries.
22:35
So throughout the Middle East is the same, the black populations
22:38
of Iraq of Saudi Arabia have quit, quit of Syria throughout
22:46
that area.
22:47
No, anybody even knows about these black populations.
22:51
So when the Arab populations come here, these Arab populations
22:56
who identify themselves as white, who came into the system
23:00
they are looking for uh synchronization with the system
23:05
of entitlements of whites in this country.
23:08
But the Colombians do the same.
23:10
The Dominicans do the same.
23:12
The Cubans did it the first.
23:13
This is why I said the the White Cubans were the first ones who
23:16
successfully did it.
23:18
They did not establish an alliance here.
23:20
They did not seek a coalition with the African Americans who
23:23
were struggling for civil rights in this country to the country
23:27
They use the apparatus of affirmative action that the blacks
23:31
had developed to entitle themselves as whites in this country
23:35
And this is what the immigrants are doing mainly in this country
23:38
But now you have a problem in this country.
23:42
This is why it is important to understand the subtext of race
23:47
because in this country, the white population of this country
23:51
is very quickly becoming a minority demographically, it
23:57
is shrinking So when people ask me about post racial society
24:03
in America, I told them it's not, II I can't, I can't, I always
24:06
say we're not talking about a post racial society.
24:08
We're talking about a post white society which is different
24:12
which has a greater possibility of being a democratic society
24:16
than it has now because when the white majority will become
24:22
a minority, which is going to occur in the next 20 to 30 years
24:27
I mean, all demographers agree on this.
24:30
There is no way you can forestall it.
24:34
This country, the white majority is will disappear, is disappearing
24:39
for all practical purposes.
24:42
No longer is going to be a dominant fact.
24:45
And the election of a black president in this country is a forerunner
24:51
of things to come is something which is telling you about this
24:55
changing of this society.
24:58
But the race is pretty much a part of all of this, except that
25:02
all of these racial minorities or racialized minorities
25:07
are going to have to negotiate a form of coexistence in this
25:11
country.
25:14
I believe that will be, will make America a much better country
25:17
when minorities will have to negotiate how they're going
25:21
to live because minorities are minorities and minorities
25:24
are fragile, they need each other.
25:26
A majority doesn't need anyone.
25:28
So I I would say that race has to be seen in this context, not
25:33
denied, has to be seen in this context, recognized for what
25:38
it is.
25:38
So that we can we are able to create the proper mechanisms for
25:44
vital and viable coalitions.