**REAL TALK DISCLAIMER: The following article is strictly a think-piece. Any attempts from intolerant trolls to disparage the following analysis as hate speech or otherwise will not be entertained. This space is for critical thinking and uncomfortable topics will be indulged.
I’ve been witnessing a major split of reactions amongst the liberal-minded over the death of Fidel Castro.
On one side I’m seeing celebrations because to them a totalitarian* dictator has finally died (peacefully in his home at age 90), and their argument is that he was evil because many Cubans died, were exiled, and were denied basic freedoms under his regime. Other tamer arguments are that he was a poor leader because his economy fluctuated from ruin to stabilization.
On the other side of this argument (worth noting: from primarily Black and Brown people) Castro was the hero who destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor1. Nelson Mandela – who was considered a terrorist to America until 2008 (and did you know they also played a role in his 1962 arrest that lead to his life-imprisonment sentence?) – traveled to Cuba in 1991 to thank Fidel Castro and the Cuban people collectively for their direct support in the fight against apartheid. Mandela said this in a speech:
“We have come here today recognizing our great debt to the Cuban people. What other country has such a history of selfless behavior as Cuba has shown for the people of Africa? How many countries benefit from Cuban health care professionals and educators? How many of these volunteers are now in Africa? What country has ever needed help from Cuba and has not received it? How many countries threatened by imperialism or fighting for their freedom have been able to count on the support of Cuba?”2
From my perspective as a black woman of Jamaican descent, Fidel Castro shall be celebrated for his commitment to liberation across the diaspora, from the Caribbean to Latin America to Africa. I could say also to America, but Cuban aide in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was flat-out denied. Still, Cuba offered political asylum to Black American revolutionaries like Assata Shakur (even after the U.S. increased the bounty on her head to $2 million) as well as free medical school to low-income Blacks. Particularly as an American, I am well-taught on Castro’s wrongdoings. But it would be too one-dimensional of me to subscribe to the status quo’s unwavering condemnation of him.
I’ve wondered why his accomplishments were commonly dismissed whenever people would defend the narrative that Castro was simply a vicious tyrant. I bristle at the careless usage of buzzwords like authoritarian, totalitarian, fascist, socialist, communist, dictator, and tyrant when discussing him as if these words are all somehow synonymous. It’s a lazy attempt to debate a narrative rooted in misinformation. The sudden resurgence of Castro’s contrasting ideologies felt like the enlightenment that I needed to navigate through these disheartening times…
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*Totalitarian regimes stay in political power through an all-encompassing propaganda campaign that is disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, a single party that is often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror. The difference between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes is that the term “authoritarian regime” denotes a state in which the single power holder – an individual “dictator”, a committee or a junta or an otherwise small group of political elite – monopolizes political power. (Source: Wikipedia)
1 Nelson Mandela, “Castro Opens National Moncada Barracks Ceremony” – From Castro Speech Database: http://bit.ly/2fDvwzC
2 If you really want to sip on some woke tea, you can read the whole speech here. Mandela cites some of the African nations Cuba aided in their conflicts – such as Angola that was under attack by forces financed by the CIA.