What Is Black Consciousness?

Black voices were more audible in the years after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Although the economic and social situations improved, racism has not been eliminated and, in some respects, has increased particularly in moments of extreme economic distress. The strength of Afro-Cuban culture and the long tradition of black consciousness in Cuba has created a black Cuban identity that is both black and Cuban.

In other parts of Spanish America, attempts to forge a black identity have met considerable resistance, historically. In Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, for example, blackness was not only denied, but also challenged with the powerful ideology of mestizaje (the racial and cultural mixing of Amerindians and Europeans), which excludes both blacks and indigenous people. Yet, black groups in each society have maintained their autonomy and challenge the official interpretation of their heritage as Spanish and not African.

The migration of so many Puerto Ricans to the United States has aided the continuation of a black consciousness among both dark-skinned and mixed-race members that often brings them into conflict with white Puerto Ricans. Class differences as well as the overt racism in the United States and Puerto Rico are also important factors in the development of black consciousness among Puerto Ricans. Mestizaje has had an even more powerful impact upon Dominicans, and their location in the United States has exposed the contradictions inherent in their physical blackness and their determination to claim a mestizo consciousness despite the racism that they experience in the United States.

In the English-speaking Caribbean, a consciousness based on color emerged during and after slavery. A white colonial class and a colored elite dominated a peasant and working-class black majority. In Jamaica, efforts to challenge this domination took shape in many movements such as Rastafarianism, the Garvey movement, and the black power movements of the 1970s. In Trinidad as well, black consciousness found expression in organizations and challenges to colonial authority. A black power movement emerged there in the 1970s, as it did in several other islands. These movements testify not only to black consciousness in the islands, but also to the links between African societies in the diaspora.

About Quianna Canada

Quianna Canada is an anti-police brutality activist, author, and opinion writer living in the United States.
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One Comment

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