I respect Justice Clarence Thomas a great deal, so George Curry isn't someone I'm inclined to praise.
While editor in chief of Emerge magazine, Curry mocked Justice Thomas as a marionette of white conservatives. A 1993 cover depicted Thomas with a handkerchief around his head à la Aunt Jemima and as a lawn jockey on the November 1996 cover.
Curry got Justice Thomas obscenely wrong, but at least he gets Cuba right.
Curry and other black journalists recently went to Havana – capital of America's closest sponsor of terrorism – for a colloquy with Cuban "journalists." Curry knew that journalism means something different in Cuba than in America, but he hoped he and his peers would have some commonality with their hosts.
His hope wasn't fulfilled. "If any of us were momentarily lulled into believing that these were our counterparts," Curry writes in "Reporting on Cuba's 'Reporters' " (http://www.blackpressusa.com/op-ed/Speaker.asp?NewsID=2371), "that impression was quickly shattered when several declared that they had supported the Castro revolution in 1959 and view their job today as helping those in power. I cringed. These are not journalists, I thought, these are government public relations agents. Actually, I was more derisive – I called them 'flacks.'"
To be a journalist in Cuba, one must belong to the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC, or
Witnessing Cuba's totalitarianism made Curry think of his rights as an American: "At home, we can openly question George W. Bush's intelligence [or deride Justice Thomas], but here it is unlawful to be disrespectful of Castro."
Curry isn't being figurative; "disrespect," or
One of these crushed voices belongs to Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, sentenced to six years in November 1997 for disrespecting Castro and "Vice President" Carlos Lage during an interview. Forced labor and beatings have been perpetrated against Padrón in prison.
This man should be a professor, not a prisoner.
Neither did the regime's denial of race consciousness in Cuba – where people of color are a majority – persuade Curry. He reports, "[S]peak to any dark-skinned person on the streets of Havana and once they're convinced that you are not a government official, they will admit that both color and class remain staples of Cuban society."
As a black prisoner of conscience, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet wrote to Coretta Scott King in January 1999, "They [black Cubans] have a very low political, economic, and judicial representation in contrast to the numerous prevailing black penal population. This situation is never publicly manifested by the government but is a component of communism's subtle politics of segregation." Heroic black Cubans like Dr. Biscet and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez have been ripped from their families for criticizing Cuba's white autocrat.
He doesn't boast about having lunch with Castro, as Sharpton did on "The Chris Rock Show" in 2000.
He doesn't write about how Castro's "eyes shone with intelligent intensity," as Robinson does in "The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks."
He doesn't compare Castro to the Dalai Lama and rhapsodize over embracing him, as Walker does in "Anything We Love Can Be Saved." (See "Hugging Fidel.")
Curry appreciates what the black abolitionist and journalist Frederick Douglass said in 1860:
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