"I Stopped For You Because You're White"

05/25/2011 02:35 pm ET
  • Yoani Sanchez Publisher of 14ymedio, independent newspaper in Cuba

"I stopped for you because you're white," the taxi driver tells me after the tires screech in Reina Street around midnight. From his wide mulatto lips come the justifications, one after another, for why he doesn't accept clients "of color" at this late hour. He looks for complicity in me, who was born in a majority black neighborhood and who loves skin the color of cinnamon. I barely listen to him. Those who discriminate against people like themselves especially bother me: the hotel doorman who berates the Cuban but lets a shouting gesturing tourist pass; the prostitute who will go, for ten convertible pesos, with a Canadian twice her age but doesn't want to seem "defeated" by accepting a fellow Cuban; the Santiaguan who, once installed in Havana, mocks the accents of people from his own city.

Often I wake up and wish I was mixed, like Reinaldo and Teo, because when you look at my straight nose and my pale skin you think I have it easy. But it's not true. There are many ways of being separate, because along with racism here we have discrimination based on social origin, the stigma of ideological affiliation, and the exclusion for not belonging to a family clan with power, influence or relationships. Not to mention the underestimation one receives in a macho society for having a pair of ovaries hidden in the middle of your belly. And so I am bothered by the dissertation of the driver who stopped the car because of the pallor of my skin. I want to get out, but it's late, very late.

"What do you do?" he asks me under the streetlights of Belascoain Street. I'm a blogger, I warn him, and the lights of Carlos III Avenue show me his suspicious and fearful face. "Look, don't go and tell what I just said," he says, changing the indulgent tone he used when picking me up amid the gloom. "I don't want you to publish later some nonsense about me on the Internet," he clarifies, while grabbing his crotch in a gesture of power. My straight hair is no longer a reason to trust me, now my eyes don't seem so almond-shaped, and when I explain--through my narrow lips--the subjects I deal with in my blog, it's as if I am threatening him, razor in hand, a dangerous criminal. I confirm, then, that his spectrum of classification stigmatizes not only some shades of color, but also certain leanings of opinion, those tones which are not carried on the epidermis but that also lead, on this Island, to displays of segregation and rejection.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.