This week, two resolutions put before the Miami Beach Commission served as a microcosm of conversations and, sometimes, arguments going on throughout South Florida regarding discriminatory practices.
One issue, put forth by Commissioner Michael Grieco, proposed blocking the establishment of a Cuban consulate on Miami Beach.
The measure passed by a narrow 4-3 margin. Mayor Philip Levine proposed a commerce and travel ban on the states of North Carolina and Mississippi for the recently adopted legislation permitting discrimination against LGBT Americans.
That motion was passed unanimously. While the two agenda items seem worlds apart at face value, they both boil down to the basic principle of fighting discrimination.
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The vote over the potential Cuban consulate occurred as the ethical brouhaha broke out over Carnival Corp.’s acceptance of Cuban law that discriminates against Cuban-born American citizens who want to visit the island by ship.
More than a rebuke of Levine and Commissioner Ricky Arriola’s efforts to bring the consulate to Miami Beach — insensitive but not ill intentioned — the four majority votes on the commission (Grieco plus John Elizabeth Aleman, Kristen Rosen-Gonzalez and Micky Steinberg) sent a clear message to the Cuban government that it must make greater good-faith efforts before city governments in Greater Miami begin to conduct routine business with Cuba.
Interestingly, all the Miami Beach commissioners agreed with Mayor Levine’s proposal to embargo North Carolina and Mississippi because of their laws that allow discrimination against LGBT people in those states. While I wholeheartedly agree with the repudiation of the malevolent laws, I would ask my friends and colleagues who support blind, undiscerning openness with Cuba if they do not see the double standard?
Could not one employ the same arguments used against the U.S. embargo on Cuba such as “a ban only hurts the people” or “people-to-people contact would help develop change in the mindset of North Carolinians and Mississippians”?
I’m not suggesting that we not engage with the Cuban dictatorship and simply ignore their existence — I am advocating for an aggressive engagement that demands and requires movement on behalf of the Cuban tyrant. Talks and restricted exchange and commerce should continue, but lifting the embargo should wait until the Cuban dictatorship yields on issues relating to human rights and self determination and democracy for all Cubans.
We should also distinguish the differences between President Obama’s earnest engagement approach and, on the other hand, the opportunists and greedy capitalists who want to be first in line to do business with Cuba’s dictatorial regime, regardless of their unethical laws and practices.
Carnival’s acceptance of Cuba’s demands, which clearly discriminate against naturalized American citizens born in Cuba, is part and parcel of the blind dash for the illusive Cuban pot of gold. Though well disguised, the cruise line’s capitulation has little to do with establishing a better rapport with the Cuban people or improving their lives through personal contact.
It is nothing more than a coldly calculated business decision, barren of ethics or care for the human condition.
It is, sadly, what the culture of American business has devolved into in the last century. Some make a convincing argument that this has always been the corporate edict of American business.
The most difficult pill to swallow in this entire affair has been the fact that this is an overt slap in the face by our home-grown Carnival Corp. (and, by extension, the Miami Heat, which is also owned by Micky Arison) to thousands of Cuban Americans who work for the corporation, have taken Carnival cruises over the years or have simply supported the Miami Heat.
So much for loyalty — Go LeBron and the Cavs!