In Zadie Smith’s novel “White Teeth”, there is a scene involving a Cuban prostitute in Amsterdam. It is no more than a few lines long, if memory serves me right, and it is completely inconsequential to the rich, multi-layered plot. Yet, when I first read the scene, it made me feel uncomfortable.

Analysing my reaction years later, I realised that my mistake had been to place more emphasis on the perception people had of Cubans…