Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

Brazil conjures up the misleading notion of being a racial democracy, yet its Afro-Brazilian population continues to experience overt and covert forms of racism. In this special two part issue of Pambazuka News we seek to speak truth to whiteness in Brazil which is symptomatic of a global white supremacist thinking, despite the fact that people of colour are the majority in the world

The 20th of November every year celebrates the month of Black Consciousness in Brazil. This day commemorates the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, a Quilombo [Maroon"> leader. It is a date that has been growing in importance in the country within the agenda of the anti-racism struggle. Despite being a very important date in the Afro-Brazilian calendar, with approximately 1,000 municipalities having enacted it as a holiday, paradoxically, in the city of Salvador da Bahia, considered the capital of the African Diaspora, the 6th region of Africa, the anniversary does not have the proper official recognition. And this fact can be explained because of the extreme racial tensions which blacks face every day in the city. Also, some say that its due to the already existing high number of official holidays, but the deeper reason is that racism underlines the political decision not to officially permit blacks to spend a day working on the raising of black awareness.

Funded by the organization Christian Aid, Pambazuka in the Portuguese edition has among its objectives to disseminate amongst its readers the people's struggles for social justice in all areas of activism. The editorial board of the weekly Pambazuka News has therefore organized a special edition devoted exclusively to discussion of ‘Race Relations in Brazil’ in the three languages of the newsletter. However, on this occasion, both the French and English editions will be released in two parts (this week and next week) due to some technical issues.

Brazil has gradually occupied a prominent place among the great economic powers of the global South, and for the unsuspecting reader, the topic of ‘Race Relations in Brazil’ may seem worn, or even sound rather strange due to the image of Brazil as a tropical paradise, a sexy hot and racially mixed country. However, a somewhat more detailed analysis of everyday life in this country demonstrates easily that this theme is still very daring to the Brazilian people due to the founding myth of racial cordiality of this society.

Writers of different backgrounds were invited to submit articles to comprise the special edition. We have received contributions from political activists, researchers, career civil servants, women activists, artists, students – who have reflected on the theme of prejudice, discrimination and racial injustices that continue in Brazilian society today.

IVO DE SANTANA leads us to a deeper reflection on the public service in Brazil and the vicissitudes of being a black person willing to be a member of the so-called Brazilian middle class. Yet, despite economic growth, the barrier of skin color is still an obstacle in the professional rise of the individual in Salvador, and in Brazil in general.

SANDRO CORREIA invites us to reflect on the ‘Seal of Racial Ethnic Diversity’ in Salvador da Bahia. He considers it a public policy that aims to insert black men and women in the labor market and thus entrepreneurs who join the Seal are contributing to a positive representation of Afro-Brazilians in the social sphere. Sandro also points out in his article the religious motivation for creating the Seal.

Picking up the theme of the Third National Conference Against Racism, psychologist CELIA PRESTES analyzes in depth the methodological and academic consequences of racism and sexism in the lives of black women, because we can not speak of full development for Brazil, without equitable development for black women. The author concludes that resilience happens to be a major factor for the survival of black women, due to the frequent gender and race vulnerability that they live.

Professor VIVIANE MARCELINO focuses on the visibility of black students in the school system. According to the author, black students are easily labeled as unruly and backward and often confined in special rooms. For the author, the type of racism that is practiced in the school is a subtle one, only revealed by pedagogical attitudes aimed at disciplining the young black body.

Researchers MÁRCIO ANDRÉ AND MARIA CLÁUDIA CARDOSO write about the dilemmas faced by Social Movements confronted by institutionalization, particularly black movements in Brazil. Positive and negative results are achieved when the so-called ‘co-optation’ of movements by the state machine occurs.

In a second paper about the implementation of the teaching of African History and Blacks in Brazil, both authors make direct reference to the drawbacks of implementation of the Law 10.639/03 in the Brazilian educational system. This law is the result of decades of social movements fighting; the black movements in Brazil seeking to see the history of black people taught in school curriculum. Also, it’s a result of demands of Brazilians during the Durban Conference or the World Conference against Racism in 2001 and a government promise to work on affirmative actions in Brazil. For the authors, the difficulty in implementing the law is directly related to the conceptions that teachers and school managers have on race relations which are strongly tied to the myth of Brazil being a racial democracy. Such misconceptions engender the difficulty of managing multiculturalism in the classroom. Thus racism contributes to difficulties in teaching and learning as well as low self esteem of black students and non-white ones.
Journalist ALISON STREIT makes a significant contribution on the serious consequences of childhood racism. Seeking to answer questions such as: How does a person become racist? What are the consequences for the adult who suffered racism as a child? The author leads us through case after case of racism involving children, concluding that the results are manifested in poor school performance, low self-esteem, feelings of anguish and anger, relationship difficulties and denial of self-image.

LILIANE BRAGA debates in his piece the presence of African arts on the outskirts of São Paulo. According to the author, the artistic expressions come from the periphery of events that make up the everyday life. There is a disconnection between daily life and artistic experience. For the author, the place of the black is essential for the growth of an artistic pulse defined as marginal. Manifestations like Hip Hop literature reading circles, theater groups and story telling groups are analyzed in the text in order to bring together a vision of Africanness.

The author PABLO MATOS analyzes comparative race relations in Brazil through an observation of the case of Amarildo, who was a bricklayer's assistant killed by the Rio police in Rio de Janeiro. Black, poor and hardworking, Amarildo’s case carries the meanings of race relations in Brazil and strengthens, according to the author, the violence of our everyday racism. According to Matos, Amarildo was subjected to violence by the police of the State of Rio de Janeiro; he had been stigmatized as a result of the fact that he was resident in one of the largest slums in the city. A detailed analysis of the case reveals a culture of violence that tortures and kills young blacks who are often simultaneously poor slum dwellers.

Finally, until very recently Brazil faced the case of corruption called ‘Mensalão’ which was judged by the Supreme Court Minister, Mr. Joaquim Barbosa. Due to the fact that he is a black man and brings the ‘burden’ of his history in his body, he was not excused of being referred to as a ‘monkey in the law’ or other derogatory racist names. Professor PARTRICIA TEIXERIA brings a brief contribution on racism for this case and a debate on what she calls the ‘candid racism of the good ones and tough racism of the bad ones.’

Pambazuka News wishes in this special edition to expose and deconstruct the false notion that Brazil is a racial harmony. Our poverty has a colour. In addition to that, the prison population and the statistics of young people violently killed every day throughout Brazil is a reality. It is a reality that is integral to the global ideology of white supremacy that also exists in North America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia and the UK where people of African descent – or people of colour, experience racial inequalities and discrimination in health, education and at the hands of the unjust justice system. Willingly or unwillingly, we need to openly question whiteness, particularly the white privileges that manifest in Brazil and impact detrimentally on the lives of Afro-Brazilians. A national awareness about the dehumanization of black people and the pernicious consequences of racism for all Brazilians will continue to have an impact if it is not challenged and erradicated.

* Alyxandra Gomes Nunes is Editor of the Portuguese edition of Pambazuka News



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.