Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Brazil’s Workers’ Party has been in power since 2002 with strong support from Afro-Brazilians – But does the party simply exploit the black vote to remain in power?


Presidents Lula da Silva (top) and Dilma Rousseff of the PT (Workers' Party). Brazil's last two presidents who have been in power since 2002 - Sticker: "Conscience black votes Dilma for president"

Presidents Lula da Silva (top) and Dilma Rousseff of the PT (Workers’ Party). Brazil’s last two presidents who have been in power since 2002 – Sticker: “Conscience black votes Dilma for president”

Note from BW of Brazil: In reality, if we study other situations around the world, this scenario is quite familiar. Underprivileged black populations lend their loyalty to a party that it believes has its best interest, and in some ways, this seems to be the case. But upon closer analysis, things haven’t in fact changed that much and in some ways are unchanged or even worse than before. Brazil’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT or Workers’ Party) has been in power since 2003, with Presidents Lula da Silva (2003-2010) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-present) having won a combined four straight elections and guaranteeing the party’s command of the country until at least the end of 2018. 

For some black Brazilians, improvements in the situation of the black population since 2003 show obvious reasons for why the PT should remain the clear choice for Afro-Brazilians. Blacks have entered universities in numbers that are unprecedented in the nation’s history. This parcel of the population have also moved into the middle class in record numbers. On the other hand, the rate of murders of black Brazilians have been called genocidal for good reason, political representation remains almost null and void and the overall public educational situation continues to leave the masses of black people out of the race for social ascension. 

Rumblings that make accusations of the exploitation of the black population for votes in order to remain in power have been made by some experts for some time now, but one has to wonder if it would really have mattered if the other major party, the PSDB, had won the election. In last year’s election season, none of the final three candidates even touched upon issues of racial inequality in the debates and as some have pointed out, the black population had no mechanism for holding any of the candidates responsible for any promises as none of them even made any promises for this parcel of the population.

With that said, the PT did have an edge over the PSDB in terms of the black vote, winning by a total of about 55-37% according to pre-election estimates, this doesn’t represent an overwhelming advantage. So what are the options for Afro-Brazilians if they want more of their demands met by political representatives? Well, this writer is never one to believe in any politician connected to big money and for good reason as we’ve seen from two huge scandals that have rocked the administrations of both Lula (mensalão) and Dilma (Petrobras). The bottom line here is that as long as Afro-Brazilians continue to remain unorganized as a strong political/economic force and dependent upon big name/big money (white) politicians, they will never be able to have their demands met. This is not to say that having a black president is necessarily the answer either as we’ve seen in situations in the United States and South Africa.

In the following piece, Flávio Leandro introduces an article on this topic by Éder Souza

Who is the Capitão do Mato (sell-out/traitor) (1), the one who is led by the bridle, by the political parties or those who prefer an independent, united fighting for the cause of blackness?

The biggest idiocy for a black is to feel happy and fulfilled to be a page of politicians, negotiating the Black and Quilombola cause in exchange for public office and base metal.

Do not forget that it was the sinhozinhos (little slave masters) of the PT who left the order for the black leader of the party Sérvulo de Oliveira, to use social networks to threaten with death Minister Joaquim Barbosa.

And all you servants of Zé Dirceu (2) for life, were silent and pretended that nothing was happening.

Brazilian blackness has been discriminated against, scorned, ignored, folklorized, discarded and excluded, exactly because of black professionals and traders of the race, who wallow in political parties, in search of a snack. Indifferent to the evils released on his own equals.

Hugs.

Flávio Leandro

Black people, free yourself from the PT (Workers’ Party)

By Éder Souza

Dilma and Lula of the PT: A combined four straight election victories

Dilma and Lula of the PT: A combined four straight election victories

Throughout Brazilian history, blacks have always had a greater part of the time the weight of theState against him. During the colonial period, slavery that fell upon the population brought by force from Africa was brutal, and the few blacks who managed to excel under these adverse conditions such as Xica da Silva and Henrique Dias, were always at the expense of adversities and explicit and implied warnings that this was not the “lugar de negro” (place of the black).

With independence in 1822, things didn’t change much. Men like Machado de Assis and André Rebouças, two of the greatest Brazilians in their fields, managed to get social recognition for their expertise despite being black and having a negative social burden because of their ethnicity and African origin in a still slave society.

Soldier/militia leader Henrique Dias, engineer and abolicionist André Rebouças and writer Machado de Assis

Soldier/militia leader Henrique Dias, engineer and abolicionist André Rebouças and writer Machado de Assis

The twentieth century, despite advances, was not easy for blacks in Brazil. As in previous periods, its music, religion, dances and forms of expression were constantly persecuted by the state and was constantly trying to “tame” the African descent in behavioral patterns judged to be acceptable for blacks, that is, put them in their “rightful place”.

Today in Brazil, there is still a sizable prejudice against blacks even after the struggles of the last century that brought civil equality in various parts of the world (such as the end of apartheid in South Africa) and greater access to consumption and education. Blacks are still the most numerous inhabitants of periphery areas; those who are in greater numbers of extreme poverty; those who occupy positions of lower pay; the biggest victims of violent crimes; and those with the lowest levels of education.

Many of these black and poor, during the late 1990s and the first decade of this century saw the in PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores/Workers’ Party) a party that fought for the marginalized. With a flag of social inclusion, political ethics and fight against prejudice, the party won little by little, large sections of the middle class, the university intelligentsia and stratum of the poorer classes. With this political capital and a sidewalk campaign in search of ethics and social equity values ​​for the lower classes, the party crowned the discourse of national unity in the “Letter to Brazilians.”

However, with the crisis of the mensalão (3) the flag of PT ethics fell to the ground. The solution to remaining in power was radical discourse and enlarging the fractures that exist within the nation. Now it’s us against them! The rich against the poor! The black against white! The gay against straight!

President Dilma Rousseff meets some of her supporters

President Dilma Rousseff meets some of her supporters

This abject rhetoric has the ideal to exploit the social divisions of the country to dominate. The important thing is to win the election, even at the expense of an irresponsible discourse. A ruler or someone who wants to govern has a duty to unify the country around a program that includes in it most of the nation, cannot play with existing social divisions and further them to stay in power. But this doesn’t interest the Workers Party addressing the issue of poverty. It doesn’t matter to the PT to improve education. It doesn’t matter to the Workers Party to attack homophobia up front. The Workers’ Party has no interest in defeating racism.

If the PT really was interested in the improvement and the ascension of blacks, hit would have worked to improve the public schools, where the majority of blacks study. However, we figure into the last places in the ranking of world education. If they were really interested in improving the lives of blacks, they would have invested in public safety, preventing the collapse of the country to having almost 60,000 murders per year, with the greatest victims being blacks from the periphery (slums).

If the PT were really interested in the improvement of blacks in society, it would have thought of serious social inclusion policies, such as the recovery of education and health, not in palliatives such as racial quotas, which only serve to mask the real problem and not solve anything. They were always full by the crumbs given by populist governments in Latin America and always full of all sorts, they never took their beneficiaries anywhere other than greater dependence on the State.

Ministers of President Dilma Rousseff's second term

                          Ministers of President Dilma Rousseff’s second term

If the government values ​​the ascension of blacks, where are of afrodescendents (African descendants) in the Dilma (Rousseff) government? And in the PT power structures? Find the black in the party leadership and the current government ministry (the ministry of Racial Equality doesn’t count as it only exists to say that there are some blacks in power. The most important thing that this ministry did today was to try to censor the reading of Monteiro Lobato). Even when you put blacks in a prominent position, as in the case of Joaquim Barbosa, it’s always to show how generous the party is, but if the recipient in some way acts against the interests of the party, he is soon called “ungrateful black” and “capitão do mato” (captain of the woods, sell-out, house negro) by militants.

Because I say that blacks do not need welfare. They need citizenship and to have access to a good education for their children to get into good universities and build their future. Blacks don’t need a government that says it defends them, they need security so that they can, like all living in Brazil, regardless of ethnicity, arrive home in tranquility and not be victims of unpunished crimes. Blacks don’t need a government that uses the flag against racism just to get elected.

Blacks, in their history in Brazil, grew, developed and influenced the culture at all levels. We got here, no thanks to State, but in spite of the State. Persecutions, intimidations and harassment of all kinds didn’t subdue us, but strengthened us. We don’t let a party, which surreptitiously promotes conflict against other Brazilians of the white skin color only as power strategy, dominate us. We don’t fail to see in our neighbor what unites us as human, not just what sets us apart. We don’t allow ourselves to be enslaved for mere fallacious discourses. The reality is that the PT did not fight for blacks. It fights only for itself and to remain in power.

It’s time to stand up and assume that the race cannot be an electoral argument, and that is immoral taking political advantage of black, poor and humble people. We all want full citizenship, and respect with our taxes, schools, hospitals and infrastructure. We can go without the crumbs of the State.

Black people, it’s time to liberate yourself from the PT.

Éder Souza – Historian and Professor of History

Source: Jornal Negritude

Notes

1. Capitão do mato, meaning ‘captain of the wood’, was the title given to the black man whose main task was to hunt down, capture and return fugitive slaves to captivity in Brazil’s slavery era. Brazilians use the term to define blacks who collude to disrupt the success of other blacks. The term has popped up numerous times in previous articles.

2. José Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva is a former Brazilian politician that had his political rights suspended by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies and has been found guilty on charges of active corruption and conspiracy in two separate lawsuits judged by the Brazilian Supreme Court. Dirceu’s departure as Lula’s Chief-of-Staff is attributed to his masterminding of a massive corruption scheme in the legislature, the Mensalão scandal. Source

3. The Mensalão scandal (Escândalo do Mensalão), was a vote-buying case of corruption that threatened to bring down the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2005. Mensalão is a neologism and variant of the word for “big monthly payment” (salário mensal or mensalidade). Source

5 comments on “Brazil’s Workers’ Party has been in power since 2002 with strong support from Afro-Brazilians – But does the party simply exploit the black vote to remain in power?

  1. Black
    June 4, 2015

    A black president would be African Brazilians nightmare…

  2. bamabrasileira
    June 5, 2015

    I would say that the original author of this piece has grossly oversimplified the nature of Brazilian politics/ ALL politics and the current fate of Afro-Brazilians. I have also seen this gross oversimplification happen among Black people in my native country, America.

    Brazilians tend to think of politics in terms of party, rather than in terms of who is best for the job. The fact is that the country IS highly divided along racial lines. And I would argue that Lula DID put the cause of Black Brazilians in the spotlight and was responsible for nationalizing the bolsa familia program ( which dispropotionately and correctly benefits poor Black people), and the PT party is responsible for nationalizing Affirmative Action in universities and with governmental jobs. Lula also appointed the first Black Supreme Court justice, using his presidential power, rather than relying on the normal process. He also publicly spoke out about the lack of Black Brazilians in notable positions such as medicine and management. Also, where I live in the northeast, I have observed the local PT government investing a lot of money into the public school system and into creating urgent care clinics throughout the city, to alleviate overcrowding the hospitals (but I also know that the local and state governments of Ceara have an unusually intelligent and strong Governor and Mayor at this time).

    However, things have gone awry for the PT party because Lula is the intellegent lower class person who climbed his way to the top. Dilma, on the other hand, is a dumb, rich white girl.In my observations since I have been here, MANY of the problems of Brazil are here because the majority of the power is in the hands of rich, white Brazilians who have paid a lot of money to “educate” their kids, but who do not teach them basic life skills like time management, money management, or common sense and basic problem solving. On the other hand, when I observe formally lower class Brazilians who have been able to educate themselves into management positions or business ownership, they tend to be MUCH better at solving problems, anticipating problems before they occur, and multitaskingn- all skills that I have RARELY (if ever) observed in the typical rich, white Brazilian in my area.

    I have also noticed that the majority of the Brazilians tend to be overly reliant on the government for virtually everything — regardless of race or social class. If you ask a person in my city why they are throwing their trash on the street instead of in a trash can, they will tell you that the government never taught them otherwise. If you ask them why the parents at some of these crappy public schools dont support the teachers and their children inside those schools, they will say that education is the sole responsibility of the government. And if you ask them why they are not taking advantage of the numerous FREE, governmentally sponsored educational programs (everything from free language classes to vocational training), they would say that the government didnt tell them about the programs. It is not difficult to see that many of the poor Blacks of Brazil claim NO responsibility for their own lives, just as many poor Black Americans claim NO responsibility for what happens to them. This dynamic changes exponentially for Blacks in both countries who stress education or who move into the higher classes and are. Yes, they still experience low level racism. However, their entire concept of life and how they see themselves is not deeply tied to whether or not a white person called them a n*gger.

    I would also say that the author of this piece needs to bone up on exactly what politics is because ALL politicians in ALL democratic societies are exploiting someone for votes! I would also say that Black Brazilians must work even harder to not be overly reliant on the government to do things for them. They must figure out ways to organize themselves and help themselves in as many ways as possible. They must communicate to each other the numerous opportunities that ARE available and stress education for their children. What they cannot do is sit back and wait for the government and white people to start caring for them enough to fix life for them, because they are damning themselves to a life lived in purgatory.

    • gatasnegrasbrasileiras
      June 5, 2015

      Hello “bamabrasileira”!! And thank you for your comments as usual!

      Allow me to say though, it’s ironic that you made reference to the situation of African-Americans because many of the same tactics I’m seeing used in Brazil remind of those used by specifically the Democratic Party in the US in regards to the black population.

      Here’s how I see a few of your points.

      “Lula DID put the cause of Black Brazilians in the spotlight and was responsible for nationalizing the bolsa familia program (which dispropotionately and correctly benefits poor Black people)”

      I think Lula was the first president to implement the policies although he simply followed up on something actually started by FHC. For me, I agree with the writer of the text. Many of these tactics are simply “band-aids”. The system is based upon inequality which would make something like “bolsa familia” appear to be a good idea. What I see is one Communist idea (welfare payments) covering up for another form of Communism (slave wages, unemployment and high taxes). The system is made to benefit elites and not making an overall change while giving the idea that it is doing something.

      “the PT party is responsible for nationalizing Affirmative Action in universities and with governmental jobs.”

      A similar tactic I saw used in the US. Big government and dependency. What I see here is that, as the author wrote also, the government passing out crumbs while they maintain the status quo and helping to solidify loyalty among those it claims to help. Also, as in the US, in the end, after such handouts, blacks won’t bite the hand that feeds them even when that hand is taking food off their plate. The disappointing Congressional Black Caucus and civil rights organizations are a great example of this. They have become part of the machine, part of the problem and cannot affect any change because they are eating well helping to maintain the status quo while overall black communities suffer.

      “Lula also appointed the first Black Supreme Court justice”

      For me, this is simply window-dressing. Lula, like Bill Clinton, knows that black people like seeing individual black people in high positions even if it doesn’t directly affect the situation of the community. This is what is dangerous about the positions of black elites. Once they become elites, they often don’t represent their racial group but rather the political group that put them and power.

      “ALL politicians in ALL democratic societies are exploiting someone for votes! ”

      Totally agree here. My point would be that black populations throughout the world must begin to learn economic solidarity. Without it, there’s no power and NO political party in the world listens to communities with no power. Which re-enforces the point of the article: exploitation.

      • bamabrasileira
        June 6, 2015

        Thanks Gatas! I will respond to what you have written:

        “Allow me to say though, it’s ironic that you made reference to the situation of African-Americans because many of the same tactics I’m seeing used in Brazil remind of those used by specifically the Democratic Party in the US in regards to the black population.”

        I would say that all politicians and political groups have segments of the population that they target for votes. The Democratic/PT party targeting the interests of Black people is really no different to me than the Republican or PSDB parties targeting the interests of white middle class and wealthy people to get their votes. I see this as politics 101, rather than a nefarious conspiracy that is somehow unique to the PT party of Brazil. We as Black people must be able to discern what is what by correctly applying context to whatever we are viewing.

        “I think Lula was the first president to implement the policies although he simply followed up on something actually started by FHC. For me, I agree with the writer of the text. Many of these tactics are simply “band-aids”. The system is based upon inequality which would make something like “bolsa familia” appear to be a good idea. What I see is one Communist idea (welfare payments) covering up for another form of Communism (slave wages, unemployment and high taxes). The system is made to benefit elites and not making an overall change while giving the idea that it is doing something.”

        When we look at the history of Brazilian politics (in which we see incoming politicians completely forgetting about effective policies created by previous politicians) I think it is actually quite exceptional that Lula nationalized and regulated the bolsa familia program! Even FHC wasnt the first to think of such a program. The true groundwork for this program was laid by Cristovam Buarque in Brasilia, expounded upon by Cardoso, and finally nationalized and regulated by Lula,as I understand. Considering that ALL developed nations have a basic welfare safety net compatible with bolsa familia, I would say this was a HUGE step in the right direction. Before this, as I understand, you had a lot of people just starving to death and left completely without resources. If people are worried about where their next meal is going to come from, you can forget about trying to educate them, keep them healthy, or providing a means of social mobility for them.

        “A similar tactic I saw used in the US. Big government and dependency. What I see here is that, as the author wrote also, the government passing out crumbs while they maintain the status quo and helping to solidify loyalty among those it claims to help. Also, as in the US, in the end, after such handouts, blacks won’t bite the hand that feeds them even when that hand is taking food off their plate. The disappointing Congressional Black Caucus and civil rights organizations are a great example of this. They have become part of the machine, part of the problem and cannot affect any change because they are eating well helping to maintain the status quo while overall black communities suffer.”

        I do not see Affirmative Action programs as a “tactic” whose sole purpose is to gain Black political support. Rather, they are programs that are put into place to assure social mobility for Blacks who live in a place in which the cards are clearly stacked against them educationally and socially. Calling it a tactic I think really misses the success of such programs. If you read about Affirmative Action in US, I would encourage you to read statistics (Black doctors, executives, etc. BEFORE Affirmative Action vs AFTER Affirmative Action). Many people claim that it hasnt worked in America, but I know that I am one of millions of African Americans who clearly benefited from having these policies put into place! All the policies gave me was opportunities that I might not normally have had. I still had to do the work, and nothing has ever been “given” to me by anyone except my parents. I would say that in a country where Black people had basically NO chance of moving out of poverty (unless they were one of the lucky few), the bolsa familia program and Affirmative Action are effective and necessary policies, rather than “crumbs”. Due to these programs like these, the country now has more educated and upwardly mobile Blacks who are graduating university than it has EVER had! Also, unfortunately in the media, middle class and wealthy African Americans/ Afro Brazilians are grossly underrepresented. The fact that there IS a Congressional Black Caucus in the United States government is quite significant, even if there are those who think they should have single-handedly solved racism by now, or that they need to be doing “more” 😀 !!

        I would also add that we must be careful not to get TOO caught up in the rhetoric of Black people who insist that we are all still slaves and that Blacks have made NO progress since slavery or the civil rights movement!! Instead, we have to ask the old people in our own communities if we have made progress. My grandparents would tell you that not having the KKK riding through neighborhoods and lynching people at will, not having to sit in the back of a bus,and having opportunities to become a doctor,lawyer, executive, business owner, or president does, indeed, signify that significant progress has been made!! We may not be where we WANT to be, but we mustn’t allow hyperbolic and extreme thinking (and ignorance of our recent history), make us forget that progress HAS been made! I would say the same is true in Brazil, though work still needs to be done.

        Also, if you feel that programs like bolsa familia , affirmative action, and minha casa minha vida are mere “band aids”, then what would you have the government do? Ensuring access to education, access to food, access to jobs, and access to owning a house is a good starting point, if you ask me…
        However, PT party is still run by rich white people – just like all the other parties. The author makes a point that there are few Black politicians, but I must admit that I have NEVER seen a Black person even attempting to run for office of any kind here!! That might be a good start, if Black Brazilians would like to see Black politicians in office! It is naive to think that the current elitist government is going to go around the country, scouting out Black politicians and placing them into political office by divine right (which is what the author seems to be looking for).

        “For me, this is simply window-dressing. Lula, like Bill Clinton, knows that black people like seeing individual black people in high positions even if it doesn’t directly affect the situation of the community. This is what is dangerous about the positions of black elites. Once they become elites, they often don’t represent their racial group but rather the political group that put them and power.”

        Again, I would definitely say that, in a country that has NEVER had a Black person in any significantly powerful political office, the appointment of Joaquim Barbosa to the Supreme Court was significantly more than mere window dressing, though I can understand the desire to see more Black faces in positions of power in a country that is as Black as Brazil! I also think that Joaquim Barbosa was pretty representative of the community he came from, since he has had several interviews in which he spoke publically about racism and his difficulties in his career. However, if we expected him to single-handedly fix 500 years worth of racism in Brazil…well…you already know what I think about that!

        “My point would be that black populations throughout the world must begin to learn economic solidarity. ”

        I do not completely disagree with this statement. However, I would add that Black people must participate and contribute to the world in such a way that would give those of us with more money to support Black enterprises, the opportunity to support them. We cannot expect Black folks with money to spend to support us if our ideas are poorly developed or executed, or if we have too many pieces missing – not when there are other products on the market that of higher quality.

        Even more that economic solidarity, I would say that MANY of us need to learn how the freakin world works and then start participating in it as it is now! Waiting for it to change to suit our needs as a population is just asking for continued underperformance and underrepresentation in the world. Instead, we should study successful Black people and see what they did to become successful. Also, we must develop a collectively thicker skin so that hearing someone call us a racist name or behave in a disrespectful manner towards us in not enough to cause us to fail at the game of life because our feelings or pride are hurt!

  3. JHT
    June 8, 2015

    “I would also add that we must be careful not to get TOO caught up in the rhetoric of Black people who insist that we are all still slaves and that Blacks have made NO progress since slavery or the civil rights movement!! Instead, we have to ask the old people in our own communities if we have made progress. My grandparents would tell you that not having the KKK riding through neighborhoods and lynching people at will, not having to sit in the back of a bus,and having opportunities to become a doctor,lawyer, executive, business owner, or president does, indeed, signify that significant progress has been made!! We may not be where we WANT to be, but we mustn’t allow hyperbolic and extreme thinking (and ignorance of our recent history), make us forget that progress HAS been made! I would say the same is true in Brazil, though work still needs to be done.”

    Thank you for these words. It always amazes me how people simply cannot think logically when the historical truth is simply awful. I had a white history teacher in Brazil who used to say situation for blacks was worse than in 1990. I’m not arguing people should be simple miinded and naiv, but really many, many times, the obvious is the correct answer (affirmative action is good for blacks, having a black minister is also and yes, no slavery and KKK is definitely an improvement – too much conspiracy theories around).

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