Note from BW of Brazil: I know that most people would rather just blow this at paranoia, or at worst, whining, people who are victims of differential treatment know it when they feel it. If you’re a person or part of a group that is considered inferior or outside of the standard, sometimes it is quite obvious when you stop and think about it. There are all sorts of prejudices that exist that place one group at a disadvantage compared to another group, so if you happen to be a woman, gay, disabled, Muslim or poor, you already know that you may face certain discriminatory behaviors depending on the environment you frequent. This is pretty well known, but why is it so difficult for some people to believe that black people are also a stigmatized group that face discriminatory behavior?
In a world in which people with pale skin pass by without even recognizing the privileges they have simply because of their lack of melanin, I sometimes think that, deep down, even denying such advantages, they know the truth.
Whiteness functions in such a way in Brazil that people know that if actors Fabrício Boliveira and Emílio Dantas were just regular people, and had the same credentials, education and experiences, in a job opening at a big bank on Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima, which one would most likely be chosen for the position. Yes, people DO know this, it’s just a small number of people who are willing to publicly acknowledge it (see here and here, for example). If you happen to be a person from the dominant group, you’re probably scoffing at this article right now fully believing that everything you have in life you earned through just your hard work. That’s cool. You’re free to keep on believing that. But for those of us interested in deconstructing the myth from the reality, the discussion will continue.
Country reacts to the economic crisis without deterring racial prejudice
Income of black workers was, on average, 56.6% of the salary of whites from October to December 2017, compared to 57.2% in 2016. In the state of Minas Gerais, difference worsened, 60.7% to 59.6%
By Marta Vieira
The perception that it was the skin color of Jessica Ribeiro, 23, that led to her being passed over in a job interview emerged from the exchange of looks with the interviewer responsible for the selection of candidates for vacancies for packing lunchboxes in the kitchen of a restaurant in Belo Horizonte. Jessica’s white sister-in-law began to work the next day and soon after another white worker completed the staff of the company’s personnel. A similar story was repeated on the day in which the driver João Esteves Miranda, 38, expected his dreamed of promotion and lost the position to a white colleague.
“I preferred to think that he (the colleague) was smarter than me but it gives a tightness in the heart to see how white people have more opportunities have to study, work and pursue a career,” said João, while filling out a form, last week, at an employment agency of Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. The unemployment and low wages persist in an economy that returned to growing, but that is not able to contain the increase in inequality in the labor market among afrodescendentes (African descendants) and the white population of white.
On May 13th, the country completed 130 years since the abolition of slavery, with a perverse balance in the labor market from the point of view of race. The companies of Minas Gerais closed the fourth quarter of last year by paying the black workers 59.6% of the wages that they give white employees. The difference in the average of the country is 56.6%. The data refer to the most recent survey released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).
Five years ago, in 2012, the last period of growth of the economy before the recent recession, the gap was smaller. Black workers in Minas earned, at the end of that year, 60.7% of salary of their white companions. In the country, the average was 57.22% of the salaries of white employees. It’s a double sacrifice for afrodescendentes at a time when the country searches for recovery.
Economic growth alone will not solve the inequality at work and income motivated by prejudice of color, alerts the researcher Aguinaldo Nogueira Maciente, coordinator of Work and Rural Development of the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea). “Well-controlled studies of the Ipea show that, in fact, there are reasons for the wage differences that are not explained by the lack of qualification. They exist for the reason of the dealing with preto ou pardo (black or brown) workers,” he says. The Institute conducted surveys based on the experiences of workers who have the same qualification and working time.
Aguinaldo Maciente highlights that there have been moments in Brazil during the last decade in which the jobs of lower remuneration – in general, those offered to preto or pardo workers – had increases in excess of those applied in salaries for jobs that require university level. In the same way, the economy has improved the condition of these workers, depending on the school formation, and the difference in schooling in relation to whites decreased, but did not bring equality to the labor market.
According to data from the IBGE for Minas Gerais, preta (black) workers represented the universe of 1.173 million within the working population in the state, the equivalent to 11.7% of the group of 10.005 million in the fourth quarter of 2017. Among the unemployed, they amounted to 183 thousand, i.e., 15.4% of the total of 1.293 million without work. The inequalities that sacrifice the afrodescendentes become exponential in those areas of the country that lack of qualifying opportunities and access to education.
The situation of Minas is aggravated by the fact that the state brings together rich regions, following the example of the Triângulo (Triangle) and the South of Minas, and very poor areas like Jequitinhonha, a portrait of social inequality. “It is a great first step to give access to quality education, but finally the inequality requires public policies such as those geared toward quotas, which tends to diminish the differences, and programs that enhance successful experiences in companies that aren’t shaken by preconceito racial (racial prejudice).” The UFMG professor Mário Rodarte, specialist in the labor market, also defends the quota system and broad policies to combat discrimination.
The lack of employment opportunities, as noted by Mário Rodarte is felt mainly among women, blacks and young people, reinforcing the differences observed in the history of Brazil. Another factor is the concentration of income in the country, which widens the gap between the extremes of the social pyramid, by differentiation of color, considering that the richest are, in general, the whites. “The inequality between blacks and non-blacks is structural and historic because there is still an active and oiled mechanism which leads to inequality of the past to the present and future. To obstruct these gears that reproduce inequality, we need to expand actions such as Bolsa Família, generating income for families, with the condition that the children remain in schools of good quality.”
In the fight for the dreams
Looking for employment with a signed work contract, Jéssica Ribeiro says that she’s already lost account of interviews for which she was selected without ever having been chosen for the job. “It’s the way they look at and talk to us. I realize, then, that the color has already been placed as a barrier,” she complains. The search for work with guaranteed social rights becomes a struggle for the young mother of three children, who has worked as a hairdresser, a caregiver for the elderly and a sales clerk.
Without fixed work for four years, Jéssica didn’t finish high school, stopped going to school and postponed her dream of opening her own beauty salon and attend the college of medicine or law. The driver João Esteves Miranda saw himself in the same situation, forced to wait for the possibility to buy a car and work for himself. The hopelessness with politicians make him think it will be very difficult to go back to school and see Brazil grow.
Coordinator of the working area of the IPEA, Aguinaldo Maciente, recalls that the sectors that employ more abundant skilled labor, in particular the trade and services sector, suffered greatly in the recent crisis in the country and in spite of the reaction observed at the end of last year a return to long term growth needs to be initiated. These are the segments that pose the least skilled occupations, performed in a larger number by the population of pretos and pardos.
Realizing the dream of being the owner of one’s own business has shown itself, for the black population, to be a port of entry into a world of inclusion and social ascent. The number of afrodescendente entrepreneurs in the country grew by 47% between 2001 and 2014, from 8.7 million to 12.8 million, based on the most recent data from IBGE that served the elaboration of the study Donos de Negócio por Raça/Cor (Business Owners by race/color), released in 2017. In the same period, it evolved a modest 3% the universe of white business owners. The population of black entrepreneurs moved from 43% to 51%.
The dream carried out does not mean, however, getting rid of inequalities. Rafael Gregório Malaquias, analyst of education of the Sebrae Minas, draws attention to the fact that the conditions of black business owners reflect the racist social structure in the country and its impact on the desire of this group to undertake. In this activity, whites earn twice as much as afrodescendentes.
“There is the reflection of a state of public policies that the country has, as well as the difficulty of this population to access income for financing and knowledge on content relevant to the management of a company,” he says. Working in a perspective of change, Sebrae prepares a program calls Sebrae de Plurais (Sebrae of plurals), to identify the diversity that characterizes the society, whether in serving blacks, women and the LGBT community, and thus direct more assistance to these audiences.