Note from BW of Brazil: Although another Month of Black Consciousness (November) has come and gone, the day-to-day of analyzing, debating and discussing the situation of Afro-Brazilians in order to come to an understanding of how to make improvements continues 24/7/365. Recently, a group of black activists came together to give their interpretations of what has been accomplish as well the ongoing long journey ahead.
Debate brings together black leadership: ‘Prejudice is hidden’
Chat discusses racism, expanding quotas, equality and importance of Day of Black Consciousness
Courtesy of O Dia
The cry of freedom of Zumbi dos Palmares, in November 1695, still echoes in Brazil. Today far from the shackles of the colony, black consciousness makes the debate about equality its greatest flag issue, requesting extension of quotas, qualification in the labor market, access to consumer goods and a ‘shock of consciousness’ about veiled racism. With the theme ‘O Negro e a Inclusão’ (The Black and Inclusion), O Dia (newspaper) does its third report of the series Zumbi do Brasil (Zumbi of Brazil), now bringing together black leadership. The chat with journalists André Balocco and Luiza Gomes joined with Dudu de Morro Agudo, of Enraizados, in Nova Iguaçu; Cris dos Prazeres, of Proa/Reciclação; Itamar Silva, of IBASE, and Marcelo Paixão, of the Laboratório de Análises Econômicas, Históricas, Sociais e Estatísticas das Relações Raciais (Laboratory of Economic, Historical, Social Analysis and Statistics of Race Relations), from UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro).
O Dia: How did you see the aggressiveness on social networks during the pre- and post-election? Was there was racism there?
ITAMAR: That moment simply revealed, played out in the face of the Brazilian, who we are without masks. For a long time, we cradled this illusion that our society is cordial, (that it) has no prejudice and, in fact, this prejudice is hidden. It can appear in some situations, whoever is black knows that…But in these elections this exploded very explicitly, in an amount, a volume that was no use for anyone to hide.
DUDU: Social networks have shown how much people are without shame, at least in this environment. And here we can see things we couldn’t see before. And that, however, has always existed. Racism is one of them.
ODIA: In which other occasions did racism shown itself clearly?
DUDU: I’ve noticed this in restaurants, shopping (malls), airports… There are places in which theoretically are not for blacks. When we start to enter these places, the regulars begin to act as if to say ‘come on, bro, go back to your place!’ Previously it was only the rich who flew on airplanes. When you saw a black, he was one or another artist. Today, the slum (residents) also go to the airport: blacks doing making shows in another state, a funkeiro (funk singer) traveling all over Brazil, it shocks (people).
ITAMAR: If blacks goes to the South Zone or Barra, it’s enough to just look at how many black families are having lunch there … Sometimes I go out with my son, and we count…Where are my peers? It is a force all the time to impose oneself, self-assertive, almost preparing (yourself) because the looks are exchanged… All the time. It’s not possible to think it’s normal that blacks can’t run circulate in these spaces in a tranquil way … Because of this, the rolezinho bothered (people) deeply. Because the mall is only allowed the well-dressed black, or with a white friend. If you strut a bit, it becomes collective panic.
O Dia: Is there is racism in Brazil?
ITAMAR: Some would say no, but there is clearly a reaction when discussing racial quotas in the university, for example. It is amazing how the guy, sometimes covered up by social networks, says violent things, and shows who this Brazilian is, slapping him on his back as if he can deal with this coexistence but when you approach to dispute what is rightfully yours, it bothers (them). This is where the perversity of Brazilian society is. It makes it seem like the least the government does for blacks, or other classes, seems (to be) an evil for the society. ‘Look how they are trying to stop the quality of a university education’. The Bolsa Família also, when you enter the discussion, the reaction is ‘look how the government runs its hand on the head of the poor, how it stimulates laziness’. And so it makes it so that the one that is a beneficiary of this right feels embarrassed.
MARCELO: There is racism in the world, and Brazilian society is part of the world. Brazilian society is not another planet…The country is inserted into a world system in which, for a long time, skin color has been used as an instrument to produce relations of subjection, domination and plunder. That itself is not only of Brazilian society … It is a mechanism to differentiate those who have, those who have not, those who can, those who cannot, those who will have power … The color is an instrument of production of social class. People have a certain physical appearance, and from that, they are ‘invited’ to occupy different spaces within the social pyramid. I have 70% of the workforce that works as maids are black women; 75% of peões (peons or low wage manual laborers) (are) black men. They are relations that reproduce themselves over generations.
ODIA: And the current policies, do they help?
MARCELO: Very slowly…Just ask all those who live in areas of the communities in which they work…
O DIA: And the new generation?
MARCELO: This, perhaps, can be benefited by the quotas…But we have to take into account the various perversities along the way. The first is the disincentive to continue in the school system. If you are young, male, black, between 15 and 17, you won’t find one in five studying in the correct grade, in high school. Either they lag behind or are out of school, working. If you exit (school and enter) into the market too early, you will find low-paying professions. Part of this workforce is in excess, in which they will be asked to do ‘things they should not (do).’
ITAMAR: There’s a certain calculation for this, but if we continue in the way that we are today, with this low percentage of cotistas (quota students) entering the universities, we will probably only reach an equal level in some 200 years … And when one graduates, he/she will face another barrier: the market. You carry this weight, this mark, when they compete for an opening…
CRIS: Two parameters are important: the cultural and political situation prevailing in the country and aligned to this, the consciousness of these youth be subject of the law. I see today the quantity of people from the (morro/hill/favela/slum of) Prazeres who mobilize to take the Enem (1), who fight for a quality school, who didn’t complain before, and says “I still have don’t have a chemistry class, I’m almost in the middle of the year, where’s the professor?” This guy empowers himself by right, different than before, in which he accepted things. He fights because he knows that this chemistry class that he didn’t have will make him miss out when he arrives at the university that today he aims for, and (where he) dreams of being.
MARCELO: These black youth, from the suburbs, are still seen as a social problem. It’s as if we got a gold mine and said “wow, I have this gold mine here, that’s a problem. I don’t know what to do with the gold mine, I think I’ll throw it in the trash.” Then, instead of transforming that which is most precious and making possible a generous national project, he believes it’s such a drag … When this group has conditions to take possession, including dominating the most advanced technologies of communication, we find a new framework, different from that to which the Brazilian elites condemned us. It’s bringing from where the creative energy of the nation is, its own people, in order to transform this reality.
O DIA: Is racism enraizado (rooted) in Brazil?
DUDU: Enraizados (rooted), no, it’s the name of the NGO (laughs). Look, I have a 14-year old daughter that is the thermometer of this … Today, she doesn’t suffer as much with this business that “preto é feio” (black is ugly), but that’s because when she was little, she always had black and white dolls. At the time, I felt that she cast aside the black (doll), (and) only wanted the Barbies…And I asked her “why don’t you play with the black (ones)?” And she (said) “because black is ugly.” A 4-year old telling you this… And then: who said this to her? Then I spoke of her grandmother and asked. Is your grandmother ugly? She: “No”. I have to deconstruct every day what TV and society construct in her head…
O DIA: And how do you give consciousness of racism to those who don’t suffer from it?
ITAMAR: Our role is to reveal that the problem exists, without camouflage. It’s not push to anyone away whoever goes up to Santa Marta to enjoy the samba. No, we want them to come, but with the knowledge they need to commit to the transformation of this racist and classist reality, to commit themselves to the painful part of this story. They have to be a partner in this perspective, not only at the party, but also when discussing racial quotas at USP (University of São Paulo), change the way selection is done for job openings … There is a way to extend this complicity in society, and of us being more equal…
O DIA: How important is the Day of Black Consciousness?
MARCELO: The 20th of November is gradually replacing the 15 of November (2) as a public date of Brazil by the content of the debate.
Source: O Dia
1. Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (Enem) (English: High School National Exam) is a non-mandatory, standardized Brazilian national exam, which evaluates high school students in Brazil. The ENEM is the most important exam of its kind in Brazil, with more than 7.1 million registered candidates in 2013. Source
2. The Proclamation of the Brazilian Republic took place on November 15, 1889.