Note from BW of Brazil: I’m sure all of this is just a coincidence, right? Just because a number of policies being pushed by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro could have devastating effects on the black population, this doesn’t mean it was purposely planned this way, right? Naw….It can’t be. It’s just another conspiracy theory, right?
Well, I’ve long said that “Racism 2.0” doesn’t have to specifically name black people in order to target them. Brazil’s current President has always maintained that he isn’t racist and to “prove” this, he uses an assortment of practices to distract people from the possibility that he could be a card-carrying white supremacist.
What practices, you ask?
A few of these tricks including taking photos with black people, including his favorite negro, Hélio Lopes, who has been seen in numerous photos with the President. Consistently referring to the black father of his wife Michelle, whose photo I only recently found, and affirming that he once saved a black man from drowning. Mind you, none of these references actually remove him from the title of suspected racist, but moving on…
In the past decade and a half or so, the black population has been able to made a number of strides that just a few decades ago would have seemed all but impossible. The policies and/or ideas of Bolsonaro, on the other hand, seem to want to wipe out all of those gains. Just a few of those policies include the pension reform, which could make it so that many black Brazilians will die before receiving any pension benefits, the anti-crime bill, which opponents say would increase the already high rates of police murders of black youth, and the ending of the Ministry of Culture, which could bring an end to funding of films, which is how many Afro-Brazilian filmmakers manage to fund their works. Also, let’s not forget his recent forced removal of a Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil) TV ad from the air that prominently featured numerous black people.
As if all of that weren’t enough, Bolsonaro also wants to make cuts to social and human science courses in federal universities. While black students are vastly outnumbered in these areas by white students, they are more represented in these fields than in the so-called “ciências exatas”, or exact sciences, where in some areas they are outnumbered as much as 16 to 1. It is also important to point out that it is the area of the social sciences that has produced many rising black voices that have brought the struggle and discussion of racial equality to front pages in the past decade or so. These are the voices and movements that Bolsonaro clearly opposes.
On top of this, as Bolsonaro is against most if not all things coming from the political left, he has also made it clear that he is against affirmative action policies, which a federal deputy from his PSL party is seeking to end with the introduction of a new bill. This same deputy made headlines several months ago when he was photographed with a broken street sign dedicated to slain Rio councilwoman, Marielle Franco.
I know, I know…this all coincidence, right?
Bolsonaro budget cut may further whiten federal universities, experts say
Courtesy of Instituto Humanitas Unisinos with additional info from Notícia Preta
The threat of Bolsonaro government to make cuts in social and human science courses will directly affect the black population. That’s because there are more black students in these courses.
In sociology courses, for example, there are 1 black for every 3 whites and in courses of philosophy 1 black for every 4 whites. These data are from the 2017 National Census of Higher Education, obtained by BBC News Brasil from the National Institute of Educational Research (Inep).
Medical and veterinary courses, said by the president to be areas that should receive resources for bringing “immediate returns to society,” have a ratio of one (01) black for every 16 whites.
A reduction in human resources, without taking into account the educational process from the bottom up, in public schools, will have the effect of eliticizing knowledge in the short term, reducing blacks and the poor in universities.”
The engineering courses have, on average, one black student for every nine whites. In architecture and urbanism and in dentistry, the proportion is 1 to 12. The data show a large difference between the cadres of racial diversity of human courses and of biological and exact science courses.
In an interview with BBC News Brasil, the director of the Brazilian Studies Program at the University of Oxford, Andreza de Souza Santos, explained that the eventual cut of investments in courses in social and human sciences would bring as a short-term effect an “embranquecimento” (whitening) of federal universities.
“The access that people have today to courses such as physics, engineering and medicine is not democratic and universal, because they are courses with a high cut off score and high maintenance cost during the training process. Many blacks have studied in public schools of low quality and without specialized teachers in areas of exact and biological,” explained Andreza.
“A reduction of resources in the humanities area, without taking into account the educational process from the base level in public schools, will have the effect of eliticizing short-term knowledge, reducing blacks and poor people in the universities,” says Andreza, who teaches policy at Oxford University and holds a Ph.D. in social anthropology.
Why are there more blacks in the social sciences and the humanities?
For Santos, if this “prioritization” involves cuts in resources in the areas of social and human sciences and a reduction in the number of vacancies offered, there will be losses, yes – and for blacks.
The explanation for the concentration of racial diversity in the area of human beings goes through different factors, says Andreza Santos. She points out that a large number of low-income students are black, and they study in public schools – some of them of low quality and lacking specialized teachers in the areas of biological and natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry and biology.
“The less competed for courses, with a lower cut off score in the Sisu, end up being the gateway for poorer students and – as poverty has a racial aspect – blacks,” she says.
She explains that when the numbers of registrations by race are analyzed, there is a correlation between the percentage of blacks and the average grade cut off score of the courses in the Sistema de Seleção Unificada (SISU or Unified Selection System) of the Ministry of Education. The higher the cut off score, the lower the proportion of blacks.
“There are some courses that are not in the exact science area, but that also have a high cut off score because they are traditional and eliticized, such as International Relations and Law. In these courses, there is also a lower proportion of blacks,” she says.
According to data from the National Census of Higher Education 2017, for every black person in the law course there are seven white people. In International Relations, the ratio is 1 to 9, equal to engineering.
But some exact courses and health sciences bring an additional difficulty for low-income students. According to the Oxford University professor, these are departments that require higher costs to maintain a student or that require many years of study before exercising the profession, such as medicine.
“A student who takes architecture and urbanism or engineering needs to buy materials that are sometimes expensive. Teachers lend, but for many disciplines, you have to create a portfolio and the quality of the material has an influence,” she explains.
“The same happens with courses such as medicine, which require very expensive books and years of specialization. So, it’s not just about access. There’s also a discussion about how the maintenance of the person in that course will go.”
Finally, Andreza Santos says it’s possible that low-income students also don’t opt for exact and biological courses due to lack of exposure to these areas of knowledge in the public schools.
“There is a shortage of specialized teachers of mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology in public schools. So, the student ends up being less exposed to knowing these areas and selecting them in the vestibular (college entrance exam),” she says.
For the professor, if the government wants to have more graduates in exact sciences and medicine without excluding the black and poor population from universities, itss necessary that the change begins in high school, to arouse the interest of students and prepare them to be able to keep up with the pace of learning in these areas in universities.
“It’s no use making this change only by directing resources to universities. If it’s to stimulate these areas without excluding blacks and the poor, the change needs to take place back then, with more investment in math and natural sciences in the public schools, so that people can follow these courses and have these courses on their radar.
The professor points out that in the President Dilma Rousseff administration, the policy of directing Ciência sem Fronteiras (Science Without Borders) scholarships to research in the areas of natural and biological sciences has also resulted in the exclusion of blacks and low-income students in general, who are predominantly concentrated in the areas of humanities and social sciences.
The 2014 Census of Higher Education, done when the program was at its peak, shows that 70% of the beneficiaries of scholarships to study abroad were white.
“This idea of focusing policy on specific disciplines had already begun in the past with Science without Borders. Blacks were also less favored,” says Andreza Santos.
But… wouldn’t more resources for exact sciences and medicine mean more vacancies?
At first glance it is possible to think that the reallocation of humanities resources to areas such as medicine, mathematics, physics and engineering could result in an increase in vacancies in these courses, equal to the possible cuts in vacancies in humanities departments.
And with more vacancies, competition for biological and natural science courses would be less, which could lead to greater access for low-income students and blacks to these courses.
But the director of Oxford’s Brazilian Studies Program explains that these areas of knowledge require high cost per vacancy, since equipment, research infrastructure, material and technology are needed.
One example: the Experimental Physics laboratory inaugurated this year at the Universidade Federal da Amazônia (Federal University of the Amazon) alone cost R$2 million. For this reason, it would be difficult to reallocate resources, which would mean an equivalent number of vacancies and a reduction in cutting notes.
“Spending in the humanities is already much lower than spending in the pure sciences, which are more expensive areas. Cutting these departments and relocating them would have no impact on developing the areas of hard sciences, it would only mean dismantling the social and human sciences,” adds Professor Francisco Ortega, of the Department of Social Health, of the School of Medicine of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).
On April 26, Jair Bolsonaro announced on Twitter that the new education minister, Abraham Weintraub, “is studying de-centralizing investments in (human) philosophy and sociology departments” with the aim of “focusing on areas that generate immediate returns to the taxpayer, such as veterinary, engineering and medicine.”
Shortly thereafter, the Ministry of Education (MEC) announced a 30% overall contingency in the budgets of all federal universities.