Note from BW of Brazil: Sometimes I think that people don’t really get just how vastly under-represented black Brazilians really are in so many areas of Brazilian society. Besides the numerous stories posted on this blog about people being the “only black” or one of the few at some private school, dance school or company, graduating class or other, the numbers back up the reports of these experiences.
This is the reason why it’s such a big deal that the quota system has given so many black Brazilians access to university educations that just a few, short decades ago, they would have had slim or no chances of attaining. It also demonstrates why Afro-Brazilian activists so strongly oppose President Bolsonaro’s moves to close the door on these opportunities.
A few months back, one story showed that black Brazilians represent only 1% of lawyers in large law firms. With that in mind, today’s story represents both a triumph but also another reason as to why these opportunities must remain available. It is also an example of how, even with the improvement in opportunities in institutions of higher learning, in elite positions of importance in terms of college majors (see here and here), and in turn the positions they lead to, there is still such a very long ways to go in terms of representation.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office has another black prosecutor
By Maysa Lima
For several years, Brazil has been experiencing a process of occupation of spaces, in which blacks have always been neglected and marginalized. In the Judiciary, the situation is even more segregated, with a minimum of black professionals. In order to have an idea of the disparity between blacks and whites in the legal environment, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has 1,200 prosecutors of the Republic in its staff, however, only 22 are self-declared blacks, which corresponds to 1.8% of the entire staff.
The story of Anderson Rocha Paiva, a prosecutor sworn in in January of this year, as he puts it, is a victory for the comunidade negra (black community). “I had the dream of being a doctor, I even took a medical exam and was a surplus at the UFES (Federal University of Espírito Santo), but in medicine no one bows out. I went back to my city and worked in shifts.”
Paiva describes how he worked long hours in a dead end job until “they sent me away, and then somebody said to me, ‘Why don’t you take the civil service exams? You studied hard!’ That’s when the post office civil service exams came out, I took it and I passed,” he reflected.
The small percentage of blacks in the judiciary, according to Anderson, means that the community has no interest in changing this scenario, but the idea is just the opposite. “The idea is to show a path opposite to this situation that has set in, a different possibility of breaking the paradigms, the already consolidated situations that exist and that influence us black in a negative way,” he warned.
Studies in the background
For a long time, Rocha characterized himself as a “concurseiro”, as people are called who dedicate themselves to the exams and who, in the face of many difficulties, the university really remains in the background. “I’m from a city where people go to the United States a lot (Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais) and my father went there. And he was a person who didn’t divorce just my mother, but the whole family. It was then that things began to get difficult, my mother was a seamstress, ‘we were living hand to mouth’ and we began to get by with the help of my uncles – my mother’s brothers. College would become something secondary to me,” revealed the prosecutor.
“One of my uncles knew a lady from the Department of Law in Governador Valadares, and he commented to her that he had a nephew who liked to study. She suggested that I take the vestibular (entrance exam) and that, if it was good, I would get a discount. I passed (and came in) 2nd in the entrance exam and studied for free. I remember that at the time of enrollment, I didn’t have any money and I had to borrow it.”
The civil service competitive examination for prosecutor of the Republic included 20% of the vacancies for self-declared pretos ou pardos (black or brown people), but until then, according to Rocha, he hadn’t competed with the aid of quotas in the previous exams. “It was my first time that I registered through the quotas. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to register as a cotista (quota student), but that I hadn’t yet signed up for any exam that included the prevision of quotas for blacks in the statute. I signed up, but I didn’t have much faith, of the 14,500 people who signed up, only 95 people passed on to the second phase (of the competition). The result comes out by State, and in mine (Minas Gerais), 5 people passed – I was one of them, and the only black. The provision of quotas helped me in the end because I passed in 23rd place and was called forward, in 5th place. […]. It’s as if God gave me more than what I’ve been looking for,” he celebrated.
In light of the law, ethnic quotas are legalized and consolidated, even submitted to the Federal Supreme Court. However, Anderson points out that monitoring is of great importance for the principle of equality to be maintained. “We have cases where quotas have already been circumvented, but this is not a problem of the law but of law enforcement, of the people defrauding the system with even a criminal use of the law, so it seems to me that the problem is not the law but rather the man trying to use it to practice conduct contrary to the legal order,” he concluded.
Source: Notícia Preta