Note from BW of Brazil: So once again, we’ve reached the end of another year! 2016 saw the fifth anniversary of the Black Women of Brazil blog and I’m excited to say that the only blog on the internet that specifically speaks of racial issues in Brazil in the English language continued its growth in readership. And this growth in readership is no doubt connected to relevant material such as this that I’m posting today. Today’s final piece of 2016 represents much of what is always discussed on this blog: exposing and challenging racial stereotypes, struggling for the self-esteem of the Afro-Brazilian population, representation and access to institutes of higher learning. This last issue is extremely important as a new administration that took over Brazil several months ago seems bent on scaling social improvements back 20 years. Many Afro-Brazilian social organizations have expressed fear of what this will mean for the struggle for racial equality as, regardless of how one felt about Workers’ Party policies since 2003, these policies did provide black Brazilians with an access to higher learning and social mobility that has never been seen before in the nation’s history. Today’s article demonstrates that although progress has been made, there is still a ways to go. And with Brazil’s future uncertain at this point, one can only guess what will happen in coming years.
Consciousness in Knowledge
Courtesy of Metrópoles
Black girls from Kindergarten 603, of Recanto das Emas, often complained about their hair. “My mother says that my hair is a fuá (unkempt)” and “I can’t leave it loose” were some of the many responses that the students of the teacher Fabíola Farias, 32 years, gave when the tutor asked the reason of the laments.
In many schools, these reports happen repeatedly, but not where Fabíola works. The educator, along with all the faculty of the institution, decided to try to change the students’ discourse. Since 2011, the school has incorporated different pedagogical books that address Afro-Brazilian and indigenous cultures, trained teachers and created an extensive list of playful activities for students and their families.
“Children bring home a whole bundle of prejudices. We try to deconstruct certain ideas here,” explains Fabíola. According to the teacher, the model of beauty reflected on television, shelves of toy stores and cartoons is the Barbie doll: white and long, straight hair.
In 2014, kindergarten set up a turban workshop. “We distributed mirrors throughout the school and, through the activity, we worked on the origin and culture behind the accessory. In addition, of course, to discussing the issue of belonging of the hair,” comments the educator. This year, after reading a copy of Menina Bonita do Laço de Fita by Ana Maria Machado, the students’ families had to put their creativity to work and created black cloth dolls.
The attitude of the institution already shows reflexes at home. “A 5-year-old student, on the day she took the picture for graduation, demanded to take her picture with her hair loose. She had to face her father,” says Fabiola. Another concern of the school mentioned by the teacher is placing the black boys and girls as main characters of the plays.
Brazil has two federal laws (10.639 of 2003 and 11.645 of 2008) that determine the teaching of Afro-Brazilian, African and indigenous history and cultures in schools. However, in practice, these norms are still not enforced, or are limited to activities in the days of Indian or Black Consciousness.
Thus, black culture, its historical subjects, the thinking of Brazilian black intellectuals and the religions of African matrices, when they appear in the imagination of children and adolescents, are loaded with stereotypes. The case of Kindergarten 603 is one of the exceptions found in the Federal District. But it is not the only one.
Arts teacher Alice Lara, 28, who teaches at Brazlândia Elementary School 2, tries to insert different pedagogical proposals to address the issue with seventh-grade primary school students. A photo contest and baile black (black dances) were some of the initiatives of the educator. This year, Alice designed different films made by black filmmakers or with the racial theme. “Many students don’t have references from black professionals. It is very important to show that history always has two sides and to awaken this consciousness in them,” she clarifies.
The plastic artist Josafá Neves, with the professor of pedagogy at the Catholic University of Brasília Leda Gonçalves, developed a project for public schools in the Federal District that deals with Law 10.639/ 2003. The two held workshops with teachers from these institutions and the city’s prison system. In addition, Neves has visited some schools and the students of these places are invited to create geometric designs with African motifs.
All of these works will comprise the exhibition titled “Diáspora”, which will be on display at the Galeria Athos Bulcão in 2016. The artist’s paintings will also be part of the show. In Neves’s portraits, Brazilian personalities such as Clementina de Jesus, Itamar Assumpção and Milton Santos will be honored.
UnB as a reference
“Quotas only increase the prejudice,” “UnB’s performance will decrease,” “the institution’s levels of abandonment (of clases) will increase” were some of the many criticisms received of the racial quota system implemented in 2004. Opposing all opposing voices, the program has become an example of affirmative action in the country and a response to the chronic racism of our society. After much discussion, the historic decision guided the national debate on quotas, a topic that has now become a state policy.
The most recent study on the academic trajectory of UnB students, conducted by the Deanship of Undergraduate Education, pointed out that students who entered by racial quotas are more likely to obtain their diploma at the end of the course than those approved by the universal system. Between 2000 and 2008, 1,614 college students (63.3%) graduated. In that same period, 23,073 students who entered through the universal system dressed in cap and gown at the end of graduation, the equivalent of 60% of those approved in the entrance examination and the Programa de Avaliação Seriada (Serial Assessment Program) (PAS).
Professor Dione Moura of the Department of Communication participated in the System Implementation Committee at UnB and says that before the measure, if there was a young black man in college, he was probably looking after cars in the parking lot or selling candy. “We have received a lot of criticism, but several studies have proven the success of the program. The son of a student who joined UnB in 2004 will not need affirmative action. We hope that, in the future, part of the historic reparation will have been made,” he explains. From the second semester of 2004 to the first semester of 2013, 64,683 candidates enrolled in Unb’s entrance examination through the quota system. Of this total, 34,679 were eligible to apply for reserved vacancies (about 53.6% of the total).
Professor Eduardo Alves, 32, of the Department of Education of the Federal DIstrict, entered in the first class of cotistas (quota students) of UnB for the pedagogy course. At age 19, Alves decided to get involved with the Movimento Negro (black movement) and participate in the process. “One teacher even said that I wouldn’t complete the course. People who are black know that this type of discourse is due to our ethnicity,” he laments.
In 2005, only 6.6% of the students were black*
In 2014, 20% of the students were black, brown or indigenous*
In 2005, only 6.6% of black youth attended universities in the country; among whites, this percentage was about three times higher (19%). The information, from the National Household Sample Survey (Pnad) shows that Brazilian institutions were predominantly white. In 2014, the Secretary for Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality announced that 20% of the total vacancies offered by the federal universities (48,676) were occupied by students that declared themselves pretos (blacks), pardos (browns) and indigenous people.
For Alves, this change in the university reality begins to reach the labor market, and the representations – previously, mostly composed by whites – also change. “A black lawyer can now defend a black defendant,” exemplifies the professor.
Blossoming in the post
“The only four blacks in my class were cotistas,” recalls Gustavo Maia, 26. He entered UnB in 2008 for the electrical engineering course and is now an expert of the Civil Police in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Maia came in first in the Master’s degree for biomedical engineering at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) as soon as he graduated from the university. He gave up on the area and is now a master in control and automation engineering at UnB.
The access of black students to elite courses, such as medicine and law, has created scenarios of engagement and militancy that strengthen UnB’s image as a plural and diverse university. Articulated by a group of about 15 young blacks, the collective Ocupação Negra FD/UnB is the face of this new generation of students. The network of students enables an exchange of experiences among students, who are welcomed to deal with issues such as justice, security and violence.
To Metrópoles (site), sociologist Breitner Luiz Tavares, coordinator of the collective health course at the campus of Ceilândia and one of the people in charge of the last edition of Pós Afirmativas, says that the program has served about 100 people in two years. “The idea was to stimulate the formation of young blacks to increase the presence of this population in the post Brazilian,” he explains. Some teachers, according to Tavares, try to resume the project.
In 2014, President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned the law that reserves 20% of the vacancies of federal public competitions to pretos and pardos. The standard is considered strategic by the government to accelerate the mobility of the black population in the next 10 years. Between 2004 and 2013, the percentage of blacks who entered public service varied between 22% and 30%.
The under-representation of black women and men in public service is evidenced by studies such as ” Servidores Públicos Federais — Raça/Cor 2014” (Federal Public Servants – Race/Color 2014). With data provided by the Ministry of Planning, Budget and Management and the IBGE, the survey confirmed that, although 52.9% of the Brazilian population is black, a very small percentage is in the federal public service.
In the distribution of servers of Executive Power, according to the study, 51.75% of employees have white skin and only 4%, black. The Ministries of Culture and Fisheries and Aquaculture have the highest number of blacks (7%). At the other end, only 1% of the Foreign Ministry is formed by blacks.
If the gender perspective is included, the percentage falls even more. In the Executive Branch, 45% of the servers are women and only 2% are black.
Delila Negreiros, 30, gives a face and voice to numbers. A public servant for seven years, she looks closely at the space where she works. “Public service is a black space, but not necessarily do they occupy privileged spaces. Most of the blacks are in support services, not management,” she says.
Lawyer Isabella Gaze de França, 30, affirms herself as black. Just under a year ago, she went through a hair transition to go back to having virgin strands again, without the application of chemicals for straightening. Although the act didn’t come out as a political statement, Isabella became convinced that it’s important to say that she is black. But when she signed up for public competitions through quotas, she was afraid she would not be seen as black by her future co-workers.
“I can be judged as ‘not so black’ and this bothers me a lot. I am afraid they think I am taking advantage of quotas, that the system is flawed, when, in fact, it only proves that miscegenation doesn’t make you white,” points out the contestant, who will try for a vacancy in the TJDFT (Tribunal de Justiça do Distrito Federal e dos Territórios or Court of Justice of the Federal District and Territories) competition.
Favorable to the quota law for public service, prosecutor Thiago Pierobom believes that it is the chance for the country to repair itself for what it did to blacks. “It’s a policy, in my view, extremely important to deconstructing this view of black history in decision making. It’s an historical repair.”
Coordinator of the Núcleo de Enfrentamento à Discriminação (Nucleus for Confronting Discrimination) (NED) of the Public Ministry of the Federal District and Territories (MPDFT), the prosecutor Thiago Pierobom has already denounced 75 people this year for racism or injúria racial (racial insult/slur). From 2013 until now, there were 183 complaints. According to him, the figures reflect a racist culture.
“A number of obstacles have been created for blacks to have prominence, but public service needs blacks. A service composed of the white elite does not reflect the reality of the Brazilian people and doesn’t understand the complexity of the people and the public policies to advance further,” says the prosecutor.
Pierobom warns, however, that effective supervision is required in relation to those enrolled through benefit of the quota law. “Today, the norm says that only self-declaration is sufficient, but we must check, because there is a limit to the lie, and then the norm fails to reach who it should.”
In order to avoid fraud in the selective processes, some agencies developed methods to prove the phenotype of those enrolled who declared themselves black. The Superior Court of Justice (STJ), for example, published, in the announcement of the event for analyst and judicial technician, the obligation of competitors to submit to a filmed interview.
Friday, November 20th, the Federal Public Ministry in the Federal District recommended that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suspend the entry of the competition for a foreign minister. According to the agency, the edict, published on November 9, does not provide a verification mechanism for cases of false declaration of people who compete for vacancies reserved for pretos or pardos.
Although the system of racial quotas in universities and access to public competitions have contributed to the entry of blacks into sectors of society that are mostly dominated by whites, the social indicators that involve the black population in Brazil are still frightening.
“From the social point of view, quotas created the emergence of new voices. However, they are just one of many affirmative actions that still need to be implemented in the country,” said anthropologist Paíque Duque Santarém, 30 years old. He holds a PhD in the Civil Engineering Program at UnB and participated in the debate on the creation of quotas for postgraduate studies at the institution.