For President Bolsonaro, “racism is a rare thing in Brazil”; also claims he isn’t racist because he once saved a black man from drowning

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President Jair Bolsonaro in a recent appearance on the program Luciana By Night hosted by journalist Luciana Gimenez, on Rede TV

Note from BW of Brazil: He said what?!?! You know something that’s pretty much true about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro? If you just leave a microphone in front of him long enough he’s bound to say something absurd, ridiculous or offensive sooner or later. So, he was about due to saying something crazy again, right?

I mean, without even referring to his long history of shock statements, just consider a few weeks back when he said that the Brazilian Army “didn’t kill anyone” after said military shot up a car 80 times killing a 51-year old black father and husband. In light of that utter ignorance, in reality, this latest offering of Bolsonaro classics actually pales in comparison. So, racism is a rare thing in Brazil, huh? I guess the seven and a half years of documenting what most black people would deem racism doesn’t count, right? 

Before I go on, let’s get to the story…

“Racism is a rare thing in Brazil,” says Bolsonaro in an interview

“This thing of racism, in Brazil, is a rare thing. All the time, putting black against white, homo against straight, excuse the language, but I’m already fed up with this subject,” said President Jair Bolsonaro in an interview shown on Rede TV.

This in a country where the average black salary equals 59% of white salaries and where 71% of homicide victims are black, the president of Brazil dares to say that “racism is a rare thing in Brazil.”

The statement that aims to minimize the structural racism in Brazil was said on Tuesday (07), in the program of host Luciana Gimenez, on Rede TV.

The President continued:

“It seems that I am a person like this: Homophobic, racist, fascist, xenophobic. And I win the election… With all of this résumé, I wasn’t to be elected a councilman anywhere in Brazil,” said the head of state, who was a deputy for about 30 years, after being captain of the Army.

To try to prove he is not a racist, Bolsonaro recalled an episode from 1978 when he was a soldier and saved a black colleague who fell a lake during a training session. “I went there and saved this guy. By coincidence, he’s black.

“If I was a racist person, the negão fell in the water, I’d do what? I’d cross my arms,” said the president, who says he received a medal from the Army for risking his life to save someone else’s.

According to Renato Ferreira, an attorney for Educafro and a doctorate in Law at the Federal University of Fluminense (UFF), Bolsonaro’s statement demonstrates a profound lack of knowledge of the reality experienced by black Brazilians: “Besides not wanting to discuss such an important subject that is racial discrimination, he still underestimates the relevance that the subject has in Brazilian society. As president he should comply with the laws and fight against all kinds of discrimination. Racism is a crime. Instead of denying the existence of racism, the president could create public policies aimed at promoting racial equality.”

The tone of the interview was very informal. The host and the president talked much more about amenities than about politics. The reserve captain said he was not racist because in the 1970s he “saved” a black Army colleague from drowning. In the sequence, he stated: “Brazil is a rare thing racism. All the while they try to play black against white.”

At the beginning of the conversation, Bolsonaro even thanked Luciana Gimenez for the space he had on her former show, Superpop, when he gained national prominence. “Thank you for the freedom you gave me there.”

One of the few moments in which Bolsonaro spoke about politics was when Luciana Gimenez cited the pension reform. The president merely said: “If you don’t approve, Brazil will break, unfortunately.” Without going into what this reform really is.

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Bolsonaro on his decision to veto a Banco do Brasil commercial: “the masses want respect for the family”

In other Bolsonaro news, the President, who has developed quite a reputation for outrageous statements, explained his reasoning for demanding that Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil) remove from the air a recent commercial arguing that ‘The masses wants respect for the family’.

On Saturday morning, April 27, President Jair Bolsonaro commented on the veto given to the Banco do Brasil commercial that targeted young audiences. According to information from the G1 website, Bolsonaro argued taking the measure in defense of the family and made it clear that he is responsible for nominating the president of the bank.

“The one who indicates and appoints the president of BB (Banco do Brasil), is it not me? I don’t need to say anything else then. The line changed, the masses want respect for the family, no one wants to persecute any minority. And we don’t want public money to be used that way. It’s not my line. You know it’s not my line,” he said.

The advertising that was prevented from appearing on TV shows a young audience formed by men and women among them black, gay, wearing modern clothes, different hairstyles and environments such as parties and a beauty salon. In addition, the advertising piece is composed by an announcer who uses several slang terms used by the young people of today.

According to the State Law, government interference with state-owned company advertising violates the established principles of the rule.

Rubem Novaes, presidente do BB
Rubem Novaes, president of Banco do Brasil: “For decades, the Brazilian left has launched a cultural war”

In an interesting complement to Bolsonaro’s actions, Rubem Novaes, president of Banco do Brasil, also weighed in on the topic. For Novaes, Bolsonaro’s veto of a commercial that explored the theme of diversity must “be seen in a broader context in which the issue of diversity is discussed in the country.”

Novaes said that the left wanted to empower minorities and that the media sought to impose an alternative society, which was rejected by “a mostly conservative people.”

“For decades, the Brazilian left has launched a cultural war trying to confront poor and rich, black and white, women and men, homo and heterosexuals etc, etc.,” said the president of BB.

“The ’empowerment’ of minorities was the instrument triggered in various cultural manifestations: novelas (soap operas), films, art exhibitions, etc., where one sought to characterize the ‘normal’ citizen as the exception and exception as a rule,” he continued.

He also stated that in the last elections “different visions of the world were confronted and a mostly conservative people made a clear choice to reject the alternative society that the media sought to impose on us.”

Bolsonaro said that he does not want public money to be used in publicity campaigns such as the recent Banco do Brasil ad, which was taken from the air after the intervention of the Palácio do Planalto, the president’s residence in Brasília.

The president also said that the video contradicts the “conservative agenda” he advocates, and that it could not be done with public money. The ad was starring black actors and actresses and tattooed youth wearing rings and long hair.

“People know that I had a conservative agenda, defending the majority of the Brazilian population, their behaviors, sua tradição judaico-cristã (their Judeo-Christian tradition). And we don’t want to impede anything. But whoever wants to do other than what most want, don’t do it with public funding, that’s all,” Bolsonaro said.

Note from BW of Brazil: I won’t waste anymore time on Bolsonaro’s statements because, frankly, they just aren’t worth my time. But I DO find intriguing what the president of the Banco do Brasil said. I have to say that most of my life I’ve been leftward leaning in my political views, but in recent years I’m come to conclude that being completely leftist can be pretty dangerous. I also realize that there are some leftist agendas that I don’t actually agree with. I won’t get into that here, but I will say that, whether one agrees with leftist politics or not, Novaes DOES have a point.

The push for black equality, feminism, LGBT issues, the acceptance of funk music are all examples of the leftist agenda and although it is often difficult to see through the rhetoric, the truth is that the white left doesn’t really give an eff about black lives or black issues, although it will exploit black people and black issues to further its own agenda. 

white left 2

I found the message above posted in a social network group. It reads: “THE ARMY KILLED A BLACK MAN, 80 SHOTS; THE GOVERNOR OF RIO HUNTS DOWN BLACKS. Total silence on the white left. However, it’s enough the CUT the funding OF THE UNIVERSITY that YOUR PARTIES take to the streets to protest.”

The message speaks to an understanding that the white left was virtually silent when the Army killed musician Evaldo Rosa dos Santos with 80 shots but took to the streets in Rio and several states against Bolsonaro’s announcement of investment cuts to federal universities. No doubt, many of these same people are undoubtedly against affirmative action polices that would allow more non-white students access to higher education. 

The comment also makes a reference to Rio’s governor Wilson Witzel who has defended Military Police taking aim directly at the head and firing on those judged to be criminals. The problem is that, in Rio, São Paulo and other states, innocent, mostly black victims are often the ones who pay with their lives from such policies

So while people clearly take issue with the overtly cruel rhetoric of a Bolsonaro or Witzel, it is often more difficult to see the enemy that one believes is actually in his corner. In my view, one of the principal problems with black movements these days is an insistence of mixing up the black agenda with other social movements following an idea that combining movements leads to more power, which is not necessarily the case. 

Coming to this conclusion, which most still haven’t, would certainly leave the black population in a state of confusion. But in the current political climate, in Brazil and in the US, for that matter, black folks need to come to reckoning some day: Whether it’s Bolsonaro, Trump, or white leftist politics, black folks have NO FRIENDS in the struggle!

Source: Notícia Preta, Bahia Notícias, O Documento

About Marques Travae 3279 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. “The push for black equality, feminism, LGBT issues, the acceptance of funk music are all examples of the leftist agenda and although it is often difficult to see through the rhetoric, the truth is that the white left doesn’t really give an eff about black lives or black issues, although it will exploit black people and black issues to further its own agenda. ”

    “In my view, one of the principal problems with black movements these days is an insistence of mixing up the black agenda with other social movements following an idea that combining movements leads to more power, which is not necessarily the case. ”

    ” black folks have NO FRIENDS in the struggle!”

    Absolutely. The culprit for this misguided policy ???unfortunately it is BLACK WOMEN. Black men have been telling them for ages that they have no friends. Stop giving your support to the feminist (white) , lgbt (white), environmental (white), communist (white), socialist (white) movements.

    They should support ONLY those policies and movements that seek to empower Blacks civic and socio-economic status……………… i the black women’s lack of clarity on what the issues are and their perpetual desire to be “liked” ….”accepted” that has caused this.

  2. I’m a bit weary of (Mr. Travae and al above) discouraging solidarity with other so-called leftist movements. All humans will naturally identify with multiple agendas. I don’t think it’s even practical to suggest these issues should be isolated.
    Let’s consider the case of having a black-only agenda, and it achieves success, but there is no progress on the environmental issues … your air and water is polluted. The end result as a black person is that you’re still being oppressed.
    Again, if you succeed in the black agenda, but make no progress on the lgbtq agenda, then as a black gay or lesbian person, you’re still being oppressed.
    If you succeed in the black agenda, but make no progress in the feminist agenda (e.g. equal work for equal pay), then as a black woman, you’re still being oppressed.
    To be truly free, all forms of oppression need to end. I don’t see participation in these leftist organizations as a ploy simply to be “accepted”. By not having a seat at the table you only guarantee that they remain indifferent (or even opposed) to black people (more so than it is now).
    Certainly you’ve made the case that some white people on the left don’t have the best interests of black people at heart, and you’ve cited some solid examples above, but your counter proposal just doesn’t seem practical to me. Also, by ‘al’ labeling these issues as ‘white’, it seems he’s also trying to police what it means to be black. Let people devote their advocacy to any areas where they have the expertise and passion. You on the other hand are free to take a different approach. If your approach is yielding RESULTS, that seems to be the best way to draw more black people to your particular approach. I’m just writing to suggest you ease off other black people who choose to do things differently. Of course, constructive criticism is always welcome, but I think it needs to be accompanied by practical counter-proposals.

    • Hello Cek333,

      Let me first say that at this moment I don’t have time to fully develop a response, but I DO want to address at least one of your comments right now.

      I agree that ALL forms of social oppression must be fought and defeated, but what I speak of are the movements. These are two different points. Most, if not ALL social movements are in essence controlled and funded by the same forces and , if you notice, it is THEY, not the movements themselves, that will decide which movement will gain force at a certain time.

      Under Obama, for example, he gave more support to LGBT concerns than black people. FACT, not opinion.

      In the course of struggle, many black people have echoed the idea of some sort of black/brown struggle as a collective “people of color”, but Latinos in the US have consistently shown that they are willing to unite with forces that conspire against the interest of black people.

      The other problem is that, when you mix your black movement with others (LGBT, feminism, white left, etc.), you will also mix with certain anti-black elements within those movements.

      Ask yourself, when have any of these other movements specifically stood up for black issues? Black women have called out racist elements within the feminist movement, black LGBT have called out racist elements with the LGBT movement and black people have clearly seen racist elements within the white left.

      But among black people, what is it that we all have in common? It is blackness. And as long we continue to support other agendas/movements that refuse to support ours, we shoot ourselves in the foot. There is no magical unification of all social movements, particularly if we don’t control the narrative or the funding.


  3. (For now, let’s set aside your perceptions of Obama and THEY.) As for the rest of what you wrote, I’m in agreement that other movements have often displayed a lack of solidarity or interest in black causes. My issue is with your prescription that we should disengage from those movements. I understand the reasoning leading to your conclusion, I’m just skeptical your suggested approach would lead to the liberation we are all hoping to achieve. (To be doubly clear, I’m not against a black-focused agenda, I’m saying there’s no need to disengage from the other movements; we can do both.)

    In any country where black people are in the minority, it seems to me, that it would be necessary to engage with other movements in order to effect changes in laws and policy. We don’t have the political power to do it on our own. Black people within those movements will call-out the racism that they find there. That’s part of the process of transforming those organizations and transforming society. How else is it supposed to work? The work of black activists in these movements may not be bearing fruit right now, but the seeds planted might bear fruit in the future.

    Defeating racism will take a multi-pronged attack. Disengaging from these other movements might actually be counter-productive.

    • Cek333,

      For many years I looked at this in the same way that you do now. I have a Master’s in Social Justice. So, I definitely had this “we can change the world” view that
      you have now, but after several years, I started looking at how these social movements get started, how they often get co-opted, funded and directed by the very people
      who are behind the oppressive situation we continue to find ourselves in. Social movements ALWAYS need funding and as soon as you request funding, you also often times
      will lose right to direct the movement. Thus, movements are directed to merge with other movements and thus lose the original direction.

      When you look behind the Civil Rights Movement, look at what went on behind the scenes of the Black Panthers, up to and including Black Lives Matter, you will find this same pattern. BLM is not even a movement for specifically black lives. Other movements are allowed to piggy back off of the black agenda, take their agendas
      to the top and keeping black folks in the dust. The record shows this. Immigrants, women rights groups, LGBT have all nibbled off of the black struggle and advanced
      their own agendas. We’ve been proclaiming this “we’re all in one boat” mentality for years. How’s that working out? Where is the progress?

      Your comments:

      “engage with other movements in order to effect changes in laws and policy”

      Show me where uniting with Hispanics, women’s groups, LGBT, the white left and others have benefitted us. All of these groups have the right to advance their causes, but NO ONE is going to advance the black cause except us. Where are all of these groups as black people continue to be shot down in the streets?

      “Black people within those movements will call-out the racism that they find there”

      And what does calling out racism in these movements do? People will naturally support their own groups. You should NEVER expect people from other groups to advance
      your cause because people have self-interests. The only people falling for that rhetoric is us. Tell me, what has calling out racism in the Democratic Party done?

      “The work of black activists in these movements may not be bearing fruit right now, but the seeds planted might bear fruit in the future”

      Wishful thinking. DuBois waited on white liberals to do something about lynching. Remember that? So-called white liberals marched with MLK over 50 years ago. In 2019 the overall situation of black folks has not changed. Where is the fruit? Face it. If people wanted to see the situation of black people change, masses of people
      would be involved. Do you see masses of people from other groups and movements advocating for black people? These are the facts.

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