Note from BW of Brazil: On May 30th, in the second national demonstrations against cuts to educational investments, hundreds of thousands more Brazilians took to the streets to express their outrage with actions taken by the Jair Bolsonaro Administration. According to estimates, in nationwide protests that took place on May 15th, at least one million people participated in protests in more than 170 cities. But even though the protests say a cross section of Brazilian society in the streets, a few details must be acknowledged that many protestors aren’t discussing.
Although it is clear that hundreds of thousands of white Brazilians took part in the protests, one has to wonder: One, how many of those protestors actually voted for President Bolsonaro. Two, how many of these protestors have no reaction to the ongoing genocide against black Brazilians, such as the situation in which a 51-year black musician was killed when the Army riddled the car carrying his family with 80 bullets? And three, Brazilian universities have ALWAYS been primarily white and only with the implementation of affirmative action policies did the black population start entering universities in large numbers. Would these same protestors still be on the streets if Bolsonaro’s cuts only affected the black population?
The fact is that, while cuts to education investment would affect all, these cuts, as well as proposed repealing of affirmative action policies would devastate the access of black Brazilians to a college education and, in essence, re-whiten Brazilian college campuses.
Hmmm, I wonder…
For the guarantee of rights and for access to public universities for blacks
By Pedro Borges
Manifestations scheduled for May 30 have to demand continuity of racial quotas and ensure a free public university of quality for all
New demonstrations intend to take the streets of the country on May 30 in defense of quality public education. The demonstrations are expected in 24 capitals and 45 cities in the interior and coast, totaling 69 municipalities that to the streets in disagreement with the policy proposed by President Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) and Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub.
On May 15, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in 222 cities and protested against the announcement of cuts in the Ministry of Education (MEC) in the amount of BRL 5.8 billion. The proportions of the act and the popular request for defense of education made the president back down and propose a cut of “only” BRL 4.2 billion in the portfolio.
The reduction of investments proposed for education should viscerally affect the training of young people in Brazil, especially those who don’t have access to private education. Like any unpopular proposal in the country, the measure will have a stronger impact on black youth.
A study published by the National Association of Directors of Federal Institutions of Higher Education (Andifes), part of the 5th Socioeconomic Profile Survey of Federal University Students, shows that 70.2% of federal university students are low income and 51.2% % are preto (black) or pardo (brown), color identifications that form the negro (black) racial group. This is the first time in history that there is a black majority in the spaces of federal universities. In addition, 30% of the students participate in some student assistance program.
As such, it is then a student profile that requires state support to enter and remain in undergraduate programs. This should be an obligation of the government, after all education is a constitutional right and has to be guaranteed to every citizen.
This, however, is not the first attack orchestrated by the government against education or the comunidade negra (black community). If Sérgio Moro’s public safety project could represent an institutionalization of genocídio negro (black genocide), in education, the federal congresswoman Dayane Pimentel, from the same party of the president, presented a project on April 4th to withdraw racial quotas from national legislation.
The scenario, already bad with the possibility of cutting investment in public universities, especially at the moment of improving affirmative actions with the adoption of verification banks, may be aggravated by the revocation of racial quotas.
There is already a generation of students that graduated in public universities via affirmative action. In Brazil, the first experience was from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) in 2003, which was replicated by the Federal University of Brasília (UNB) in 2004. At the federal level, the change came in 2012.
The arrival of young black people from the outskirts of large cities or even rural areas has expanded the range of research objects and perspectives. In this process, blacks are no longer the object to be analyzed and have taken on the role of subject, that is, researcher. A radical change in the science of the country.
Another achievement related to affirmative action is expressed in resistance to quality public education. It is these young black people, today organized in groups, that promote the most complete and full defense of the research and extension in the country. At times of strikes, they don’t present only the fair salary increase of the numerous categories that compose the institutions, but also defend policies of student permanence, of research development, always with the guarantee of the racial perspective. It is the most complete and accurate defense of the teaching space.
The losses of a cut in education and the repeal of quotas affect the whole society, for a popular public university and representative of the diversity of the country is important for the nation as a whole. Even if setbacks fall more delicately on pretos and pardos, the burden falls upon everyone.
Therefore, it is important that all demonstrations in defense of public education and public universities require the permanence of black youth and the maintenance of affirmative action.
If all the inequalities in the country have the racial determinant as a backdrop, the struggle for a just education is no different and requires not only the participation of black women and men but everyone’s understanding that defending a democratic and just project in a country is permeated by the presence and participation of this, which is the largest racial segment in Brazil.
We cannot allow a scrapping of quality public education at a time when we have a presença negra (black presence) in these spaces. The formula of precarious public services after rights won by the black movement must be rejected in the streets. Affirmative action cannot be allowed to be revoked, as this has allowed for a more democratic air to higher education.
To this end, there is no other formula. It is necessary to mobilize in the streets, in the parliaments, in all the spaces for the guarantee of rights.