Note from BW of Brazil: Brazil is a nation that for the greater part of the 20th century declared itself a “racial democracy” where all of the nation’s original races, Africans, Europeans and Native Americans, freely mixed, got along and everyone lived like a great mixed family in which everyone was equal and all got along. Racial antagonism and conflict were seen as problems facing other nations, particularly Apartheid era South Africa and United States. For the most part, over the past few decades, this great myth has been exposed for the farce that it is through the rise of the voices of activists of the Movimento Negro and persons who are honest enough to admit the deeply-seated mechanisms of racism within this race mixture experiment. No one can deny that the Brazilian people have among them perhaps the most physically diverse mixture of people on the planet. But in the same way, it is also easy to note that regardless of this mixture, the long-time elite goal and most valued phenotype is that of whiteness. This becomes easily apparent when one studies how the nation treats its people and the physical characteristics that are most consistently presented in the media. With this in mind, and global eyes soon to descend on the country for the most watched sporting event in the world, one can legitimately ask: for whom is equality meant in this great mixed race nation?
Equality in a miscegenated (mixed-race) Brazil
By Eliane Oliveira
Being black in Brazil is to not exist, the shouted discourse to the winds of that we are a povo miscigenado (mixed-race people), that we are proud of our mixture is a lie so well said that, like any good lie, so repeated, it became a fact. But no, it’s not true. This discourse should summarize our culture and in this case, to the restricted or particularist use of the term culture, because it’s very cool to exalt the influence of the skill of black people in dance, musicality, sports, spaces in which the “glories” are shared by the majority of the population. It’s internalized and naturalized, by majority, that our culture has duffered such strong influence, that we are that delicious mixture of races, indeed because at this moment the term “race” is perfectly applicable. But stop there, because rarely does anyone look at these examples, seeing only the presence of blacks, to the contrary, often times legitimizing our cultural cannibalism, tending to make the black population invisible, in the sense of something that was appropriated, transformed and, just like that, blacks can now leave the scene, already having fulfilled their role.
Thus, what one perceives remaining of the social environment is that the black Brazilian does not exist and that contrary to this, he is a nuisance that needs to cease to exist. When it comes to numbers, statistics and public policy, that’s where the black population is now enemy number one of a Brazilian society that lives closed in and pays its taxes and think that because of this, it’s differentiated (as if a resident of the morro/slum were exempted by the state). This people that dies everyday victimized by “stray” bullets, the “war” between drug traffickers (?) that lives/survives in the favelas (slums) on the outskirts, and take four bus/subway transfers to get to work, these (people) are not part of the Brazil that we all want, sung in verse and prose.
So what is this mixture that gave shape to this country and violates its own generators? That tends to make its subjects invisible? That erases identities? That judges behavior and character based on skin color? What recognition is this that delimits spaces of interaction and operation? What racially mixed society is this that repeats a mantra of nonexistent equality? We are not equal, not in skin color, nor in the conditions of access to different spaces, much less before the law. What have we seen in the media about violence against the black population is only a small example of what happens every day, but what’s changed? Why have we witnessed so many stories about dead, beaten, victimized blacks in the newscasts?
Maybe it’s because the internet pushes an accommodated and bound up televised media within their own brancocentrada (white-centered) reality, after all, as it cannot remain oblivious to events that blow up on social networks, it is necessary to search for this audience, ok? It is undeniable the power that network has to contribute to this discussion, as it gives visibility to peripheral subjects, but the victims appearing in the news are rarely anonymous, when the “invisible” appear on the evening news it’s because they hear a big mobilization in social networks (as in the case of Amarildo and Márcia).
But it is clear that the role of the mainstream media should be emphasized, because in cases such as those that have been reported so strongly in its news lately it’s undeniable the ‘favor’ that certain programs provide for the formation of character of the social subjects. It’s enough to observe the stereotypical portrayal of blacks in novelas (soap operas), in the humor skits, miniseries, etc… Killing blacks is natural, every black is a bum, every favelado (slum dweller) is a drug dealer, the natural black hair texture should be ridiculed and human misery is a motive of jokes. The “funny” comment about hair, skin color or nose shape of a woman/man may seem unassuming, but it carries a whole load of prejudice and symbolic violence against black people, but it can’t be considered offensive, because it was only a joke, wasn’t it?
There is no acceptable joke when it legitimizes violence, in the same way that this kind of thing encourages denial of the very characteristics of the majority of the black population by a large number of girls and boys, when the public sees a black character in the novela as ignorant and violent, the reproduction is automatic, why do producers and hosts fail to see this? The determined space for black people on TV is the same that the elitist white society wants to determine in the real plane, after all does life imitate art or does art imitates life? In the case of TV, who manipulates what? Surely this domination isn’t counting the participation of blacks, televised media ideology is white, eliticized and male. It is the dominant culture that is accepted, it trivializes prejudices and naturalizes violence. They will tell me that yes, that there are blacks performing in these spaces, and I ask in what numbers and in what positions?
We have mourned our dead every day for many years, it’s part of the black Brazilian historical background, the spectacle of the suffering seen on TV serves as a consolation for some, I know how much it hurts to lose someone and how much we need comfort at this time, perhaps even more painful if not even at that moment was there recognition of the life of the person, the human being, the work accomplished, in short, if there was no visibility of the pain, the irreparable loss of dignity and life. However, it redeems no one from the guilt, of the connivance of the silence, of the backstage jokes, the absence of charges and the passivity that stupefies. Society needs to rethink its practices and recognize the social changes that have occurred, because these promote an alteration of positions in the structure that shaped Brazil, or at least that has always prevailed in the collective thought, out of the comfort zone, stopping from repeating phrases that don’t convince anyone anymore.
Preaching miscegenation as a symbol of social/racial equality is a lie so shameful that it only shows how the Brazilian elite try to shove down our throats a discourse to justify the ills that it produces. Yes, we are a mixed people, but which one is not? We are a bigoted and racist country, we are no different from the rest of the world, but we are reproducers of the social ills present in socieities that develop without planning and which directs from the logic of individual merit. We are not a paradisiacal nation with a tropical climate and “beautiful by nature”, this beauty is in the lyrics of the song and in the natural landscape, the social reality of certain groups is more for the “Funk da felicidade (Funk of happiness)” because the little they can still want is to “walk quietly in the favela” where they were born and they don’t even manage this!
Equality is not bestowed upon us through the beautiful speeches in media tears. It’s necessary to change practices, postures, take responsibility, more than talking about we need to act. We need effective policies, to rethink the formation of social subjects, it’s necessary to look at me and I see the other, and demand from who commands, to recognize rights and fulfill obligations. Ah, but that’s too much work and it is practically impossible to change something that is already “culturally” legitimized some will tell me, so shall we sit in front of the TV and applaud the spectacle?!
Eliane Oliveira holds a Masters in Social Science, is a professor, a woman, black, mother, feminist and contentious.
Source: Nelci Gomes