Note from BW of Brazil: So by now, millions of people around the world have heard of Marina Silva, the rising political star of poor origin who was illiterate until the age of 16. In the 2010 election, she surprised many when she claimed about 20% of the vote before being eliminated from the race eventually won by the current incumbent Dilma Rouseff. But there are many enigmas about Marina Silva. Many are wondering how it is that she rose from the ashes of the tragic death of her running mate Eduardo Campos in a plane crash to being on the brink of defeating Rouseff in the October election. What are the sacrifices she’s had to make to satisfy her supporters, and more importantly, her financial backers? She’s already turned some of her supporters away due to her stances and flip-flops on key issues and hasn’t really been called out for her support of controversial pastor Marco Feliciano who enraged blacks and gays with his controversial remarks back in March of 2013.
Silva claimed back in 2010 that she wanted to become Brazil’s first black woman president, but is she someone who the black population should support? According to recent research, the Afro-Brazilian population (pretos and pardos) continue to solidly back President Dilma Rouseff, who is seen as the candidate who will more likely enact policies beneficial to blacks and the poor while Silva has more support among upper-middle classes and elites. One can’t help but compare the differences here between this black/mixed race candidate with another “beige” rising star in the United States. In that situation (2008), 96% of African-Americans voted for Barack Obama even though a background check would have shown that he had huge backing by the elites who put him in office. African-American identity and connection with what they perceived to be a qualified black candidate played a huge whole in his election. In Brazil, by contrast, black identity among Brazilians of visible African ancestry is not as strong in terms of race and they clearly see the white Rouseff having more of their interests in mind as the poorer parcel of the population regardless of how they identify in terms of race or color.
But Brazil is also a country that is not too kind to non-white political candidates. The lack of political representation in Congress mirrors the sheer lack of power that the (would be) black population has in the country overall. As such, could it be that Silva could glide into the Palácio do Planalto (presidential palace) without even reaching out to the black population because she already knows whose interests she serves? This topic hasn’t really been fully explored up this point but it will be interesting to see how Silva deals with this issue as we head into October. In the case of the United States, many African-Americans have felt a huge disappointment after five and half years of Obama. Racial identity is a whole other game in Brazil and candidate support proves this. But if she should become the leader of Brazil, based on the treatment of a past Afro-Brazilian politician, Silva may indeed be headed for a similar situation of political disrespect as the “beige one” in the White House.
Marina Silva – from black woman rubber tapper to conservatism of elites
By Dennis Oliveira
I have posted here in the Quilombo column not only articles denouncing racism – because much information is already more known by the vast majority of society and only those who are blind or pretend not to see it don’t see racism in Brazil – but mostly critiques of certain personalities of African descent that ascended to certain positions and, for convenience or options, changed their discourse.
When I make these statements in some circumstance I am questioning the merit of these personalities or wishing that they – and all of us – always remain on the ground floor. Especially because many of these personalidades afrodescendentes (personalities of African descent), when they cease to interest the system they are simply discarded and all the mechanisms of racial oppression act to put them in limbo. I cite a case of a conservative black politician – Celso Pitta- who was mayor of the largest city in the country, supported by São Paulo’s Paulo Maluf right and is perhaps one of the rare cases of “corrupt politician” who died in misery. And one of the principal architects of the “Máfia dos Fiscais” (Mafia of Taxes), the scandal that hit the Pitta government is today simply the leader of a conservative party that is part of the government base: the former mayor Gilberto Kassab, who was secretary of the sub-districts during the Pitta administration’s tax scandal.
In the 1990s, when I was still in a militant in an organization of the Movimento Negro (black rights movement), one of our actions was to bring a racial slant to the tenure of a black councilman from the São Paulo left, the former head of the Metalworkers Union of São Paulo, Eustáquio Vital Nolasco. At that time, he had a great contribution in this racial slant from his office aide, journalist Juarez Tadeu de Paula Xavier, now a professor at UNESP/Bauru, and at that time, director of this organization that he helped to found in São Paulo in the 1990s. One first actions of the office of councilor Vital Nolasco was to concede the title of São Paulo citizen to three important personalities of the anti-racist struggle: the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who was visiting the country soon after the agreements that ended the regime of apartheid; and the first black women senators, elected by the PT, Benedita da Silva and Marina Silva.
Marina Silva represented in the popular imagination, tenacity and the fight against oppression of class, gender and ethnicity. A rubber tapper, she reminded us, upon receiving the commendation in the Municipality of São Paulo, of the struggle of Chico Mendes to defend the rights of the people of the Forest. She spoke of the difficulties of a black woman becoming an active subject in the political process, facing sexism and racism. And she presented herself as a representative of the struggle for social, ethnic and gender equity.
This is not the Marina Silva that we’ve seen recently. Not because of her choice to break with the PT and then with the PV or even wanting to build up another party, the Rede de Sustentabilidade (Sustainability Network). But by the positions she has come to publicly support. The statements given by Marina to the Diário de Pernambuco, commented on here by my colleague Renato Rovai, in defense of Marco Feliciano are worrying.
Who could imagine Marina Silva, a black woman senator who deserved to be honored by the Movimento Negro in São Paulo, defending a congressman who believes that afrodescendentes deserve the situation in which they live because they are descended from a son of Noah cursed by God? A similar argument given by the Catholic Church during colonization in which blacks could be enslaved and treated as objects because they “had no soul” (because they were not Christians).
This is the Marina Silva in the last election that took third place in her state (Acre) and had her best voting districts in the middle and upper-middle classes of Rio and São Paulo. The convenience brought the former black woman senator and rubber tapper votes from persons who have been, for the most part, against the rights of maids, against quotas and against any process of social inclusion. It’s not dealing with a religious chose but rather an ideological choice.
I don’t consider that all black men and women have to be from the left. But the Brazilian right, the Brazilian elites are so steeped in racism that there is a strong tendency for instrumental use of black personalities who adhere to this ideological spectrum – and always after their utilization, their destination is like that of the orange membrane: they’re thrown in the trash.
Source: Revista Fórum