Note from BW of Brazil: You know, this situation sounds so vaguely familiar. A black candidate of mixed race who has a legitimate chance of becoming the first person of color to occupy the presidency of their country. It also sounds familiar when critics of said candidate as well as the candidate’s competitors say that the topic of race and racial inequality is not being addressed in the presidential debates, campaign proposals or commercials. Why does this all sound so familiar? I’m sure Americans of the United States know this situation all too well. Such is also the situation in Brazil in general elections that are to be held on October 5th. Although there are still three candidates in the race, most media outlets are already narrowing the race down to the two female candidates, the incumbent Dilma Rouseff, and the woman that vote intention percentages suggest will unseat her in a run-off, Marina Silva. With the historic election of an African-American president in the US in 2008, many Afro-Brazilians began to ask aloud when Brazil would elect its first black president. Although the possibility seems to be very strong, for many, a Marina Silva victory would not necessarily mean a victory for the Afro-Brazilian masses. For as experts are noting, declaring one’s self black means nothing if that candidate does not plan to address issues that are important to the black community.
Not even the entrance of a black candidate breaks the silence around racism in the 2014 elections
What is at stake in these elections is the real prospect of moving forward in the emancipation of the black population of which the decisive steps have been taken from 2003 until now. And all that we have achieved so far in terms of public policy is the result of much historical struggle of organized Movimento Negro (black movement)
By Flávio Passos*
At the end of this text, I will represent a brief posting on Facebook about the silence around racism and the 2014 elections. The candidate Marina Silva, for being black and for her past struggle on the left, fails to push the racial question. But the other candidates also fail.
Even with the Aranhas and Tingas assaulted by racist fans, no word of solidarity on the part of the major candidates; not even with respect to situations of “injúria racial” (racial injury/slur) being considered a crime of racism.
Even with the racist demonstrations against the “Mais Médicos” (More Doctors) program, even with everything that racism is the everyday of our society, it’s as if we live in another country. The racial agenda is a electoral taboo.
Even with the alarming social indicators of research institutes showing the uneven condition of the black population in the participation of our development, it’s as if we were just cold statistics.
Even with thousands of young black men being killed annually in a not so silent genocide, no candidate positions themselves, even with the slightest indignation.
Even with three national conferences of racial equality during the past ten years, its proposals are not prioritized explicitly in the programs.
Even with eleven years of the SEPPIR (Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial/Secretariat of Policies of the Promotion of Racial Equality), and eight years of SEPROMI (Secretaria de Promoção da Igualdade Racial/ Secretariat of the Promotion of Racial Equality) in Bahia, the creation of the Sistema Nacional de Políticas de Igualdade Racial (SINAPIR or National System of Policies of Racial Equality) and bodies of racial equality in all spheres of government, including hundreds of municipalities, like Vitória da Conquista (in the state of Bahia), not to speak of its importance and the need to transform SEPPIR in ministry is to ratify their condition of adjunct policy.
Even with twelve years of inadequate application of Law 10.639/03 (law requiring the inclusion of Afro-Brazilian and African history and culture in school curricula), the silence only increases this disregard.
Even with the Estatuto da Igualdade Racial (Racial Equality Statute) approved four years ago, nobody reminds themselves of the need for effectiveness. Being in government programs also requires debate during the campaign.
Even with the quotas having promoted a revolution in the profile of the student body in higher education, to talk about blackness is still “dangerous” to the pragmatic collaborators of the election campaign.
Even with all the religious intolerance against thousands of communities of faith that are the terreiros (temples) of African religions, what we have seen is a threat to the secular state, with silence in front of the project, in a none too silent way, to establish in the country a Christian dictatorship of persecution of religious diversity.
No major candidate cited the Marcha Contra o Genocídio da População Negra (March Against Genocide of Black People). It happened in Brazil a few weeks ago.
No one speaks of the indigenous peoples. Nor the quilombolas (inhabitants of quilombos/maroon societies). Speaking of the indigenous and quilombolas is to speak of land. And land is what most kills in this country.
The height of this silence is that the campaign has reached thirty days and not even, at the least, does the word racism appear in some speech. Nor racial equality. Some speak timidly of “social equality.” The press itself, the official, bourgeois or even alternative has not pushed the race question.
What happens? Our racism continues being a reflection of this social schizophrenia, for even acknowledging its existence, it’s denied as everyday practice. A perfect crime which, in addition to criminalizing the victim him/herself, it still silences itself about the fate of thousands of black bodies.
Or would the silence be because, as some often claim, that “speaking of blacks (read racism) takes away votes?” But take away votes from which voter, the racist? Talking about taking away votes or promoting black consciousness?
Who is the majority of the beneficiaries of social programs from the federal government, like MINHA CASA, MINHA VIDA, MINHA CASA MELHOR (2), BOLSA FAMÍLIA (3), PAA (4), PRONAF (5) and QUOTAS IN THE UNIVERSITIES? Such unpalatable programs for the racist bourgeoisie.
The same bourgeoisie who never complained about the program “CIÊNCIA SEM FRONTEIRAS” (Science without Borders), a program as assistive as the rest, but whose public, by the selection criteria, is made up of 95% whites.
What would be the reaction of that “white elite” if future governments sent hundreds of young blacks and the poor to study medicine in Cuba (best education and medicine in the world, according to the UN) or opened here special classes for thousands of students from the periphery and from the rural zone to study medicine in Brazil so that we have, fifteen years from now, the poor and black communities get medical attention from doctors coming from their own communities and families?
The dictatorship of meritocracy does not allow even contemplate such a possibility. It would instead touch upon the greatest symbol of Brazilian white supremacy. In the Lula and Rousseff governments we have taken significant steps in democratization and a development project without racism, including the access of poor and blacks to medical school.
What is at stake in these elections is the real prospect of moving forward in the emancipation of black people whose decisive steps were taken starting from 2003 to now. And all that we have achieved so far in terms of public policy is the result of much historical struggle of organized Movimentos Negros (black movements).
So, worse than the racial issue be treated as a taboo or an ultimate threat to white privilege in this unequal country is it not being understood by the electorate, black or not black, as the main issue to be solved by all of us in the construction of our fragile democracy.
And, if we’re less than a month from the first round and I will still insist: there is still time for us to enegrecermos (blacken) the process, the debate, the agendas, priorities, programs, platforms, TV commercials, etc. And this will only happen from the pressure of organized civil society. It was never different.
After all, we, pretos (blacks) and pardos (browns), are 53% of the population, and Brazil is still far from guaranteeing full citizenship for negros e negras (black men and women). Regardless of the color of the candidate, this agenda is not a problem of the Movimento Negro. It’s a challenge of each person committed to social justice in this country.
Being a candidate of the left, silence is not the fitting on the race issue. And, being from the right in the case of Aécio (Neves), or, in the case of Marina that, even being black, takes great strides toward a “rightening” of his proposals, one doesn’t expect any discourse in favor of the black population. It would be inconsistent, from the beginning to the end.
Brazil needs to advance in democracy and also in combating racism and its consequences!
* Flávio Passos, black militant of the Educafro network, Master in Social Sciences from PUC-SP, technical advisor of Racial Equality in the City Hall of Conquista, a professor of Sociology and Philosophy at the Colégio Carlos Santana, in Belo Campo.
1. 22-year old Geovane Santana disappeared on August 2. It is known that Santana was stopped by the Military Police in the Calçada region of Salvador, Bahia. The young man’s killer was still not confirmed after his funeral, three members of the Military Police were being investigated for the murder.
2. Program that releases credit to those who bought property through the Minha Casa Minha Vida (my house, my life) Housing Program of the Federal Government. Source
3. Bolsa Família (Family Allowance) is a social welfare program of the Brazilian government, part of the Fome Zero network of federal assistance programs. Bolsa Família provides financial aid to poor Brazilian families; if they have children, families must ensure that the children attend school and are vaccinated. The program attempts to both reduce short-term poverty by direct cash transfers and fight long-term poverty by increasing human capital among the poor through conditional cash transfers. It also works to give free education to children who cannot afford to go to school to show the importance of education. Source
4. The Programa Nacional de Desenvolvimento da Agricultura Familiar (PRONAF of National Program for the Development of Family Agricultur) aims to promote the sustainable development of the rural segment composed of family farmers. An action that provides increased productive capacity, employment generation and income enhancement. Source
5. Programa de Aquisição de Alimentos (PAA or The Food Acquisition Program) is one of the actions of the Secretaria de Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional (SESAN or Department of Food and Nutritional Security) of the Ministério de Desenvolvimento Social e Combate à Fome (MDS or Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger) and the Secretaria de Agricultura Familiar do Ministério do Desenvolvimento Agrário (MDA or Secretariat of the Ministry of Family Farming Agrarian Development). The PAA buys food from family farmers for donations and inventory building, contributing to food security and the strengthening of family farming households in extreme poverty. Source