Note from BW of Brazil: So typical. Brazil, the place where one can switch their racial identity depending on perceived advantages and agendas. For those of our readers who live in Brazil or have read this blog’s many articles that delve into the perplexing issue of race in this country, today’s feature won’t come as a surprise. In Brazil, in racial terms, a person can see themselves as negro (black), but be seen as branco (white) by their parents, moreno (light brown/mixed) by friends and colleagues and a pardo (brown/mixed) by police. If we remember the numerous cases of racial fraud on the part of white Brazilians who suddenly want to “pass” as black to take advantage of affirmative action policies (see here, here and here) or a clearly white women who suddenly become a mulata in a contest that traditionally reserved for black women, today’s story should come as no surprise. But really, what’s next?
Salvador, Bahia has long been hailed as the Brazil’s African center due to its strong cultural ties to Africa as well as its huge black majority population. But the city has also long held a reputation as the greatest example of apartheid baiano (Bahian apartheid) as the city’s political and economic elites have long been and continue to be dominated by persons with white skin. Well, as it turns out, more and more people are beginning to question why so many black people continue to be ruled by such a small white elite. So what better way to appeal to the black masses than to pass yourself off as, if not black, at least brown, which for many indicates that one has a little or significant African ancestry.
With an eye toward the coming October 2nd elections, both sitting mayor ACM Neto and Congresswoman Alice Portugal, two figures who are seen as branco/branca (white), saw fit to identify themselves as “pardos”, loosely meaning ‘brown’ or ‘mixed race’ on official voting registrations. Could there be any other reason for this except to appeal to the overwhelmingly black (or black and brown) majority in Salvador? Why would this be? ACM Neto is, after all, the sitting mayor and didn’t resort to such trickery to win in the previous election (In 2012, both parties just included black women as vice-mayoral candidates!) Are the two afraid of a rising black consciousness that questions white authority and thus seek appealing to racial allegiance by suddenly becoming a little darker? Could this be the case also due to the fact that there are at least four other candidates who in fact look more like “the people”? Seems a bit obvious to me…
In the elections, as well as at night, are all the gatos pardos (cats brown)?
Courtesy of Correio Nagô
The racial theme promises to have power in the next election debates in Salvador. At least in the center of the controversy is an agenda already guaranteed. After causing awkwardness due to the lack of black vice candidates in the two main slates for mayor of Salvador (the current mayor and candidate for re-election and the opposition alliance between PCdoB/PT), it seems that somehow coalitions want to guarantee that space. At least in the official registration form at the Superior Electoral Court the candidates for mayor and vice mayor declared themselves pardos (browns). Despite the distinctions made in demographic research in the field of social movements, pretos (blacks) and pardos (browns) are lumped together in the same category because of their similarity in suffering the effects of racism and racial inequalities.
On her Facebook page, the journalist Maíra Azevedo, known as Tia Má (Aunt Má), considered the attitude ridiculous. “It would be much cooler to assume branquitude (whiteness), recognize the number of privileges that you had and have had throughout life and say, therefore I am in the race.” For the journalist, the fight against racism is not a struggle restricted to the população negra (black population). “Whoever would do this… would have much more of my respect and even my vote. I’m shocked with so much demagoguery,” she said.
Candidates declare themselves “African descendants”
By Biaggio Talento
Whoever thought that there would be no afrodescendente (African descent) candidate running for mayor in Salvador, Bahia’s election may have roundly “mistaken”. At least on the registration form for mayor of Salvador, four (of the seven candidates) contained in the Disclosure of Candidates link of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), namely: ACM Neto (DEM), Alice Portugal (PCdoB), Pastor Isidório (PDT) and Cláudio Silva (PP), affirmed that they are “pardos” (brown), while Fábio Nogueira de Oliveira (PSOL) said that he’s “preto” (black).
The only one who assumed himself as “branco” (white) was Rogério Tadeu Da Luz (PRTB). The registration form for candidate Célia Sacramento (PPL) was not posted on the TSE by the closing of this article.
The vice-mayor candidates followed the trend: Bruno Reis, Maria del Carmen, Luiz Bassuma and Dinamene Meireles said they were “pardos”. Antônio Neto, the vice of Da Luz said that he was “pardo” and Iuri Alves (PSOL), “preto.”
The discussion on the use of negritude in Salvador mayor’s election came up in the composition of the plates. Candidates ACM Neto and Portugal Alice tried to put afrodescendentes on the slate, with an eye on the black electorate.
The strategy paid off in the 2012 election for Neto, who chose Célia Sacramento, at the time with the PV, for vice. He managed to defeat the Nelson Pelegrino/Olívia Santana slate, with an ethnic composition similar to his opponent.
In the dealings for the composition of the slates this year, the weight of the PMDB was stronger, and Neto placed the PMDB’s Bruno Reis as vice.
Alice Portugal tried to compose the slate with the PT (Worker’s Party) councilman Gilmar Santiago, but the governor Rui Costa (PT) preferred the name of the deputy Maria del Carmen, Spanish by birth.
“It’s an attempt to defraud the system. It’s as if only women candidates were admitted and they put on the record that they are of the female gender,” responded the president of Grupo Cultural Olodum, João Jorge Rodrigues, lawyer, a master in public law and activist the Movimento Negro (black movement).
Rodrigues came to be probed to be a vice on the PCdoB/PT/PSB slate, but didn’t accept. “How are you going to say in the campaign that you’re something you haven’t been? It’s not possible to assume what is pardo or negro in 2016”.
He laments that candidates hide their ethnic origin only to win votes. “This is done because the Brazilian political system is very broken, needs urgent reform. It is a very exclusive system. Normally the Brazilian can vote but can’t be voted. In the past there was prohibition of women and illiterates voting. Today, not all can be candidates because they can’t afford it on the one hand and, on the other, it depends on the party structures,” he criticized.
He recalled that this kind of ethnic fraud has occurred in other fields. “Recently a competition at the Itamaraty there was a candidate that declared himself an African descendant being Jewish, white, grandson of Germans and upper-middle class. He didn’t feel embarrassed to say he was afrodescendente. The goal is always the search for vacancy, for power. This prevents Brazil from advancing. Our country is far behind the United States, South Africa (1), Australia, countries that had many tough regimes based on the separation of races.”
He considers that this type of “distortion” is itself a thing of uncivilized societies. “So they (candidates) are trying to get closer to something that is far away from them.”
Gatos pardos (brown cats)
The sociologist Joviniano Neto joked remembering a saying: “At night all cats are pardos. In Salvador’s mayoral election all the candidates are pardos.” (2)
He says that in the time that white candidates identify themselves as pardos, they aim to make a connection “with what would be Brazilian miscegenation.”
He declared that “what may be true in the American conception, for who if anyone has African ancestry he is black, doesn’t match the mode of classification in Brazil.”
The candidates, for the sociologist, are “trying to show that they are equal to all Brazilians who would be miscigenados (mixed race), but that’s not the way that here one evaluatrd the person and this strategy may be an exaggeration of political correctness.”
Regarding the economic power, the candidate ACM Neto (DEM) is the richest among the six names listed on the TSE page. He claimed to have funds in the amount of R$27,886,721.62. In second place comes the PP candidate, Cláudio Silva, who has declared R$3,862,593.36. Third, Alice Portugal, of the PCdoB, with R$1,103,374.21. Pastor Isidório declared R$555,500. Of all he was the one who said he possessed cash: R$350 thousand. Rogério Da Luz (PRTB) declared assets of R$4,500, and the PSOL candidate, Fábio Nogueira, didn’t declare his assets. Among the vices, the one with the most resources is Maria del Carmen, who declared R$888,068.08.
- The discussion (or mere mention) of perceptions of race and racism in Brazil, the United States and South Africa has been featured in numerous previous posts. See here.
- This is very popular phrase in Brazil and here means two things. 1) It basically says that at all, we’re all equal in the dark. With little light, it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish one person from another. 2) Brazil is known as a “mestiço” (mixed race) country, where everyone is more or less mixed. “Pardo/parda” is a term that is often translated as “brown” but signifies a person of “mixed race” while for others the term refers more or less to a negro/black person with some degree of racial mixture.