Note from BW of Brazil: Well, he’s back in the news again! We first covered this controversy involving a white-looking man attempting to take advantage of Brazil’s Affirmative Action system by declaring himself black back in September of 2013. As his battle moves to the next stage, the debate over the legitimacy of his claim as well as flaws in the quota system are being debated once again. The first piece below re-examines the case in an article from July. The second and third articles are updates and an opinion piece on the controversy.
Candidate who sparked controversy when competing as an affirmative action student in 2013 returns and declares himself black
Outraged, other candidates are considering filing an appeal in court against the Itamaraty (Foreign Ministry). According to them, the institute is turning a ‘blind eye’ by failing to provide mechanisms to verify self-declaration of race
By Rodolfo Costa
The candidate Mathias Abramovic that for the second time declared himself black and entered the regime of quotas to compete in the competition for diplomat
The discussion on the system of racial quotas for entry into the civil service is far from over. Law No. 12,990/14, which reserves 20% of vacancies for positions and jobs in the organ’s body, has gaps that don’t help to reduce the disparity between blacks and whites in public administration. As legislation establishes the self-declaration of race at the time of enrolling, many candidates take advantage of the loophole to try to enter public service. This is the case of Mathias de Souza Lima Abramovic, who, after having been the subject of complaints for competing for a place as a diplomat through the system in 2013, returned to self-declare himself as black in the selection process for the same position.
As inscriptions for the quota of vacancies tend to be fewer in number, those interested will find less competition than they would in the larger system. In the selection process for diplomat, there is an average of 200 applicants for each vacancy offered in the wide competition. That number drops to 111 in the system for pretos and pardos (blacks and browns). The presence of Abramovic as a cotista (affirmative action student) provoked outrage among those who signed up.
In 2013, he went through all the steps, but had his name was divulged in the final result because he didn’t get a sufficient average to be approved in the competition. The candidate, however, cannot be the one to take advantage of the gap in the law. Trying to avoid irregularities, the candidates turn to social networks to map out those who declared themselves black. Some are considering filing an appeal in court against the Foreign Ministry, for, they say, turning a “blind eye” for not providing verification mechanisms of self-declaration. “People are looking for a more drastic solution, since our administrative communications with the Foreign Ministry haven’t been effective,” said student Luter Souza, 34.
The first stage of the competition will take place on August 2, but the selection process is already in the sights of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF). The prosecutor Luciana Oliveira, of the Procuradoria da República do Distrito Federal (Regional Prosecution for Citizens’ Rights of the Federal District), dispatched yesterday representation to the Prosecution of the Federal District Republic (PR-DF). The case will be further assessed, but the opening of a civil action has not been ruled out, secured a source heard by Correio (newspaper).
The lawyer Max Kolbe, from the office of Kolbe Advogados Associados, warns that the creation of mechanisms to verify that the person is black or not is illegal. The methodology used by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) takes into account the color that the interviewee says he or she has. “As the laws benefit whoever claims to be preto or pardo, we cannot go against the law and establish barrier clauses to the quota system,” he said.
This report didn’t manage to reach Mathias Abramovic. The Ministério das Relações Exteriores (MRE or Ministry of Foreign Affairs) announced that didn’t anticipate a prior verification mechanism of self-declaration as it’s not being provided for by law, pointing out that “they proceeded the same way many other federal government agencies do their competitions released after its entry into force of Law.
Note from BW of Brazil: Intriguing this case, to say the least. BW of Brazil has already made a declaration on this situation which, in essence, is absurd. In a country that defines whiteness on physical appearance rather than distant ancestry, this case shouldn’t even have played out as it has, and now with some suggesting the necessity of DNA tests! As we have written before, a huge number of Brazilians who classify themselves as white have recent African ancestry which means, based on that criteria, a huge number of Brazilians could qualify for the quota system. But these white Brazilians of African ancestry are not the same ones who will be harassed by the police, called monkeys, lack physical representation in the media or followed around by security in shopping malls. And for this reason, the way they are handling this case and the criteria for blackness
Prosecutor wants investigation of alleged fraud in competition quota
Courtesy of Diário do Litoral
According to the law enacted last year, 20% of vacancies in federal procurement should be destined to self-declared pretos e pardos (blacks and browns)
The Prosecutor’s Office in the Federal District recommended to the Foreign Ministry to ascertain “suspicion of misrepresentation” of a candidate who is self-declared himself a cotista (affirmative action student) in competition for the diplomacy.
The prosecutor of the Republic Marcia Zollinger requested an “initiation of administrative procedure” in relation to registration of Mathias de Souza Lima Abramovic in disputing one of the six seats reserved for blacks.
According to law enacted last year, 20% of vacancies in federal procurement should be designated to self-declared pretos e pardos (black or brown).
“I set a deadline of five days so that information be provided about the compliance with the present recommendation,” he said in a document sent to the ministry on Wednesday (26).
In the recommendation, she cites “numerous advantages of the criterion of self-declaration” but considers that “when not accompanied with control mechanisms, it can give rise to situations of fraud or bad faith on the part of some candidates, thwarting the real objectives of public policy of quotas.”
The prosecution recommends that the investigation, however, may extend to other candidates with “suspected false declaration”
Abramovic is among the candidates in the first stage of the competition – the second phase takes place this weekend.
According to the legislation, the candidate can be eliminated from contention if fraud is confirmed. But it is not explained how this would occur. The Prosecutor’s Office in the Federal District also hasn’t explained what the mechanism is to be adopted by the Foreign Ministry in the investigation of the case.
In an interview with the O Globo newspaper in 2013, when also running for one of the vacancies reserved for self-declared blacks, he affirmed that he identified as an afrodescendente (African descent).
When quotas become a moral issue
By Roberto Dalmo
Again, here comes the “white” doctor who passed the first stage of the competition for the Foreign Ministry by means of the quotas for blacks policy. In a very naïve way two thoughts come forth: The first relates to the failure of the quota system that allows this to happen, the second affirms the miscegenation of the Brazilian people and attempts to legitimize the policy of quotas, but with everyone being able sign up as cotistas.
Therefore, it is necessary to bring out two points: Would genetics possibly be able to say who is and who is not worthy of racial quotas? If self-determination is a fairly open criteria wouldn’t it be necessary to revise these criteria so that it does not happen again?
On the first question I bring the article by Sérgio Pena and Maria Cátira Bortolini who, from an instrumental of molecular genetics and genetics of population tried to show the contribution of the African population to the formation of the Brazilian people. According to the study it is estimated that 89 million Brazilians are afrodescendentes (of African descent) and approximately 146 million Brazilians have more than 10% African contribution to their genome (1). Thus, the authors question “can genetics define who should benefit from university quotas and affirmative action?”
To this question is necessary to understand that the concept of race, biologically, is not accepted, as only 0.01% of the human genome varies between two individuals. The authors believe the answer to the previous question is an emphatic NO.
However, the concept of race is not only a biological concept, but it presents a historical and social meaning which the black social movements are not willing to give up. To think beyond biology we need to think about the concept of self-determination.
Self-determination for the sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, is in an existent field of tension in human rights – the tension between individual and collective rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes only two subjects of rights: the individual and the state. Thus, people would only be recognized to the extent that they were transformed into States. However, the statement does not cover the rights of social groups, such as LGBT, women, indigenous peoples, blacks, etc. Emerging later, various documents that deal with the rights of these groups (in 1981 the magna carta on women’s rights and in 1963 against racial discrimination, etc.).
Over time, the right to self-determination was recognized and makes it so that the individual can affirm himself as belonging to a certain group and may thus fight for their rights.
And what does the policy of quotas have to do with it?
For the USP professor Kabengele Munanga there is a difficult task is determining who is black in Brazil.
The professor explains:
“In the current context, in Brazil the question is problematic because, when puts into focus affirmative action policies – quotas, for example – the concept of black becomes complex. Coming into play as well is the concept of afro-descendente (African descendant), forged by blacks themselves in the search for unity with mestiços (persons of mixed race).”
The policy of racial quotas has as an objective historical reparation, but what one seeks is temporary, after all, we hope that there comes the time comes in which they are not required. How does one define who will benefit? By self-determination. Thus, self-determination becomes the best way – however disputed that may be.
Kabengele Munanga states:
“If a kid, apparently white, declares himself as black and claim his rights in a case related to quotas, there is no way to contest it. The only way is to subject that person to a DNA test. However, this is not advisable, because, by following such a path, all Brazilians should take tests.”
The professor also states that the quota policy should be a cross between self-determination with economic and social factors, but this is not always taken into consideration.
To for genetics many of us are of African descent and for sociology the best criteria possible criterion is self-determination, we cannot affirm that the boy who declared himself a cotista is illegal. Nor can we say that that rapaz preto (black guy) (skin color), but without a black identity, doesn’t fit the policy of quotas.
The discussion, to me, is focused on another aspect that does not respect the law.
It is the moral.
A competition for the Foreign Ministry will approve a diplomat, ie, a civil servant who will be responsible for establishing relations between nations. If legally we can do nothing against the young white (in skin color) without a black identity and that declared himself black, or to the black person (in skin color) without black identity, but who declared himself black – both for personal interests – we cannot lose sight of the question “what kind of diplomat do we want for our country? Is this guy is part of our anxieties?”
For me, no. It’s not possible for an individual who utilized a serious public issue, as the quota policy, for personal gain. The ends don’t justify the means.
- Figures based on the study that was released in 2004. At the time, 146 million represented 86% of the Brazilian population. Today, Brazil’s population stands at about 204 million with about 53% proclaiming themselves preto/black or pardo/brown.