Note from BW of Brazil: Well, I couldn’t have put it better myself. I have always maintained that the key to understanding Brazil is being able to decipher the myth from the reality. Simply because people will incessantly deny something doesn’t mean it is absolutely not true. Anyone who has studied racial politics in Brazil is probably familiar with the ideas that Brazil is a “racial democracy”, that Brazilians “are all equal”, that they are “all mixed so racism can’t exist here” or “we never had KKK here, so we’re not racists”. All lofty ideals, but that can also all be debunked, either completely or theoretically.
A country whose economy that was based on slavery for most of its existence and maintains inequalities when analyzed according to race cannot be considered a racial democracy in any form. It is for this same reason that all Brazilians are not equal, neither collectively or individually, as a quick look at government, media, and middle-class neighborhoods becomes clear that people with one phenotype have advantages over those with another phenotype.
The well-known Brazilian mixing pot has also not exempted persons that don’t have a clearly European phenotype from experiencing discriminatory and/or exclusionary practices, as literally thousands of stats over the past two decades show that, in nearly all quality of life categories, “pardos”, meaning ‘browns’, ‘mestiços’ or persons of mixed race, are in the same boat as “pretos”, meaning specifically black people.
The last phrase about the non-existence of any sort of KKK-style organization in Brazil is one that I’ve always liked to pick apart. The fact is, although there really has never has been any official organization that openly presents itself as a racist group standing for the interest of the ‘raça branca’ (white race), when we look a little closer, we see elements that function in the same manner. I drew comparisons to these groups several years ago and wrote that they function just like the KKK and are far more lethal.
In my February 17, 2012 post, I wrote that “extermination groups that are active in the country today ARE the Brazilian KKK”, and since then, more and more facts bear this out. For example, according to experts, “in each battalion of the Military Police there’s a death squad”, which is not shocking when we consider that Brazil’s police kill five times more than the American police. Bahian activist Vilma Reis made reference to a “war on blacks” in her state, which, coincidentally has the largest population of blacks in the country.
All of this leads to the topic at hand. The election, thoughts and policies of Brazil’s extremist President, Jair Bolsonaro. I’ve followed his ascension to the top of Brazilian politics for a number of years and while I admit it took me by surprise that Brazilians would actually elect such a man, in reality, considering the Brazil I’ve exposed since 2011, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all.
The articles I’ve laid out since the debut of this blog back in November of 2011, document the existence of a Brazil that most would deny even exists. It is the Brazil that very much identifies with racism, racial exclusion, keeping black people “in their place” and reserving certain spaces in society for whites only. Mind you, this mindset has ALWAYS existed as numerous classic studies on race in Brazil have documented since the 1940s.
What we’re seeing in the 21st century, after about a decade and a half of policies created to facilitate the social ascension of more blacks, is a reaction to those policies. Racism in Brazil didn’t just suddenly rise after the implementation of the affirmative action policies, rather, they just stimulated a more blatant rejection of the white middle classes to seeing black faces where they had been systematically excluded for centuries. And it was upon this anti-black wave of sentiments that the congressman from Rio de Janeiro was able to ride to the presidency.
In typical Brazilian fashion, Bolsonaro couldn’t break the code of denying collective or personal racist views. After all, it is this denial that for decades seemed to demonstrate the Brazilian from his American neighbor. Many white Brazilians in fact carry the same racist sentiments against non-whites as the white American, but Brazil’s widespread romanticizing of race relations doesn’t allow the Brazilian to boldly state such convictions in the same manner as his American counterpart.
But when digging beneath the surface, we find ideologies that the Brazilian would have us believe only existed in the United States. We have intellectuals planning and calculating the slow demise of the black population through miscegenation, actually the opposite of a segregationist United States, but still supportive of the disappearance of the black body, just through other means. We have eugenics studies and experiments. We have one of the country’s most celebrated children’s authors expressing support for a Brazilian KKK.
We have everyday practices of racism and expressions of white superiority throughout the country, including in interracial families, whose very existence many would offer as “proof” that “não existe racism no Brasil” (racism doesn’t exist in Brazil). And besides the militias and death squads, we also have neo-Nazi groups as well as groups who support the sentiments of the KKK.
Against this backdrop, would it seem impossible that Brazil could produce a figure such as Bolsonaro? Would it be outlandish to imagine that, even in his denial, he might harbor every bit of the same sentiments of any 1960s American white supremacist? David Duke, a former American politician known for his white supremacist views and his years as leader of the KKK, actually recognized similarities in Bolsonaro’s look, politics and rhetoric.
But you can’t just label Bolsonaro as a card-carrying member of global white supremacy based on the opinion of a known advocate of white dominance. But when we consider Bolsonaro’s support of militias, his vow to give Brazil’s Military Police carte blanche to kill more people in the majority black favelas, and his view that black quilombos don’t even serve to procreate, what conclusions would you draw? If that weren’t enough, consider that the actions and proposals taken and suggested by his administration and members of his party seem designed to adversely affect the black population or take away reverse the gains made by this same parcel of population over the past 15 years.
I’d say, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…Well, you know the saying. But don’t just listen to me Sociologist Jesse Souza has come to a number of conclusions that Brazilians can’t just brush aside as only the views of a “Yankee” whose views were shaped by an openly racist society.
Bolsonaro is the racist-chief of the Brazilian Ku Klux Klan and “white trash”.
By Jessé Souza
Brazil is not understood without understanding the role of “racial” racism among us. There is no more important prejudice among us, since it has the power to define and articulate the relations between all social classes in our country. It is this prejudice that commands the continuance of slavery with other means. How does this mechanism work in everyday reality? My thesis is that slavery, both in its economic sense of exploitation of the work of others and in its moral and political sense of producing social distinctions, has remained “in practice” unchanged since the abolition of slavery.
Fundamental to understanding this state of affairs is the function that the exiled and humiliated ex-slave will have in the post-slave society. The ex-slave is removed from the competitive labor market and begins to perform the same humiliating and unworthy functions that he previously held. Both the functions of dirty, heavy and dangerous work for men, and the domestic duties of the former “domestic slave” for women, which reproduce all the vicissitudes of the old master/slave relationship. At the heart of this relationship is not only the exploitation of the work sold at a vile price, but also the daily humiliation transformed into sadistic pleasure for the frequent enjoyment and sense of superiority and “social distinction” of the middle and upper classes.
But this is not even the main thing. Blacks at the base of the Brazilian social pyramid have always played a role similar to the caste of the untouchables in India. As Max Weber notes in his classic study of Hinduism, the untouchables have the function of legitimizing the entire Hindu social order insofar as all other castes, even the lower ones, are positively distinguished from the untouchables.
As “social distinction,” that is, the feeling of knowing oneself as “superior” to others is as important in social life as money and economic necessity, it means that a social class in which everyone can step on, humiliate, rape, attack, and, at the limit, murder without fear of consequences satisfies, a fundamental primitive necessity to all classes above it. It is obvious that such a society is not only inhuman, unequal, primitive and crude, but also, at worst, stupid, since reproducing social exclusion produces insecurity, poverty and social instability for all. However, this is the DNA of Brazilian society.
It is important to note that, in parallel to condemning black people to exclusion, the country came to implement the openly racist policy of importing white European immigrants, the vast majority of whom are Italians, just as in the case of Jair Bolsonaro’s family. A considerable part of these “neo-Brazilians” ascend rapidly, some even to the elite of owners and new industrialists, but a good part will constitute the white middle class of big cities like São Paulo. In other large Brazilian cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and Recife, the Portuguese played the same role as the Italian in Sao Paulo.
The white immigrant, mostly Italian or Portuguese, will constitute in Brazil, at the same time in an alliance and at the service of the elite of owners, a kind of “racist and classist pocket” against the blacks and the poor who constitute the majority of the people. For the elite, this means the opportunity to criminalize and stigmatize popular sovereignty at birth with the complicity of the middle classes and guarantee the state budget only by using scorching interest, “public debt”, tax evasion and other legalized assaults. For the other classes, universal prejudice against the black and former slave allows the construction of a common front for the maintenance of a positive social distinction against the blacks, which perpetuates the abandonment, humiliation, and genocide of this race/class as informal public policy.
Even more interesting for our purposes here is the role of racism against the black for the immigrants who have not achieved economic success in the new land. Many immigrants failed to rise to the true middle class or the elite. Much of it will be a gray zone that includes the precarious working class and what we might call the “baixa classe média”, or “lower middle class”. The daily life of many of these does not differ much from the life of the black and the poor Brazilian. They eventually live in the same neighborhood and experience material deprivation. It is precisely in this social range that racial prejudice is even more important. After all, the only distinction these people have in life is the “whiteness” of the color of their skin to display against the black.
Interviewing people of this social class in the interior of São Paulo, descendants of Italians, like Bolsonaro, and some who even live where he was born for my book A classe média no espelho (The middle class in the mirror), I noticed a racism that is not at all cordial. Bolsonaro is the son of the lower middle class of immigrants for whom his career in the army or the police was the promise of safe ascension, albeit limited. In this context, not marrying a black man or a black woman is the most important and most rigid family rule. Here, pure prejudice, the pride of skin color and origin is the only positive social distinction within reach. If the elite and the middle class exploit blacks economically – in addition to humiliating them – then they can only humiliate themselves here. Emphasizing a social distance that is almost non-existent from the economic point of view demands a “racial” racism that is taken to the fullest effect.
This is also precisely the case with the “lixo branco” norte-americano (American “white trash”) that helped elect Trump, the object of Bolsonaro’s imitation and desire. The whites of the South of the US, socially and economically inferior to the whites of the North, are therefore a sort of “compensation” for non-existent wealth, the most ferocious racists and activists of a Ku Klux Klan who murdered and lynched blacks indiscriminately. This is the case of Bolsonaro and his followers in Brazil. And what is the “militia” in Rio, with which Bolsonaro and his children are involved up to their necks, if not the Brazilian Ku Klux Klan, that exists to exploit and kill blacks and poor, the supposed “bandits” of favelas?
Although the elite and the real middle class and scoundrel have also voted for him, his real base of support is the Brazilian “lixo branco” brasileiro (Brazilian “white trash”), close to the black man and because he is eager to criminalize him, stigmatizes him as a bandit, with impunity. The association with the militia, the weight of arms and the discurso de ódio (hate speech) are to kill the black and the poor. What is behind Bolsonaro is “cruel” racial racism expressed in the most open and scoundrel way. The hatred of the public university is also linked to the fact that it has now been “invaded” by blacks and the poor. These people would not be there to study. It could only be to make a mess. It is urgent to cut the money for this.
The irrationality of Bolsonaro, his madness and his idiocy are the perfect expression of Brazilian racial hatred. Hatred is not rationally explained, nor is it purely economic. The hatred of the racist who sees himself as a social failure is a hatred of death. He does not understand the reasons for his social position and only has resentment without direction in the soul and heart. Pure hatred that Bolsonaro expresses and expresses like no one else. Bolsonaro is the leader of the Ku Klux Klan and the Brazilian white trash. That is what defines and explains it more than anything else.
Source: Jesse Souza