Note from BW of Brazil: In reality, this should come as no surprise. Over a month ago we posted an article that showed that even with a black presidential candidate in race, the topic of race was a non-factor on the agendas of the three favorites. But is this really a surprise? In a country where race has only been a serious discussion in some social circles for between one and two decades after over a century of pretending that it wasn’t even a factor in the lives of millions of people who are descendants of enslaved humans who were freed only in 1888, why should we expect otherwise? Brazilian propaganda effectively diminished the issue in the minds of millions, even those who were most affected by the inequalities created by its practice.
But let’s be clear. In the past few decades there have been advances on the racial frontier. Afro-Brazilian activism has been able to successfully place the topic of race into the social science program of some major universities where top professors have written and released major works documenting the history and maintenance of white supremacy interwoven into the social fabric of the society. These studies and data would eventually lead to the historic initiation of affirmative action policies that have greatly improved the numbers of Afro-Brazilians having access to institutions of higher learner and thus improving their social realities. In fact, under the rule the current president Dilma Rousseff’s Worker’s Party (PT), a number of social programs have been initiated over the past 12 years that have indeed largely benefited the black population. And as such, it is highly expected that tomorrow when Brazilians head to the polls, those of visible African descent will continue to support the party that is associated with these social improvements. But as the countdown to the election begins, does supporting another 4 years of the PT guarantee that those improvements will continue due to promises made by the incumbent’s party or is it simply a situation of sticking to the party and hoping for a few more crumbs to fall off of the table?
In reality, what we are dealing with here is simply a continuation of a belief in integration politics of a group that continues to be a non-factor in the halls of political power. We see this in the small number of Afro-Brazilians in Congress, the non-existence of any sort of black caucus that advocates and represents the Afro-Brazilian community on political issues and the continuation of this population being pushed to the side by major political parties. Although some will argue that the situation is completely different from that that has occurred in the US, the similarities are simply too striking to ignore. While it may be true that the possibility of the nation electing its first black president faded with the demise of Marina Silva’s campaign more than a month ago, in reality, whether she would have remained in the race or not, it wouldn’t have been any different from the current final showdown between the two white candidates representing the two largest parties.
Similar to the situation in the United States, after the abolition of slavery in Brazil, black political representation (such as that by the 1930s organization the Frente Negra Brasileira or FNB) has continuously pushed for the full integration of Afro-Brazilians into all realms of the society. But by pushing for integration, the FNB, just like black leadership in the US through organizations such as the NAACP, the Urban League and SCLC, had no viable options if and when white political elites decided to ignore their demands and wishes. In the US, the election of the first black president in Barack Obama has in reality done nothing to improve the plight of the African-American masses who have seem their situation actually worsen after six years of rule by a man who looks more like them than any other president in US history. Obama glided into the White House without making any promises to a black population that didn’t make any real demands on his presidency, and as such, its plight is continuously ignored by the Obama Administration while its black leadership refuses to seriously question Obama’s policies or lack thereof in regards to the black population.
From time to time when I read the comments section on this blog or on affiliated social network pages written by apparent African-American supporters of Obama, I will occasionally see comments of the “you all stay strong and maybe you’ll have a black president like we have” type. Really? Can someone tell me what there is to significantly gain in this action using the Obama presidency specifically as an example? Obama’s policies as a Democratic president have in reality not been significantly different than previous Democrats such as Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter and in some ways have similarities with the previous George W. Bush Administration. Remove the factor of the current president’s skin color and the situation is similar in Brazil. By supporting political ideologies of integration, both populations of African descent can at best vote for what they consider to be the lesser of the two evils (the “menos pior”) as neither major party will truly represent black aspirations.
For more evidence of this, check the piece below. (Keep in mind, the article is from a few weeks ago when the candidate Marina Silva still appeared to have a chance at the presidency. It’s a few weeks dated but the overall message still applies)
The white slate of the Movimento Negro, hand-kissing and no proposals
Editoral from Afropress
Mamapress associates itself with this editorial of Afropress, our sister company Imprensa Interétnica. There are over 1,700 black organizations in Brazil. Individually many of us participate in parties and many parties have their black sections.
They are democratic rights
Proposals of the independent Movimento Negro and as a whole, were prepared in conferences and seminars since the beginning of the 1970s and forwarded to the BRAZILIAN STATE.
Already in 1946, parties like the PCB and the PTB included demands against racial discrimination in its programs.
UN recommendations for the Brazilian State
In the 1930s, only 42 years after the end of slavery, 200,000 blacks presented the only major attempt to form a black party. The Frente Negra Brasileira (Brazilian Black Front), made proposals for the nation of equality for blacks, at all levels and echelons of Brazilian society.
The Movimento Negro (Black Movement) has a history and needs to be respected. If they want to serve black people, it’s enough for each politician and party to search in their cabinets and government cabinets for our demands, which are delivered and rotting in the archives of institutional racism.
From 1982 until now, several state and local governments, and from 1986, the federal government and the National Congress adopted some measures, which we define as State policies that met the demands of the Movimento Negro.
On a scale of 0-10, we would say optimistically that we have reached, 0.5% of these demands.
The daily murders of young blacks throughout Brazil, swings even the optimism of the 0.5% of the advances that the Brazilian State had in relation to meeting the needs and demands of 55% of the population.
Several weeks ago (August 22), independent black organizations, protested throughout the country for the end of the Genocído da Juventude Negra (Genocide of Black Youth), it was the Movimento Reaja ou Será Morto (React or Be Killed Movement), which put more than 50 thousand people in the streets across Brazil, without support from any organization of the government apparatus. And the deaths covered up by the infamous “Auto de Resistência” (resistance of arrest) continue, with or without elections.
We fight in order that every black citizen, as well as every Brazilian citizen, reach a full day of freedom to vote. This freedom that is prevented from happening due patronage, threats, violence and the famous phrase that repeats itself ad infinitum; that improving the social and economic issues, we will as blacks, be able to one day at the table of power, to eat the cake of full freedom.
A sham. Our platform, our principal demand of the Movimento Negro Movement for the Brazilian State, is the end of Apartheid and Racism ingrained in all power structures and institutions of Brazil. We are more than 100 million individuals. Each has their own opinion and in 5 days will go to the polls. That neither blacks nor whites, 126 years after abolition, come to place harnesses to turn our necks.
Even the UN already knows our demands to the Brazilian State.
We have blacks and vote for all parties in Brazil, but our demands go beyond parties and governments, we want State policies that meet us and quickly repair the damage done and overcome the deep inequalities existing between black and white Brazilians.
We cannot accept to be hostage of good will, of policies adopted by this or that party, by this or that government. From the first landing on this land, we know that promises don’t turn into state laws to be met, we’ve only maintained ourselves us in a perpetual galley called Brazil. #marcosromao
Editoral from Afropress
No one can be against what blacks of the PT (Worker’s Party) and PC do B (Communist Party of Brazil), represented by its articulations and entities such as CONEN (Coordenação Nacional de Entidades Negras or National Coordination of Black Entities) and UNEGRO (União de Negros pela Igualdade or Union of Blacks for Equality) expressing their adhesion to the candidate who has the support of these parties in the government – in this case, President Dilma Rousseff, PT, who is running for re-election.
No one can be against blacks of the PSB (Brazilian Socialist Party) or the Rede or any party supporting its candidate, former Senator Marina Silva, who has appeared in the polls always in second place and at this point – a week from the election – appears to have breath to reach the Plantalto, although falling in the polls.
Nor can anyone be against blacks of the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party), the DEM (Democratas), the PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), or any other member of these clusters that make up the alphabet soup of the Brazilian political party scene (Brazil is the only country in the world that has 32 parties registered in Superior Electoral Court) expressing themselves in favor of their preferences in the elections.
What we cannot imagine or even accept is that blacks of such parties position themselves as spokesmen of black Brazilians and launch manifestos in support of this or that candidate, as representatives of black people, as if they speak for the whole, for all of us.
This is a fraud, which needs to be denounced so that the deception and the hoax don’t prosper. Black Brazilians have nothing to do with the “black bossism”, with these sad figures that transform the occupation of “annexes” – whether in parties, on in the state, where they exercise subservience and the game of flattery to the owners of these parties. Nobody gave them any proxy.
Those that manifest themselves campaigning for their candidates, are in their role, which is exactly this: the luxury of canvassers, symbols and allegories of inclusion that never actually happen, eyeing in a parliamentary amendment, a little project to be sponsored by this or that state, a device that the current government used and abused to serve to these people the crumbs left over from the abundant table of power.
But, they don’t speak for black Brazilians, who constitute 53.1% of the population of 202.7 million people, according to the latest Pesquisa Nacional de Amostras de Domicílio (National Sample Survey of Households) 2013 (PNAD), 55% of voters, according to a recent survey by the Patrícia Galvão Institute.
What they do do is insert themselves within the movement of mystification and falsehood; play the game of those that, simply, are concerned about maintaining power and a giving a deaf ear to the need for structural changes in Brazil, that starts with an agenda that has prioritized the inclusion of those who were left out by an Abolition that was never completed. What they want, in practice, is to ensure space in the “annexes” for the next four years in which they reveal the character of a white slate Movimento Negro, which has adhesion to the Government (any government) recorded in their DNA.
The biggest proof of this is that there were no black supporters of the candidate who is running for re-election that even cared and had the decency to present a document with proposals and demands. It was an act of pure adhesion, an explicit hand-kissing turned into a campaign piece.
The arguments used that are put in play “not just an electoral dispute, but political projects” and that the option was made “for that that has conquests closer to the issues historically defended” are laughable, even hilarious, a word game that has a single goal: disguise, with some pomp and flights of rhetoric, the most worthless followers lacking in autonomy and independence, in an attempt to dupe the gullible and uninformed.
Similarly, supporters of former Minister of Environment of the Lula government (Marina Silva), considered by he himself the “Pelé of the Ministry” when she left, but now demonized, presented as right-wing, only for electoral convenience in which, as in war, truth is the first casualty.
The text released by them refers to a meeting held with the candidate last September 20 in Salvador, and in it there is a series of demands, suggesting a proposal of a supposed government program. There is, however, a single explanation of the degree of agreement from the candidate to such demands, which shows that she was standing before, equally, an improvised campaign piece written on their knees. (See a previous post)
In the one case as in the other, we are facing a scenario that verges on the surreal: such black leaders, posing as representatives of the majority of Brazilian voters (55%, we repeat) accept, passively and docilely, that the two main candidates not assume a single commitment with this majority in their eventual governments.
There is not a single point, a single proposal, with which there was a closed issue as a condition for support as would be expected. It is as if we are all very happy, all very satisfied and therefore the only thing to do was to support the benefactors on call, expecting from them favors and kindness. There is no way not to associate this to the hand-kissing ritual, a reverence so fashionable under slavery.
It’s surreal, yes, but it reveals much because Brazil – 7th economy in the world – is one of the champion countries on the question of inequality, and why, after 126 years of abolition, we are like we are.