Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s story, another side of the twisted soap opera that is the impeachment process of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. It is also yet another example of the precarious situation that black Brazilians find themselves in terms of political representation. There are a few things to point out as this crisis in Brazilian politics continues. 1) My stance on this whole drama in regards to black Brazilians echoes my sentiments to situation that is also visible in the United States as the two major political parties in that country continue to push their candidates to succeed Barack Obama as President of the United States. As long as the black population doesn’t develop and organize political and economic independence, it will continue to be pawns in a game of which political parties dominated by rich white men will continue to ignore and exploit their support.
2) Brazil is a country where corruption is the name of game and everyone knows it. But in this particular case, the majority of the very politicians who are calling for ouster of the country’s first female president have their own scandals and accusations of corruption. In fact, the push for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff has no ground and even the international press knows it. In recent weeks, no less than 14 major international news outlets (including the UK’s The Independent and the BBC, The New York Times and Washington Post of the US, France’s RFI and Le Monde and Argentina’s Pagina 12) show that the impeachment is illegitimate. This should not be seen any sort of endorsement of Rousseff’s PT party as this writer is of the opinion that ALL major political parties are dirty! But nonetheless, other interesting little details are coming out of this scandal, one of which once again highlights the position of black Brazilians in the political realm.
We should all understand that black people are not a monolithic group that dances, sings, thinks and votes all alike. Shameful that that even has to even be written, but amazingly there are still many who believe the opposite. As such, all black people don’t have the same religious beliefs, hobbies or political views. In terms of the latter, this means that not all black people will vote in the same manner and whatever way they do vote doesn’t necessarily mean they are any less black than a black person who votes from the opposite political leaning. This must be pointed out to fairly deal with the story we bring you today.
Bahian congresswoman Tia Eron’s name has only come up twice on this blog in the past and neither of those posts were really politically-related. But in the middle of the vote for lawmakers to decide if they would move forward with impeachment proceedings, Eron surprised many with her vote in favor of impeachment, which brought her accolades from conservatives who are hell-bent on reversing many of the PT’s policies that led to several social advancements for the black and poor population over the past 14 years. OK, Eron has the right and her own reasons for voting that way. As I wrote, I personally believe ALL major political parties are corrupt and if she believes removing Dilma from power is a move in the positive direction, that’s her decision. But I DO wonder about the specific reasons that prompted her to cast this vote. Does it earn her political favor with the right, the same right that would undoubtedly put a freeze on the gains that Afro-Brazilians have made since the PT took power?
Now let’s be fair about this. Although the Afro-Brazilian vote is major reason that the PT has remained in power for nearly a decade and a half, this party has regularly been accused of exploiting this vote without making any promises on Afro-Brazilian demands and remaining silent on three major issues that have and will continue to affect the black population: 1) The push for the lowering of the legal age of criminal responsibility, 2) The increase in the prison population and 3) The genocidal rates of homicide against black Brazilians. Add to this the PT’s complicity in the military occupation of Haiti and we can see that the PT’s relationship to the black population is something like the abused wife who sticks around and keeps believing that her husband’s behavior will get better. All of these issues just go to prove that, similar to the situation in the United States, the black population really doesn’t have much of a choice as both major parties (PT/PSDB in Brazil, Democrats/Republicans in the US) will never fully support them or their issues while all the while pretending that they will, remaining in their favor and still treating them in racist, condescending manners.
Congresswoman Tia Eron does not represent me
We are a feminine and feminist organization, we rural and urban, are part of the social movement of Brazilian People has operations in 5 territories of the state of Bahia.
by Dina Lopes
We came out in public to show our indignation with the stage of horror that was installed in the Câmara dos Deputados (House of Representatives) in Brasilia on Sunday 04/17/2016 where conservative people (mostly men) called themselves representatives of the people (unfortunately many are there for vote of the people) and voted in favor of a political project that greatly contributed and contributes to bringing dignity to a despised layer by the Brazilian elite. Watching programming on Sunday I realized how we are in the hands of totally conservative people, imbued with all sorts of prejudices and who use God’s name to justify and maneuver the minds of many Brazilian men and women who take God seriously. Because what I saw was God’s name being thrown in the trash. Unfortunate! However among many things that left me frightened and worried was the positioning and the speech of the Federal Deputy Tia Eron, I know I could not expect much from her due to the side of which she chose to be in politics, I also recognize her role as a Black woman (which according to her she is) within a space that is mostly controlled by whites, conservatives and fascists such as men like (Jair) Bolsonaro, (Marcos) Feliciano and (speaker of the lower House) Eduardo Cunha. I was and am to this day gasping because of Tia Eron’s speech where she claims to represent me.
“I am the voice of the Black Woman and Northeast Woman, that no longer wants the crumbs of the Federal Government”
How’s that Congresswoman Tia Eron? Who delegated you to this position? Based on that the Congresswoman self declares herself to be the voice of the black and northeastern woman? We of Via Mulher don’t recognize such legitimacy. What crumbs does Congresswoman Tia Eron say we black women don’t want to receive? Our struggles (those of black women) were and are for rights and not crumbs, we understand that everything we have achieved is a reflection of our struggles, of organizations of women, black women; of solidarity and feminist economics, women’s associations; women’s cooperatives; the neighborhood associations that we are a part of, etc. We know that all our achievements are being threatened by people who claim to speak for the people, such as the Federal Congresswoman Tia Eron, democracy is all we have left as a guarantee of rights, how does Tia Eron say she represents us when you didn’t consider our votes at the polls? President Rousseff was elected by 54.5 million of Brazilian men and women and that fact is not being taken into consideration by Congressman and by Congresswoman Tia Eron when they voted in favor of impeachment, and she still says she is a representative of us Black and Northeastern Women? Disregarding that the impeachment is also a gender issue? Do me a favor Ms. Deputada Tia Eron.
I say Congresswoman Tia Eron DOESN’T represent me. NO. NO AND NO. And the political group to which she is associating herself certainly does not consider her in their midst, it just wants her vote for their infamous goals. When she wants to impose herself as a woman and black they will be the first to reject her.
“Black, but, beautiful and intelligent”: the racism of the right is not different from the racism of the left
By Thiane Neves Barros
The day of April 17, 2016 was not only the day of one of the most important decisions for the Brazilian political scene since the return to democracy, as it was a day of disappointment for certain social groups. Deputado (Congressman) Tiririca (PR/SP) disappointed the circus professionals, Sérgio Reis (PRB/SP) was discovered as a deputado (irony), Wlad Costa (Solidariedade/PA) was indicated as the most wrongful deputy of the Congresso Nacional (National Congress), Jean Willys (PSOL/RJ) has angered the right and a stir among the allies after directing (and missing!) spit at Jair Bolsonaro (PSC/RJ) that had been provoking him for some time, among other scenes.
According to the journalist Flávia Oliveira, in the last national elections there were only 10 black women elected among 513 parliamentarians. In other words, to us, black women, it is very little representation on the national political scene. We have less than 1% representation among elected federal deputados/deputadas (congressmen and congresswoman), although the black population is more than 50% of the 190 million Brazilians (now 205 million). Still, even with only 10 black women they are all different from each other, including those which are from the same party. This, the votes for Rousseff’s impeachment also had different motivations.
Of 513 deputies, there were 367 votes in favor of impeachment. The supreme majority of these votes is of white men, of the middle/rich class and many of which are in their 3rd, 4th and 5th terms, ie, they have been congressmen for at least 12 years. According to the site nexojornal.com.br, the Midwest, the South and Southeast, respectively, were the regions whose deputies voted overwhelmingly to impeach. Among the thematic caucuses, all voted overwhelmingly for ousting Dilma, including the Human Rights and Women’s caucus. More than 50% of the 51 deputados voted in favor of impeachment, including two of the 10 black women deputies, both from the Partido Republicano Brasileiro (PRB or Brazilian Republican Party), which voted 100% in favor of the cancellation of the president’s term. Congresswoman Eronildes Vasconcelos Carvalho, better known as Tia Eron (PRB/BA), was one of those people.
In her speech, Eron stated: “I am the voice of the black and northeastern woman and the woman who no longer wants the crumbs of the federal government because of having dignity to work and to win (…) I am the voice of young people, of the children my (city of) Salvador (…) .” Immediately on my Facebook feed were several expressions of black women declaring that are not represented by Deputada Eron. Teachers, students, housewives, artists, activists or not, from all over Brazil, saying that Eron speaks for herself, not generalizing the voice of black women or reduce us to her person. But most likely she does indeed represent a portion of black and northeastern women, like it or not. The major fallacy in Eron’s speech is speaking on behalf of black women, especially black women of the Northeast. After all, we are more than 48 million black women in Brazil, according to the census of 2010. We are not all the same just because we are black women. Eron herself takes a predominantly white political space, and even though she doesn’t have the opportunity to dispute power in this space, occupying it already sets us apart. Generalist speeches like that of Eron disregard something super important to us: the intersections of our subjectivities as black women. Caution, science, understanding that we are not all alike is necessary and putting our identities and our cultures under the same label is to reproduce the same racist discourse of traffickers who kidnapped African people for the Americas and reduced us to the biological.
Eron’s vote pleased some, it displeased others. When I decided to write about it, it was due to a print made from a comment on Eron’s page and has been circulating on Facebook and Twitter. The text of the print says:
“TIA ERON, YOU ARE BLACK, BUT BEAUTIFUL AND INTELLIGENT. YOU VOTED AS A TRUE PATRIOT FOR THE IMPEACHMENT OF DILMA.”
The comment is from a white man who appears to be between 50 and 60 years of age, a lawyer, from (the state of) Mato Grosso do Sul and through his profile on Facebook you can see that he is reportedly in favor of the new coup d’etat. I decided to write about the dimension of racist discourse that is embedded in the comment of this “good man” on the concepts of beauty and intelligence and the place of black women in these categories, but before I went to analyze other comments on Eron’s page. My hypothesis was that there were other “complimentary” comments like that coming from other white people. But coming across the other comments, I was amazed at the high doses of machismo and racism dumped on Eron. Sometimes in the form of false praise, but many others, explicitly intentional and reckless, with the sole purpose of disqualify her as a black woman.
The cordial racism is an inherent discourse of branquidade racista (racist whiteness) in Brazil. (Image from the text of Luis Alberto Silva – Brasil, Demagogia Racial – (Brazil, Racial Demagoguery) in the National newspaper of the Movimento Negro Unificado (Unified Black Movement of May/June/July 1991)
The racist right thanks and praises this “negra, porém, bonita e inteligente” (black, but beautiful and intelligent) woman (sic), a kind of cordial racism within the racial hierarchy in Brazil. As stated by the sociologist Ronaldo Sales Jr. (2006, p.230), this warmth is something like a “tolerance with reservations” that reduces racial tension. But this same cordiality does not apply to “impertinent blacks.” That is, Eron is “worthy” of a compliment, despite being black, because being beautiful and being intelligent are not attributes belonging to black women. The beauty of black women, when highlighted, is often of a sexual nature, the body of the black woman has been socialized to serve primarily in two ways: manual labor and stronger sex. It is the double image of the black woman: mulata and maid, affirms Lélia Gonzalez (1984, p 224.). It is the eternal violence to the self-esteem of black women.
But whoever thinks that it was only the comments of the racist right that packed congresswoman Eron’s page is mistaken. The quantity of comments of people of the left criticizing the Eron’s vote with the use of name-calling, is enormous. The racist white leftist not contemplated by Eron abandons the racist cordiality and goes to aggressions, but the cordiality is maintained with Benedita da Silva for having voted in favor of the Dilma government. And if Benedicta had broken with the PT and voted for impeachment? Would there have been cordiality? The double violence aimed at black women only reinforces the unprincipled existing racial hierarchy in Brazil, where black people are still seen by whiteness with subservience, and that without its own identities and subjectivities, accepts the order of the slave master.
Recently Djamila Ribeiro published a text in which she compares the “absolute other” about being a woman in the works of Grada Kilomba and Simone de Beauvoir. In the text, Djamila affirms that for Grada Kilomba “the look as much from white and black men and white women confine black women to a subordinate place much more difficult to overcome” (RIBEIRO, 2016). Thus, referring to Eron with expressions such as “neguinha vendida” (sold out little black woman), “negra horrorosa” (horrible negra), “louca” (mad), “maluca” (crazy), “preta colonizada que lambe cu de branco” (colonized black woman that licks the ass of whites) are violence and aggression so racist and sexist that they increasingly reinforce that the condition of black women is another absolute, solidified in the subaltern that cannot be the subject of her own speech, much less the black woman that causes discomfort, either right or left. There were 367 votes in favor of impeachment, why not make the fierce demand to racist whiteness, that wants to reduce the penal age and permanent criminalization of women? Why not charge the heirs of the casa grande (big house/slave master’s house) to overcome their slave-holding tradition? Branquidade racista (racist whiteness), either of the right or the left, retains its dominance and privileges in relation to other peoples in Brazil.
Most black women I know are not contemplated in Eron’s speech, but I don’t know 20% of the black women in Brazil. Do I agree with Eron’s political position? Not at all. I don’t see how her alliances can favor us. My understanding of anti-racist struggle includes fighting so that black people don’t suffer another blow/coup. And that includes thinking about the life of the poor black youth and not supporting the reduction of the legal age (of criminality), thinking of the life of poor black women and supporting the legalization of abortion, not allowing that raped women be violated twice. And this requires arduous work of denouncements, search for empowerment, intersecting statistics, projects, plans and struggles for public policies that reduce the consequences of almost 400 years of slavery in this country. But even with all our political differences, I will never be complicit in racist and sexist approaches in relation to Eron or any black woman.
GONZALEZ, Lélia. Racismo e sexismo na cultura brasileira. In: Revista Ciências Sociais Hoje, Anpocs, 1984, p. 223-244.
RIBEIRO, Djamila. A categoria do Outro: o olhar de Beauvoir e Grada Kilomba sobre ser mulher. São Paulo: Blog da Boitempo, 2016. Disponível em <https://blogdaboitempo.com.br/2016/04/07/categoria-do-outro-o-olhar-de-beauvoir-e-grada-kilomba-sobre-ser-mulher/ > Acessado em 19 Abril 2016
OLIVEIRA, Flávia. “Câmara só terá dez deputadas negras.” Rio de Janeiro: Blog O Globo, 2014. Disponível em < http://blogs.oglobo.globo.com/flavia-oliveira/post/camara-so-tera-dez-deputadas-negras-551968.html >
SALES JR, Ronaldo. “Democracia racial: o não-dito racista.” In: Tempo Social, revista de sociologia da USP, v. 18, n. 2, 2006, p. 229-25.