2014 elections will feature color/race data of candidates; politicians fear a racial quota that would change profile of the Parliament

black Brazilians

by Akemi Nitahara

The Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (Superior Electoral Court) doesn’t have statistics about the number of blacks in Brazilian politics, neither elected politicians nor candidates. The difficulty in raising the data is that the self declaration of race/color, already included by the IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística  or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) in the census and in the Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílio (PNAD or National Survey of Households), is not presented on the candidate’s registration form. But other reports have shown that there is a low representation of black people in the spheres of power  (1) which ultimately leads to the vicious cycle of lack of access to these posts and also the difficulty of evolution in the social scale.

After questioning from Agência Brasil (news agency) about the survey and lack of data, the Tribunal informed, by mean of its press agents, that the group responsible for the evaluation of the last elections began to consider the inclusion of the race/color item in the electoral process.

The TSE informed that after an election begins the preparations for the next with a series of evaluations of the practices that should e maintained and those that can be improved. According to the tribunal, the suggestion of putting together the system of candidate registrations with the option of declaring his/her color was put in motion by the statistic group that is analyzing the viability and the format of the production of this data for the 2014 elections.

Eliana Graça of the Inesc

The political agent of the Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (Inesc or the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies), Eliana Graça, said that the entity tried to implement the measure by means of articulation in the National Congress, but didn’t find success.

“It’s been our battle for a good while, trying to convince the members of the parliament that this had to be part of the political “minirreforma” of 2009 (in which) some prohibitions were made to regulate some things of the campaigns. One of the things that we wanted at that time was that it appears in the law the obligation, at the time of the inscription of the candidate, of self-declaration of color/race.”

According to Graça, the negative (reaction) demonstrates the existent prejudice in the Brazilian Parliament. Eliana said that members of Parliament didn’t accept the suggestion “because they were scared that a quota would come up,” in the same way that there is a quota for women. According to her, the members of Parliament were categorical: “no, this business of putting it on the form, from here soon will come a quota.” Eliana believe that this “is the apprehension, the fear that they really have, of you changing the profile of the Parliament.”

After questioning from Agência Brasil (news agency) about the survey and lack of data, the Tribunal informed, by mean of its press agents, that the group responsible for the evaluation of the last elections began to consider the inclusion of the race/color item in the electoral process.

Marcelo Paixão of Laeser

For the coordinator of the Laboratório de Análises Econômicas, Históricas, Sociais e Estatísticas das Relações Sociais (Laeser) do Instituto de Economia (IE) (Laboratory of Economic, Historic, Social and Statistics of Social Relations of the Economy Institute) of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Marcelo Paixão, knowing the current situation of blacks in politics is fundamental for increasing their participation in the decision-making spheres of the country.

“It’s necessary to map not only who the voters are but who the elected are, who is running, from the tiny party to the enormous party.” Paixão believes that it would be necessary to cross reference the color of the persons with their economic situation, to know what weight this carries in the possibility of getting elected. It means, people have an agenda in front of them, but without information, reliable statistics, it gets difficult. Because of this people think it would help if the TSE would reveal the color of the candidate, like the IBGE already does in all demographic research.”

Also according to Paixão, when a person with dark skin evolves in the social scale, the more barriers he/she encounters to enjoy the conquered condition. He recalls that one cannot put aside the fact that the existing social practices, regardless of economic conditions do not favor the upward mobility of the black population.

 “Because in Brazil there was a sort of consensus that the best positions should be occupied by a group of a certain color and a group of a certain gender. And that other social functions of lesser prominence, the more precarious, these could be exercised by black people.

According to the professor, it can’t be a coincidence that among singers and soccer players there are so many prominent blacks and in functions like the Confederação Nacional da Indústria (National Confederation of Industry) and in Congresso Nacional (Congress) there are almost none. “Abolition took place over 100 years ago, there has already been enough time for a change to have been processed in the country, if those other barriers didn’t exist.”

Paixão is one of the organizers of the Relatório Anual das Desigualdades Raciais no Brasil (Annual Report on Racial Inequality in Brazil), which in 2007 made ​​a survey on the number of blacks in Congress, based on the photographic registry.

Federal Deputy Benedita da Silva 

Federal Deputy Benedita da Silva reinforces the need to map the ethnic situation in all spheres of the country. For her, this is a way to identify ethnic groups in the country. “It’s crucial for us.” Benedita argues that all records of citizens should contain information about color. “I even presented a project in this direction, not only [with regard to] quotas in universities, but that the color item be in any record that the person has to do.”

For her, the exclusion of Afro-Brazilians hampers the development of the whole country:

“How do you lose a segment that has a strong culture, expressive in the field of economics, politics, science, technology. Blacks that came [to the country during slavery] were not illiterate, as they try to pass on historically. They had knowledge [and there were among them some who were] even kings and queens in their respective countries, with their language, their traditions.

For Benedita, the racial representation in politics has improved, but is still far from ideal. She believes that blacks are fighting to conquest more space, but are still far short of that representation.

“You can still say: so and so is here, so and so is there. It’s an achievement, it’s doesn’t stop being (an achievement), but you still count [these people] with the fingers on your hand. What we seek is that from here in a little more time this will be such a natural thing that you won’t need to [count].”

Ângela Nascimento of SEPPIR

Secretary of Affirmative Action Policies of the Secretariat of Policies to Promote Racial Equality (Seppir), Ângela Nascimento, says it’s the organ’s request that all forms used by the federal government start to incorporate information on race/color and to extend this practice to the Legislature and the Judiciary.

For Angela, it is fundamental that the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral incorporate data on race/color in all its forms, as one difficulty for the Seppir today in the field of research today is to know the percentage of blacks in political power in mainly the Legislature.

Angela points out that the participation of blacks and browns in the candidacies of society has to come from the society at the moment when it recognizes the importance of blacks for the country. For her, this participation will ensure the incorporation of affirmative action that will contribute to reducing inequalities in the country.

“In the life of the black population access to higher education was more difficult. This reality began to be change with the policy of quotas. Access to certain opportunities for public office was also more difficult, it has been even more difficult for the black population.”

Ângela says that the expectation with the quota law, which has been implemented for all federal universities and institutes, is to further increase the participation of youth who are accessing the university for other posts, “including political power.”

According to the 2010 Census data from the IBGE, the proportion of pretos (blacks) who attended higher education rose from 2.3% in 2000 to 8.4% in 2010. Among the pardos (browns), the number rose from 2.2% to 6.7%.

Source: Agência Brasil, R7


1. A recent survey showed that in the current legislature, the number of federal deputies who declare themselves to be of African descent increased from 25 to 43. For leaders of the Movimento Negro, the data shows under-representation and racial exclusion. Although they represent 51% of the population, African descendants occupy only 8.5% of the seats in the Câmara (House). In the Senate, Paulo Paim is one of only two black senators. Black representation increased in the new Brazilian Congress. Of the 513 total deputies, the number of those identifying themselves as black jumped from 25 (5%) in early 2007 to 43 (8.5%) in the current legislature. The number of state and district deputies who identify themselves as African descendants also increased: from 30 to 39. The Senate only has two black senators: Paulo Paim (Partido dos Trabalhores (PT or Workers Party of the state of Rio Grande do Sul) and Magno Malta (Partido da República (political party) of the state of Espírito Santo). The Brazilian senate has a total of 81 senators meaning only 2.4% of the all senators are black. More here.

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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