Note from BW of Brazil: This is really beginning to get ridiculous! We’ve been following these developments of white Brazilians declaring themselves to be ‘pardos’, meaning brown or mixed race, in order to take advantage of the racial quota system for some time, and as it is beginning to become clear, this is a great example of how Brazil’s historically ambiguous approach in terms of race can lead to more confusion than many anticipated. This blog has always supported the union of the preto and pardo (black and brown) categories into one as representation of Brazil’s black population, but because of loose interpretations of these categories, the door has been left wide open for anyone who would NEVER face any sort of discrimination for possessing non-European physical characteristics to suddenly define themselves as persons of color. Today’s case doesn’t prove the discrepancies in defining exactly who is black or brown, but rather that the laws that govern such categories are written in manners in which people who are clearly not black or brown are able to slip through the cracks.
Afroconveniência. Candidate tries to enter the Itamaraty through quotas, is barred, but gets an injunction
Last year, Lucas Nogueira Siqueira signed up for a public competition for a diplomatic career through racial quotas, and after the intervention of the MPF, was eliminated. In July 2016, through the courts, he managed to enroll in the training course of the Rio Branco Institute
By Leticia Carvalho
Being approved for a diplomatic career with the Itamaraty (Brazil’s Foreign Ministry) is on the list of dreams of most of taking the course. The test, classified as one of the most disputed and difficult in the country, however, became the subject of a long legal battle. After being barred in a commission for not presenting physical characteristics of a black individual, a candidate who entered the exam through vacancies by way of racial quotas, but didn’t have his name listed among those approved in the competition, can now enter the training course at the Instituto Rio Branco.
Lucas Nogueira Siqueira won approval in the first phase of the competition in 2015, with 45.5 points. The cutoff point for the candidates of the competition was 47. However, for having self-declared himself pardo (brown) upon registration, the competitor has been entered in the list of vacancies reserved for preto (black) or pardo (brown) and advanced to the next stages of the competition.
“We knew people who entered the competition, learned of the young man’s situation and got angry. Even some competitors who had no place in the ranking to ‘catch’ his place,” said the Brasilia native Danilo Prudente, one of the lawyers who filed with representation in court a few months after the release of those approved in the first stage of the examination.
Siqueira’s case was not unique. At least four others were also registered, which led the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) to file a civil action against persons suspected of having committed fraud in their racial self-declaration.
Through photographs, the MPF identified competitors who allegedly committed fraud in their self-declaration. The images were obtained directly from official databases and also through social networks. From the analysis of the images, prosecutors concluded that the candidates didn’t have the physical appearance of black people.
After the MPF’s action, the Foreign Ministry issued a new edict, stating that candidates who choose to apply for positions reserved for blacks must confirm the option before seven member diplomats of the Comitê Gestor de Gênero e Raça (CGGR or Directing Committee of Gender and Race) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE). After submitting himself to the bench, Siqueira was eliminated from the contest. The final list of those approved, released at the end of December 2015, no longer had his name.
A nonconformist, Siqueira filed two actions to reverse the decisions of the MPF and the Foreign Ministry. “Lucas went to seven dermatologists and they all confirmed that my client has the fenótipo pardo (brown phenotype). He always saw himself as pardo and what is listed in competition’s edict is his self-declaration. This bench was not provided for in the rules of the competition,” explained Siqueira’s lawyer, Alessandro Dantas Coutinho.
In July of this year, a titular federal judge of the 5th Civil Court, Daniele Maranhão, approved the the request for injunctive relief to suspend the act that eliminated Siqueira from the competition and determined his participation in the training course, which began in early 2016. In the case that it is no longer possible for Siqueira to participate in the ongoing course, the magistrate also defined that he can participate in the next.
At the head of the Núcleo de Enfrentamento à Discriminação do MPDFT (Center of Confronting Discrimination of the MPDFT) since January 2013, the prosecutor Thiago Pierobom says the case involves a major dilemma. “Federal law that regulates the issue of racial quotas was not happy in establishing how this procedure would occur. Having a competition and not controlling this requirement is an invitation to fraud,” he said.
“Racial discrimination in our country isn’t based upon descent but by phenotype. The quota system only makes sense if you have a commission to check the candidate’s physical characteristics. But this bench is not expressed in the law. The judge who reviewed the situation of the competitor was literal with what is in the legislation.” – Prosecutor Thiago Pierobom
Law 12.990 established a reserve of 20% of the positions offered in public competitions for preto and pardo candidates and stipulated self-declaration as a criterion to ensure applications. The rule also provides that, in cases of confirmation of fraud, the applicant must be eliminated from the event or have his/her appointment annulled.
Note from BW of Brazil: So here we go again. Of course I don’t know this guy and I can’t say for certain how he identifies himself, but I believe that the vast majority of Brazilians would define this guy as branco, or white. But then again, we must also consider the ‘jeito brasileiro’ (Brazilian way) discourse that says that no Brazilian is black or white. This is to recognize that there is a certain train of thought that says that ‘true white people’ are blonds or redheads with blue or green eyes, in the same manner that some would say ‘true black people’ are only those with jet black skin, the kinkiest of hair, biggest lips, etc. For me this is utterly ridiculous. For in Europe, we know that there is a variety of phenotypes of persons would be defined as white, from the near paper colored white to those of tanned, olive-colored skin. We also know that within the continent of Africa, we find people who have skin that is literally black as well as persons who have an almost yellowish skin color.
In order to define the guy in the middle of this latest controversy as ‘brown’, one would also have to classify millions of Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards as brown. And let’s face it; historically we know that there are millions of people from southern Europe who have more than a few drops of distant African ancestry, but we also know that these people still carry the privilege of a sort of ‘swarthy’ whiteness that brings them privileges that persons of more recent African ancestry and the physical characteristics that come with will certainly not get.
I’ve written this in previous posts and I’ll say it again: it doesn’t really matter how this guy defines himself (if it’s even true that he in fact defines himself as ‘pardo’), the fact is, the social indicators that force persons of visible African ancestry (both pretos and pardos) into the lower rungs of these stats and expose them to everyday bouts with racial discrimination will never affect this guy. How is it that this guy was able to get away with this anyway? Didn’t the courts recently rule that one must “look black in order to qualify for quotas”?
In a country that clearly prefers this guy’s phenotype, he will never be followed around or assaulted by security in a ritzy shopping mall. He will not be verbally attacked by a middle class resident who is uncomfortable with his presence on a beach. He will never be aggressively wrestled to the ground because people don’t believe that a BMW could possibly be his. But the true crime in this is justice backpedaling on this issue instead of making more stringent laws so that the persons affirmative action are supposed to be benefit are in fact the beneficiaries of the program rather than the people whose physical appearances almost guarantee them a pass in nearly every situation in which race is and will be considered.