For presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, “the Brazilian Trump”, Africans are responsible for slavery and country owes black population nothing for slavery
By Marques Travae; images courtesy of Qualquer Caisa
So, the controversial figure of leading presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro is back doing what he does best: Creating controversy. Last week, the PSL candidate appeared on TV Cultura’s Roda Vida program for an interview and laid out his beliefs on a number of topics during an hour plus discussion. Some of the comments of the politician being hailed as the “Brazilian Donald Trump” raised eyebrows not only because of his controversial stance, but also because, after fact checking, many media outlets concluded that the candidate had flat out lied about a number of subjects.
My interest here is, of course, what the man had to say regarding Brazil’s black population and issues that directly affect it. And needless to say, if one were to tune in to this interview strictly for the shock value of the candidate’s statements, he most definitely didn’t disappoint on this or several other topics. Now, to be fair, several fact checkers judged that Bolsonaro had in fact made numerous statements that were true but there were also several that were judged as “not exactly true”, blatantly “false” or “lies”. As I tend to agree with the joke that says one can tell if a politician is lying by simply seeing if his/her mouth is moving, I will focus on a few of the bombs that Bolsonaro dropped that just didn’t add up.
But before I get to that, for readers who may know absolutely nothing about the politician that is considered a representative of the extreme-right, here is a quick breakdown on where the Congressman stands on a few important issues on the minds of Brazilians these days.
DOES NOT SUPPORT: Same-sex marriage, racial quotas, legalization of drugs, agrarian reform, secular state, legalization of abortion or Brazil as a Refugee shelter
SUPPORTS: Privatizations, the Death Penalty, Military coup of 1964, Perpetual detention, Reduction of the age of criminal responsibility
This particular segment of the interview was initiated by a question asked by the NGO Educafro president Frei David. Educafro, meaning Education and Citizenship of Afro-descendants and the Needy, has been instrumental in preparing thousands of students to take the vestibular college entrance exam to have access to some of Brazil’s top universities.
Asked about the system of affirmative action and quotas, Bolsonaro set the circles of black activists reeling with his opinions and statements that reveal a certain lack of understanding of history. The pre-candidate expressed his opinion that it wasn’t fair that quotas are set aside for black Brazilians as he sees entrance into universities as purely a question of merit.
When asked about Brazil’s debt to its black population due to slavery, the Congressman responded:
“What debt? I didn’t enslave anyone. Is it fair that my daughter be a quota student? Blacks are no better than me, nor am I any better than the black. At the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras (military college located in the city of Resende of Rio de Janeiro state), several black graduated with me, some below me, some above me, no problem at all. Why quotas?”
Going further into the question of slavery, Bolsonaro stated:
“Really, the Portuguese never set foot in Africa. (It was) blacks themselves that handed over the slaves. The Portuguese didn’t hunt down blacks.”
Repeating rhetoric that has been spewed for decades when the issue is historic debts to black populations and Africa, as well as any system of systemic reparations, such as the system of Affirmative Action and quotas, Bolsonaro is either unaware of what numerous studies have documented or he is willingly distorting the facts to suit his own agenda. Whatever the case may be, the simple fact is that the Portuguese not only enslaved Africans, colonizing parts of the continent while doing so but they also exploited the continent for its own economic interest during their occupation. There’s really no other way to interpret these facts, even though the Congressman attempted this popular tactic of smoothing over the European role in the decimation of the African population as well as the untold horrors of the slave trade and the regime of slavery.
The Portuguese first set up shop in Africa in 1415 in Islamic city of North Africa, Ceuta, under the command of João I of Portugal. By 1460, they arrived in the Cape Verdean would begin the planning for leading missionary missions within the continent with the ultimate goal of getting access and exploiting the vast mineral resources of the continent. By the early 16th century, the Portuguese had already initiated the shipment of massive numbers of Africans to the lands in the Americas that would eventually be known as Brazil.
For years the estimated numbers of Africans brought to the Portuguese territory of South America was estimated at 4 million, but many historians believe that the total was actually closer to 5 million during the period in which there was heavy commercialization of African bodies between 1538 and 1851, when the actual shipment of slaves was prohibited by the British. Brazil wouldn’t officially end slavery for another 37 years, in 1888, becoming the last nation in the Americas to abolish the institution.
The Portuguese left their indelible mark on the history and under-development of numerous African nations, including Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea, the six territories that most capitalized on. Due to this exploitative relationship, these nations still speak the Portuguese language to this day, only gaining their independence in the 1970s.
I’ve noticed that a common interpretation of history that attempts to remove European culpability in the slave trade is by pointing the finger at Africans themselves by highlighting the fact that slavery already existed among African tribes. But as I’ve already pointed out, this is not really a valid manner of dismissing the differences between African and European slavery. With African slavery, there were terms of servitude that ended for those enslaved, in addition to the fact that those enslaved were treated as human beings and part of the family that they served. European slavery dehumanized the African, treated him/her as objects and basing entire economies on their sale. As if this weren’t enough, the untold horrors of brutality of beatings and rape were unheard of in African servitude.
The pre-candidate for the Presidency of Brazil also said that, if elected, he would propose reducing the percentage of places reserved for black Brazilians in public universities.
The PSL pre-candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro, said in an interview with TV Cultura’s Roda Vida program that if elected, will propose to the National Congress to reduce the percentage of vacancies in public universities reserved for blacks.
After the interview aired, numerous Brazilian news outlets did a fact or fiction check on the Congressman’s statements, correcting Bolsonaro on the many lies, distortions and exaggerations he made during the interview. Some of those statements determined not be true went as follows.
The Congressman stated that he had presented 500 bills in Congress for approval.
In fact, Bolsonaro only authored 172 bills of which only 2 were approved over his 27 years as a Deputado Federal, or Federal Congressman.
Bolsonaro stated he never wanted to be the running mate of 2014 runner-up presidential candidate Aécio Neves
Bolsonaro stated that he never said he wished to be the vice-presidential candidate of 2014 presidential candidate Aécio Neves, the senator from the state of Minas Gerais, who was successfully defeated by former President Dilma Rouseff for her re-election. Rouseff was removed from office in a controversial impeachment in 2016. However, in a 2014 InfoMoney magazine interview, the Congressman stated clearly that being Neves’s Vice-President “would be a great honor.”
In the interview, Bolsonaro also stated that he had never verbally attacked bankers
Denying having attacked the banking sector, in 1999, on the TV program Câmera Aberta, broadcast by the Bandeirantes TV network, the Congressman critiqued a connection being big banks and Brazil’s Congresso Nacional do Brasil. According to the Deputado, big banks financed campaigns of congressman acting in the parliamentary committee. Created to investigate irregularities of the financial sector, the CPI dos Bancos brought to light connections between banks and economic authorities.
Trump saved jobs
Speaking on the American president that he is often compared to, the deputado claimed that Trump’s polices had saved American jobs, which in fact contradicted by information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows that unemployment in the US has been falling since 2009, the beginning of the first term of President Barack Obama. In the fall of 2009, American unemployment rates hovered around 10% while the same stats showed that unemployed Americans had fallen to 4%.
Needless to say, after the hour and twenty minute interview, supporters of Bolsonaro were not too happy, blaming the outcome of the interview on the “leftist interviewers”, gays, crooks, journalists asking irrelevant questions and people that hate the congressman. I don’t know about all of that. But I DO think the so-called “Brazilian Trump” may have fared a lot better had he not told so many half truths, lies and had a better understanding of the reality of Portuguese actions in Africa and the devastation of slavery on Brazil’s black population, but hey, that’s just me.
In a scenario in which imprisoned former president Lula da Silva cannot run for the presidency, Bolsonaro is currently the front runner in the polls. But if Lula can legitimately run, the polls also say he could easily defeat Bolsonaro. Stayed tuned, there are still exactly two months to go before Brazilians head to the polls and at this point, anything could happen.