Note from BBT: It’s an issue that has been highly debated for the past few years in the African-American media: What are black and non-black political candidates going to do for the black community to earn its vote? In terms of the Democratic Party, it’s been expected that the black vote would come out strong in support of Democratic candidates every two to four years without any sort of major commitment on the party’s part to seriously addressing concerns of the black population.
With the election of Joe Biden in the recent American Presidential election, I expect more of the same idea that whatever they do to improve the socioeconomic stuation for people in general will, by default, help black people. Celebrated as the first woman and first black woman to be elected to the position of Vice President, Kamala Harris’s record doesn’t provide any sort evidence that she will adapt any sort of pro-black stance in her politics. She spent most of the last campaign skirting support of specifically black policies and mixing up facts about black cultural personalities. So, tell me again what should give us the idea she will be looking out for black Americans. I’ll ask this question again in four years.
In Brazil nowadays, Afro-Brazilians are demanding more political representation as well. Brazil’s media has been playing up the idea that black candidates are now the majority in the 2020 mid-term elections. While that’s questionable in itself, the real question is, how many of these candidates have a specifically black agenda? Better yet, what does having a black agenda really even mean? What I have learned from American politics is that a candidate cannot have an unapologetically pro-black stance and still manage to make it in politics on the federal and state level.
We already know that pro-black policies such as affirmative action are still not supported by a large perecentage of Brazilians who consider themselves white and, not being able to stop these policies, white Brazilians have found an old slogan to deal with it: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. We’ve seen this motto in action with thousands of white Brazilians entering Brazilian universities by declaring themselves black or brown in terms of color classification. It is now also true in the political realm. I would never expect any such students or politicians to adapt any sort of pro-black stance on any issue. These people simply exploit the system for their own benefit.
Taking all of this into consideration, it sounds impressive to learn that there is a rising group of black Brazilians who are not only proudly defining themselves as black, also supporting specifically black issues, again, whatever that means. I often find that when black people strongly support anything coming out the left political spectrum, inevitably, some policies they support will end up shooting them in foot.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens in terms of Brazil, but in the meantime, a new pro-black agenda platform has made searching for pro-black candidates as easy as punching up their affiliations, state and political party. Taken directly from the Votos Antirracistas website, this is what we know about the platform.
“About the Platform: Inspired by the stories of Abdias do Nascimento, Marielle Franco and Lélia Gonzalez, who paved the way and occupied politics carrying the demands of the black people in Brazil, the #VotosAntirracistas Platform brings together and presents black candidates politically committed to the historical agendas of black movements in the country, spelled out in the Manifesto Enquanto Houver Racismo Não Haverá Democracia (While There Is Racism, There will be no Democracy), the Charter of Principles and the Black Coalition for Rights Agenda, the Marielle Franco Agenda and the Black Convergence Charter in defense of life, employment and black participation in politics.
Here you will find black candidates notably committed to the struggle for human rights of the black population and for a just, peaceful society for well-living for all people. This is a fundamental criterion to compose this platform.”
“About Us: The absence of black representation in parliaments is a problem long denounced by black Brazilian movements. If in Brazil more than 56% of the people declare themselves black, the racial composition data in the legislative houses scattered throughout the country demonstrate the size of the abyss. According to TSE data, blacks total 24.4% of federal deputies and 28.9% of state deputies elected in 2018 and, of councilmen elected in 2016, 42.1% are black and brown.
Black representation in politics gained notoriety in August of this year, after a decision by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) that defined that campaign funding money and time available for candidates on radio and TV should be proportional to the total number of black candidates per party. The decision, although favorable, raises other issues of structural racism: it is not enough for candidates to be black, it is necessary that their candidacies be committed to the agendas that discuss racial issues.”
“The #VotosAntirracists Platform emerges with the objective of bringing candidates closer to their voters, presenting political proposals and a mapping of black candidacies that are committed to the agendas of black movements. It is possible to search for candidacies by the municipalities or organizations of the black movement to which they are linked, register new candidacies, and find information about the debate on combating racism in Brazil. In this way, those interested can contribute to the dissemination of the candidate’s ideas, mobilize family and friends, and contribute to the campaigns.”
Black Money? A black political agenda? I’m a skeptic by nature, but the very discussion of such ideas is still intriguing to me. Let’s learn a little more about this agenda below.
Platform presents candidates committed to the black agenda across the country
Votos Antirracistas, meaning Anti-racist votes, the platform’s name, highlights black women for the 2020 elections; among them, Elaine Mineiro (PSOL-SP), Eliete Paraguassu (PSOL-BA) and Biatriz Santos (PT-PE)
By Aline Bernardes
Inspired by figures such as Abdias do Nascimento, Marielle Franco and Lélia Gonzalez, black women and men are participating in the Votos Antirracistas (Anti-Racist Votes) platform with the aim of occupying positions as city councilors in city halls across the country.
The initiative arises with the aim of presenting, approaching and mapping the candidacies of black people with a work history and commitment to black, peripheral, slum, quilombola and riverside movements, entities, groups and collectives in several Brazilian cities. It is possible to search for politicians by municipalities or by the organizations of the black movement to which they are linked, to register new candidates and to find information about the anti-racist debate.
The agenda consists of four documents that summarize the proposals of the black movement for the country as a whole: the manifesto As long as there is no racism, there will be no democracy, the Charter of Principles and Agendas of the Coalizão Negra Por Direitos (Black Coalition for Rights), the Marielle Franco Agenda and the Black Convergence Program.
Alma Preta selected three candidacies from black women with different focuses, to give an overview of the national diversity of the anti-racist movement: Elaine Mineiro, of Quilombo Periférico and Uneafro Brasil, who is competing for a spot in the São Paulo City Council through PSOL; Eliete Paraguassu, a shellfish collector and quilombola from Ilha de Maré, is seeking a place in City Hall of Salvador, Bahia, also with the PSOL; Biatriz Santos, a young black woman, wants a place in the Camaragibe City Hall in Pernambuco with the PT (Workers’ Party).
Data from the platform of the Mulheres Negras Decidem (Black Women Decide) movement point out: although black women are 27.8% of the Brazilian population, they currently represent only 5% of the city councilors in the country. And if it depends on Elaine Mineiro, 36, that reality can change. Coordinator of a base group at UNEafro Brasil, an entity that promotes pre-university entrance exams preparation for black students, she competes for the position of councilor on a multiple list that includes five other candidates, the Quilombo Periférico.
“As widespread as we are, we understand that we only have convergences. Despite the specific complexities of each territory, the periphery of São Paulo is where the black people are, impoverished, exploited by the bosses and neglected by the State,”she says. Elaine Minheiro
With different political actions in the city, the ticket has representatives of the cultural movements of the peripheries, children and adults living on the streets, the LGBTQ + population, articulators of solidarity economy, leaders of the favelas and Afro-Brazilian religions. For Elaine, fighting for the demands of the periphery on all fronts that have the opportunity is the mission of Quilombo Periférico.
“We have all gone through an episode of SUS (national health care system) negligence, we suffered or had a family member who suffered from the lack of places in daycare centers, we have all taken a full bus to get to work. We all participate in projects in our territories and most importantly, we are all people forged and formed in collective organizations. Collective work is in our essence,” she highlights.
It was the construction of a São Paulo without Racism that motivated the collective to try to get a place in the Câmara (city hall). They understand that building a better city is in the fight against institutional racism. This would be a fundamental task to end inequality, generate opportunities and build a promising present and future for black people. “Our proposals cover all areas covered by the municipality and are based on the fight for the decentralization of public resources and the supply of the most urgent needs in each peripheral neighborhood,” she concludes. Eliete Paraguassu
A shellfish collector and quilombola from Ilha da Maré, Eliete Paraguassu, 40 years old, has been an example for environmental advocates in Baía de Todos os Santos (Bahia). Her candidacy for councilor was born from her participation in the Marielle Franco Forum and represents a milestone in the defense of the quilombola communities in the city of Salvador.
“My configuration as a woman of the waters is born from the place of a black woman, quilombola, fisherman, seafood, who takes her dignity from the waters. Twenty years of struggle against social injustices in Baía de Todos os Santos and environmental racism,” she says.
The term “environmental racism” was coined by Rev. Benjamin Chavis, assistant to Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. For him, the term should be used when there is racial discrimination in environmental policies. “It is racial discrimination in the deliberate choice of communities of color to deposit toxic waste and install polluting industries. It is racial discrimination in officially sanctioning the presence of poisons and pollutants that threaten lives in communities of color,” she said.
The territories occupied by non-white people, historically neglected by the public authorities, are now also on the margins of society in the face of the health and economic crisis caused by the new coronavirus.
“My struggle comes from environmental racism, social injustices, the lack of public policy in Ilha de Maré and in the city of Salvador, which has caused death for these populations. We follow the direction of dignity and the development that is set in Brazil has stolen people’s well-being,” she concludes.
At the age of 27, activist Biatriz Santos is trying to get a seat in the City Council of Camaragibe, Pernambuco. Their motivation comes from the desire to contribute to her community, Céu Azul, in Camaragibe, and also to continue the process that started within the movement, but now from the legislative branch. “We need to be there to place our guidelines, to talk about our needs. We can no longer outsource this,” she says.
The 2020 elections for Biatriz have a responsibility. According to her, within politics, black candidates seek a turning point in favor of the so-called minority classes and segments of society.
“These same so-called minority classes have sought from their segments and movements a favorable way for us to be able to talk about our lives, decide about our lives, punctuate our communities and place political projects built collectively from our experiences, but also of which we have ancestry,” she reports.
If elected, Biatriz Santos intends to create a mobile cabinet to build politics collectively. “We don’t want black bodies for black bodies, we want black people committed to our struggles, who will be punctuating, taking our pains, anguishes and what we understand as a political project for our country,” she concludes.