Note from BW of Brazil: There are at least three ways that people can deny the existence of racism that permeates throughout the whole of Brazilian society. 1) A person under the spell of the racial democracy myth honestly doesn’t see it. 2) Knows that it exists but will never admit it or 3) Knows that it exists but believes it to rare and when it happens it is an isolated incident. Well, as we’ve consistently shown since this blog emerged, racism in Brazilian society manifests in countless ways. We see it in the invisibility of Afro-Brazilians in many realms of society. We see it in the racist jokes that black Brazilians are targets of everyday. And we see it deeply ingrained idea that blacks are not attractive, not intelligent and don’t have the potential to ascend in life. These beliefs often lead to many problems in the identity and self-esteem of this population. It is this belief system at the root of Brazilian society that a Harvard-trained Law professor discussed in an interview with EL PAÍS. Check out his views below.
“In Brazil, we have the idea that blacks are inherently inferior”
For scholar, one of the biggest problems of racism is the “recreational” way it’s seen
By Marina Rossi
Last year, Adilson José Moreira, a law professor at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (Getúlio Vargas Foundation) presented his Law doctoral thesis at Harvard Law School on race in Brazil. His academic conclusion goes straight to the point. “Racism is a system of social domination and its goal was always the same: to ensure the hegemony of the dominant racial group,” he said during an interview conceded to EL PAÍS. “In Brazil, we have developed this idea of a recreational racism,” he says, speaking about cases of racial prejudice in futebol, for example. His thesis exposes a country dominated by white hegemony, full of prejudice and far from a real racial equality, although there are efforts to change the picture. “The perception is that the country has progressed in terms of the number of policies that promoted the distribution of income, such as Bolsa Família, but these policies have failed to promote social inclusion of the black woman,” he explains. For Moreira, racial justice is directly linked to gender justice. “Without it we’ll never be able to get to racial justice.”
Question: Are you in favor of implementing racial quotas in Brazil, which favors the access of blacks to universities or government jobs. Why?
Answer: I am in favor of affirmative action, and specifically to racial quotas, for several reasons. We live in a racially stratified society. The population of afrodescendentes (African descendants) suffers all kinds of discrimination and social exclusion. Affirmative action in public universities is not the only way to promote integration and racial justice, but they are a means, recognized by Brazilian courts. Prior to 2002, less than 2% of the public universities were black people. After the quotas this percentage increased significantly, although still being less than 15%.
Q: Aren’t quotas a palliative measure?
A: Racism is not just an individual behavior. It is a system of social domination and its goal was always the same: to ensure the hegemony of the dominant racial group. So we need public policies. We need a process of teacher training that makes them capable of dealing with racial issues in the classroom. We need to promote cultural education of the Brazilian people, with regard to the history of Brazil, Africa and the black population in Brazil.
Q: Has this change already begun to happen or are we still far from it?
– The fight against racism is also against sexism because black women earn up to 75% less than white men
A: What do the people who are opposed to affirmative action and quotas say? What we need is to create quality public school. This is not enough, because racial stratification product is not just a question of class. Social policies need to address specifically the problem of black women, for example, which is the most vilified and discriminated against group that exists in our society. The perception is that the country has progressed in terms of number of policies that promoted the distribution of income, such as Bolsa Família, but these policies have failed to promote social inclusion of black women. The fight against racism is also against sexism because black women earn up to 75% less than white men.
Q: What is the role of the Minister Joaquim Barbosa in this context of racial democracy?
A: When you see an increasing number of black people occupying prominent roles, it awakens in young black men the idea that they will also have the ability to get somewhere. Another important element is the role of the Supreme Court in the discussion of race in Brazil. We had for about 50, 60 years, an official discourse based on the idea that Brazil is a country that has managed to transcend race. The decision of the STF (Supreme Court) [in support] of affirmative action had a great importance because it is the first time that the highest court rejects this fake picture of the reality of the country.
Q: And what is lacking to happen in Brazil?
A: There’s a lack of many things (laughs). We need to have a public debate on the overall inequality in Brazil. And that has begun since the 90s, when social movements began to pressure the government and go to court, soliciting legal protection. The implementation of laws of inclusion and affirmative action programs are the product of this articulation of social movements. Today, after ten years of these policies, we already have a significant number of black men and women in the job market. Similarly it is important that we have women participating in decisions that affect women, we need blacks making decisions that affect the black population.
Q: And why are there so many cases of racism in futebol?
A: In Brazil we have the idea that black people are inherently inferior, so they can have access to the same space as white people have but always in a subordinate condition. We have developed this idea of a recreational racism, so people don’t see racism or sexism or homophobia as an offense, as an affront to the dignity of people, they think it’s actually something funny, that I can walk up to anyone and call him macaco (monkey), or bicha or veado (fag) and that this does not represent any animus of violence. The idea is that you can go to the futebol field, throw a banana or call someone preto (black), macaco, veado and it’s okay.
Source: EL PAÍS