Note from BBT: It was just over a month ago that I published a story about the life and career of Brazil’s first black ambassador, Raymundo Souza Dantas, 60 years ago. At the time, Dantas was named the country’s ambassador to the nation of Ghana. The accomplishment was a big deal then and it remains a big deal today because of the fact that the history of Brazilian diplomacy dates back to the beginning of the 19th century and because still today, in the 21st century, seeing black Brazilian diplomats is still a rarity.
In an interview with the O Globo newspaper, the former the President of Brazil’s Supreme Court, Joaquim Barbosa, said that the “Itamaraty is one of the most discriminatory institutions in Brazil,” referring to the nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dantas, in fact, was chosen to be the first black ambassador as a symbolic gesture of Brazil’s support for the African continent and its struggle against colonialism as there were no career black diplomats. The nation’s first career black ambassador was Benedicto Fonseca Filho, who was chosen only half of a century later in 2011. Without question, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has never been a bastion of racial diversity. But, as we have seen throughout the archives of this blog, it is far from the only area where Brazil’s claims to being a ‘’racial democracy’’ has been debunked.
For more than a century, the army was one of the only means of social ascension in Brazil, and even there, the first black general only named in 1955. Whatever the history of Brazil’s Navy is, it will be forever remembered because of the famed revolt against punishment by whipping led by the black sailor João Cândido. The Air Force, which is thought to be the most progressive of the three arms would only see black generals in the late 1990s. this sort of racial exclusion also applies to politic. In the Senate, only Benedita da Silva, Marina Silva and Paulo Paim have been elected. As an alternate for da Silva, Geraldo Cândido also joined the Senate.
In a similar manner, legendary activist Abdias do Nascimento who was Brazil’s most prominent black leader in the modern era, took office as a substitute in 1991. The only black mayor elected to the nation’s largest city and its economic engine, São Paulo, was Celso Pitta. Another black man, Paulo Lauro, became mayor of the city by nomination in August of 1947. These are all examples that demonstrates the difficult trajectory of black politicians in Brazil.
There have been few exceptions to this general rule. At the beginning of the Republic, there were Eduardo Ribeiro, the first black governor, took office for the state of the Amazonas from 1892 to 1896, and Francisco Glicério, was senator during the Old Republic in 1891. Alceu Collares was governor of the state of Rio Grande Do Sul from 1991 to 1995 while Albuíno Azeredo was elected governor of the state of Espírito Santo from 1990 to 1994.
With these few examples of black Brazilians in positions of power, it should be understandable as to why Joaquim Barbosa becoming the first black president of the Supreme Court in 2021 is seen as such an historic moment. In a similar way, seeing three clearly black Brazilians being named diplomats to the world’s most powerful nation is also an historic first.
For the first time, three black Brazilian diplomats occupy posts in the Brazilian embassy in Washington DC
They entered the Itamaraty through the Affirmative Action Program (PAA) coordinated by the Instituto Rio Branco
Three black diplomats are performing a historic feat in one of the most strategic capitals for the Itamaraty, the United States. For the first time ever, black people – a minority in the diplomatic career – are serving in the Brazilian embassy and in the Brazilian mission at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington.
Marise Ribeiro Nogueira (56), Jackson Luiz Lima Oliveira (51), and Ernesto Batista Mané Júnior (38), entered the Itamaraty through the Affirmative Action Program (PAA), coordinated by the Instituto Rio Branco. Created in 2002, the PAA was the first racial inclusion program of the Esplanada dos Ministérios (Esplanade of Ministries), the result of commitments signed by Brazil during the III World Conference against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.
By means of a public competition, the PAA pays black candidates an annual scholarship of R$ 30 thousand to pay the costs of preparing for the Competition for Admission to the Diplomatic Career (CACD).
Since the Itamaraty does not request ethnicity declarations from those who enter the diplomatic career, there is no official total of black diplomats – indicated to be only 5% of a total of 1,537 active. However, the identification by ethnicity of the students of the Rio Branco Institute began to exist after the PAA and also among those admitted based on the 2004 law that created the reservation of 20% of vacancies in public competitions for black candidates.
From 2002 to 2014, about 20 black candidates benefited from the scholarship and entered the Institute, and 32 candidates benefited from it between 2014 and 2020. Of these, 27 were in vacancies reserved through the quota law and five in vacancies reserved for the broader competition, said the department.
Marise Nogueira, from Rio de Janeiro and a diplomat, was the first scholarship holder of the program, in 2002, approved in the CACD. Because of the program, she was able to reduce her working hours and intensify her studies. Daughter of an administrative agent and a lathe operator, Marise graduated in the field of medicine and, with the help of scholarships, studied English, French, and did her master’s degree. She is currently a counselor – two levels below ambassador – at the embassy in Washington.
For the diplomat, the fact that there are three black diplomats in the American capital indicates that it was worth investing in the affirmative action program. “Our meeting in Washington is the result of a public policy that has been working well. By supporting the diversity of its representation through programs such as the Vocation for Diplomacy Award for Afro-descendants, the government values the identity of the Brazilian people, seeks to repair inequalities and reiterates the commitment to promote racial equality,” says Nogueira.
Source: Farol da Bahia