Note from BW of Brazil: 2018 is shaping up to be one of the most important elections in many years for Brazilians. Of course, the main focus of today’s first round of elections is the race for president, in which the controversial PSL party candidate Jair Bolsonaro, labeled the “Brazilian Trump” (the “Tropical Hitler”, according the Sunday Express), has widened his lead over his competitors in the past week, now polling between 40-45% of intended votes, with his nearest competitor, Fernando Haddad of the PT (Workers’ Party) coming in at between 22-25%, based on various sources. Today, millions of Brazilians will be heading to the polls to voice their opinions for the candidate who is best qualified to lead the country out the worst economic recession in its history and one of its most complex and frustrating politically. As none of the candidates are expected to attain more 50% of the vote today, the election will probably go to a run-off scheduled for later on this month between the two with the most votes in today’s first round.
Another part of the election that has been getting attention is the number of self-declared black women running for various offices across the country. Rio de Janeiro is the state with the highest number of black women running but a number of states have seen increases in this demographic stepping forward to compete for a piece of political power and the opportunity to speak for a group that has long been ignored in the political process. The rise in black women candidates speaks to many years of black women organizing themselves around he issues of race and gender in recent years, organizing various marches and campaigns around acceptance of natural black hair and the demand for their full citizenship being recognized, culminating with the first March of Black Women in 2015, that led to a meeting with then President Dilma Rousseff to discuss the most pressing issues of black Brazilian women.
The rise of black women in terms of political consciousness has gone hand in hand with the rise of racial consciousness with a large number of them identifying their struggle with politicians such as Rio’s Benedita da Silva, São Paulo’s Leci Brandão and American icon, Angela Davis. But one of the symbols that has most mobilized black women in 2018, was the brutal assassination of Rio councilwoman Marielle Franco in March of this year. This parcel of the population will be one to watch in coming years, but even with this rise of political activism, their numbers, if we only consider self-identified “pretas” (specifically ‘black women’), are still very small (see note one). As such, I see the need for more mobilization around issues of racial identity if black women seek a larger slice of the political pie. Even so, their efforts up this point have been impressive. Below, check out a short analysis of the rise of mulheres negras in the 2018 elections.
Rio de Janeiro is the state with most black women running in 2018 elections
Isabella Macedo and Lúcio Big
In the 2018 elections, 1,237 black women will be eligible to run for an elective office. A Congresso em Foco survey points out that Rio de Janeiro is, according to data extracted from the website of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), the state that has the highest number of self-declared black women running.
There are 248 self-declared black women from Rio wanting to run for office this year, of whom 231 already have the authorized candidacy registrations. Compared with the last general election, the increase is 151%: 92 black women were eligible to run in 2014, the first year that self-declaration of race was part of the TSE data. Candidates who gave an interview to Congresso em Foco attribute the increase of these candidacies to the indignation with the murder of Rio de Janeiro city councilor Marielle Franco (Psol) in March of this year (see below).
In 2018, most of them (141, equivalent to 61%) are running for a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Rio (Alerj). The number of those who will attempt a seat in the federal legislature is 83. Only one is head of a slate for the Guanabara Palace, seat of the government of Rio de Janeiro, while two others are candidates for vice. One is running for the Senate and another three are candidates for the first or second substitute.
The survey was completed on Monday (24th) and takes into account only women who have declared themselves pretas (black women). The Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) considers blacks also those Brazilians who consider themselves pardos (brown).
In the neighboring state, Adriana Vasconcellos (Psol), a candidate for federal deputy for São Paulo, sees a “trigger” of the growth of candidacies of black women, not only in Rio, with the murder of the city councilwoman Marielle Franco.
A friend of the councilwoman killed and councilor in Niterói, Talíria Petrone says that the execution was barbaric and a political crime motivated by the flags defended by the councilwoman. “Certainly this brutal murder aroused a sense of urgency for the occupation of politics in many women, especially black women.”
Talíria, who is a candidate for federal deputy, also says she is approached by young women who express outrage at the execution and question what can be done to change a threatening reality for women.
“The candidacies of women, especially black women, reflect the strengthening of resistance to machismo and racism, resistance that has always existed in the peripheries and favelas and that in this way will grow even more,” says the candidate.
Mônica Francisco, who is also from Psol, reinforces the impression of her co-religionist Talíria and believes that the execution of Marielle “generated and accelerated a movement for representation” for the formulation of public policies. “It will no longer be possible to formulate, think or construct politics without our presence,” Mônica says.
“With the rise of women’s struggles, more and more they will take up politics to fight for their rights and for another model of society. We will not shut up any longer,” completes Talyria.
Verônica Lima of the PT (Workers’ Party) also believes that Marielle inspired women to take on candidacies. “Black women are claiming their voices, they are putting themselves out there specially because they know that their issues need representations that experience these realities up close,” summarized the candidate.
In opposition, activist Carla Mayumi, one of the creators of the VoteNelas (vote for them, the women) – a collective that organized the website of the same name with the goal of helping to monitor women’s campaigns in 2018 – says that she would not attribute the trend to Marielle only.
She ponders that, in view of the deadlines set by the Courts, the time was reasonably short for a decision to run. Marielle was murdered on March 14, just under a month before the deadline for joining a party and for disincompatibility for those in public office.
“Maybe it has a ‘Marielle effect’. But Rio de Janeiro, because of the situation of violence in which the state is, and the issue of genocide of blacks and women, it seems to make a lot of sense [that more black women run],” she observed.
Carla also cites a question addressed by almost all the candidates heard by Congresso em Foco: the consciousness of these women about institutional politics and politicization in the communities.
Most women registered in the electoral court are running for a seat in the Alerj (Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro) – which currently has only one self-declared black woman, Rep. Enfermeira (Nurse) Rejane de Almeira (PCdoB), occupying one of the 70 seats in the state parliament.
Tainá de Paula, a co-religionist of Rejane, is one of 141 black women seeking a position in Alerj. She points to a practical question to explain the reason for fewer applications to the federal legislature: with the new rules for electing a federal deputy – a barrier clause was created in last year’s electoral mini-reform – the parties decided to adopt the strategy of launching fewer candidates to the Câmara (Chamber of Deputies).
“In this sense, as we also have a renewal of candidacies, new candidates entered the scene. We see a great possibility of testing in the urn of these new figures,” says Tainá.
Mônica Francisco (Psol), who is also running for state deputy, it’s her first election. For her, the proximity of the themes is also a factor to be taken into account.
“I believe that the proximity of the flag issues with the location of their actions draws attention. Beginning the dispute from the most local agendas, within the scope of the state, even closer to our daily life, and then, if appropriate, we think of the meanders of the National Congress and the political construction on a federal scale. “
Verônica Lima, who is competing for federal deputy, also points to the proximity with the problems of the state in relation to the number of state candidacies. “But the federal and state candidacies are fundamental to building a powerful network of women who fight for equality, against racism and for our rights,” says the candidate, who was the first black woman to assume the position of councilwoman in Niterói.
Black women candidates in São Paulo, Bahia and Minas Gerais
São Paulo is the state with the highest total number of women candidates this year. Of the 1255 women, 870 (equivalent to 69.3%) are white.
Minority among candidates, majority in the population
For comparison purposes, in Rio de Janeiro there are 548 white women, 348 brown, 3 Asian and 2 indigenous women in the electoral race. Among the men, there are 344 blacks, 833 browns, 4 Indians and 1,365 whites.
The total number of black women competing in the country, according to the TSE, is equivalent to less than 5% (4.5%) of the more than 27 thousand candidates considered eligible until September 24. Of this total, 9,204 names, just over 30% required by law, are women.
In Brazil, according to data from the Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios Contínua (Pnad Contínua) or National Survey by Continuous Household Sample (PNAD) of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), women are 52% of the Brazilian population. In the country, pretos e pardos (blacks and browns) also make up the largest portion of the population. Blacks were 8.8% and browns 47.1% in the second quarter of this year.
The states of São Paulo, Bahia and Minas Gerais are the other three states with the highest number of black women in this year’s electoral process: 166, 106 and 105 black female candidates for elected positions, respectively.
In addition to Rio, the numbers of female participation also rose in these states. In the last election there were 105 black women eligible to run for São Paulo, 59 in Bahia and 51 in Minas Gerais.
São Paulo is the state with the highest total number of women candidates this year. Of the 1,255 women running, 870 (equivalent to 69.3%) are white. Among the 166 black women who will compete in São Paulo, Adriana Vasconcellos believes that the growth in the number of black candidates is influenced by the understanding of the institutional policy mechanism and the consciousness-raising of participation and representation, as well as the politics of everyday life.
São Paulo and Minas are the largest electoral colleges in the country, but the state with most pretos and pardos, according to the PNAD, is Bahia. The northeastern state has 21.4% of its population as self-declared preto population and 60% pardo, followed by Rio de Janeiro, with 12.5% and 41.9%. In São Paulo, the rate is 7.4% for blacks and 31.5% for browns, while in Minas it is 11.1% and 48.6%, respectively.
Congresso em Foco contacted six black female candidates for state and federal candidates in Rio. Of the 231 candidates, only nine are seeking re-election, among them the Rio de Janeiro State Representative Rosângela Gomes (PRB). Rosângela’s party, linked to the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), is one of the candidates with the highest number of black candidates this year in Rio, with 14 postulants. Sought for the article to talk about the subject, Rosângela did not respond to the questions sent before the time of publication of this text.
Almost a quarter of the candidates (57 out of 231, equivalent to 24%) is competing for the main left-wing parties in the country. PDT have 16 black candidates, followed by PCdoB (15), PT (12) and Psol, the party of Marielle Franco, chosen by 14 black female candidates from Rio de Janeiro.
For the candidate for state deputy for the Psol, Dani Monteiro, the increase of black women competing was influenced by issues such as the impeachment of the former president Dilma Rousseff (PT), that interrupted a process of conciliation between working class rights with profit of the elites, besides the selectivity of the Court in favor of politicians and the crisis of representation of the political class itself.
“People are tired and disenchanted with the politics of the same faces, the same homens brancos (white men) with the same surnames, the same families,” says Dani. “In difficult times, it’s when these most people stand up,” adds the 27-year-old candidate.
Source: Congresso em Foco
- As I detailed in a previous article, although “pardas” are considered “negras” according to the Movimento Negro and IBGE, as we can clearly see, there are “pardas” that have a more salient African features and those who look much closer to the European end of the spectrum.