Note from BBT: You really have to love stories such as this one. 37-year old Ernesto Batista Mané Júnior is doing the thing. Not only does he have an incredible resume and educational background, but he’s also a diplomat. Maybe you’re wondering, ‘Why is that such a big deal?’ Well, black Brazilians have been basically barred from entering so many prestigious areas that even without an official policy, they appear to be for ‘whites only’.
For example, in 2013, one study found that 99% of university professors and diplomats in Brazil were white. Even though that may have been seven years, I would imagine that the stat hasn’t changed much in recent years. But even so, there have been some clear advances made by black Brazilians in last decade or so, and sometimes it’s cool and necessary to recognize the well-deserved success some are finding. The story below definitely fits into this category.
If there was only thing I would have changed in this piece is the discussion of the treatment he received overseas. I agree that black people don’t need to always discuss the issue of race as it limits the value of our capabilities and reduces perceptions of our expertise to simply matters of discrimination and blackness. But if a black Brazilian is going to speak of issues of race, he/she should always include experiences in Brazil as racism, for some, remains only a thing that happens in the United States. In this case, as diplomacy is such a white area in Brazil, I DO wonder what types of looks and treatment he received in Brazil also.
Diplomat and nuclear scientist is one of the 100 most influential blacks in the world
Ernesto Mané Júnior, a native of the state of Paraiba, has roots in Guinea-Bissau, seeks excellence in everything he does, whether in diplomacy or in research in nuclear physics
By Ana Paula Lisboa
A native of the state of Paraíba in the northeast, Ernesto Batista Mané Júnior, 37 years old, works with excellence in what he is willing to do: throughout his life, he was a waiter, English teacher, programmer and researcher. Currently, he reconciles two different outstanding careers, in which he found an intersection in a niche that combines all his skills.
A diplomat from the Itamaraty (Foreign Ministry) and nuclear scientist, the physicist from the Universidade Federal da Paraíba (UFPB) was recognized as one of the 100 most influential black people in the world in the area of politics and governance in the Most Influential People of Africa Descent (Mipad) list.
He holds a PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Manchester (England), where he did an undergraduate exchange; researcher at Cern, the largest particle physics laboratory in the world, in Geneva, Switzerland; and did two post-doctorates: from the Nuclear and Particle Physics Laboratory in Canada and from Princeton University, in the United States.
The experience abroad was one of the factors that attracted him to the diplomatic career. Through the Itamaraty’s affirmative action program (which, with a grant, supports black people studying for the test), he prepared for the event for two years until approval.
Ernesto got rid of the dreads in his hair just before graduation as a diplomat precisely because of the climate of the federal capital, “very hot in some seasons”. His father, from whom he inherited his name, died in 2014 and was cremated on the same day that Ernesto was accepted as a diplomat.
“Upon entering the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was open to working with all the themes of Brazilian politics and it was a fortunate coincidence to get involved in areas related to disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”, he reports. It’s in this theme that he has been specializing in recent years.
Ernesto speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish, French and German. As a diplomat, he was not removed from Brazil, but he did business trips. A highlight was traveling with the United Nations (UN) for three months, passing through countries in Europe and Asia, as well as New York, in the USA. He was the seventh Brazilian diplomat appointed to participate in the program, which has existed since the 1970s.
In the second post-doctorate, in Princeton, Ernesto stayed for a year, with a study license from the Itamaraty, and deepened his knowledge of disarmament and trained to act with nuclear diplomacy. “It was a postgraduate program in public policy designed by physicists”, he describes.
“I wouldn’t be able to do this research if I were just a physicist or if I were just a diplomat. Physical diplomats exist, but, without false modesty, there are no other diplomats with this postdoctoral background in nuclear physics producing in this area besides the one that is speaking to you,” he says.
The son of a Brazilian accountant and public servant and a Guinea-Bissau economist and professor from whom he inherited his name, Ernesto spent the first years of his life living in São Paulo. “My mother already had two children, she met my father, with whom she had two more: me and my sister. The four of us grew up together and formed the family nucleus of my childhood,”he says.
This nucleus lived in the Conjunto Residencial da Universidade de São Paulo (Crusp), when Ernesto’s father went to study at USP. The Paraíba native went through public and private schools with scholarships. In high school, he graduated as a computer technician from the Instituto Federal da Paraíba (IFPB).
Teachers and professors from that time and from his graduation at UFPB are Ernesto’s mentors until today. Although he grew up with three siblings, Ernesto has others, on his father’s side, in João Pessoa, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. Seeking to get closer to his roots, he traveled to Guinea-Bissau, where he spent almost a month between 2010 and 2011. “My grandparents still lived there. I met two sisters, uncles and cousins”.
While visiting a nation that was also a former Portuguese colony, Ernesto felt like he was visiting post-Independence Brazil. “It’s a country that was a colony for longer and still suffers, in a more recent and acute way, the effects of colonialism,” he says. It was his first time in Africa and generated many reflections. Ernesto made a detailed travel diary about the experience that is being transformed into a book.
During his doctorate in the UK, he had to make constant trips to Cern on the border between France and Switzerland. “Immigration officials were suspicious about why I was in and out of the UK. They didn’t believe my story of being a research physicist,” he says.
On the border between Switzerland and France, he was mistaken for a trafficker after being stopped by a French officer. “If I had been a person with Caucasian phenotype, he wouldn’t have shown me the same treatment,” he realizes.
In Vancouver, Canada, upon returning from a trip to Guinea-Bissau, he was also approached in a different way. Racism permeated other contexts. “It’s impossible to say that the color of my skin didn’t influence the way I related to people,” he says.
“I lived and live in a mixture between meritocracy and racism. I’m recognized by many people, but that doesn’t mean that the people I related to didn’t have a negative bias because of the color of my skin”.
Source: Correio Braziliense