Note from BW of Brazil: Here in the 21st century, the damages caused by nearly four hundred years of black slavery in Brazil continues to have enormous influence on contemporary race relations and the condition of the black population. During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Brazil received somewhere between 4-5 million Africans that they enslaved between the first half of the 16th century and the end of 19th century, and was also the last country to abolish the regime in the Americas.
But even with slavery ending what will be 130 years ago this coming May 13th, the question remains, had the Africans that were brought to the land that would later become known as the Federative Republic of Brazil never been enslaved, what condition would this population be in today? It’s a heavy question to be considered, although most people would prefer to just relegate it to the past as something that has no importance in the modern era. But is it really that simple? Is it realistic to believe that there were no economic, psychological, emotional, social and political damages of which the ramifications can still be felt today? Are we really believe that what many believe to be an ongoing genocide of the black race in Brazil today has no connection to the slavery era?
I don’t think we can ever really know the full range of damage that had origins in the brutal regime of slavery, but the question and research must continue to be conducted on this issue. For you cannot repair something if you don’t know the extent of the damages. For several years now, a group of black lawyers have been doing just that and will issue some of their findings on the issue later on this year. Below is an interview with the president of the commission, Humberto Adami.
“The Brazilian State is mainly responsible for the crimes committed against blacks in the country”
By LUIS ANTONIO HANGAI
The President of the Comissão Nacional da Verdade da Escravidão Negra (National Commission of Truth on Black Slavery), Humberto Adami, was in Florianópolis this Monday to talk about the work of historical research of the epoch of slavery in Brazil. In the DC report, he anticipated some of the conclusions that will be in the preliminary report, to be presented on December 2nd at the Federal Council of the OAB (Brazilian Lawyers Guild). The lawyer explains that the methods are the same used by the Commission on the military dictatorship (1964-1985) and affirms that the Brazilian State is mainly responsible for the crimes committed against blacks in the country. Read the interview.
Humberto Adami gave a lecture in the Legislative Assembly of Santa Catarina this Monday.
Diário Catarinense – How was this commission born and what are its goals?
Humberto Adami – The Commission was proposed in October 2014 at the 22nd National Conference of Lawyers. A group of black jurists from the Rio de Janeiro discussed reparations because of slavery at a table. They wanted to do the same thing that we did at the Truth Commission of the Dictatorship, that was researching the basements of the regime and that was to search the memory of escravidão negra (black slavery) in order to redeem the history that has been forgotten and usurped from the population, in particular the afrodescendente (African descendant).
Diário Catarinense – What do you intend to find with the works?
Humberto Adami – For a long time we were discussing the affirmative actions in education by means of quotas in universities. Then quotas in public employment and some Brazilian courts emerged, in particular those of the RS (Rio Grande do Sul state), RJ (Rio de Janeiro state) and ES (Espírito Santo state) and GO (Goiás state), began to judge these quotas as unconstitutional. The questions that were asked by these lower courts wanted to discuss anything everything about these actions of the STF (Supreme Court) again. Issues that have to be overcome. What happens is that if it is to discuss it again, we have to put the reparations due to slavery up for discussion also. At the end of the accounts, the dimensions, though very important, they are vacancies within the general scenario, which is very little in the overall context. There is a segment of Brazilian society that ignores this framework of horror of slavery and which persists until today. It’s necessary to help this portion of this population that is unaware of the reasons there are affirmative actions, such as quotas. And overcome this discussion of ‘I am against or in favor of quotas’. This is already outdated. But we realize that many people cannot understand this.
Diário Catarinense – What methods are being used for this?
Humberto Adami – Seeking, equal to the Commission of the dictatorship, the historical facts. And the following basic questions: What were the crimes? Who committed them, when and how. The answer is that the major beneficiary of slavery was the Brazilian state and it must suffer the prosecution of these crimes. Today we operate with two working groups: one part for the bibliographic research and another for the production of concrete proof. The bibliography is abundant in the departments of history of universities, in which are stored and unknown.
Diário Catarinense – And regarding the research of historical facts?
Humberto Adami – We are discovering very interesting facts. For example, one that is already becoming famous, which deals with the 3.9 thousand pairs of ears of quilombolas (maroon society inhabitants) of Campo Grande, with a video even up on YouTube. In this situation a Bandeirante was contracted, then around 1740, to decimate the population. We know that by accountancy. He received 83 kilos of gold and to receive it he had to prove the performance of the service. He proved it by taking the head or the ears of murdered blacks. Anywhere in the world, this would cause a commotion, especially if it was the Jewish community, which is an example to be followed by keeping alive the memory of the holocaust. The staff from (the state of) Pará was seeking a copy and pictures that iron ball that related to the feet of the slaves. All this is part of the research of a past that only Brazil threw out. In other places it is stored never to be repeated.
Diário Catarinense – What is contained in the report to be submitted on December 2nd?
Humberto Adami – Some people were worried that we would look for the descendants of slave owners to request compensation. This is not part of the Commission’s wishes. Those that need to be held accountable are the major beneficiary of the crimes of slavery. The rapporteur shall deliver the report tomorrow (today), after the latest adjustments. On December 2nd did the reading, forwarding, consideration and vote on the report at the Federal Council of the OAB. After this we have the measures of forwarding. I think that this will be a milestone in the history of Brazil and will make ground of society shake. Now it’s not only the issue of quota, but raising the history of slavery and requesting the reparation of the damage.
Diário Catarinense – Will there will be requests for financial compensation?
Humberto Adami – We are opting not to talk about financial repair in this first moment, for now, because in the attempts that have already occurred (such as the journalist Fernando Conceição, in Bahia, and the Councilwoman Claudete Alves de São Paulo), which decided to calculate a sum of money, the discussions were interrupted. We have other forms, as recognizing the value of Luiz Gama, who was prevented from entering into places for because of being black and today we know that he was a great lawyer. These are actions that are independent of economic nature. And this report is partial. The Commission continues working after that.
Diário Catarinense – Why not ask for compensation?
Humberto Adami – There are some legal and political obstacles that hinder this action. If you cannot receive compensation or in actuality, think about historical facts. But it is possible if you think about it. It is possible to think that the Brazilian State will be accused, the Portuguese crown and the Catholic Church. Because some of these institutions are still well financially and with optimal health today. They gained money with the slavery industry. But at some point we need to discuss the reparations of slavery, starting with the non-economic but that have value for the memory.
Diário Catarinense – Today Brazil receives many African and Haitian immigrants. How can this commission help them?
Humberto Adami – The orientation that we have is an approach to raise the history of slavery. But the OAB is already prepared to do this combating of racism in everyday life, which is in the Commission for Racial Equality, which is older. They already operate fully. Anyone can request its installation at the OAB location.
Source: Diário Catarinense