Note from BW of Brazil: In yet another example of Brazil’s willingness to maintain racial inequality and an unequal representation, a judge strikes down an ordinance that would have funded black cultural production projects. As has been shown on this blog time and time again, Brazilians of visible African ancestry, the majority of the country’s 200 million citizens, are extremely under-represented in nearly every area of the society except for perhaps music and sports. There has been a rising tide in the past decade or so to address these vast inequalities with the implementation of quotas in Brazil’s federal universities being the biggest and most controversial victory. But there is still so much more to accomplish and it those who prefer to keep things as they have always been continue to challenge these changes. Whether it’s opposition to the quota system, displeasure of the access of newer, darker members of the middle class. or new rights to domestic workers, Brazil still has a long ways to go to show its true face. This latest example once again shows the hypocrisy of calling something racist when it is dedicated to black people who remain largely invisible in Brazilian society while ignoring the country’s ever-present dictatorship of whiteness in nearly all facets of society.
Justice maintained that exclusive actions are a racist practice. Project development was the main novelty of the Marta Suplicy administration that heads the Ministry of Culture
The Federal Court suspended the ordinances (editais) of incentives to black culture launched by the Ministry of Culture (MinC) in November 2012, under the understanding that they represent a racist practice. With a total value of R$9 million (about US$4.5 million), the ordinances were, until now, the principal innovation of the Marta Suplicy administration at the head of the project, which undertook it about nine months ago promising policies of inclusion.
The decision of Judge José Carlos do Vale Madeira, of the 5th Judiciary Section of (the state of) Maranhão, was published in the Diário Oficial on Monday. He wrote that the Ministry of Culture “could not summarily exclude other ethnic groups” and that the ordinances “destined exclusively to blacks opens a blatant and dangerous specter of racial inequality.”
“In my opinion it’s the wrong decision,” says Humberto Adami, director of the Instituto de Advocacia Racial e Ambiental (IARA or Institute for Environmental Law and Racial). “It fails to recognize the Federal Constitution, the Statute of Racial Equality and international treaties to the combat racial discrimination that are signed by Brazil since 1960, in order to combat racism and promote the inclusion of African descendants, which historically suffer exclusion.”
The ordinances that were suspended were: Support for Short Film – Affirmative Short: Black Youth Protagonism in Audiovisual Production; Funarte (1) Award for Black Art; Support Co-edition of Books authored by black authors, and Support for Black Researchers. The first is from the administration of the Secretaria do Audiovisual (Audiovisual Secretariat or SAv) of the Ministry of Culture, the second, Funarte, and the last two, from the the Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (National Library Foundation).
“Racism in Brazil in relation to blacks is a historical question,” evaluates Antonio Costa Neto, technical assistant of IARA. “There was racism during slavery, later with the theory of whitening the population and then the public policy in education and also in immigration. So today we try to deconstruct racism through affirmative public policies. The judge takes into account the current situation, which does not allow the practice of racism, but should also consider these historical facts. If we do a racial profile, there are few black producers with access to these public policies.”
Ministry promises to appeal
The notices were issued on November 20, when the Day of Black Consciousness is celebrated. The idea was announced by Marta Suplicy to facilitate access to funds by artists and producers who deal with black culture, whose projects would be, in accordance with the Ministry of Culture, little received by usual sponsorship policies. They all had finished their registrations and should have announced authorized projects early in the beginning of the second semester.
The case was brought as a class action by the office of lawyer Pedro Leonel Pinto de Carvalho, of Maranhão, citing as defendants the União Federal, Funarte and the Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (National Library Foundation).
“The ordinance has a racist quality. Why is it only for black people and not for whites or Indians, for example? It is a proposal that generates prejudice,” says Pedro Eduardo Ribeiro de Carvalho, legal manager of the office of Pedro Leonel.
For Adami, the measure led by Minister Suplicy falls within the principle of affirmative action.
“It is an action of the executive branch that aims to help a certain segment of society. It should not cause astonishment, because every day we have some segment of society benefiting from some executive, judiciary or legislative decision. When entrepreneurs receive exemption from taxes, no one says that it is unconstitutional. In this respect, I think that there are plenty of arguments to the Attorney General’s Office to make an appeal to the Regional Court in Brasília and that this decision is summarily revoked.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Culture said it will appeal the decision: “The ordinance of the SAv is legal, constitutional and there is security in the regularity of the policy. There is the same understanding in legal areas of Funarte and the National Library Foundation, which will also enter an appeal.”
Decision suspending notices for black culture is ‘racist’, says Marta
Federal Court in state of Maranhão held that notices exclude other ethnicities. Minister of Culture said that the government will appeal the decision and ‘will win’.
Marta Suplicy, the Minister of Culture, said early on Wednesday (22), that she will reverse a court decision that suspended ordinances to incentivize black culture released in November 2012. The minister said the government has appealed the decision which she described as “racist.”
“We are outraged, it’s a racist decision and we have appealed and we will win. After we had the Supreme (Court) position itself in favor of quotas, saying that an ordinance in favor of blacks is racist, this doesn’t exist,” she said after participating in the program Bom Dia, Ministro (Good Morning, Minister), of the NBR (2) state network.
“We’ve included ordinances for indigenous (people) and we are implementing (ordinances) for women. We have to have affirmative action in the country to compensate the difficulty that different communities have when they don’t have access to resources,” added Marta.
In a statement, Minister of Racial Equality, Luiza Bairros, said: “The ruling demonstrates that the legal victory obtained in STF (Federal Supreme Court) should be followed by another battle, the ideological, until that affirmative action is understood as necessary in all fields of social life, not just in education. The Secretariat will make every effort, together with the Attorney General’s Office-AGU and the Ministry of Culture, to have this decision reversed, to assert the right of black artists to public resources that ensure the expression of our cultural diversity.”
Marta said that she still plans to expand the ordinances. “I’m very excited about this announcement, we will certainly repeat it. And I’m still seeing how we will expand because the vacancies that we had became very small, there was a very repressed demand black creators,” she said during the program.
According to Marta, before the ordinances, there were only 18 projects with a theme black and now there are about 2,900 projects.
“This program happened because observing the Lei Rouanet (Rouanet Law) (3), where we are able to empower sponsorship for that enterprise, that cultural project, you won’t believe, projects dealing with a black theme didn’t manage to get funding. It’s about this funding that we’re talking about: it’s difficult, we decided to do it by means of an ordinance because, through an ordinance, they do not have to look for money,” the minister said during the program.
1. Funarte, the Fundação Nacional de Artes (National Arts Foundation) is a foundation of the Brazilian government, connected to the Ministry of Culture. It operates throughout the national territory and is the body responsible for the development of public policies that promote the visual arts, music, theater, dance and circus. Source: Wiki
2. TV NBR is a channel of Brazilian governmental news. Source: Wiki
3. The Rouanet Law is a Brazilian law that encourages cultural investments that can be used by firms and citizens to help finance cultural projects. This law makes possible to deduct a certain percentage of the investment off the Income Tax. Source: Wiki