Note from BBT: Perhaps because of this pandemic that has dominated the activities and memory of this year more than anything else, this year’s day and month of black consciousness is a little different. No news of marches, no seminars, no conferences, no celebrations of Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurialism. Every year I marvel at how quickly another year has seemingly vanished. It’s really been a year since the last Feira Preta event I attended. Yes, Covid-19
84 will go down in the record books as changing just about everything in our regular, everyday lives. But, with the appalling news that I received earlier today, it still hasn’t changed one thing: black lives still don’t seem to matter in Brazil.
On the eve of the annual observance of the Day of Black Consciousness, more details are coming out about the life of yet another black man that was violently snuffed out by security agents in the southern region of the country, yesterday, the 19th. As if we really needed another reminder with all of the tens of thousands of black lives that Brazil takes away in a violent manner every year, but the murder of 40-year João Alberto Silveira Freitas, who died after being assaulted and beaten by Carrefour store security and not being able to breathe demonstrates why it is vital that we take consciousness of what it means to be black in a decidedly anti-black world.
Resistance and Memory: National Day of Black Consciousness
By Marcos Manoel Ferreira
The “National Day of Black Consciousness”, November 20th, was instituted in honor of the enslaved black man, Zumbi dos Palmares, who led the resistance in the Quilombo dos Palmares in Serra da Barriga, located in the state of Alagoas, assassinated in 1695. He fought to the death against the oppression of the slavery and the bloodstained hands of black flesh in the name of economic power, pride and structural racism! Serra da Barriga, today, the Quilombo dos Palmares Memorial Park, a space of collective memory, painful and sensitive.
The Day, unfortunately, is not yet festive, there is not much to celebrate, the confetti and applause for the crumbs dripped in the name of equality, in the country of necropolitics and the myth of racial democracy. It will no longer be a paradoxical “holiday”, for celebrations and courting religious authorities or flattering caricatured political figures with the status of statesmen, being nothing more than pathetic, negative and racist figures.
The historic and arduous trajectory of an exiled people, in the African diasporic process, under the white and Christian supremacist aegis. It spilled the blood of enslaved Indians, Africans and Afro-Americans, to irrigate reeds, coffee plantations and give shine to the precious metals of its infamous masters. A Homeric struggle defended by great figures such as the “slave poet” Castro Alves, the abolitionists Joaquim Nabuco, José do Patrocínio and many others who contributed to this path of resistance.
In the constitutionally secular country, Catholic Christian holidays, false heroes, coups and racial and cultural equality reign! Long live the hypocrisy of the sacred and the profane, ignorance and religious intolerance, against Afro-Brazilian religions! The fight against racism is not just the political agendas of the right, left, center or stupid polarization, which does not argue, attack and disrespect. This cause, the parameter is not restricted to ideological, religious aspects, but rather, of principles, character and respect. “We are all equal before the law”, according to Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, otherwise, it is a crime or stupidity!
The day, as every day is, invariably highlights the need to reflect on the importance of the African cultural legacy in the formation of Brazilian society, an awakening to the shameful issue experienced by blacks in Brazil! Structural racism, indifference, indigence, rejection, violence, prejudice and all hateful types of “crooked looks” and pre-judgments, for the “always suspicious”, of the favelas, alleys, peripheries and preferred targets of the “lost bullets”, which almost always find a poor and black person.
It is necessary and urgent, a noisy awakening of society and the State, with public policies of inclusion, respect for diversity and the fight against prejudice. “It is not enough not to be racist: let us be anti-racists”! A critical, attentive and humane look is needed for a population of historically excluded individuals, immersed in injustice and abandonment. Marginalized by the black color of their skin, thrown into the common grave of the social abyss, in a hypocritical and racist society, in which their existence has become an affront to the racists who still pray and an avoidable fight, so as not to be killed by the truculence of the State’s knees on their neck.
They still carry in their souls the stains of cowardly scourge and exile, the smelly rancidity of unhealthy slave quarters and the calloused hands of those who constructed much of the greatness of this nation. Ungrateful, that insists on disowning them, “denies” one of the greatest historical shames of humanity, slavery and that there is no racial and social discrimination, against the anonymous in the police pages and in the daily obituaries. That had their narratives ignored, silenced and denied.
In other words, what is the profile of the largest prison population in Brazil, of illiterates, of residents in piled up and hanging in shacks of the peripheries of the country, according to IBGE? Coincidence? No. An historical absence of public inclusion policies and a partly complicit society. It is not the electoral and media “solutions” that do not emancipate and do not include, in fact, the Golden Law brought much more visibility to Princess Isabel than to her “recipients”. The concern of the Brazilian State and of the slave society was much greater for the economic losses of the masters who had to “give up” their mercadorias pretas (black merchadise), than with the freedmen, marginalized, unpaid, unemployed, illiterate, homeless and forsaken of any public policy. Legacy of the patriarchal landowning mentality, based on coronelism, ethnocentrism, machismo and racism, as a basic structure in a mixed country.
Studies show that from the 17th century in Pernambuco, enslaved Africans, victims of the European Christian master, were brought by the Portuguese to Brazil, in asphyxiating ships and in outrageous conditions. Under the clink of shackles, they disembarked and, with them, in addition to the pain of exile, the longing for the Motherland. His tenacity and roots as weapons of resistance and hope. The identity that the açoites e a senzala (whips and slave quarters), that racism and intolerance, have failed to silence or erase.
The construction of the greatness of this land, often marked by the blood of others, to quench the uncontrollable desire of sugarcane and coffee estates, in a slave-driving, ordinary white supremacy. The salt dripped on the fertile land, irrigated by the sweat of Bantu and Sudanese, made the fortune and sweetness of the cane. From the white sugar like snow, which left honey and bitter coffee. Tempered by the shameful slavery of the renegades and the misery of the ignored! By the hands and feet of warriors who, due to their black skin, resistant as ebony, were historically inferior and disqualified, due to the pseudoscience, of eugenics based on intolerance and social Darwinism.
It is undeniable how much we are a mixed country, the American Indian, the European white, the African black, a rich cultural and religious diversity, the result of syncretism and cultural-religious eclecticism. That bequeathed us not only a multiethnic people, but also, Christianity and ethnocidal catechesis, its economic interests and its convictions; the greatness of African-based religions and their ancient traditions. From Xangô, god of justice, fire, Tupã dos Tupí-Guaraní indians. The same Atlantic that bathes the Baía de todos os santos (Bahia bay of all saints), are the same waters that bathe Africa and its orixás, showing how much our differences make us equal!
Education, like several other sectors of society, plays a preponderant role in this fervent process of transformation in this national context with provincial airs. Coronelism, “know who you’re talking to”, racist, sexist, homophobic, denialist, demanding an anthropological, philosophical debate, in a tireless search for respect and critical understanding of the role of each citizen, responsible for transforming this reality of misery, prejudice and intolerance. Our attitudes and our character will always be decisive for any change and under any circumstances. According to Saint Augustine: “In essence we are equal, in differences we respect each other”.
It is notorious and how it enriches us, this coexistence with such ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. That puts us face to face with the challenging, necessary issues, guided by respect and tolerance. Elementary, basic, grandiose and determinant principles for the construction of a more just, fraternal, egalitarian and equitable society. The struggle of minorities, the cry of the excluded should be everyone’s effort! A relentless fight against violence that most often exterminates black youth and women on a daily basis – as well as, non black women as well. Feminicide is alarming in Brazil, reflecting the model of society that we have become, and that we have a moral, human duty to change! We still yearn for justice, for a police, for a society, for a religious discourse, which will judge by character and not by bank account, address or skin color.
On the horizon, conquests timidly begin to dawn. Representations in the most diverse spaces of society begin to be occupied by Afro-descendants, quilombolas, in prominent positions and, until then, historically filled by whites. In the last elections, for example, we saw this representation of black men and black women, elected, giving even more voices and representativeness, to whom for so long, were silenced. Emblematic and historical conquests, which reveal the strength of the Afro resistance, synonymous with conquest and respect, like that of Erika Hilton in São Paulo, the first black trans elected councilor and Vilmar Kalunga, the first quilombola elected mayor in the country, in the municipality of Cavalcante, Goiás and that will certainly not be the last.
So, like it or not, we all have black blood! Some, on the hands. The same one that held the whip and today boasts racism and intolerance. May National Black Consciousness Day be, in addition to the celebrations, bring reflection and the possibilities for real changes, in the fight against prejudice and intolerance. That the sound of drums and resistance reverberate around the world, blacks lives matter, because “the big house freaks out when the slave learns to read”!