Racism in Brazil

Posted on January 26, 2011

By Clarke

Brazil’s burgeoning economy, cinema and its anticipated hosting the international Olympic games have placed the country at the center of the world’s stage. Behind the images of racial harmony that are presented in the media Brazil is a country plagued by racism.

Historically, the Brazilian slave trade mirrored North America’s in cruelty but exceeded it in number.

Over 54% of Brazil’s current population is African. However, due to statistical manipulation this fact remains unknown to many in North America. Pan-African activist Abdias Nascimento spoke on this subject, saying, “For a very long time, Brazil manipulated statistics and published a false image based on the whitening ideal. At the same time, it always published the “racial democracy” image of everyone living in harmony…race mixture was to whiten the population. After the abolition of slavery, which brought down the Brazilian Monarchy and ushered in the Republic, the population of Brazilian citizens was suddenly four-fifths Black! The all-white political ruling class was terrified…but it was clear to the politicians that they also needed to bring in European immigrants and encourage race mixture. Lighter-skinned children and grandchildren, white great-grandchildren! The goal was to eliminate Blacks by the year 2012!”

Civil rights attorney Humberto Adami has brought civil class action suits against five of the largest banks in Brazil—out of 70,000 employees in these banks, only 2% of them are Black. The oil company Petrobras has only 4% Blacks in management, while Shell has none. Adami’s work has been instrumental in the continued implementation of affirmative action in Brazil, which has been met with a great deal of resistance.

Speaking on affirmative action, Nacimento says, “The white ruling elite simply believes that it has an inherent right to occupy the best and most advantageous places in society, and that Blacks are meant to serve its members. But they will never admit to that. Instead they accuse us of reinventing biological racism.”

Afro-Brazilian journalist Angelica Basthi pointed out the difficulties that Blacks face in the media, both in representation and communication, due to its firm control by several European families. Considering this, it has been difficult to raise consciousness amongst Blacks in Brazil.

Despite the psychological obstacles that have oppressed them, there is a sense of Black awareness in the country. Carlos Meideros, the coordinator for Policies to Promote Racial Equality in Rio de Janeiro, notes a number of burgeoning Afro-Brazilian movements in the country saying, “There are currently a number of separate movements; they’re not all working together yet, but they are there.”

Both Meideros and Adami have expressed interest in working with African Americans within the media and film industries, creating joint projects that will raise Black awareness in Brazil and contribute to Pan-Africanism.

While the world focuses on Brazil, we must focus our attention on its race problems. In doing so, we’re not only helping Afro-Brazilians, but also helping ourselves.

*Posted on http://www.metrocardfame.wordpress.com

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