Even after civil rights were passed, racism can still be found at several levels of Brazilian and American societies, according to US activist, professor and philosopher Angela Davis.
“Even though Brazil has been proclaimed a racial democracy, there are serious [racism] problems, which are connected with economy, society and politics,” she said during a press conference at the 2014 Latinities Festival: Griots of the Black Diaspora, which is scheduled to end on July 28, in Brasília.
In Davis’s opinion, the same phenomenon happens in the US. “The kind of racism you have after [the passage of civil rights] is harder to fight than it was before.”
She mentions the jail system and the police, which, in both countries, perpetrate discrimination. “In the US, as in Brazil, race matters when it comes to deciding who’s going to jail and who’s going to the university.”
In Brazil, the 2014 Violence Map shows that the main victims are male black youths. They account for 53.4 percent of the homicides in the country. In the university, the picture is different, reports the 2012 Higher Education Census.
The survey reveals that, out of the 7 million students, 187 thousand are black and 746 thousand mulatto, which represents 13.3 percent of the total amount.
“There has to be a change in all the racist institutions we have, which, in the case of the genocide of the black population, is political,” said Ana Maria Gonçalves, a black writer from Minas Gerais, author of the awarded novel “Um Defeito de Cor” (A Color Defect)
“The government must create more humanitarian policies and courses on how to deal with racism inside the institutions,” the novelist added.
Racism is also found among children, at school. Costa Rican writer Shirley Campbell lives in a prestigious neighborhood in the South Lake region in Brasília. When she moved to Brazil’s capital city, she enrolled her 4-year-old daughter in a school near her home.
“She asked what it meant to be black. I felt scared. But I answered that it meant to be like us. She answered me: ‘I don’t want to be black, I want to be like the girls from my class.'”
The writer went on to say that she was impressed because she knew that, in Brazil, the majority of the population is black (50.7 percent). “Where are all the black people?” Campbell asks.
She answers her own question: “I know where the blacks from the South Lake are. They’re at the bus stops, they’re the swimming pool cleaners, they’re the ones working in homes.”
The 2014 edition of the Latinities Festival started on July 23 with a debate on the origins of black culture and the characteristics of diaspora literature – the forced arrival of black Africans in Latin America and the Caribbean as of 15th century, which is the focus of the gathering this year.
During the opening ceremony, Costa Rican writer Shirley Campbell talked about the differences between African and diaspora art, and their common roots.
“African art is very closely connected with manifestations on descriptions of everyday life. Diaspora art, on the other hand, addresses the interaction of black art with other communities.”
In her view, in spite of the difference, black women from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean share a fundamental connection, based on the memory of their predecessors and the maintenance of their traditional knowledge and beliefs.
Shirley Campbell was among those who participated in the first debate of the Latinities Festival, which was also attended by Brazilian writers Inaldete Pinheiro and Nina Silva.
“The black women’s movement makes it so that their identities are voiced by their own mouths and not by that of others. There’s a harmony among voices [of Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa], because there are deep roots, kept alive by spirituality, memory, and genetics. We’re a huge network and we feed ourselves through knowledge, experiences and sayings,” Nina Silva said.