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How Is Brazil Racist? Let Me Count the Ways.

 How 
        Is Brazil Racist? 
        Let Me Count the Ways.

Brazil’s
elite has been ashamed of its huge African descent population
for centuries and as Brazilian doctor and sociologist Raimundo
Nina Rodrigues himself once said, "the black race of Brazil…
will always constitute one of the factors of our inferiority as a people."

by: Mark
Wells

 

Since
I discovered the beauty and complexities of the Brazilian people at
the tail end of 1999, I’ve done all that I could to learn as much as
I could about the largest country in Latin America. I have written three
articles for this magazine and appreciate the various contributions
of others in helping to make Brazzil the informative magazine
that it is. I, as an American of African descent, do not know everything
and do not claim to know everything about this Portuguese speaking country
that I adore so much, and in the same manner, I don’t expect everyone
else to know everything about it.

Honestly
there are a lot of things about my own country’s history that I still
need to learn about! But every now and then an article will catch my
eye that totally infuriates me. Every now and then when the issue of
race comes up someone will say something that will make me lose my composure.
It should come as no surprise because I will never forget when a well
respected anthropology professor at my school could not understand the
benefits that his father may have gained simply because of his whiteness
at the expense of my grandfather’s blackness.

In
the past two weeks, two articles, "Blacks and Whites. We’re All
Brazilians" & "A Trap for Blacks," both
written by Janer Cristaldo, have succeeded in demanding that I compose
a reply. Everyone has a right to voice their opinions and after I contemplated
ignoring Mr.Cristaldo’s articles, I felt it necessary that I MUST voice
my opinion also.

Although
the majority of this article is a direct response to Mr. Cristaldo’s
comments, I hope that this article can stand alone as an informative
piece for all. In the past month or so since my last article appeared
in Brazzil, I have received many e-mails from all over the world.
I can always tell whether the person writing to me is Brazilian or not
from the tone of their letters. It seems that the vast majority of Brazilians
who write to me continue to hold on to the outdated and defeated claim
of a Brazilian "Racial Democracy" or like Cristaldo, "we’re
all Brazilians" and treated equal.

Take
a paragraph from one particular e-mail I recently received in reference
to my article "Where Did All the Blacks Go?" (March 2003):

 

"I
read your article and thought it was very interesting. I’m from Brazil
and I live in America for about five years. I’m from Paraná,
south of Brazil, even though I have dark brown hair—which for
you Americans could be a reason for not considering me a white person,
since here if you are not blonde with blue or green eyes you are not
white—I see myself as a white. I think the problem is that you
Americans give a lot of importance to race and we Brazilians do not
care about it. For us it’s all about money. If there are two guys,
one black but rich, and other white and poor, the black and rich will
have much more dates than the white and poor. This is Brazil, this
is so normal that many kids don’t know what race means. Why don’t
they know? Because we do not hear a lot about race in Brazil, we don’t
care about it and this is something you Americans cannot understand."

This
is an example of what I find difficult to grasp in the Brazilian attitude
toward race and racism. How can this person say that she sees herself
as white, an obvious choice, but then turn around and say that Brazilians
do not hear a lot about race and that this is so normal that
many kids don’t know what race means. If this person is really as
color blind as she thinks she is, why does she see herself as white?

If
Brazilians don’t see race as much as Americans do, why do 54 percent
of the Brazilian population see themselves as white? Why is it that
so many Brazilians who claimed that they were white in the Brazilian
census seem to have a problem with black Brazilian activists persuading
gente de cor to affirm their African ancestry? It would be interesting
to see how many Brazilians who continue to claim that we Brazilians
are all mixed checked the branco/branca category when faced
with the question of race in the last Brazilian census.

Not
Black, Not White

If
you truly see Brazil as a nation of mixed people, then you would reply
to questions pertaining to race in a way that I once read singer Caetano
Veloso respond: "I am neither white nor black". And finally,
in analyzing the worn out "if you’ve got money you’re treated well"
argument, how is it that this person doesn’t seem to realize that for
every twenty white Brazilians she meets who have attained a moderate
amount of wealth, she will encounter perhaps one black Brazilian with
similar financial status?

Here
is another portion of the e-mail from the same person:

 

"You
say you were very surprised in my country, the same is happening to
me here. When people look at me they see me as white, but when I start
to talk they notice that I have an accent, that I’m from Brazil. Then
I’m not white anymore, I become a Latina or Hispanic, since 99 percent
of Americans think we speak Spanish and see Latino or Hispanic as
race. They should learn more about race because there’s no such thing
as Hispanic or Latino as race."

As
an African-American, I can speak in depth about the disease of racism
that is rampant in the world today. While I don’t wish anyone to be
subjected to racist attitudes, in some ways, I hope this Brazilian can
learn from her American experience. In the same manner that she thought
that she was white in America (only to be rudely awakened), millions
of Afro-Brazilians think that Brazilian society sees them as equals
until they experience racially motivated discrimination.

First
of all, let me say that Brazil and America are indeed two different
countries, with two different histories and holding two different positions
on the world stage today. But while there are several differences, there
are also several similarities. My adoration of Brazil began when I learned
that there were so many faces there that looked like mine and those
of millions of others who in this country would be labeled as black
or African-American.

Since
then, other facets of Brazilian history and culture have fascinated
me also. Brazilian music, food, the obsession with futebol, Carnaval
and the Portuguese language itself are but a few of the things that
I have learned via the study of Brazil. I have also been introduced
to the idea of racial identity and Brazilian style racism since I began
my study of "all things Brazilian". As I said before, in this
area, there are differences but also several similarities with American
style racism. Perhaps more than the average Brazilian cares to recognize.

Let’s
take a look at a few of Mr. Cristaldo’s comments:

 

1.
"The country is discovering the mestiço. While
the U.S. begins to recognize multi-raciality, some black groups in
Brazil wanted even mulatos to declare themselves black on the
last census. The purpose is obvious, which is to put pressure on the
legislative power. Black Brazilians represented only 5.4 percent of
the general population in 1999."

2.
"Bahia, (is) a state with a definite black majority…"

The
first point I must make is that although it is true that mulatos
in the US are considered black, the mulato/mixed category is
actually not new to the American census. In the late 19th century and
early 20th century, there actually was a mulato category in official
US census reports. The point here is that whether that person is considered
mulato or black, in the majority of countries around the world,
they are considered to be non-white but not non-black. As a matter of
fact, the creation of the term pardo was developed as a way for
the Brazilian government to hide the fact that it had such a high proportion
of African descent people. (see this article: http://www.fapesp.br/livro59.htm)

Now,
the problem with Mr. Cristaldo’s reference to Bahia as a "state
with a definite black majority" is the fact that he has already
made it clear that he believes that the mulato category and the
black category should remain separate. According to Brazilian Census
reports, the state of Bahia is approximately 25 percent white, 20 percent
black and 55 percent mulato. Now if mulatos/pardos are
to be recognized as separate from pretos/negros, how can Bahia
be a "state with a definite black majority"?

The
answer would seem to be simple for even someone like Mr. Cristaldo.
Pretos and pardos together ARE Bahia’s "black majority."
Statistically, it is impossible to separate the two categories and then
claim that Bahia is a "state with a definite black majority."
As blackness has always been looked upon as something to be ashamed
of in Brazil, it is quite obvious that millions of Brazilians do not
refer to themselves in this manner.

Shame
of Being Black

In
Frances Twine’s book Racism in a Racial Democracy: The Maintenance
of White Supremacy in Brazil, we learn that it has been a custom
for many years for Brazilian gente de cor (people of color) to
list their children in a lighter racial category. Thus, pretos
can become pardos and pardos can become brancos (white).
In my second essay for this magazine, I wrote of my experiences with
"Danielle" and her family, all of whom were dark-skinned black
people but were all listed as pardos on their birth certificates.

Now
if dark skinned black people can be counted as mulatos, and the
average Brazilian who looks like actress Camila Pitanga (who considers
herself black) lists themselves as white, what does this tell us about
the Brazilian census? It tells us that it hardly reflects the reality
of the Brazilian population.

In
reality, Brazil’s elite has been ashamed of its huge African descent
population for centuries and as Brazilian doctor and sociologist Raimundo
Nina Rodrigues himself once said, "the black race of Brazil…will
always constitute one of the factors of our inferiority as a people".

Hmmm…Statements
like that remind me of American-style racism.

While
racial characteristics can be seen, they can also be seen as a social
construct. Thus, if we consider statistics such as income, education,
illiteracy, life expectancy, and high blood pressure, which are influenced
by a person’s position in society, we could indeed come to the conclusion
that the differences between pardos and pretos in Brazil
are indeed negligible. In simple terms, Mr. Cristaldo, this means that
whether a Brazilian looks like Milton Nascimento, Dorival Caymmi or
Clara Nunes, they will most likely be treated the same and have the
same prospects for succeeding in Brazil.

Mr.Cristaldo
and millions of other Brazilians continue to point to the United States
example as their justification for believing racism isn’t as prevalent
in Brazil. True, in America, people generally label one as black or
white, but the simple fact that so many Brazilians consistently label
each other with so many different racial terms could be adequate reason
to believe that Brazilians are perhaps MORE race conscious or perhaps
more racist than Americans!

There
is yet another way to look at this perplexing issue of race. In my view,
Brazil should either be broken into two racial categories (negro
or branco) or four. I say four because if some black Brazilians
are to be seen as being mixed, then white Brazilians must also be seen
as mixed. Sure many Brazilian pretos or pardos look as
if they may have some Native Brazilian or European ancestry, but similarly,
the so-called "white" Brazilian often times has traces (sometimes
more) of Native and African blood also.

If
racism in Brazil didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be so many people attempting
to whiten their identity by any and every means, including Mr. Cristaldo.
Here is an interesting story that I remember from a few years ago. There
was this guy with whom I used to work a few years ago who I didn’t really
remember until he told me who he was. He seemed to be a white guy, but
he had shaven his head since last I had seen him. As the issue of race
and national origin is fascinating to me, I couldn’t help but stare
into this guy’s face. There was different about the way this white guy
looked.

If
I didn’t know better I would have thought he had some strains of African
blood flowing through his veins. Then he told me that he was Italian,
which made all the sense in the world. Historians such as JA Rogers
have long written about the extensive race mixing that has occurred
between Africans, Italians, Spaniards and the Portuguese. In Luigi Luca
Cavalli-Sforza’s massive study of human genes, The History and Geography
of Human Genes, we learn that the DNA of certain populations of
Europeans, particularly Italians and Spaniards, are much closer to that
of Sub-Saharan Africans than those of other European nations.

Because
of the obvious African influence in the Spanish population, Rogers thought
of Spain as an African nation in Europe. In his book Salazar and
Modern Portugal, Hugh Kay calls the Portuguese a "mixed people"
due to centuries of mixing with black Africans as well as Arabs. Now,
my question is this: If Spanish, Portuguese and Italian people are said
to have the blood of Africa flowing through their veins and yet remain
white, why is it that a person of obvious African descent must be labeled
as "mixed" because he/she has some non-African blood?

This
is the development of a racial hierarchy that values whiteness while
denigrating blackness.

While
on the subject of DNA and phenotypes, let me also take the time to mention
the recent work of anthropological geneticist, Spencer Wells. In Wells’
work entitled The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey, Wells states
his theory that the aboriginal peoples of Australia were among the first
people to migrate out of Africa, through India and eventually landing
in Australia.

For
many years, scientists have written that the DNA of Australian Aborigines
is totally different than that of Africans even though in many ways,
they, like other peoples of the southern Pacific islands, look like
Africans. What does this have to do with Brazil? Well, I look at it
this way. If anyone has seen photos of Australian Aborigines, they know
that they have a very diverse phenotype. Most Aborigines have a dark
brown skin color and hair that ranges from nearly straight, to wavy,
curly with at times, blond coloring.

Some
photos of Aborigines remind of some of the diverse looks I have seen
when walking the streets of Bahia. Anthropological research has also
proven that the peoples of the African continent have the most diverse
pool of genetics and phenotypes in the world. This destroys the myth
that all Africans look alike. In reality, Africans have more physical
diversity than any other people on the planet! My point is, if Wells’
theory is to be accepted, then we must add the Australian phenotype
to the already diverse African pool.

Research
has also proven that the phenotype that we refer to as Caucasoid is
actually the youngest physical type to develop on the planet. This being
said, no matter what racial mix a person is born of, if an African phenotype
can range from the dark-skinned peoples of the Sudan, the "pepper
corn" coiled hair of southern Africans, all the way to an Australian
phenotype, then no matter what mix it took to come to that phenotype,
it is still African. The British certainly didn’t ask to analyze the
DNA of the Australian Aborigine before annihilating him! In their view,
they were like any other non-white people.

Italian
Niggers

To
prove my argument even further, it is a known fact that white people
DO discriminate among themselves according to skin tone, eye and hair
color. Italians have long been referred to as "niggers" and
faced great discrimination along the roads to their acquired whiteness
in America because of their dark hair, features and certain African
facial characteristics. Caucasians who have blond hair, pale skin and
blue eyes are considered by most to "whiter" than their darker
brunette counterparts.

In
her article, "Pale Perfection: White Women in Pursuit of an Aryan
Ideal", M. Wilson analyzes what she calls the "hierarchy of
feature preferences among Whites". Yet and still, brunettes with
brown eyes and somewhat swarthy skin are still, for all intents
and purposes, considered white. Why is it that black Brazilians who
may not have skin complexions that are dark as oil or extremely pixaim
(kinky) hair should not be considered black when this same standard
is not applied to dark brunettes who claim to be white? Whether one
realizes it or not, racial mixing between blacks, whites, and peoples
of the Asian continent has been going on for much longer than the 16th
century arrival of Europeans in the Americas!

 

3.
"However, while a negro is obviously afrodescendant, brown people
are both afro and eurodescendant. If we adopt the new nomenclature,
I will be forced to declare myself eurodescendant. No tarnish there,
as far as I’m concerned."

This
argument has always been flawed to me. First of all, the vast majority
of black people have varying degrees of brown skin! If a person’s skin
is brown because of his/her African ancestry, and they have certain
African facial features, most societies will label that person according
to their African ancestry. It is this African and/or Native ancestry
and somewhat dark skin that denies most "white" Brazilians
official white status when and if they come to the US.

And
from your statements in these articles, Mr. Cristaldo, you don’t have
to tell us that you "will be forced to declare" yourself
a "eurodescendant" because it is quite obvious from your views
how much you value your whiteness! If you ever come to the States though,
don’t tell anyone if you have a pé na cozinha ("foot
in the kitchen")!

 

4.
"In some of the email messages I received, I am accused of defending
the argument that there is no racism in Brazil. In a certain way,
I do defend it. Some form of racism we all have, or we would not be
human. But never at the level of the U.S. or European countries. A
black person, if rich or successful, is esteemed and even envied in
Brazil. Millions of Brazilian whites would feel extremely honored
to be photographed next to a Pelé."

5.
"During my Porto Alegre years, I was a regular at the table of
Lupicínio Rodrigues, whom I much admired, at the Adelaide bar.
Lupicínio—who wrote the most beautiful samba lyrics in
Brazil—was universally loved by all gaúchos."

6.
"Although our population has an expressive white majority, it
was the first state in the country to elect a black governor, Alceu
Collares."

It
is truly a shame that in the year 2003 people continue to use Brazilian
entertainers and athletes such as Pelé to try and down play the
effects of racism in society. Many people use this same logic in the
US. Just because you allow a black person to entertain you doesn’t necessarily
mean you would like for a person who looks like them to be your neighbor,
marry your daughter or be president of your country.

The
success of a few black people in Brazil does not stop the daily bouts
of racism that the average black Brazilian must endure. Also, when it
comes to wealth and success, it still doesn’t mean that a racist white
person will accept a black person as their social equal. It is only
when that wealth and success is RECOGNIZED that that person of color
MAY get the respect they should have received in the beginning.

Governor
Benedita da Silva and the late great geographer Milton Santos have spoken
in interviews about being stopped when entering important political
or academic meetings by people who assumed that they didn’t belong there
because they were black. It’s also funny that you should mention Alceu
Collares being elected governor. In 1993, in Vitória, state of
Espírito Santo, a 19-year old black female college student named
Ana Flávia Peçanha de Azeredo was assaulted and punched
in the face by a 40-year old white woman and her 18-year old son over
the use of an elevator in an apartment complex.

Know
Your Place!

In
Brazil, still today, maids must use the back service elevator while
residents use public elevators. These two people were infuriated by
the fact that this black girl didn’t "know her place" and
insisted on teaching her a lesson. This matter of extreme hostility
probably would have never been published in newspapers had the girl
not been the daughter of Espírito Santo governor Albuino Azeredo,
a black man.

A similar
incident happened to the family of futebol superstar Ronaldo.
According to reports, when Ronaldo’s mother Sônia, aunt Dirce
and sister Ione tried to enter a R$1.5 million (US$ 500,000) condominium,
their entrance was blocked as they were told by a neighbor that he didn’t
want to see the building frequented by "people of the lower level"
and "favelados" (shanty town dwellers). This incident
must be analyzed for several reasons:

One,
Ronaldo is one of the highest paid soccer players in the world, thus
his family is obviously well taken care of. But because they were Ronaldo’s
family and not Ronaldo himself, their social and economic level was
judged by their appearance (i.e. their color). This demonstrates my
point. They obviously have money but the color of their skin is associated
with poverty, criminal activity and other negative connotations.

Once
again, this has nothing to do with social class!

Two,
most Brazilians know that Ronaldo’s mother is not very dark-skinned.
She would be considered a mulata or morena by Brazilian
standards. Yet and still, she was treated like a common criminal. In
this situation, it is clear that whether an Afro-Brazilian has clearly
definable African physical characteristics or a more racially mixed
appearance, in the end, they are treated as black people.

Was
this a matter of social class? I think the point has been well
established.

While
Brazil may have a few successful black politicians, it is only because
they are considered "safe" by the majority of the population.
In the same way that so many Americans claim that they admire Colin
Powell, what would happen if he were to start talking more about reparations
for African-Americans? The majority of his white admirers would probably
leave him faster than David Duke at a Black Panther rally!

Mr.
Cristaldo, I ask you to read your own words: "A black person, if
rich or successful is esteemed and even envied in Brazil."

In
other words, if he is a regular person earning two to three minimum
salaries like the majority of black Brazilians, he is NOT esteemed or
envied. Athletics and entertainment are never accurate curriculums in
order to study the level of equality in a country. Let’s take the US
for example. Between the three major sports leagues, NBA (basketball),
NFL (football) and MLB (baseball), there are less than 3,000 openings
for an athlete to fill in any one of the more than 90 teams. At last
count, the American population stood at some 280 million people. Even
if we assumed that only 30 million were men who were of professional
sport playing age, it is obvious the astronomical odds against him earning
one of those coveted positions.

In
Brazil, let me remind you that the majority of the futebol players
earn maybe a few minimum salaries and it has also been discovered that
white players earn more than black players. Brazilian soccer has been
traditionally one of the few occupations that Afro-Brazilians have been
allowed to excel in. (Below is an excerpt from a doctoral thesis in
sociology)

 

"Studies
with 327 players of 17 clubs from Rio show that while 26.6 percent
of white athletes earn up to a minimum salary, among blacks the proportion
is 48.1 percent. The percentage is 34.9 among all players. At the
top of the salary pyramid, 24.8 percent of whites earn more than 20
minimum salaries; among blacks, the percentage is 14.8, below the
average among all players (17.1 percent earning more than 20 minimum
salaries)."[Minimum wage in Brazil is 240 reais a month or around
80 dollars.]

Like
in the US, black people are thought to be good in sports and entertainment,
but what many Brazilians don’t seem to realize is that when Brazilian
futebol was first beginning to organize leagues, Afro-Brazilians
were not allowed to play because the game was só para brancos
(only for whites). As a matter of fact, when the first black Brazilian
players were allowed to play for the famous Fluminense soccer club,
they were forced to wear rice powder on their faces in order to appear
lighter and also straighten their hair. The nickname of the team’s cheer
even today is known as pó-de-arroz (rice powder) because
of this racist practice.

I suppose
this was because of social class, right?

Numbers
Show Inequality

The
situation becomes worse when we consider the lack of Afro-Brazilians
in the Brazilian Congress, the number of black businessmen and women
and the number of black Brazilians in college. The rate of illiteracy
was reported to be 26 percent for Afro-Brazilians while it is 10 percent
for whites. Of the 513 members of Congress, only 12 are of African descent
while only two of the 81 senators are of African ancestry. Afro-Brazilians
are 63 percent of the Brazil’s poor and less than 16 percent of the
students graduating from a university (in 1998), according to government
figures.

I will
not go on with statistics because these inequalities have been prominently
featured in past issues of this magazine. The point that I am trying
to prove is that these are statistics with which to judge quality of
life in a particular social environment. In Brazil, it has never been
the intention of the government to allow Afro-Brazilians the same opportunities
as white Brazilians. The republic, like in the US, was built on racism.
After abolition of slavery, the Brazilian elite financed the immigration
of millions of Europeans to Brazil to replace African slave labor while
banning immigration from Africa.

Brazil
had millions of both free people of color and recently freed slaves
in which to fill employment opportunities. They chose not to. There
is no way to blame social class on this choice for race is the
ONLY factor! The Brazilian elite didn’t care if the slaves who built
their country rotted and died in the streets, and for those who DID
manage to survive, they promoted widespread miscegenation with white
Brazilians in order to eventually erase all traces of African ancestry
in the population.

Don’t
believe it? In 1911, João Batista de Lacerda represented Brazil
in the first Universal Congress of the Races in London and proudly proclaimed
that within a century of miscegenation, black people would ultimately
disappear from Brazilian society. While the Americans were violently
slaughtering black people, Brazil’s leaders chose to try and mix the
African blood right out of the country. As a matter of fact, folklorist
and literary critic Silvio Romero, in his haste to whiten the Brazilian
population, criticized recent German immigrants because they resisted
mixing with Brazil’s large colored population. Again, these ideals have
nothing to do with one’s social class.

While
it is possible for one person to have a different interpretation of
why social classes in Brazil seem to be divided by race, these are the
facts! Do the research!

Now
in my response to point number 6, I mentioned that when Afro-Brazilians
were finally allowed to join futebol clubs, they were forced
to wear rice-powder on their faces in order to mask their dark-skinned
faces. Another fact that the average Brazilian who doesn’t believe racism
exists in Brazil (or that it is at least not as strong as American racism)
doesn’t seem to know is that in the history of Brazilian stage and film,
Brazilian Indians were not permitted to become actors, thus, Afro-Brazilian
actors were hired to play Indian roles with their faces painted red!

At
the same time, when roles in plays were to depict black people as major
characters, white actors were hired to play these roles with their faces
painted black! Many African-Americans are familiar with the racist American
film era in which white actors such as Al Jolson wore blackface
to depict stereotypes of black people and this is yet another example
of the extreme level of racism that is an intimate part of America’s
cultural and racial past.

These
racist images of African-Americans is another subject that infuriates
the average black American who is familiar with American history. So,
again, we have another example of Brazilian racist practices that were
identical to American racist practices. So I would like to know how
you, Mr.Cristaldo, would deny this overt form of racism in Brazil’s
past, the very foundation of the racism that exists in Brazil today.

Is
It All True?

If
you would like to read a little about the blackface/redface era
in Brazilian film and theatre, check out Robert Stam’s book Tropical
Mulitculturalism. Also in the book Bossa Nova by Ruy Castro,
we learn that in the 1950s, actor/activist Abdias do Nascimento was
once fired from the play Orfeu that was directed by white singer/songwriter/poet
Vinicius de Moraes and replaced by a white actor who played the part
in blackface. In the Stam book, we also learn that the Brazilian
elite were infuriated when they learned that famed American film director
Orson Welles planned to use a majority Afro-Brazilian cast for his film
It’s All True.

Mr.
Welles was constantly harassed by "government thugs" and the
Brazilian media who didn’t want Welles to relay to the world images
of Brazilian favelas, "no-good half-breeds" and "dances
of negros covered with maracatu feathers, reminiscent of the
temples of the African wilds". The Brazilian media blasted Welles
for his insistence on using black actors and composers and presenting
Rio as if it were "another Harlem". The It’s All True
controversy was a mark on Welles’s career that eventually led to the
demise of his career. For your information, Mr.Cristaldo, using blackface
or redface so that people of certain "undesirable"
races are excluded from a situation has NOTHING to do with social
class!

Let
us also not underestimate the role that the entertainment industry and
media play in influencing our opinions of certain issues. With this
in mind, let us also remember this when we walk the streets of Bahia
(a 75 percent black state) and never see a black face on the cover of
a magazine (except for Raça Brasil) or rarely see a black
face on Brazilian television (except as criminals, maids, pagodeiros,
futebol players).

I have
spent a total of 11 weeks in Bahia and I’ve seen it! Let us also remember
that in all the years of Brazilian beauty competitions, only once has
a black woman been crowned Miss Brasil (Deise Nunes de Souza in 1986).
In this sense, even a country like America, that many Brazilians deem
to be extremely racist, have made more progress in this area as there
have been at least five black Miss Americas, including Vanessa Williams
in 1984, Suzette Charles (who completed Williams’ reign after a scandal),
Debbye Turner in 1990, Marjorie Vincent in 1991 and recently Erika Harold.

As
physical beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder, this also
has nothing to do with social class. What is your argument here,
Mr.Cristaldo?

Oh,
and Mr.Cristaldo, while you ponder that question, take some time and
study some of those old Carnaval Samba lyrics that you have probably
sung over and over and tell me how they depict Afro-Brazilian women?

Ultimately,
my question to Brazilians who consider themselves to be white is:

If
you do indeed look and are accepted as white, how are you in any position
to speak on whether racism exists in Brazil or not?

Let’s
consider a comparable condition. Is a man in any position to dismiss
the discomfort that a woman may complain about during her menstrual
cycle?

The
point is, while it is indeed possible that you may have never heard
any subtle or blatantly racist comments or witnessed racist acts in
Brazil, it is far more important to ask a black Brazilian if THEY have
ever experienced racism or if THEY think racism is strong in Brazil.
I HAVE asked countless black Brazilians about this issue. I have yet
to meet a black Brazilian who says that racism in Brazil isn’t a powerful
force.

In
comparison, whose opinion is more likely to be true? The outsider or
the insider? If a white person and a black person get the same job and
have the same credentials and experience, but the white person is paid
more money and the only difference between the two people is race, is
this also a class issue? Since most people don’t talk about their
income, how would you know if racism was at work or not? While on this
subject, I would like to mention that while black Brazilians may be
able to give a more accurate view or personal experience of/with racism,
this is not to say white Brazilians or Americans don’t see how much
racism is intertwined in our everyday interactions.

For
those Brazilians who still believe that black Brazilian activists continue
to complain about a problem that doesn’t exist, or at least as in America,
I encourage you to read the work of Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães
(associate professor of Sociology at the University of São Paulo),
Nelson do Valle Silva and Carlos Alfredo Hasenbalg (both of IUPERJ/Rio
de Janeiro). They are all white Brazilian sociologists who have written
extensively on how race determines one’s success in Brazil. I think
the title of one of do Valle Silva’s essays says it all: The Cost
of Not Being White in Brazil.

Before
anyone wants to debate about this issue of race and racism in Brazil,
I ask that you take the time and read some of the works of these scholars.

Now,
let us consider for a moment that the sayings and proverbs of a society
reflect its views to a certain degree. With that point in mind, is anyone
familiar with these sayings?

 

"Branca
for marriage, mulata for sex, preta for work"

"If
a negro doesn’t shit on his way in, he shits on his way out"

"A
good negro is born dead"

"He
is black, but he has the soul of a white"

"The
negro does not eat, he gulps"

"The
negro is like a bad chamber pot, it does not break"

Well,
as much as Brazilians like to claim American society is far more racist
than that of Brazil, all of these sayings come from Brazil!

And
once again, Mr.Cristaldo, these sayings have nothing to do with social
class!

The
Black Stigma

With
such proverbs, is it any wonder why so many Brazilians don’t want to
be associated with being black? Ask yourself, if racism isn’t as strong
in Brazil as it is in other countries, why do so many black people not
want to be or be called black? Where did they get this attitude from?
I have experienced subtle and extreme forms of racism in my own life
and many of these situations are exactly the same as those I hear about
as told by black Brazilians.

 

7.
"In Brazil we never had any laws denying blacks any rights."

This
argument is also flat. Official laws and signs saying "no blacks
allowed" are not necessary if the rules are socially enforced,
which is what happened in Brazil during America’s infamous "Jim
Crow" years. I have read as well as heard from several black Brazilians
who remember when they were denied entrance into certain establishments
because they were black. There were no signs on the door, yet they were
not allowed to enter.

In
several books about Brazil, it has been reported that Afro-Brazilians
were barred from entering prestigious social clubs even when they had
the money for the special membership fees. In the Frances Twine book,
we find that black people were often times not allowed to walk on certain
sides of the street! Again, no signs, but it was it a socially accepted
and enforced custom.

Question:
If one man is shot in the head six times and dies immediately and another
man dies slowly from smoke inhalation, is the end result any different?

The
point here is, both American and Brazilian systems of race-based discrimination
achieved similar means in different ways, but with the same result.
As a matter of fact, American style racism seems to have learned a few
tricks from its Brazilian counterpart in the past 40 years or so! This
doesn’t mean that Brazil hasn’t had a history of violence against its
black citizens as past police repression of capoeira performances
and Candomblé rituals have proven.

Afro-Brazilians
were frequently beaten, thrown in jail and their artifacts confiscated
during police raids. Hmmm…Sounds suspiciously like America of the
1950s and 60s.The difference here seems to be that the Brazilian elite
was smart enough not to broadcast these images to the rest of the world
on television thus keeping their racist practices hidden.

 

8.
"In Florida, marriage between whites and blacks was forbidden…"

Inter-racial
unions in the US were forbidden by many states but that didn’t mean
that they didn’t occur. Even after slavery, white men continued their
sexual abuse of black women and right into the 1970s continued to exploit
black women who worked in their homes as domestic servants by threatening
them with dismissal unless they gave in to their (white male) sexual
desires.

Also,
quiet as its kept, there have been illicit sexual affairs between blacks
and whites, men and women in America’s "closet". There are
stories of white women who voluntarily gave up their status as "respectable"
white women in order to marry and raise families with black men. I agree
that race mixing was and continues to be more prevalent in Brazil, but
that doesn’t mean that it is accepted as much as it suggests tolerance.

Actor/singer
Tony Tornado revealed how the Brazilian media banned mixed race couples
from being shown on television. While inter-racial marriage may have
never been outlawed in Brazil, sociologist Florestan Fernandez, in his
classic study of Brazilian race relations, The Negro in Brazilian
Society, collected statistics that showed that 85-90 percent of
white Brazilians disagreed with the marriage of one of their family
members with a preto/a or pardo/a.

Another
of Brazil’s best kept secrets is that there have been incidents of black
people being killed because they married someone white. Brazil also
has a similar history of the sexual exploitation of black women. Young
, white Brazilians boys were expected to have their first sexual experiences
with black girls/women who worked in the homes of whites as domestic
servants.

That
doesn’t sound like the good ol’ US of A now does it?

 

9.
"Blacks and whites inter-marry, drink and eat in the same restaurants,
work and make friends in the same classrooms. If there are less blacks
than whites at the universities, this is due to economic, but never
juridical factors."

Like
in America today, people don’t always reveal their true feelings. If
a person doesn’t mind being around a certain type of people because
in his/her mind he feels that he is "above" or "better"
than them, does this mean that they do not harbor racist feelings? In
John Burdick’s book Blessed Anastacia, he writes of how some
white girls in a Rio de Janeiro church could not understand how a particular
attractive, successful white guy could possibly marry a preta.

In
other words, how could he marry that ugly preta when so many
beautiful brancas are available? Burdick also reveals how many
black girls at dances in Rio would keep to themselves because of the
fear of humiliation at the hands of white and even black guys (who would
viciously criticize their dark skin or kinky hair) as well as the fact
that none of these boys would ask them to dance.

As
far as economic factors influencing college entrance, this is true.
But you failed to mention how these economic differences are related
to race. Let me explain, it’s actually quite simple. Let’s imagine that
we both reply to the same job ad. Let us keep in mind the famous Brazilian
job requirement of "boa aparência" (good appearance,
good looking), which is code talk for "no blacks allowed".
Now on the one hand, you, the white guy gets the job and I don’t or
on the other hand, we both get hired but you are paid significantly
more than me for doing the same work.

This
is a common occurance in Brazil as well as in America (See A cor
da desigualdade: desigualdades raciais no mercado de trabalho e ação
afirmativa no Brasil by Rosana Heringer). These studies prove that
as hard as it is for Afro-Brazilians to get into college, often times
when they DO graduate, they are usually paid less money and promoted
to higher employment positions slower and less frequently than their
white counterparts of similar educational background.

Getting
back to my example, whether I get the job earning less money than you
or don’t get the job and must settle for some sort of menial labor,
you are now in a better economic position. Better economic position
leads to better social position. Let’s suppose you are paid R$800
per month and I end up in a job where I earn between $R250 and R$350
per month. Let’s also imagine that you get promoted and earn higher
salary raises than I. After 15-20 years on the job you can see how our
social situations could vary.

You
may marry someone, most likely a white woman, who earns about R$550
per month while I would most likely marry a black woman who faces the
same type of discrimination as I, and earns R$200 per month. Your family
income could be as high as R$900 more than my family income. We both
have kids, but while you earn enough money that your child doesn’t have
to work and thus can attend school and get an education (and eventually
get a good-paying job), my child must leave school before completing
5 years, and get a job in order to bring home some form of income.

Now
imagine this cycle is passed on over and over for several generations
and you can now understand why the middle class stays predominantly
white while the lower class stays predominately black. Capitalism is
a system that functions on inequality; men over women, white over black
and young over old. Thus, the practice of racism, sexism and age discrimination
actively promote social inequality. Just because you cannot see it or
it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen!

Brazil
managed to develop a socially unequal society according to race without
implementing the legally sanctioned racism of the US or South Africa.
Black and white people eating, dancing or even having sex together are
not the applicable factors that determine whether racism is an active
ingredient in multiracial societies. When we study the factors that
do (health, socioeconomic status, education), we find that race and
racism factor prominently in explaining persistent inequalities in life.

Edward
Telles is yet another sociologist whose studies of racism in Brazil
prove that many inequalities that persist in Brazil today cannot be
simply explained away as a result of social inequalities. If race was
not a decisive factor in most facets of Brazilian life, you would have
a more even distribution of blacks and whites in MOST facets of Brazilian
society. Instead, Brazilian politics, media and business are all dominated
almost exclusively by brancos.

How
to Gage Racism

For
women who believe that racism doesn’t exist in Brazil, ask yourself
this question: If men and women socialize together in society, get married
and have children together, does this mean that sexism doesn’t exist?
Because men and women interact everyday does this mean that it’s not
possible for a man to earn more money for doing the same job simply
because he is a man?

While
questioning the influence of race, we must also realize that Brazilian
society, like American society, is dominated by white MEN. If one is
able to clearly see the existence of sexism, the same thought process
must be applied to the complexities of racism.

 

10.
"Poor whites—and there are legions of them—have the
same difficulty to access upper level education that poor blacks have.
Rich blacks—and they also exist—have the same easiness of
access that rich whites have. There is no reason, though, for this
hatred to be exported to Brazil. In this country, from the legal point
of view, blacks were never discriminated."

Although
I know that there are millions of poor white Brazilians, statistically,
two-thirds of people living in poverty in Brazil are black. And there
is no need to import hatred to Brazil because racial discrimination
is a matter of fact in the daily lives of millions of Brazilians. Once
again, legal discrimination does not matter if everyone chooses to socially
honor a racial hierarchy that places whites first and blacks last.

Remember
one thing. If a black man and a white man both start off in the same
socio-economic position and both go to college and improve their lives,
the white man will forever be able to disassociate himself (or even
forget) from his poor beginnings because his skin color will give people
the idea that he was always successful. On the other hand, like in the
example of Ronaldo’s family, the black man will still have to consistently
prove that he is successful because his skin color is associated with
failure and lower class life.

 

11.
"The word `racism’, not very frequent in the Brazilian press
of past decades, now deluges the pages of newspapers."

Again,
read your history! The reason why racism wasn’t discussed as much in
the past was because during the Brazilian military dictatorship years,
to raise the issue of racism was considered a crime! Black militants
who spoke out against racism were in danger of imprisonment, torture
or even death under this regime, particularly during the hardline years
after 1968. Several black activists chose to go into exile during this
period, the most prominent being Abdias do Nascimento.

In
the years following the end of slavery, there were several Afro-Brazilian
organizations that were formed to fight racism, the Frente Negra
Brasileira (Brazilian Black Front) being the most prominent along
with Nascimento’s Teatro Experimental Negro. There were also
countless Afro-Brazilian newspapers that spoke directly to people of
African descent concerning the condition of black Brazilians.

The
FNB was forced to shut down by the Vargas regime in the 1930s
and black organizations didn’t really have another chance to organize
again until the gradual abertura (the reduction of political
repression) of the dictatorship in the late 1970s. Once again, you may
not have been aware of these organizations because as a white Brazilian,
you have never had to deal with issues of racism.

I repeat,
just because you cannot see something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t
exist!

 

12.
"How can a poor, white kid face without animosity a black student
who has taken his place in college only because the latter is black?"

I have
a better question. Actually a few. Why did the Brazilian elite choose
to bring in millions of Europeans at the beginning of the 20th century
and not Africans? In the 1970s, why did your Brazilian government consistently
vote in favor of a racist apartheid regime in South Africa as well as
voting in favor of Portuguese domination over its African colonies when
casting its vote with the United Nations?

Why
is it that some Portuguese slave owners set their barns full of black
slaves on fire after learning of the abolition of slavery? How is it
that after 500 years of white privilege, power and advantage you can
even use your fingers to ask something that ridiculous? Why is it that
you can so easily see when a program is set up to benefit someone black
but cannot see the overwhelming benefit of white Brazilians since the
Portuguese stole the land that came to be known as Brazil? With all
of the evidence I have presented in this paper, I should be able to
rest my case. When you do the research and learn that everything that
I have written is true, feel free to write and say, "Oh! I’m sorry,
I didn’t know!"

I DO
agree that quotas in universities is not the answer to erasing racism
and inequality in Brazil, but with illiteracy levels in places like
Bahia being anywhere from 50-75 percent, in order for TRUE change to
be made, the entire educational system needs to be destroyed and reconstructed.
Right now, with the average black Brazilian averaging only about five
years of school, there aren’t enough of them to take advantage of the
quotas anyway. I think the government just wanted to show that they
were willing to do something after so many years of doing nothing.

 

13.
"When federal judge Bernard Friedman established the policy of
affirmative action in the Law School of the University of Michigan,
Americans began to realize that the quota policy was a wretched idea."

Again,
in America, blacks have only really been free since 1965, so how can
people begin to complain about something that has existed for less than
40 years when the previous 346 years promoted nothing but white privilege?
The last I checked, 98 percent of all businesses in the US were still
white-owned, thus the power structure hasn’t been shaken.

Bush
and Affirmative Action

So
why are people so alarmed about Affirmative Action? If it weren’t for
Affirmative Action (white privilege), George W. wouldn’t have made it
through school! If it weren’t for white privilege, there would be huge
vacancies at schools like Yale, Princeton and Harvard. If it weren’t
for white privilege, most whites would not have been able to attain
the wealth they enjoy today, which helps to keep our society racially
divided with their communities enjoying unlimited prosperity and their
being able to pass on this privilege to the next generation. Please
don’t start commenting about American problems when you are so uninformed
about Brazilian problems!

 

14.
"…not a few whites claimed to be blacks in the last UERJ vestibular/one-drop
rule"

That
may be true, but if entrance were to be judged according to birth certificate
racial classification and according to those who actually see the applicants,
this problem could actually be solved. Again, I am not saying that quotas
are the answers to the low attendance of black Brazilians in colleges
and universities, but if its going to work certain guidelines must be
followed.

Socially,
a person who is half black, but clearly has a European phenotype, like
blonde dancer Carla Perez, in my view would not suffer from racial discrimination
as a person who looks like actress Adriana Lessa would. In my view,
the infamous one-drop rule is ridiculous. I remember having a
white college professor who had a black grandfather although you would
never know it from his appearance.

The
one-drop rule would obviously not work in a country such as Brazil
where race-mixing has been going for so long. In many ways, physical
appearance matters more in Brazil but as I stated in my essay "Where
Did All the Blacks Go?", Brazilians will occasionally disqualify
someone from being white if they knew that there were pretos
in that person’s family. Also from that article, I stated that while:

"Brazil
never legally adopted the infamous "one drop" of black blood
rule as in the US, in the book Negroes in Brazil, author
Donald Pierson discovered a popular saying in Brazil that said "quem
escapa de branco, negro é" ("who can’t be a white
man is a negro")."

 

15.
"Absurd laws are created under the pretext of fighting racism,
but they end up stimulating it. Today, in Brazil, if you insult a
black person, you incur in a heinous crime, with firm arrest and no
bail allowed. But if you kill a black person, the law is more lenient."

Hmmm,
this is interesting indeed! I’ll tell you what. Do some research and
find some names of black Brazilians who have successfully sued white
Brazilians for racism and won in a court of law. Afro-Brazilian journalist
Joni Anderson wrote that when he had a feature column in a well-known
São Paulo newspaper, his voicemail was constantly flooded by
Afro-Brazilians who had experienced acts of racism everyday. How many
of those people do you think had the financial means to take these complaints
to a court of law?

How
many white Brazilians do you know (and can prove) have been actually
thrown in jail for racist practices? Most likely NONE! And as far as
murder, I can relay several stories I have been told in which a black
Brazilian was killed and absolutely NOTHING was done about it!
There is a well known story from 1996 about a 19-year old black kid
named Luciano Soares Ribeiro who was run over while riding his bicycle
by a white man driving a BMW who assumed that he had stolen the bike.
The driver left Ribeiro laying in the street and when he was finally
rushed to hospital, he died from his injuries. The boy had his bicycle
receipt in his pocket. Do you know where this incident happened? In
your beloved Porto Alegre!

Sure
a law may exist against racial discrimination but that law is null and
void if it is not enforced or the people don’t have access to fair legal
representation. Thus, in this case, racism bred both violence and social
inequality, with a life taken in the balance. This is a regular part
of life if you happen to be black and Brazilian.

 

16.
"The history of Africa is the history of tribal warfare and slavery,
stoning to death for adulterers, physical mutilation as punishment
and sexual mutilation as custom. Democracy, human rights, freedom
of the press and female emancipation are unknown institutions in that
continent.

That
Africa may be a tender remembrance of an immemorial past, that’s all
right. Today, though, it has no lesson to teach to the West. When Africans
have free elections and democracy, the fundamentals of human rights,
a press and freedom of the press, women with the same rights as men,
and when clitoris are no longer mutilated nor women stoned to death,
we can talk again."

Now
Mr. Cristaldo wants to share his biased opinions about Africa and explain
why African history and culture should not be taught in Brazilian schools
in order to increase the self-esteem of Afro-Brazilian children while
improving Brazil’s overall awareness of Africa’s rich history and contribution
to Brazil’s national identity. History, Mr. Cristaldo, can be told in
many ways. There is an old African proverb that basically says that
it is the victor who writes history from his perspective.

History’s
Two Sides

Napoleon
Bonaparte once asked "What is history but a fable agreed upon?"

As
a child attending a Catholic school I once idolized the legendary American
President Abraham Lincoln. I didn’t learn until years later that in
reference to the issue of race in America, Mr. Lincoln once said "I,
as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position
assigned to the white race." This reminded me of a line American
rapper Ice Cube once said: "I’m sitting in history learning `bout
a sucka who didn’t give a f**k about me!"

History
must reveal its positive side as well as its negative side and then
as the children get older they can do even more research and discover
more truth. How dare you speak of African tribal warfare without speaking
of Adolph Hitler’s massacre of 6 million people or without speaking
of King Leopold of Belgium exterminating 10 million people in the Congo
in the late 19th and early 20th centuries! Let’s talk of how there were
more than 20 million Natives in the Americas before the arrival of the
European. Today, after mass European aggression and domination, there
are probably around 2 million Natives between America and Brazil, the
two largest countries of the Americas.

Let’s
talk about how the Germans exterminated 80 percent of the Herero tribe
in Namibia in seven years from 1904-1911. Let’s speak of how the French
and British brought South African woman Saartje Baartman, aka the "Venus
Hottentott", to Paris and London to parade her body in sideshows
like a zoo animal because of the size of her huge buttocks! They later
preserved her genitals and brain and placed them on display at a Parisian
museum until the 1970s. The body was only returned to South African
last year!

Let’s
speak about the incredible atrocities provoked by the Portuguese in
Africa! Let’s speak about the millions who have been killed in the European
spread of Christianity! You want to speak of tribal warfare? Well throughout
European history you find England vs. France, Spain vs. Portugal, Italy
vs. Greece, Christians vs. Protestants and too many other invasions,
wars and episodes of mass extermination to speak of here.

You
speak of physical mutilation? Do you know how women were treated
and viewed during the spread of Christianity? Do the research! On the
other hand, there have been many African civilizations that were matriarchal
societies with the children of unions taking their mother’s name and
tracing their ancestry through the mother’s family line. Sexual mutilation?
There is still a debate as to whether female circumcision was a purely
African custom or whether the Arabs introduced it into Africa.

Africans
have killed each other, but where did they get the weapons to do so?
Similar to the way the CIA dumped guns and drugs in African-American
ghettos, Europeans have been giving Africans weapons for centuries also!
Angola, for example, was stuck in a Cold War tug of war between America
and South Africa on the one side and Cuba and Russia on the other. The
result? African casualties!

Shall
I even mention the 1976 Soweto riots in which the South African police
opened fire and killed hundreds of defenseless black children for the
crime of protesting against European domination and racism? We cannot
truly know the history of African people until we separate it from centuries
of European or Arab domination. Europe or European dominated countries
are no place to start if we want to teach children about the value of
human life!

What
Democracy?

You
say, "Democracy, human rights, freedom of the press and female
emancipation are unknown institutions in that continent."

If
you know anything about Western countries, you know that America and
particularly Brazil have incredible ideals of machismo! Countless studies
have shown how Brazilian men have regularly killed Brazilian women who
were suspected of infidelity while it was accepted norm among men. Democracy
and human rights? Brazil’s record or human rights atrocities are horrible!
The mass murder of black people and street children as well as modern
day slavery in parts of Brazil have been well documented! Where have
YOU been living? Have you read any past issues of this magazine?

Have
you read about the landless movements? Have you read the stat saying
that less than 20 percent of the Brazilian population owns more than
80 percent of the land? How can you even speak of democracies when Brazil
has endured two military dictatorships in the 20th century and an "apartheid-era
South Africa" type government that is still in power in Bahia?
Have you read about the horrible methods of torture and numbers of people
who disappeared during the 1964-1985 dictatorship? Have you read about
the mass prison exterminations? Are you sure you are Brazilian? You
could have fooled me!

You
speak of free elections? Are you aware of the stolen elections of John
Kennedy and George W.? Apparently not. Political corruption is a worldwide
thing, not just African. And as far as democracy is concerned, former
Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso himself has said that
Brazilians are only now beginning to learn what democracy really is.

Freedom
of press? Only to a limited degree. Whenever people raise their voice
against the government, they are oppressed or shut down. Why do you
think Martin Luther King, Jr. was REALLY killed? Why were the Black
Panthers really infiltrated and broken apart? Why did so many people
die during the Brazilian dictatorship of ’64-85? Why have so many Brazilian
politicians been killed in the past 10 years? Why were protestors against
the WTO, IMF and World Bank repressed in Seattle a few years ago? Why
have the (music group) Dixie Chicks been banned from American radio?

 

17.
"That Africa may be a tender remembrance of an immemorial past,
that’s all right. Today, though, it has no lesson to teach to the
West."

Whether
you know it or not, the Egyptian influence on Western society is incredible!
Need a small reminder? Ever seen the back of an American Dollar Bill?
It has Egyptian symbolism all over it! Without the contributions of
ancient Egyptians, many of today’s technological advances would not
have been possible! That is PRE-ARABIC EGYPT! You don’t read
much history do you?

There
are two main points to recognize here:

1)
History has recorded that the European has been the perpetrator of the
greatest and most horrific crimes against humanity! Ever heard of Vietnam?
How about the Spanish Inquisition? The Atlantic Slave Trade? World Wars
I and II? That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Want current proof? Ever
heard of Iraq?

If
you are going to tell the history of the African and highlight the negative,
you would spend 20 times more time highlighting that of the European!

 

18.
"It wouldn’t be likely for Portugal, a good Christian country,
to fail to perpetuate biblical tradition"

A good
Christian country? Again, are you aware of the Portuguese human rights
atrocities in colonial era Africa? How about the Estado Novo military
dictatorship that was as brutal as that of Brazil’s? How about the recent
hate crimes against recent African immigrants? Let’s get out of fantasy
and recognize reality!

 

19.
"From Dhakar, one reader sends me references about Cheikh Anta
Diop, a Senegalese man of letters who defends the idea that ancient
Egypt is part of black Africa. It may be. But such a thesis is far
from constituting unanimity among historians. Even if it were so,
the argument is worthless. If a hypothetically black Egypt ever had
a glorious trajectory, it is over now. The trajectory was interrupted
somewhere along the way and today Egypt lives the hour of Islam—nothing
glorious there. Besides everything else, ancient Egypt was slavocrat—just
ask the Hebrews!—and this doesn’t help the argument in favor
of Africa either."

Hmmm,
let me see…First of all, Egypt IS in Africa, right? Second, before
the Arab invasion of the 8th century, what color do YOU think the Egyptians
were? Roman and Greek writers of ancient times described them as being
black. The Egyptian population of today, like that of America and Brazil
of today, is not of the same racial composition that it was before subsequent
foreign invasions. The facial characteristics of the vast majority of
Egyptian statues look like the people whom we would call black today.

Years
before he died, Cheikh Anta Diop participated in a UN meeting
of the world’s most respected Egyptologists to determine, among other
things, the racial identity of the ancient Egyptians. With skin fold
deposits that he extracted from mummies, Diop proved that the melanin
content in these mummies could have only been people classified by today’s
terms as black. When asked for rebuttals, none of the other Egyptologists
could refute this evidence. Why is it so hard for so many people to
fathom that the ancient Egyptians could have been black? Thoughts like
these are inherently racist in themselves!

Rewriting
History

Also,
unanimity among historians does not prove fact or fiction. Political
agendas are often times behind the recording of history. For example,
in 1916, a well respected archaeologist named James Henry Breasted described
the ancient Egyptians in a high school textbook as a race of "brown-skinned
men…with dark hair". But after receiving valuable financial assistance
from people such as John Rockefeller (who granted him $1.5 million),
among others, in order to further his studies of the ancient world,
his revised book referred to these same peoples as "members of
a great race of white men".

One
notices between the two books, the great lengths that Breasted took
to suddenly disassociate Egypt from black Africa. Why? It’s simple.
In order to secure Rockefeller’s generous donation, he had to change
the racial classification of the ancient Egyptians. A financial reward
in exchange for an alteration that benefits someone else. I know, that’s
IMPOSSIBLE, right?

Black
historians and anthropologists have been recording history for many
years although their work is often disregarded by the white academic
establishment. But upon closer examination, the establishment must come
to terms with the discoveries of these great men. Its not about raising
the position of black people in history while lowering that of white
people. It’s about learning truth.

My
question is, if more and more discoveries confirm the contributions
of African descent people in world history, will non-black people be
able to accept these facts? If they cannot, they must come to terms
with their own biased attitudes! The Lemba people of southern Africa
have for centuries claimed that they were Jews. The establishment refused
to believe them. After DNA tests were taken, the claims of the Lemba
people proved that they were indeed Jews.

Black
scholars and historians have long claimed that Africans arrived in the
Americas long before the European, but again, the establishment disregarded
them. Well, in 1975, Brazilian archaeologists discovered the oldest
known fossil found to date in the country. They called her "Luzia"
and when they reconstructed her face they determined that the woman
had all of the physical characteristics of an African.

 

20.
"For the time being, I repeat, Africa leans more towards Idi
Amin Dada than towards Mozart."

Idi
Amin was definitely a cruel tyrant. But in a world economic system driven
by greed and domination even the most honest people become devious.
Before you start pulling people like Idi Amin out of Africa’s history,
you need to look into the crimes of Cecil Rhodes and King Leopold in
Africa. They were definitely more Hitler than they were Desmond Tutu.
I won’t even start on the corruption of Brazilian politicians! That’s
another 100 page paper! But I will mention a state deputy of São
Paulo named Afanásio Jazadji who stated on his popular radio
program his total agreement with the assassinations of Brazil’s street
children!

Clean
your own house before you start judging someone else’s!

African
descent people have had to view the world from the European perspective
for many centuries. If the tables were turned in the opposite direction,
could peoples of primarily European descent view the world from an African
perspective? I cannot answer this question for you. This is a question
that people must ponder for themselves. One can succeed in fooling someone
else but can that person fool themselves? I read Mr. Cristaldo’s own
comments that "some form of racism we all have, or we would not
be human" and then I read on as he attempted to deny the most overt
and covert forms of racism that has existed since the Portuguese arrived
in Africa in the late 15th century and later on with the colonization
of Brazil.

I’m
sure that there are some of you who are reading this piece who will
continue to deny the influence of race in the daily lives of millions
of people of African and Native descent in our world. But my question
to you is, if your phenotype does not prominently display your African
ancestry and you haven’t done any research about how race factors into
one’s chances of living a prosperous, healthy life, how can you continue
to deny the existence of something that you know nothing about?

I also
wish to affirm that I DO NOT view all people as racists! To the contrary,
I have met many people who look nothing like me whom I am convinced
have not a trace of racist tendencies in their bodies. But I am also
aware of the famous Brazilian (and American, for that matter) "prejudice
against being prejudiced". The question is this: If you as a man
or woman, black, white or other, Christian or Muslim, knew for a
fact
that you received benefits that others didn’t receive simply
because of your race, sex or religious beliefs, would you stand up and
denounce these inequalities or would you keep your mouth shut and enjoy
the benefits?

In
an unequal society, I really couldn’t blame you if you DID take advantage
of these unearned benefits, all I ask is that you can at least acknowledge
it! Maybe then one day you WILL be ready to denounce it. Let’s face
facts about the true society that we live in, people. As powerful, rich
countries continue to exploit the poorer nations and disastrous levels
of poverty continue to affect the lives of the world’s majority of people,
something as openly obvious as the existence of racism should not deter
us from seeing the entire picture which is more important: WE ARE ALL
PEOPLE WHO DESERVE TO BE TREATED AS PEOPLE.

With
the wealth of resources available on this planet, there is no excuse
for the way that some of us are forced to live. The rich minority who
control who eats and who doesn’t continues to exploit these divisions
among us, the people of the majority. They have placed obstacles such
as racism, sexism and inequality before us and watched as these practices
keep us arguing amongst ourselves as we fight amongst ourselves for
the leftover resources that the rich haven’t already claimed.

It
is obvious that Mr. Cristaldo is another believer of these fabrications
that our so-called leaders have formulated while they continue to reap
the benefits that they create. In conclusion, I hope that the bulk of
this paper gives a clearer view of the ways that racism continues to
function in our society. Feel free to write to me with your comments,
but before you start flooding my e-mail box with reactionary responses,
please do some research on your own. You just might start to understand
what I’m talking about!

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Futebol:
The Brazilian Way of Life, by Alex Bellos

Nile
Valley Contributions to Civilization by Anthony Browder

Neither
Black nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United
States by Carl Degler

The
Mystery of Samba : Popular Music and National Identity in Brazil
by Hermano Vianna

Tropical
Multiculturalism: A Comparative History of Race in Brazilian Cinema
and Culture by Robert Stam

Racial
Politics in Contemporary Brazil by Michael Hanchard

Bossa
Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World
by Ruy Castro

Racism
in a Racial Democracy: The Maintenance of White Supremacy in Brazil
by France Winddance Twine

"How
the Germans Got the Land", New African. March 2003, pgs.42-47.

"Pale
Perfection: White Women in Pursuit of an Aryan Ideal", M. Wilson.
[online] http://condor.depaul.edu/~mwilson/multicult/white.html
. (available) April 6, 2003.

"O
fim do mito", Carla Gullo Rita Moraes. Isto É.
[online] http://www.terra.com.br/istoe/capa/140506.htm 
(available) April 6, 2003.

"Brazil
Grappling With Racism". Peter Muello. Department of English,
University of California. [online] http://aad.english.ucsb.edu/docs/muello1.html 
(available) April 6, 2003.

"Bola
discrimina negros, afirma estudo". Folha On line. [online]
http://www.sapesp.com.br/noticias/outubro/racismo.html 
(available) April 5, 2003

"Luzia
– A Primeira Brasileira". Veja. [online] http://veja.abril.com.br/250899/p_009.html.
(available) April 6, 2003.

Konopothanatus
brasiliensis. [online] http://www.inventabrasil.hpg.ig.com.br/jblacer.htm 
(available) April 3, 2003.

DJ
Cliffy Presents Black Rio Brazil Soul Power 1971-1980 (compact disc).
STRUT CD/LP 015

 

Mark
Wells is an Anthropology major at the University of Michigan and
has a deep interest in Brazil and the African Diaspora. He can be
reached at: Quilombhoje72@yahoo.com

 

 

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