Introduction and background
Afro-Brazilians and their contributions to Brazilian culture: the outsiders inside
The evolution of civil rights
9 . . . Brazilians' desire to avoid discussion of slaves was demonstrated by Rui Barbosa's decree ordering the destruction of all records of slavery, to avoid any lingering stigma. Not all records were destroyed, but census and other types of demographic information on Afro-Brazilians are difficult to come by.
12 . . . Today there are more than 700 groups dedicated to the education, political, cultural and spiritual development of Afro-Brazilians . . .Yet Afro-Brazilians remain under-represented. . .
Contemporary Afro-Brazilian organizations and NGOs
Art, music and black consciousness
Afro-Brazilians: contemporary demographics
19 Afro-Brazilians represent a total of 47% of the population . . . (a plausible and credible minimum.)
23 Afro-Brazilians have a 30 per cent higher infant mortality rate and are 50 per cent more likely to leave school without learning to read. In the northeast, the infant mortality for Afro-Brazilians is as high as 96.3 per 1,000.
Civil rights, ethnic rights, recognition and integration: Brazil and its record on human rights
28 Most Brazilians have not really come to grips with Brazil's violent history and the continued violence that the legacy of slavery and racism has engendered. While Afro-Brazilians have systematically been victims of brutality and violence by people in authority, society only reacts with indignation when such practices affect victims from the middle class or the elite. The massacre of Afro-Brazilians in prison or the killing of street children has engendered much debate because of its scale and international media coverage, but countless cases of violence against minorities, homosexuals and women continue unnoticed.
32 Today Afro-Brazilians are drastically under-represented in all top and middle management professions, on television and in the cinema, and in the media at large. They are over-represented in poorly paid jobs, in the favelas and in prison. . . .Brazilian employers harbour prejudices and stereotypes about black people which allow them to deny opportunities to well-qualified Afro-Brazilians in many professions.
Bibliography (includes) Dzidzienyo, Anani, and Casal, L, The position of Black People in Brazilian and Cuban Society, London, Minority Rights Group, 1979.
Hanchard, Michael George, Orpheus and
Power, The "Movimento Negro" of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo,
Brazil, 1945 - 1988, 203pp. Princeton University Press
Orpheus and Power is a carefully detailed description and analysis of the various black organizations that have emerged in Brazil over the past forty years, based on historical data, interviews with over 200 activists, and a useful overview of academic writing on race relations during the period. Unlike most previous authors on the Brazilian Black Movements, who have, in one way or another, been linked to them, and have tended to repeat the rhetoric of public meetings, Hanchard asks a most pertinent and difficult question: namely, why the movement has failed to expand beyond a small nucleus of activists. Putting this question in comparative perspective, he asks why Brazil has not generated a "sustained Afro-Brazilian social movement comparable to the civil rights movement in the United States or nationalist insurgencies in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the New World during the post-World War II period".
His answer lies in what he calls a "process of racial hegemony", which neutralizes racial identification among non-whites. He argues that "racial hegemony" promotes racial discrimination while simultaneously denying its existence, thus "assisting the reproduction of social inequalities between whites and nonwhites while simultaneously promoting a false premise of racial inequality between them". In other words, the "myth of racial democracy" is seen constantly to defuse "consciousness" of racial discrimination and inequality.
If the myth of racial democracy is the principal "impediment" to the success of the Black Movement, there are others, namely "resource and institutional deprivation", "culturalism" and a strong penchant for arcane ideological disputes. Hanchard argues that the Black Movement spends too much time worrying about black culture and the iniquities of the slave past and too little on the realities of contemporary discrimination. Like Orpheus, it is impelled to look back and lose its Eurydice. Having established his critique, Hanchard then suggests possible changes. He warns against consciousness-raising without political activity, and suggests that the Movement should concentrate on informing people of the extent of racial discrimination and organizing "at the community level, through the development and coordination of national and local groups to monitor cases of race-related violence and other forms of discrimination . . . . This would give the movement a much more grounded base than it currently has."
Times Literary Supplement December 08 1995
Peter Fry is Professor Titular in the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
World Conference on
Racism and Racial Discrimination in Brazil by Efu Nyaki
"Instead of Allowing
diversity of race and culture to become a limiting factor in human
exchange and development, we must refocus our understanding, discern in
such diversity the potential for mutual enrichment, and realize that it
is the interchange between great traditions of human spirituality that
offers the best prospect for the persistence of the human spirit
itself." (Vision Declaration: "Tolerance and Diversity A Vision for the 21st
In 1998 the UN General Assembly decided to declare 2001 as a special year to fight against racism and racial discrimination. For this reason, many nations throughout the world are preparing for the "World Conference Against Racism, Racial discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance" that will take place in Durban, South Africa from August 31st to September 7th, 2001. This conference will give an opportunity for Brazil to objectively confront the gigantic problem of racism and racial discrimination, which exists and is in so prevalent in society. "Brazil is often described as a "racial democracy" because of the high number of interracial marriages and easy banter between the races in everyday life. Nothing could be farther from the truth," says Kathleen Bond in her article in the Magazine of Americas HEMISPHERE (volume 9 number 3 winter 2001). "Racial Democracy," a term coined by Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre in the early twentieth century, is the theory that Brazil s history of extended miscegenation had resulted in a cultural mélange in which all races are equally valued. In reality however, race in Brazil is a complex and difficult issue. Although most of Brazilians claim a mixed African, European and Indigenous ancestry, the weight of racism causes many to "whiten" themselves. Many "morenos" straighten their hair and search for lighter-skinned marriage partners. They often identify themselves and each other with terms that indicate a lighter skin tone, such as: moreninho, café, mulatto, bronziado, chocolate, jambu, moreno claro, moreno escuro, etc. Rarely do they describe themselves as "negro" (black). Even those who call themselves black often have a hard time convincing other Brazilians not to identify them as "moreno" or "mulatto". For many people, to be black is still an insult. Skin color profoundly influences life's chances. According to a 1992 study by Carlos Hasenbalg and Nelson do Valle Silva, non-white Brazilians are three times more likely than whites to be illiterate. The numbers deteriorate even further at higher educational level: whites are five times more likely than people of mixed ancestry and nine times more likely than blacks to obtain university degrees. The patterns repeats itself in the work force, where, according to the government statistics, whites have access to the highest-paying jobs, earning up to 75% more that blacks and 50% more that people of mixed ancestry. Other socio-economic indicators are no less grim. Infant mortality statistics are almost twice as high for non-white children, and the vast majority of detainees in the country s crowded prison system are non-whites. Not all of the consequences of racism can be neatly packed into statistics and charts. Effects on self-esteem are not so easily measured. At a recent reflection group of Afro-Brazilian women in João Pessoa, the capital of Paraíba, a woman named Cida painfully recounted the end of her relationship with Chico, a lighter-skinned black. The two had dated for several years without their color difference seeming to create any difficulties. When they got engaged however, Chico s family exploded; "This little blackie is going to pollute our blood. Go and find someone who will purify it," Chico s mother raged. Chico caved in and broke off the engagement within days. Two years latter, Cida painfully asked the group, "How can you tell me not to feel inferior because of my color?" There are many examples and stories like Cida s. We could go on and on to show just how complex the question of racism is in Brazil.
There are many groups and movements trying to work in raising awareness and reclaiming identities throughout Brazil, but the main objective of bringing a higher awareness to the whole Brazilian society that racism and racial discrimination is a "justice issue" has still not been achieved. It s my hope that during this time of preparation and following the conference, Brazil will have various opportunities to face and combat the realities of racism and racial discrimination which are still so prevalent yet today.
The Brazilian government created a national committee, which is run by the National Secretary of Human Rights, with fourteen people representing the government and fourteen representing the civil associations. Apart from the preparations of various meetings throughout the country, the committee represented Brazil in the pre- conference that took place in Santiago, Chile with 1500 participants, the majority being Brazilians. In the civil society, the majority of the participants are from Black movements, especially black women's organizations, who are articulating more and more as NGOs. "The truth is we don't feel well represented by the civil society members, as we know that they were elected by the government. We are still looking for an opportunity to discuss with the government members and the civil society members the common agenda," says Jurema Weneck, the Coordinator of "Crioula," a women s organization in Rio de Janeiro. She is very critical of the Brazilian government's progressive rhetoric, which is still very far away from understanding the reality of racism and its results on the black and indigenous peoples. "This is an important time to reflect about the racial situation and the diversity in Brazil," says the São Paulo Regional secretary of Human rights, Gilberto Sabóia. He believes that the work of bringing awareness that has begun here in Brazil will not depend on what will be decided in South Africa. Before August, the committee that is working on the preparation of the conference should give the report of the work done to the Brazilian president. This report should show the concerns of the political issues based upon improving education, health, work and culture that will guarantee equality and opportunities for all.
Efu Nyaki is a Maryknoll sister who works with the Black Movement in Joao Pessoa, Paraiba The reproduction of this material is permitted as long as the source is cited. If you wish to contact us or receive NEWS FROM BRAZIL free of charge by e-mail send a message to sejup1@ ax.apc.org From: SEJUP [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: 20 July 2001 10:20 NEWS FROM BRAZIL supplied by SEJUP (Servico Brasileiro de Justica e Paz). Number 442, July 20, 2001. Visit our home page: http://www.oneworld.org/sejup/
LANIC directory (Latin American Network Information Center) has a section devoted to the African Diaspora (http://lanic.utexas.edu/la/region/african/).
Movimento Negro Unificado http://www.africana.com/Articles/tt_1097.htm
Aidi, Hisham, Facing up to the Failure of "Racial Democracy" in Brazil, Africana, November 28, 2001 http://www.africana.com/DailyArticles/index_20011128.htm