THE racism in Brazil it has always been taboo, people refuse to assume that they are racist and / or to admit that they suffer from it. After all, there can be no racial prejudice in a country as mixed as this, right? Unfortunately, this is not what we see every day, in the streets, in our daily lives, and even in the news, where it has become increasingly frequent to find reports involving wide-open cases of racial discrimination.
In recent years, although the refusal is also present, anti-racism protests have taken hold in Brazil, mainly on the Internet. Cases like that of Maju Coutinho, a black journalist ridiculed for racist comments, generated debates and discussions in various social spheres. But the question is, why do these protests still lack visibility in national territory?
The way we see ourselves influences
The main reason was mentioned at the beginning, Brazil is not considered a racist country, therefore, Protestant movements of this order have always been minimized. For a large part of the Brazilian population, it is inconceivable that racial prejudice exists in a country of such miscegenation, as it would be practically impossible to differentiate the roots of the people.
But the “mixture theory” only serves when it is conventional, because when it comes to discrimination, society knows very well who to marginalize, and this is reflected in numbers. According to the UN, every 23 minutes, a young black man is murdered in Brazil and, according to the IBGE, the life expectancy of white men is up to 4.6 years longer than that of black men.
Another way to understand why these movements are not so strong in national territory is to make a comparison with other countries, the United States, for example. Both have quite different stories of abolition and ways of dealing with the topic.
In the USA, shortly after abolition, there was the segregation system, where blacks were prohibited from attending schools, establishments, and even neighborhoods considered white. This caused revolt and created the need for protests, as well as forming a different awareness of racism in the American population.
In Brazil, everything happened in a more subtle way. After several struggles and, consequently, the abolition, the old slave population found itself helpless. Blacks were no longer enslaved, but they had no jobs, where to live, decent living conditions and this led to the marginalization of these people. So, they went to live in slums, occupy underemployment and endure discrimination. All this while making them swallow the idea of racial democracy.
We live in a country that was founded under this myth of racial democracy, that, here, there would be no racism, and that made it difficult to build a black identity, the fact that we do not have access to our ancestors, in the sense that documents related to slavery were destroyed. So, I don’t know, for example, if my ancestors came from Nigeria or Guinea Bissau. This creates an abyss, a gap in the construction of our identity.
Djamila Ribeiro, philosopher, writer, black feminist and Brazilian academic, in an interview with the BBC.
Dictatorship’s role in inhibiting anti-racism protests
Still, it is important not to discard the fact that the black movement in Brazil emerged at the time of the dictatorship, therefore, it was criminalized in the same way as other social movements that arose at the time. In this way, the protests returned later in a more lenient way, adopting an anti-violent policy, different from what happened in the USA.
Finally, it is easy to see the abyss in advertising cases. A week before the murder of George Floyd, which shocked the world, João Pedro, a 14-year-old black teenager, was killed inside his own home during a joint operation by the federal and civil police in Rio de Janeiro. Marginalized population, racism, police violence, the themes are the same.
However, in Brazil, a place where blacks represent 56% of the population, according to IBGE data, but only occupy 30% of the country’s leadership positions, also, where the majority incarcerated is young, black and poor, still insist on naturalizing the deaths and reinforce the myth of racial democracy.