Although president Jair Bolsonaro (no party) and vice president Hamilton Mourão (PRTB) deny the existence of racism in Brazil, US researchers heard by Brazil in fact point to a different picture. Both in the richest country in the world and in Brazil, skin color, and how it is read by the rest of society, has profound impacts.
The sociologist specializing in African studies Tukufu Zuberi, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, assesses that even Mourão may have been a victim of police violence because of his skin color in the US: “If he [Mourão] comes to the United States, he can easily be thrown on the ground and searched, or even put in jail.”
This “differentiated” treatment offered to whites and blacks in the United States also exists in Brazil. Although the countries have their particularities there, it is necessary to understand that the agenda for racial justice has more converging than diverging points.
“Both were colonized by groups of European settlers, who devastated the indigenous population, who exploited African labor and created racial identity systems to promote notions of white supremacy,” says Zuberi.
Who completes the colleague’s idea is the professor of African Studies at Brown University, Barrymore Bogues. “One of the main connections of the racial agenda is the way in which slavery from European colonialism placed inferiority at the heart of black racism; and at the heart of this inferiority is the conception that blacks have no history,” he says.
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This supremacist narrative that erases the stories of entire populations ends up dehumanizing these groups that still live on the margins of society today. “It is not by chance that black people are murdered in the favelas of Brazil and murdered by the American police. They are disposable bodies for the racist structure of countries colonized by white supremacy”, explains Bogues.
It is these overlapping layers between different countries and cultures that lead specialists to advocate the internationalization of racial struggle. “Brazil needs to learn from the black African movement, which needs to learn from the American black movement, which needs to learn from Brazil. All movements need to turn their eyes to Africa and understand its history, because otherwise the very logic of racism can confuse us,” defends Zuberi.
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The very notion of race is always relational. According to the professor at the University of Pennsylvania, a person considered white in Brazil would never be white in the United States, regardless of their skin color. “Blackness is not an individual identity, it is a shared social status. It is society’s response to you,” he says.
That’s why Zuberi, who knows Brazil well, understands what he calls mindset racial. “I really understand the logic of a racist, the logic of one who perpetuates white supremacy. They’re not inhumane people, they’re just people driven by ignorance, and that’s resolved politely.”
That’s why teachers defend the idea of a month dedicated to racial issues, because it is necessary to talk about the subject relentlessly. So much so that, for Professor Bogues, one month is very little. “Every month should be the month of black history, because I think there is little for our struggle to isolate our survival and perseverance to a single month”, and he concludes, “these lessons should be taught every month, to all people, in all the places”.
It is only education and historical review that can pave the way for racial equity, which for the time being floats according to the privilege of each society.
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“When a baby is born, he is not born black, white or indigenous. The baby is born human, and we change this reality as he enters society. We racialize him to be black, white or indigenous”, explains Zuberi , “society’s narrative about who is black and who is white is determined by the history of that society, that’s why the white baby in São Paulo is not white in New York.”
Edition: Thales Schmidt