“A carne mais barata do mercado é a carne negra” (The cheapest meat on the market is black meat). This phrase sung by Elza Soares in the song A Carne is, in fact, a metaphor for the real situation of the racial relations established in our society. In Brazil, the black population is the one that is most arrested and the most murdered. The report on Social Inequalities by Color or Race of the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística points out that in 2017 the chance of a black person suffering homicide was 2.7 times greater than that of a white person. In the penal system, most people in prison have a defined color. According to the 2020 Brazilian Public Security Yearbook of the Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública (FBSP), of the 657.8 thousand prisoners in which color/race information is available, 438.7 thousand are black (66.7%).
There is a deep and systematic silence about the history of the black people from the perspective of race relations, as the professor at the UFF History Institute, Ynaê dos Santos, points out: “an official interpretation of Brazil as a country devoid of conflicts of race and class, creating an erroneous image of racial harmony. Which does not match the movements, episodes, and characters that make up our past. The consequences of these distortions are enormous, from the absence of black characters in textbooks to the shallow perception of the history of slavery and its legacy, and can be taken as a national project that masks the main character of race relations in our history.”
The researcher stresses that building this perspective that marginalizes and diminishes the centrality of the structural condition of racism even makes it difficult for Brazilian society — especially the white population — to perceive themselves as part of a racist system, which creates exclusions and violence in the one hand, as well as a series of concessions on the other. “A symptom of this reality is that the racial debate is raised, mainly, by the black population, who has no alternative to fight against the situations of inequality that they live. White people, on the other hand, engage in this discussion or not, depending on how much they recognize their own privileges.”
Ynaê stresses the importance of understanding the concept of anti-racism in the fight against racial inequality. “Recognizing the structural character of racism in Brazilian society and its place in that system is the first step. From here, the actions of the black and white population differ, since these people experience interdictions or perks depending on their color. It is necessary to break with the dynamics that underlie racial discrimination by identifying the place occupied in this structure. In other words, it is necessary to walk against racism consciously and intentionally.”
Black lives matter because white lives have never been threatened. As Angela Davis said: it is not enough not to be racist, you must be anti-racist.
For the researcher from the Institute for Comparative Studies in Conflict Management Rosiane Rodrigues, there is a reflection that white people should do: “what do you do to reinforce your privileges in society? It must be assumed that in Brazil racism does not operate only in the state’s macrostructure. It has a daily presence at the families’ breakfast since it is also expressed through a micropolitics that anchors the most basic social relations. Black lives matter because white lives have never been threatened. As Angela Davis said: it is not enough not to be racist, you must be anti-racist,” she emphasizes.
On the other hand, Ynaê adds that racism is becoming an effective agenda for all those who want a more just and egalitarian society, although there is still a long way to go. “With the policies of racial inclusion and affirmative action, sectors of society needed to reinvent themselves. In Brazilian universities, in particular, the entry of more young blacks from different trajectories than those that the academy was used to dealing with, is changing many Eurocentric perspectives that went through higher education. These students face real inequality issues to stay in college. This scenario points out that the racial debate in universities ceases to be just a ‘research object’ of Human Sciences, to start to take shape in the political experience of the university.”
In the discussion of racial inequalities, Rosiane agrees that there have been significant advances in recent years. “It is necessary to recognize that the anti-racist struggle has evolved, although not enough. With the quotas, the presence of black people in universities has increased considerably and scientific production has also been opened up to new knowledge. Nowadays, there are black researchers producing knowledge in the most diverse areas, which is progress provided by decades of a struggle led by the black movement,” she completes.
1st edition of the Lélia Gonzalez Award: best doctoral thesis on race and racism is from UFF
Created by the Committee of Black Anthropologists of the Associação Brasileira de Antropologia, the Lélia Gozalez award proposes the recognition of the contribution of the researcher’s and intellectual’s thinking to Brazilian Anthropology and its fight against prejudice, discrimination, and racism. The award aims to give visibility to the original quality production of the research developed by black students in undergraduate and graduate courses in universities in Brazil.
Rosiane Rodrigues was the winner of the first edition of the best doctoral thesis award with the work entitled A luta por modo de vida: as narrativas e as estratégias de enfrentamento ao racismo religioso do Fórum Nacional de Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional dos Povos Tradicionais de Matriz Africana (The struggle for a way of life: the narratives and strategies to face religious racism at the National Forum on Food and Nutrition Security of the Traditional Peoples of Matriz Africana), defended in December 2019. Ana Paula Mendes de Miranda, the thesis advisor, and professor at the UFF Department of Anthropology point out that the research from which the thesis resulted was initiated in 2008 when Rosiane militated in the movement to combat religious intolerance.
“Since then, together with the Study Group on Political Anthropology and Conflicts, religions, and social mobilizations, we have developed dialogues addressing the conformation and the effects of racism in African religious sites in Rio de Janeiro, Alagoas, and the Federal District. Winning the first edition of this award is the consecration of a work that began to be developed 12 years ago,” reports the advisor.
Roseane points out that the study points to the political and strategic mobilization carried out by the pessoas de santo, based on the sad principle that the State is not a guarantor of rights. “In addition, the violent crimes against fathers and mothers of santos also demonstrate how there is still a Christian theocratic thought that guides Brazilian politics. These points presented by the thesis contribute to the social construction of the victim of religious racism, who needs to break with the structural cosmology of socialization of the terreiros.”
The doctor ends by celebrating the award. “This is an award of excellence for my personal formation, in addition to placing UFF in national prominence in research on racism.”
Painting credit: “Debret Delivery” from artist Alberto Pereira, authorized for UFF usage.