The case of African-descendant Brazilians

There was a time when there was a big incoming of Brazilian immigrant into Spain. There weren’t always well received, even if they had visa waiver rights as so have almost all Latin American citizens in Europe. You would read news of these citizens complaining of the treatment received at the Spanish international airports and the restrictions of the rights they did have on the paper. Then, as their economy grew and they became a major economic power, they stopped coming and started applying the same rules on Spaniards emigrating to Brazil. Some of these went to seek a better life back home in a context of an agonizing Spanish crisis. But some stayed because they prioritized security and the welfare state offered by Spain, they would say.

Now, one of the things that I noticed among my Brazilian neighbours and fellow inhabitants was their wide racial diversity. Many are blacks or mixed-race –what we call in Spain ‘ mulatos’. However, I realized that the Brazilian politicians I used to see on news, on media, and more strikingly, among the exchange students who came every year at my university or at those I met at other European universities, were always white and pale. Not even tanned, at times. I have only met 2 visibly African descendant Brazilians on these settings. One, two years ago, and the other one this year in the US. There are not black, but mixed, you could see that they have multiple heritages. For example, I have amongst my students a bunch of them (exchange students), all whites, coming from a country where most of its population is black or afro-descendants. What’s is going on there?

I sought a bit of information and realized that Brazil, as many other American countries, inherited the racial hierarchy established by their for European masters to legitimate the slave trade. Once they gained independence, they maintained this pigmentocracy and social system based on race, in which a white minority kept all the structural powers and set themselves as the role model of beauty and behaviour to be followed by all their fellow citizens, all while encouraging white bleaching and white immigration. This reminds me of South Africa, with the distinction of the  unofficial segregation and a large population of mixed race, which transmitted the global image of a racial democracy in Brazil. I thing it was a quest for absorbing the majority and follow the minority model.

Changes are being introduced step by step and this seems to be changing. I have read about the first ever Brazilian TV programs /series who two black Brazilians as main characters. The first ever! In 2015. Ok. In a country where  TV and soap operas a major source of popular culture, its main audience cannot recognise themselves on the films they see. This is what I call cultural and social alienation. If you are born in it, it’s hard to criticize it. It’s the only reality you know. They also have white affirmative actions favouring a minimum of black or mixed race people, which makes many white angry after centruries of privileges and negation of what was stated on their Constitution. Fortunately, changes were made, and it seems to be a growing population of this majority to the middle class, thanks to their access to education and growing awareness connected to a globalized world. I remember the shocking story of a black Brazilian doctor complaining that many of her white patients complain about being treated by a black person, or they would make insensitive remark about her hair. This in a country in which there are a minority. I swear to God I would not treat the person but better let them die. If a there are no more professional, I would just object and period. If I ever meet a student like this, I would really get them out of my class. I don’t tolerate this nonsense. Are we crazy? Do we believe that a professional is better or words based on their skin colour or hair? Stupid people do not deserve our minimum effort. There are plenty humble and reasonable people out there who need help and are of real interest for the society.

I do think these cases and those of other similar countries need some kind of structural reparation, simply because black people were slave to grow an econony they did not benefit after they were released. Nor did they have right to access the lands and resources of the country in the same level as their former slavists. So this only was a freedom to poverty and insecurity that could not bring anything such as equality. I can’t understand how can people negate this. It’s like negating slavery  and holocaust existed. Just a fact. Consequences are still pretty blatant. Face it for a better future as a nation.

An interesting article documenting this, here. It’s really worth it. A bit long but detailed and wonderfully explained.