Black representativeness in Brazil: the cry of the struggle for fundamental rights

To reduce the social abyss, actions by movements such as Black Lives Matter gain more prominence on networks

In the text he wrote for the graphic novel “Jeremias – Pele”, a comic book that celebrates one of Maurício de Sousa’s iconic characters, the rapper Emicida addresses the importance of representativeness. He cites a conversation he had with the actress Elisa Lucinda, in which she said that black people need to stop arriving late. “I thought it was strange at first. After all, I had arrived as soon as I could. But what she meant was that we needed to be shields, not band-aids. It is in being late and in the absence of our voice that the worst nightmares are solidified,” he wrote.

The musician then described his frustration at seeing his daughter’s preference for a blonde princess over a princess that was “dark like us”. “She cried saying that she wanted the box with a princess, not ‘that one’ [a black doll]. I had arrived late,” he admitted. “The absence of positive references robs us of the right to imagine and puts a cap on our dreams.”

The absence of positive references also marginalizes black people, associating them with violence and creating a context in which it is acceptable to tread on their necks – like what happened to the American George Floyd and so many Brazilians who were never caught on film. 

It is no coincidence, according to Depen (National Prison Department), that 67% of the prison population in Brazil are people of color. Blacks are also the primary victims of homicide. According to the 2020 Atlas of Violence, the murder rate among black people in Brazil rose 11.5% between the years 2008 and 2018, which represented a surge from 34 to 37.8 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Among non-blacks, meanwhile, there was a decrease of 12.9%.

According to the report, in 2018, black people represented 75.7% of the victims of all homicides in Brazil. “It’s as if we are talking about different countries, such is the disparity,” wrote Samira Bueno, executive director of the Brazilian Public Security Forum, in the introduction to the report.

Why black representativeness in Brazil is so urgent

To reduce the abyss, actions by civil society and movements such as Black Lives Matter have gained more prominence on social networks. In politics, when responding to a petition by Congresswoman Benedita da Silva, the Superior Electoral Court made a historic ruling when it recognized the existence of institutional racism in political parties. The ruling permits the equal distribution of time and resources for campaign advertising between black and white candidates.  

In his column in the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, the lawyer Silvio Almeida compared the importance of the court ruling to the death of the American actor Chadwick Boseman, who played the Black Panther character in the cinema. “When racial issues take on such relevance in political disputes, it is symptomatic that a significant portion of the population identifies more with a black king of a fictional country than with real-world politicians,” he wrote.

According to Almeida, representativeness is not the ultimate goal of politics, but the symptom of something bigger, adding that the demands of minorities are an inconvenience to the power structures. “What frightens the underdeveloped Brazilian elite is the possibility that more space for minorities means that politics is not limited to choosing which white, heterosexual, Christian man will rule every four years,” he concluded.

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