Monday, March 14, 2016

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACE IN BRAZIL

Thinking about race identity in the Brazil is hard to wrap my head around.

In the U.S. it's normal for us to observe (even if we don't agree with it) hypodescent, commonly called "the one drop rule"

That is, 
in the United States, the mostly unwritten rule is if you have one drop of black blood you are considered "black." This is based on centuries old biological racism which is based on a erroneous belief in the biology of race. The belief in the biology of race has been so strong that there was even a court case where a woman went to court to have herself declared white. I believe a state court(?) ruled that a person with 1/32  black black ancestory meant she could not identify herself as white.
(That probably means if one great, great or one great, great, great grandparent is black, you're black. I'll let you do the counting of "greats")



Slavery, that obscure court case that I can't half remember, and everything in between (except maybe Le Dolezal) indicates that the excluding racial identity in the United States is "white."  It is the whiteness of the dominant culture that demands purity. And that kind of discrimination is normal to my brain.

Even though some of us have given up forcing people to identify via the one drop rule, people who have the slightest tinge of color in their skin are allowed to identify themselves as mixed, bi-racial, and even cablinasian. But those who have more than a tinge of color in their skin, whoinsist on identifying as "white" are given major side-eye by dark-skinned folk and greeted with outright shock by white people should they ever say words that mean, "I am white." 



However, in Brazil? They don't do hypodescent.

Whiteness does not nominally exclude in Brazil.

You can be as dark as Tiger Woods and Lupita Nyongo's lovechild and try to identify yourself as "white" so long as you can trace you biology to somebody white and you are pale enough in shade (I think.  It feels so twisted in my head)

You can try. But I think there's a skin shade box you have to check off in order to identify as "white" too. So if you're like Tiger Woods where being identified as "black" bothers you in Brazil, you have options that seem to mean (in U.S. terms) "brown-skinned," "mixed race", and/or "bi-racial"

As I understand it, many darkish-skinned people fear/hate being identified as black will identify as "white" if there is any way possible in Brazil.

And those that are too dark to claim "white" will claim to be in a group called "brown" And if you start earning a lot of money you can try to change your racial category into a paler one (That is you're light brown poor  you're in the brown group but the same person might be able to claim to be white if that person is rich)

This goes a long way in showing just how deep the racism problem is in Brazil, though racism's pattern seems very different from that of the United States.

For a long time, pale folk of Brazil would claim that all this racial ambiguity they've built into their categories means there's no racism or less racism in Brazil.

But you know what?

Most of the CEOs in Brazil are pale, regardless of what words they use for the ethnic/racial identity.

When the models go from there to here in order to compete in the Miss Universe contest etc, the models have been historically been very pale to white. (I hope things have changed in the age of Obama but the story below indicates, things haven't changed much.)

And according to what I'm reading, the government of Brazil deliberately made racial identity complicated, deliberately set out to make race and therefore racism harder to track by making the racial categories difficult to define

"When as the former slave owners set about diluting the country’s blackness, they also went to work on their cover story.

In the Brazilian creation myth – the country’s version of Canada’s “cultural mosaic” or the U.S. “melting pot” – the country is a democracia racial, a racial democracy. This official story was built on the idea that from the day slavery ended, Brazilians of all colours were equal. After all, there was no segregation, no apartheid, no Jim Crow. Glossing over the massive disparities between the former owners and the newly freed slaves – who had no education, land or assets – the Brazilian elite, almost entirely white, declared the country uniquely equal and, in effect, postracial.

“It was ‘invisibilization,’” says Marcelo Paix√£o, who is black and a professor of economics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “The discourse was that we don’t have race in Brazil, so you don’t have race problems in Brazil, and you don’t need to discuss the inequality.” "
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/brazils-colour-bind/article25779474/


White sociologists in the U.S. actually had debates and became confused in the 1980 and 1990s claiming Brazil had a lot less racism than the U.S. 

But anybody with eyes, people who are not bent on to e-racing racism everywhere caqn see the racism every time they look at photos and images of the money-ed and powerful of Brazil.

Some will point to Brazil's habitual bragging about carnival and the variety of shades of people singing and dancing on the streets.

My answer? Yeah, well black people in the United States were oppressed as h*ll in this country during the 1960s and 1970s, Yet you would see black folk on television, in commercials, singing and dancing while they were ordering a burger, under the golden arches hourly.

The happy darkies pushed out front don't fool anybody here or there.  The affluent and powerful are paler here in the U.S. and in Brazil too, and in a lot of places around the world.

But for all Brazil's attempts at "invisiblization" racism, the overt kind, and the attending poverty seem much worse for Blacks in Brazil. 


Street actors recreating "Aladdin"

This photo may seem petty to some. But it's very overt. These actors look like they are walking around out on the street or in a Brazilian Disneyland equivalent or a place very much like Hollywood boulevard. The overt-ness of this street performance should be seen as the tip of an iceberg. You can't see the rest of the iceberg from the deck of the Titanic, but you know it's there.

Brazil, while having the largest black population outside Africa, was the last country to officially outlaw slavery in 1888. That's a little more than 20 years than after slavery was outlawed in the U.S.

And since Brazil didn't go through the same Slavery Part 2, Jim Crow, that we did here in the U.S., it seems like claiming the country of Brazil to be post-racial 100 years (?) before the U.S. did was much more effective in maintaining white supremacy.

That must be why the Queen of Carnival was changed from black to light, in 2013, due to an overtly racist response from a sizeable portion of the population. 


DARK QUEEN REPLACED

Apparently there is a Queen of Carnival in Brazil voted in every year. And Nayara Justino was elected to be that Queen in 2013.

Justino was called everything from a monkey to a darkie, and told she didn’t deserve to be the Globeleza because she was “too Black.” What hurt most, though, were that many Black Brazilians also thought she was unfit for the title because of her dark skin.
“Black people in Brazil are ashamed of being Black,”  Neusa Borges, a Black actress explains in the video. “There are very few who will stand up and say, ‘I am Black.'”
As a result of the backlash, Justino was stripped of her title without...notice.  “They called me and said, ‘You’re not going to be Globeleza anymore. Thanks for your participation, 
Read More
http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2016/02/heres-how-brazilians-treated-its-first-black-globeleza-carnival-queen/


You know what? 


It's one thing to be black in this country and have a smallish portion of black and brown folks that internalize racism and despise themselves. It would be quite another to live in Brazil where many or most of the people WE WOULD identify as black in the U.S. want to identify as anything but black.

Clearly, the white racists there are a lot smarter than the ones here and they have been from the very beginning. The white people in power have the middle class white people hating the light people, and the next shade of light people down hating the brown people, and the brown people hating the black people.

I wonder if this has created a gap between the haves and have-nots is astronomically huge? (<----because a="" and="" assign="" at="" bottom="" br="" categories="" create="" difference="" even="" everyone="" exploit="" function.="" inbetween="" inferiority="" is="" look="" main="" make="" money.="" money="" more="" on="" people="" physical="" precedes="" race="" racial="" racism="" s="" superiority="" that="" the="" then="" to="" top="" with="">
As a result of this higher level of hidden(?) racism, the Brazilian police killing black people make the white racist cops here look like amateur hour. Brazilian police have out-killed the cops here by 100s of folk, despite being 50% smaller and a lot of those dead are black.  


More on the cops of Brazil tomorrow