How fair are minorities treated in Brazil?

Brazil's very own racism

"Pardo" (brown), "moreno" (dark), "café com leite" (milk coffee-colored) or "mulato" (mulatto), which is now considered racist - these are all names for skin colors and ethnic groups in Brazil. They show how much these have intermingled in the country.

First there were the (later heavily decimated) indigenous people. Then came the Portuguese colonialists and also other Europeans and Asians. Above all, however, millions of African slaves were brought into the country for over 350 years, so that today around 51 percent of Brazilians describe themselves as black or "pardo", ie brown or mixed. Many of the cultural trademarks of the largest South American country also originate from the African slaves, such as samba, the combat dance capoeira or the religion of candomblé.

The burden of colonial times

All of this quickly makes Brazil appear as a harmonious melting pot, especially since - after the end of slavery - there was no official racial segregation as in the USA or South Africa. The Brazilians themselves have long liked to see themselves this way - some still do today. Claudius Armbruster, former president of the German Lusitanist Association (DLV) and former head of the Portuguese-Brazilian Institute at the University of Cologne, explains: "After the end of slavery in 1888, the white elites naturally had to ask themselves how they would deal with the many The so-called 'democracia racial' was an ideological draft that made it possible to indicate integration on the surface without actually having to carry it out economically and socially. "

The basic idea of ​​the "democracia racial", which was mainly shaped by the sociologist Gilberto Freyre, was that the mixing of people of Portuguese origin with (ex) slaves was something positive. But in the picture of "washing out the African element through this process", there is a racist figure of thought, according to Armbruster. Scientists today also criticize Freyre's evocation of a tolerant, colorful nation for the fact that black women were often victims of sexual violence by whites. A real examination of the discrimination against blacks delayed this transfiguration for a long time.

Poverty has a skin color

In reality, the slaves, who were released to freedom without any means, received no support from the state. This injustice still leaves its mark on Brazilian society today. According to the national statistics agency, three quarters of the poorest ten percent are Afro-Brazilian, blacks have lower-paid jobs and a lower life expectancy. According to the Gini index, which shows inequality, Brazil is one of the countries where the gap between rich and poor is particularly large - and rich and poor in the South American country are often synonymous with black and white.

Djamila Ribeiro was recently awarded the Dutch Prince Claus Prize for her work in the Afro-Brazilian women's movement

According to the Afro-Brazilian philosopher and activist Djamila Ribeiro, institutionalized racism has continued in Brazil since the abolition of slavery: "Every 23 minutes a black youth is killed. The prisons are also full of blacks." Afro-Brazilians are also worse off in the education system. Because Brazil's public schools are miserable. Those who cannot afford a private school will hardly be adequately prepared for the university entrance test.

Confused with the cleaner

Ribeiro knows all kinds of racism in everyday life well enough: "Like many black people who frequent places of power, such as universities, I have been mistaken for a cleaner. In a luxury hotel someone once thought I was a prostitute. I don't want to question the dignity of these pursuits, but it says something to be reduced to them as a black woman. " The stereotype of the sexually attractive, samba-dancing Afro-Brazilian woman ultimately also goes in this direction, according to Ribeiro, who wrote the book "Who is Afraid of Black Feminism?" wrote.

Blacks would find little or no place in the popular and influential telenovelas. "For example, there was one that takes place in Bahia, a state with a population of over 90 percent black, and all of the protagonists were white." Brazil expert Armbruster is also critical of this: "For a long time, the roles for Afro-Brazilians were limited to servants." But a lot has happened in the last ten years, so that blacks are now a little better represented in telenovelas and, for example, in news formats.

Bolsonaro's government unhelpful

The fact that Jair Bolsonaro, who is known for homophobic, sexist and racist remarks, has been president since the beginning of 2019 means a setback in the fight against discrimination against blacks and indigenous people.

Bolsonaro's cabinet: 20 men, two women, all white

One of Bolsonaro's favorite subjects is restoring security; He defamed black youths as notorious criminals who can only be countered with more guns and police violence. You will also look in vain for Afro-Brazilians in his cabinet. And the government's newly appointed head of the Fundação Cultural Palmares - actually a public institution promoting Afro-Brazilian culture - denies the existence of racism in the country. In his opinion, the Brazilian "Day of Black Consciousness" should be abolished.

Djamila Ribeiro is nevertheless important to see the positive developments in recent years: "A big victory was the introduction of quotas for blacks and indigenous peoples at universities and in the public sector. In addition, the issue of racism is more present than ever in the world today public debate. " Communication in social networks would also have contributed to this, where Afro-Brazilians could raise their voices independently of the mainstream media.

Ribeiro is optimistic about the future, as there is a large resistance movement that "fights for change in our country every day". For the Romanist Armbruster, education is the most important lever for decisive changes: "If there is to be something like equal opportunities, public schools must be better equipped. This is where the course is set for the future, and also the course for more or less divided ones Society."