India is the most racist country

Brazil seeks outcry against racism

Anyone entering a public building or a larger residential building in Brazil is confronted with a sticker next to the elevator. "Discrimination or prejudice based on race, skin color, ethnicity and religion are punishable," is quoted from 1989 Law No. 7716.

But, as is so often the case, the reality in Brazil is completely different - and a contradicting one. For example, there are usually several elevators, one for the residents and a separate one for the domestic workers. Regardless of their size, many apartments still have two entrances: one into the kitchen, the other into the living area.

Brazil is the country with the greatest social inequality in Latin America and, according to experts, this is one of the reasons for the deeply entrenched racism in society. Journalist and political scientist Alexandra Loras goes even further. "Basel is the most racist country I know," says Loras, who has an African father and grew up in France.

No movements yet

"Brazil has the largest population of African descendants in the world, but that is not reflected in society." 56 percent of Brazilians declare themselves to be black or dark-skinned. In the US it's 13 percent. As in the US, there is police violence against black people. Afro-Brazilians have less well-paid jobs and go to poorer schools. Yet there is no broad anti-racism movement like Black Lives Matter - not yet.

Unlike the US, Brazil has never been racially segregated, nor has it been a traditional civil rights movement. For decades, Brazilians have therefore liked to paint the caricature of a colorful, exotic and tolerant nation. It was not until the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 that the first "Black Movement" was formed.

"There is no awareness in most of society that there is racism. People ignore the fact that Brazil has been the longest-running slave-holding society in the world," says Karen Macknow Lisboa, historian at the University of São Paulo, USP.

Little chance of advancement

Brazil was the last country to officially abolish slavery until 1888. "Racism means to be humiliated. And Brazil is a society that is hierarchically structured, with very little chance of advancement," says Macknow Lisboa.

The journalist Loras reports how she was seen in classy shopping centers. Nobody threw her out, she clarifies. However, it is obvious that other visitors were wondering what a black woman without a white companion was doing there.

"When I'm out with my light-skinned son, many people think I'm the nanny," says Loras. Even if Brazilians reject racism, many are fraught with prejudice. "There is always justification for racist practices," says Macknow Lisboa.

Silence of the sports stars

At the same time, there is a lack of black role models. Unlike in the USA, where stars like NBA legend Michael Jordan show solidarity with the anti-racism movement, Brazil’s sporting greats remain silent. For example, the world footballer Pelé never addressed his Afro-Brazilian identity. When Brazil star striker Neymar was asked if he was ever a victim of racism, he replied: "Never. Why should I, I'm not black." Even the famous Rio Carnival is now advertised more as a folkloric export item than as a cultural legacy of Afro-Brazilians.

Blacks are not only underrepresented in politics in Brazil, but also not represented at all, as in the government of right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro. His racist agitation has no consequences. He regularly defamed dark-skinned young people as criminals. In Congress, around 95 percent of MPs are white.

Protests against violence

In Brazil, too, poverty has a skin color and is often fatal. A black youth is killed every 23 minutes. Almost 6,000 people were killed by police violence last year, 75 percent were Afro-Brazilian. Douglas Belchior, co-founder of the Afro-Brazilian organization Uneafro, speaks of genocide.

After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, there was also an outcry against police violence in Brazil. Tens of thousands took to the streets in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. "Racism is not a problem for blacks, but one for democracy," says Belchior. "The murder of George Floyd was like the trigger for blacks around the world to speak out," he says.

Belchior is confident. Because at Uneafro 150 Afro-Brazilian organizations have come together. They wrote a manifesto entitled "Where there is racism, there can be no democracy". He is sure that there will be a great resistance movement. (Susann Kreutzmann, November 4, 2020)