December 16, 2008

Obama’s Win Inspires Black Brazilians…

Posted in Economics, Politics, Psychology tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:39 pm by randallbutisingh


By BRADLEY BROOKS – Associated Press Writers – December 5, 2008

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) — What struck the Brazilian woman most forcibly as she watched U.S. election returns on television was seeing Barack Obama’s two young daughters.

“I can’t believe those two little girls with hair like mine will be in the White House,” said 31-year-old Carolina Iootty Dias, putting her hand to her head, tears in her eyes as she watched the screen. Black Brazilians such as Dias, a human rights worker, celebrated Obama’s election as giving hope worldwide. But the country that prides itself on racial mixing and tolerance is also being forced to take a reality check.

Though half of Brazil’s 190 million people are black — the world’s largest black population outside Nigeria — power remains firmly in the hands of whites. The country has few blacks in top political positions, and government studies consistently show blacks in Brazil earn half as much as whites.

“This Brazilian hypocrisy that says racism does not exist is one of the things that keeps the nation from advancing,” said Stepan Nercessian, an actor and Rio de Janeiro city councilman, who is white.Latin America’s largest country has long looked down its nose at the racial discord in the U.S. — segregation laws, civil rights battles and a strained social dialogue that continues today.

But Obama’s election is making Brazilians look inward, with some arguing that an American-style struggle is exactly what Brazil is missing.

“I think it is important for young black Brazilians to know how the civil rights movement progressed in the U.S. and how it produced not just Obama, but blacks at the highest levels of American businesses,” said Edson Santos, Brazil’s minister of racial equality, who is black. “It is important that they have contact with this reality.”

Glaucia Carvalho Oliveira is one of those young people. “All of a sudden, Obama has arrived and taken us to the next level,” she said, sweat glistening on her face as she assembled her snack stand on Rio’s Copacabana beach. “We black Brazilians need him as much as the Americans do.”

Brazil and the U.S. were two of the largest slave-owning societies in the Americas — some 4 million shipped to Brazil and 500,000 to the U.S. — and the two countries that benefited most from the slave trade.

Brazil freed its blacks in 1888, the last country in the Americas to do so. In that year it abolished all its race laws, while American blacks had to fight for more than 100 years after they were freed to gain full rights as citizens.

Black and white Brazilians mix easily in both marriage and social venues, from soccer matches to samba clubs. Beyond the half of the population that is black, most Brazilians are of mixed ancestry and have a census category, “parda.”

No such category exists in the U.S. census. Obama, who is half white and identifies as black, could call himself parda if he were Brazilian.
Despite Brazil’s social ease around race, many argue that its blacks simply moved from the slave quarters to the slums.

They are only 3 percent of Brazil’s college graduates. Only one senator among 81 is black, which mirrors the U.S. breakdown, except that blacks are only 13 percent of the U.S. population. Twelve of Brazil’s lower house’s 513 members are black, compared with 46 out of 435 U.S. house members.

With Brazil’s history of authoritarian governments and extreme poverty, blacks only started organizing in the last 40 years, said Reginaldo Lima, who is black and directs AfroReggae, which works on race and violence issues in Rio’s slums.

Six years ago the country elected its first blue-collar president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a white man who enjoys huge support among blacks. But only two of his 28 government ministers are black.

In 2003 Brazil appointed its first black Supreme Court justice, Joaquim Barbosa, whom some consider a future presidential candidate. Barbosa traveled to Washington to watch the U.S. elections.

Many whites play down the level of prejudice in Brazil, saying the inequalities are economic, not racial.
“We see people not as black or white. We don’t look at a black person and think they are not as capable as whites,” said medical secretary Liliane Lyra, 43. “It is more a social problem that separates the races here, a lack of opportunity for the poor.”

But Alannah Xavier, 26, says her black skin, not her economic status, keeps her from getting work as a model in Brazil.
“You know where I work the most? In Germany … a nation that is supposedly so racist with its Nazi past,” said Xavier. “Here in Brazil they only have work for blondes. Crazy, no?”

Since Silva took office, there have been positive changes, notably affirmative action in the university system, said Jose Vicente, director of Ciudadana Zumbi dos Palmares University, who is black.

Lima says Obama’s election will help that struggle.
“Barack Obama represents what every black person in the world has been hoping for: that the fight of the dream for racial equality in North America can spread to the entire world,” he said.

Others doubt there will be an “Obama effect.”
“This is a very racially mixed country, but all the elites are white. Things have been so bad for so long, I think people just accept it,” said Carlos Eduardo Antones, 21, a waiter and part-time student who is black.

Either way, Emmanuel Miranda is happy to savor the moment.
The 53-year-old Rio de Janeiro policeman, who is black, sipped an espresso in a cafe off Copacabana beach, lit his first cigarette of the day, and declared a new era.

“The U.S. is a country to dream about, and for us black Brazilians it is even easier to do so now,” he said. “God bless you and your beautiful country.”



Guyana shares its sfuthern and south-western border with Brazil.  The aboriginal peoples of both countries share common histories and were there for centuries, before the colonization of the Portuguese in Brazil and the English in Guyana. Portuguese immigrants , especially for Madiera, went to Guyana from the 1850’s and were the one of the “six peoples” or races that make up the  Guyana mosaic.

Today there is a road link with southern Guyana and Brazil with the bridging of the Takutu river. This would now make travel easier to Manaus and Boa Vista, two of Brazil’s northern cities. There has also been a growing Brazilian immigrants to Guyana, especially in the mining of gold and diamonds. Many of the immigrants seem to be of European and Aboriginal admixture, who make up a sizable percentage of Brazilian’s population.

It is a fact that Brazil has the largest black population outside of Nigeria, as half of the population of 190 million is obviously black. The fact is also that DNA tests have shown that even those who think they are pure white actually have Aboriginal and African blood. Institutional racism has ensured that few of obvious African heritage at at high levels of management and government. The light colour of Aboriginal also makes their mixture with the Europeans a method  of them  allying with the Europeans and ensuring the continual marginalization of those of African descent.

The win by Barack Obama in the USA Presidential Elections  has affected the politics in many countries, and this is also the case in Brazil as this article has shown. It would be interesting to see what President Lula of Brazil would be doing to change Brazil’s racially based political and economic system now that the world seems to be in a mood for change. It is unlikely that ther will be rapid changes made, however, Barack’ Obama victory and his politics of change will affect Brazil and many other countries in the world.

– Cyril Bryan – guest contributor


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