The black right in Brazil

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By MATHEUS FELIPE GOMES DIAS*

Studying the black right helps to take a non-essentialist look at black people, considering the contradictions, relationships and processes that constitute these individuals

Recently, Petrônio Domingues, an important historian of black movements, gave an interview to the newspaper Alma Preta, in which the headline invites the reader to reflect. The headline read: “There is a taboo on debating right-wing blacks“. During the interview, Petrônio Domingues turns to some controversies, and I say that these are controversial, since a portion of racial studies tends to ignore them or take them secondary in the context of theoretical production.

Focusing on the central controversy of the text, I would certainly say that I agree with Petrônio Domingues, but what is necessarily important is to present the arguments that make up the agreement. Since I turned to racial studies, I began to notice such resistance in analyzing, researching and developing arguments that allow us to characterize the “right-wing black”, or more specifically, the “black right”.

This process is related, in my view, to a perspective that understands black people as a monolithic and homogeneous bloc, based on a perspective that understands the vicissitudes of racism and without individual agency or other social, economic, educational or cultural influences. This perspective ends up coming across figures such as, for example, Fernando Holliday and entering into a real short circuit, as they understand that individuals who start from the same loci society will develop the same discursive consciousness.

This understanding, coming from the “place of speech”, ends up presenting a limitation when observing such figures. Another example, also mentioned by Petrônio Domingues in the context of his interview, is the former president of the Palmares Foundation, the Bolsonarist activist Sergio Camargo. When considering some elements of Sergio Camargo's social construction, it is possible to highlight his family's relationship with the anti-racist struggle in Brazil, specifically his father, Oswaldo de Camargo.

Oswaldo de Camargo is an important black activist, intellectual and writer. The most traditionalists, observing the trajectory of Oswaldo de Camargo, would not be able to explain the contradictions and nuances that surround Sergio Camargo's “rightism”. At the same time, it is relevant to mention the interview given by Oswaldo de Camargo, in which the activist, reflecting on his son's actions and political-ideological discourse, says that “This is not Sergio's perspective, it's not just his. I myself, throughout my life, have met people who think the same way as he does.".

In the set of these observations, two aspects must be considered. The first is related to a perspective that understands black people as a homogeneous bloc, without contradictions, influences and constructions of their own. These perspectives, as highlighted previously, understand black people as perceivers of racism and the influence of the culture of whiteness, as an innate and discursive consciousness. However, there are countless examples that call this perspective into question, as is the case of the fight for racial recognition that motivated the growth in the percentage of self-declaration.

Furthermore, within this perspective, there is what I call the opacity of racial studies, which starts to ignore, to a certain extent, the contradictions, relationships and dynamics that permeate black individuals and social groups. Domingues draws attention to this fact, considering, for example, the influence of Pentecostal churches in marginalized communities or in favelas, which are mostly occupied by black people.

Another aspect of this process consists of the transformation of capitalism, whether through the ideology of entrepreneurship, as observed by Petrônio Domingues, or in the transformation of capitalism that began to develop mechanisms for the integration of black people, as I also defended in “Limes e Contornos do Lugar de Fala ”.[1] However, without a doubt, the most relevant work in this process is the work of Pablo Polese,[2] which presents a set of data that demonstrate how the transformations of capitalism required greater racial diversity and developed a perspective centered on the individual and individual effort to the detriment of the collective.

The hegemonic and, in some way, essentialist perspective of the black movement ends up ignoring or putting such contradictions in the background. By not considering these variables, certain fields end up understanding black people as men or women, aware of the contradictions of racism and, for the most part, poor and lacking higher education and, even more so, aligned to the left. When focusing on the black population, these scholars end up finding this group, but are unable to account for other elements that make up racial relations in Brazil.

Secondly, there is a refusal or denial of the existence of these groups. Since the moment I began to dedicate myself to studying the Frente Negra Brasileira (FNB), I have observed a certain academic refusal to classify the organization as right-wing. Here, I don't even mention, for example, the approaches to Nazi fascism, through letters, newspaper articles or speeches. Petrônio Domingues is one of the few authors to understand not only the alignment of the Brazilian Black Front to the right, but also its organizational potential.

Studies on the Brazilian Black Front have grown significantly in recent years, especially due to the production of Petrônio Domingues, but there is a certain strangeness, especially in some wings of the black movement, in exposing this process. This reverberated and continues to reverberate, before and still today, in difficulties in understanding the existence of a black right and all its constituent elements. This difficulty is expressed, mainly, in a perspective that cannot explain this phenomenon or denies it completely.

In time, it is important to consider that, by predicting the existence of a black right, we begin to understand black people as a social being crossed by the same contradictions that permeate other social groups. Furthermore, it can be seen that this process contributes to an observation that aims to understand broader dynamics of the ideology of whiteness.

By studying the black right, for better or for worse, it can contribute to a deeper understanding of racial studies, developing a non-essentialist view of black people, considering the contradictions, relationships and processes that constitute these individuals. To paraphrase Octavio Ianni, it is important to understand the mentality of right-wing black people.[3]

Thus, by denouncing these difficulties, Petrônio Domingues makes it possible to expose the controversy and open doors so that black intellectuals and academics can put this debate on the table and establish a deeper analysis of these contradictions and phenomena.

*Matheus Felipe Gomes Dias is a master's student in sociology at the University of Brasília (UnB).

Notes


[1]DIAS, Matheus. Limits and contours of the Place of Speech. Course Completion Work (Graduation in Social Sciences) – Faculty of Social Sciences, Federal University of Goiás, Goiânia, 2022.

[2] POLESE, Pablo. Sexism, racism, identity capitalism: companies' strategies for gender, race and sexuality issues. São Paulo: Hedra, 2020.

[3] IANNI, Octavio. The mentality of the simple man. In: IANNI, Octavio. Sociology and society in Brazil. São Paulo: Alfa-Omega, 1975.


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