Was slavery ever a legal practice?

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By RICARDO MANOEL DE OLIVEIRA MORAIS*

With high authorities defending the non-existence of racism, reviewing our history is imperative

Every year we remember a milestone in which the supposed abolition of slavery by Law 3.353 of May 13, 1888, known as Lei Áurea. I make it clear that I will not speak of the movements that preceded it or of all those who sacrificed themselves so that slavery had an “end”. What I would like to do is reflect on the “legality” of slavery between 1822 and 1888. Faced with such setbacks, with high authorities defending the non-existence of racism in Brazil, playing with issues such as “racial whitening” and naturalizing work childhood, reviewing our history is an imperative that arises.

First, however, I find it interesting to look at our Deputy Prince. Several months ago he gave a speech in the Chamber of Deputies stressing, thanks to an ironically republican parliamentary immunity (immunity linked to freedom of speech), that slavery is part of human nature. I do not intend to discuss human nature. I believe this is a matter for Princes. I would just like to point out the cynicism of someone who was a member of the NOVO Party (of course, nothing newer than monarchism) between 2015 and 2018 and who is willing to be a monarchist congressman in a Republic (at least that's what they say). Coincidence? I don't think so.

In the context of Brazil's independence, the British imposed the abolition of slavery as a condition for the recognition of the Portuguese colony as an independent country. Soon, the Projeto de Brasil (it was still not written with a Z – it contains irony) assumed the commitment that it would only become Brazil if there were no slavery. In other words, the Projeto de Brasil signed a treaty more than 60 years before the Lei Áurea with the economic and military power of the XNUMXth century saying that there would be no slavery in Brazil.

Moreover, in the Constitution of 1824 there is no mention of slavery. On the contrary, it makes it clear that everyone is equal and makes no distinction of color or race (I suggest reading its article 179). Hence we understand not only where the cynicism of our Deputy Prince Prince in the republic and defender of a “new policy” came from, but also why BraZil did not let the Project of Brazil succeed. And the question that arises is the doubt I always had: if slavery in Brazil was never allowed, how could a law prohibit it?

I couldn't answer that question. Not without the cynicism of our Deputy Prince (or would it be Prince Deputy?) or our “sensible” vice-Bolsonarista. I think it's like an Anti-Crime Project. If crime is prohibited, why an anti-crime project? So I ask once again: if slavery was never allowed, how could it be prohibited? Questions of the highest inquiry.

We could, here, say that crime was not prohibited for State agents during the Regime of Military Exception. We could also remember the crimes committed by a former Brazilian judge, protagonist of the project that prohibits crimes (see article 10 of the Telephone Interception Law. But, as they say, the principle of non-retroactivity). We could also remember the praise that Mr. Sensato did to a recognized torturer. All this says a lot about a law that prohibits what was never allowed.

With that said, it is with some cynicism that I say that, in our country, slavery was never legalized. On the contrary, we have lived through decades of deliberate trafficking in people who were waiting for a minimum of recognition of rights (just clarifying that I am not talking about the present day). It just goes to show how brutal and negationist It is the Brazilian state. For the English (hence the expression “for the English to see”), there has never been slavery in Brazil, just as for the Government, there has never been a pandemic or racism.

*Ricardo Manoel de Oliveira Morais He holds a PhD in Political Law from UFMG.

 

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