Against sagacious evil – Emicida and Machado de Assis

Image: Josh Hild
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By FABRÍCIO CESAR DE OLIVEIRA*

The “reverse racism” of Antônio Risério and the Folha de São Paulo

“Recognize seriously that evil was sagacious”, that's how, axemanically, the rapper from São Paulo Emicida releases a crucial verse in the middle of the beautiful and airy melody of the song “Paisagem” – from the album Yellow (2019). The electric guitar arpeggios, throughout the entire song, do not disguise the denunciation of social apathy in the face of structural racism – our most sagacious evil. How can one ignore such criticisms in the verses: “now how many trees decorate our raptors/in the surroundings everything already belongs to rodents//it's crazy how little it's worth, but pray, maybe it gets worse//don't be fooled, because nothing changes//in a silence that allows us to hear the clouds cross the sky // see that the monsters originate here // The newspapers say, calm down young man, everything is in peace”?

All this linguistic and artistic skill is typical of the rapper who gained notoriety in the rhyme battles in the peripheries and centers of the country, at the beginning of the XNUMXst century. Also typical of the fine and secular irony of the Witch of Cosme Velho, the black writer, in the middle of the XNUMXth century, Machado de Assis makes use of his “Snail Strategy” in the art of literature to show the rottenness of the aristocratic bourgeoisie of his time. This is how he survived and became a genius in a society marked by structural differences – see the short story “Father against Mother”, in which the innumerable symbolic and physical violence falls on a black woman and slave.

It is no exception, it is the norm in both Machado de Assis and Emicida to denounce the sagacious evil that structures us. It is not the first nor will it be the last time that Emicida – ironically – will use critical verses in contrast to a light melody to distill his verve against the system, as can be seen in the harmonious song “Passarinhos”, in a duet with Vanessa da Mata , 2015. There, although the song makes the birds “fly willingly”, the lyrics leave no gaps, as they insidiously denounce agribusiness, depression, the abusive use of pesticides, the water crisis, the performance society, the capitalocene – the next mass extinction on the planet. Have you heard and read the verses: “And give him antidepressants// the world turns in collapse// Babylon is gray and neon// cities are dead villages/ non-sense challenge/ competition in vain that nobody wins// when people see things, heads turn into steps // water is scarce, it's our turn // so that not even cockroaches remain // choose which poison kills you”?

In front of these verses, what I see is the obvious reality declared by a layer of art – a mirror of Perseus to face the monstrous reality, a human way of not being dehumanized and/or petrified. This is Emicida, this is how Machado de Assis was in the media of his time – occupying literature and newspapers. Without exception, both deal with the norm of denunciation. He just doesn't see who he doesn't want to, or who no longer hears, even though he has his full optical, auditory and reflective capabilities. It's even worse when it comes from someone with a respected place of speech in our society: you can't treat exceptions as a rule, anecdotes as science, isolated cases as the norm. However, sadly, this was the attitude of the Bahian anthropologist Antônio Risério, in an opinion article published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul, on January 15, 2022, entitled “Racism of blacks against whites gains strength with identityism”.

Antônio Risério is part of this article in Sheet, of evil sagacity. For me, the article can be imploded by its ending, when the author chooses the norm, from the exceptions he picks up during the article, to talk about an absurd generalization: “Is identity neo-racism an exception or a norm? Unfortunately, I think it's the norm.” Here, in this excerpt, he sets out his personal, anecdotal view and relies on it, as he said, only on the basis of exceptions. The norm, he thinks, are the exceptions he collects. And they are unscientific, absurd, delusional and serious. Widely serious in a society where racism is a political, social, legal, media and historical system.

Antônio Risério picks isolated cases – anecdotes – to try to denounce a supposed “reverse racism”. And so he denies what structures us, to rely on jokes about the lives of blacks and blacks who had contradictions in their trajectories, such as that of Abdias do Nascimento with a passage through the Integralist movement, or on mostly American examples. I say this because Risério's text is imbued with a colonized thought that sees the USA as its pillar of reference. There are eight examples of “anti-white racists” from the northern hemisphere, seven of them in the US and one in Canada. Isolated cases on the subway in Washington, speeches by teenagers in Brooklyn, gang fights in Michigan.

These are the examples that become the norm for Risério. Most coming from the USA; from a place where there was a bloody and open civil war and there are only 11% of the black population today. Anyone who studies a little History of the Americas, about Wars of Independence or Civil Wars will soon bump into the black extermination of the USA and what are the anthropological consequences of that. The other example comes from Canada, attributed to a “young Sudanese mulatto”. It is with these terms drawn from the sewers of the XNUMXth century that Risério cites an activist who is an exception among people worth hearing about.

She does not represent the struggle of black people. She does not represent me and many of mine, I can assure you. She does not represent Lélia Gonzalez, nor Sueli Carneiro, nor Angela Davis, nor Silvio Almeida and Thiago Amparo. The norm for these and these intellectuals today is the struggle for equal rights and non-violence, even if their trajectories present contradictions, the rule in their writings is anti-racism, because that is being anti-systemic. Their mission, and theirs, and therefore ours, is to confront “evil sagacity”, just as the arts of Emicida and Machado de Assis do this confrontation.

Risério is not satisfied and says: “Nobody needs to have power to be racist, and blacks already have instruments of power to institutionalize their racism.” And more, to make the prediction worse without showing proof, without proving with examples the absurdity of the paragraph: “The fact is that it is not possible to support the cliché that black racism does not exist because the “black community” does not have the power to exercise it. it institutionally. Even if the thesis were correct, which is far from being the case, there are already means for the exercise of black racism.” Risério is the cliché of the sick white man.

No, Antonio Risério! Nobody needs to have power to be racist, but when the system is structurally and historically racist, the instruments of power privilege certain groups, making Emicida's verses vertically true: “There is white skin and target skin”. And we don't need here – me, you and the readers – to point out who is who among targets and “targets”. The obvious screams in tearing and fatal pain every 23 minutes in Brazil. This is not the exception, it is the cowardly rule, it is the sad norm.

No, Antonio Risério! There is racism in Brazil and, worse, there are some blacks who have not yet freed themselves from the oppression of the system and who end up reproducing structural, structuring and systemic violence; how there are sexist women who haven't freed themselves yet - because that's how patriarchy still persists. But these cases are few, ever smaller, rarer, very few among a crowd of blacks and women.

For example, Sérgio Camargo is not the rule, he is the exception. Our ruler walks on another level. Read more Machado de Assis and listen to Emicida can help us all to understand that exceptions are not the norm, but can, with them in the saddle of our days, guide us to other lyrics, other verses, other opinion articles with more honesty intellectual. Just to say at the end, that if “evil is sagacious”, we are, by resistance, more.

We must seriously recognize that evil is cunning. Days before, Tiago Leifert, son of Globo, took a disconcerting turn with the masterful text of the black actor Ícaro Silva and his talent that makes the difference. The newspaper Folha de S. Paul also months before, it had already lost the black intellectual Sueli Carneiro from its editorial board. Now, it is worth remembering that Antônio Risério's article in Folha de S. Paul inaugurates a year in which “The quota law” will be re-discussed in the legal and governmental spheres. The year 2022 has only just begun, but soon we will see who is smarter today. Our resistance or the set of anecdotes of some white men?

We and our ancestors take seriously the fact that evil has so far been cunning. But our resistance is more.

* Fabricio Cesar de Oliveira, professor and poet, holds a PhD in Linguistics and Philosophy of Language from the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).

 

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