Contrary to statistics – genocide, black youth and political participation

Image: Dalton Paula


Foreword to the recently released book by Paulo César Ramos

The book, which reaches an audience beyond university students and academics, is the result of master's research that followed, from the creation of the Unified Black Movement in 1978, the social violence exercised by Brazilian institutions against youth. The work, by distinguishing adolescence – the individual as a psychic being – from youth – the reading of the collective experience of a segment and/or group –, has the merit of unfreezing the current conception of youth by expanding it to youth.

Black youth appears, therefore, as a subject in its articulation with more general social processes and as a result of social relations produced throughout history mediated by the individual and collective experience of a racialized group in a racially structured society in dominance.

Thus, when considering the very mismatch of the Brazilian discussion that emphasized the existence of youth in the singular, when very much framed by social origin in terms of class, the text, on the one hand, challenges homogeneity and, on the other hand, demonstrates that that mismatch encouraged young black men/black women themselves to find ways to channel their claims and demands in a society that refuses to recognize both their existence as a group and their specific demands, especially that denounced internationally, first, by Abdias Nascimento in Brazil in the crosshairs of Pan-Africanism "against the genocide of the black population (1978)

Florestan Fernandes, in emphasizing Nascimento's contribution, observes that among other contributions in the book is one that uses “without restrictions the concept of genocide applied to Brazilian blacks. It is a terrible and shocking word for conservative hypocrisy.” And, at the same time, he asks himself: “Does what has been done and continues to be done with blacks and their descendants deserve another description?”

The answer is no. In particular, when analyzed in the light of two definitions of genocide, either as, “the use of deliberate and systematic measures (such as death, bodily and mental injury, unsatisfactory living conditions, birth prevention), calculated for the extermination of a racial group , political or cultural, or to destroy the language, religion or culture of a group” (WEBSTER's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language). Or even as the “refusal of the right of existence to entire human groups, through the extermination of their individuals, disintegration of their political, social, cultural, linguistic institutions and their national and religious feelings” (teacher's school dictionary).

Paulo Ramos' book is included among those who seek to give visibility to the problem of a true genocide that crosses the social and political history of the country and gains visibility in its urban and industrial formation that, although denounced by intellectuals and activists, persists and expands .

It is, therefore, in the constitution of black youth as a subject of political struggle that Ramos, somewhat optimistically, sees the possibility of contradicting the statistics on the growing number of deaths of young black people abandoned to their own fate in the urban peripheries and in different corners. from the country.

Such protagonism is covered, first, by the struggle for their own physical and psychological survival, second, by the awareness of an existence crossed by prejudices, discrimination and denial of access to public policies that refuse to recognize the specificity of their cultural practices – criminalizing them with ostensive and lethal police repression – and, at the same time, are concrete proof of a strategic segmentation in terms of the right to have rights, transforming them into a “social problem” trying to instill in their perspectives, horizons and drives for life that matter nothing or little to the constituted public powers.

Protagonism is also articulated with resistance itself in terms of the perception that there is no way out of the political struggle. Hence the noteworthy importance of Ramos' book: by accompanying the construction of an agenda of political struggle by young black men/black women themselves through direct participation in events, and in the elaborations that resulted from them, such as, for example, the Youth Plan Viva (from 2012 to 2013), the Working Group Black Youth and Public Policies of the National Youth Council (from 2008 to 2010) and the National Meetings of Black Youth (between 2005 and 2008). The articulations between the young academic and the militant result in a work in which the intersection between knowledge acquisition and generative political agency can make it possible for others to have contact with a theme that is directly related to the possibilities of transforming the country into a democracy.

We cannot forget that the dissertation that gave rise to the book was defended in 2014. “Optimism” is, therefore, justifiable when we consider that all the initiatives of the period were based on an environment of extreme ebullition and updating of political agendas in a perspective towards the construction of democracy with an emphasis on the participation of organized civil society never before experienced in the different phases outlined by the sociological and political literature in the country.

In this way, another merit of the book is that it is an instant portrait, therefore, a document of a field of possibilities that was opening up and, in its opening, the political subject black youth gained visibility and materiality. A time that in terms of duration was very short. Perhaps we can think that its interruption has a direct relationship with the few achievements of black youth itself. Read in this light, this book is also a manifesto that can stimulate the construction of new paths and/or routes through which the democratization process, so abruptly and violently interrupted, will be resumed. Remembering, similarly, the continuous premature interruption of thousands of black lives as a result of our everyday racism.

* Valter Silvério He is a professor at the Department of Sociology at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).



Paulo Cesar Ramos. Contrary to statistics: genocide, black youth and political participation. São Paulo, Alameda, 2021, 324 pages.


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