Democracy doesn't mix with racism

Image: João Nitsche


In Brazil, racism proved to be immune to the pandemic and all displacements carried out in its fight

The phrase that gives title to this text is a kind of summary of the difficult year 2020. The covid-19 pandemic demanded a redefinition of sociability parameters, of hegemonic economic arrangements, whether in the sphere of production and capital, or in the sphere of consumer relations and the functioning of private and public institutions around the world. However, the changes and adjustments made were not able to redefine the patterns of racial violence, exclusion and genocide of indigenous and black people in Brazil.

Here, racism proved to be immune to the pandemic and all the displacements carried out in its fight. Of the policies to face covid-19, based on the conditions of the average white, urban, literate man, linked to work tasks that involve the maintenance of activities at home office and with guaranteed access to the sanitizing products necessary for the recommended hygiene as a primary measure for the prevention. In all the studies carried out so far, the preferred victims of the pandemic are counted among the most vulnerable layers, especially among blacks and indigenous people, contributing to the acceleration of the historic genocide that annually slaughters a portion of these racial groups on a scale of lethality comparable to that of wars of high destructive intensity.

In the sphere of public security, there was an increase in the abusive and lethal actions of the security forces in black communities, exacerbating scandalously unjustifiable deaths, such as that of dozens of black children throughout Brazil. Not even the correct decision of the STF disavowing the bloodthirsty incursions into the communities of Rio de Janeiro managed to stop this tragic script.

Also in the sphere of social relations, access to work and survival with a minimum of dignity, etc., we had a disproportionate affect on black segments across the country. Unemployment, loss of income, school exclusion, deprivation of basic services such as sanitation and even access to electricity, marked the disproportionate effects of the crisis installed by the pandemic.

Against this dynamic, the most expressive anti-racist mobilization of recent decades arose, driven on two levels. At the international level, as a reaction to the brutal murder of George Floyd, displayed in strong images that circulated around the world and set fire to hearts and minds with a commitment to justice and democracy. At the local level, the Black Movement put its finger on the wound and combined the complaint regarding the violations aggravated by the context of the pandemic, with the presentation of propositions and the mobilization of parts of the media and public opinion to recognize the urgency of the combat agenda to racism. Here, the reactions of the relatives of thousands of black people murdered in criminal interventions by the public security forces deserve paramount attention. Protests and denouncements courageously supported by mothers and fathers, brothers, relatives and neighbors of the brutalized people popped up throughout the national territory. On other fronts, community self-organization, public acts, militancy on social networks, demands from authorities, production of documents and complaints in forums, electoral mobilization of candidacies and anti-racist agendas, had repercussions against the denialism that conservative sectors and government representatives tried to revive, in recent period.

Among the many manifestations, we highlight two, due to the possibilities of developments for the next period. The first, the Manifesto Democracy does not combine with racism, produced by the Black Coalition for Rights, an articulation that has the participation of more than 170 organizations spread throughout the Brazilian territory. This is not a rhetorical piece, but a firm position addressed to public and private institutions demanding immediate recognition of the political urgency of the anti-racist agenda. The second materialized by winning quotas of 30% of black participation in the instances of the Brazilian Bar Association.

In addition to the importance of engaging the OAB in the anti-racist struggle and democratizing its structures and policies, serving as an example for other institutions, the strengthening of black advocacy can strengthen the consolidation of a support network for mobilizations against racism and develop a strong legal intervention. institutional, unprecedented in national history. This victory must be credited to a plural mobilization that continued a multigenerational agenda, begun in 1770 by Esperança Garcia, intensified in the XNUMXth century by Luiz Gama, resumed at the end of the last century by the National Network of Black and Anti-racist Lawyers, amplified by the expressive entry of black people into the ranks of law in the last decade. And, more recently, in a daring initiative by black jurists, at the III National Conference of Women Lawyers, in March of this year and, in the second half, by the Movement of Black and Black Jurists, which promoted the articulation of Black Advocacy, nationwide, in a clear process of organization, producing an irresistible conviction of the urgency of adopting affirmative policies of racial quotas and gender parity in the structures of the OAB, producing a collective victory that revives hopes and confirms the strength and power of black resistance in the country.

However, these victories should not be seen from a naive triumphalist perspective that belittles the grandeur of the challenges and the complexity of the tasks of confronting racism and genocide in Brazil. Especially because, in this context, co-option and integration maneuvers are also presented, reduced to a strategy of cosmetic modifications, production of social and expiatory marketing and distribution of crumbs to revive the demoralized and unsustainable myth of racial democracy, mitigating the transforming power of collective action and organized by the black Brazilian people.

*Samuel Life is a professor at the Faculty of Law at UFBA, a member of the Movement of Black and Black Jurists and founder of the Afro-Office of Institutional and Legal Articulation (AGANJU).


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