The past lasts a long time

Image: Jessica Lewis


Deaths at supermarket doors, police approaches, operations in favelas, selective inspection of young people on the outskirts of “nice” beaches highlight the renewed racism against black people in Brazilian society

Em Enmity Policies, Achille Mbembe predicts: “Fearless and gallant racism will henceforth be our outfit and, because of it, the silent rebellion against society will become increasingly open and vehement”. Deaths at supermarket doors, police approaches, operations in favelas, selective inspection of young people on the outskirts of “nice” beaches highlight the renewed racism against black people in Brazilian society. The title of the text, on the screen, is a reverse paraphrase of Louis Althusser's autobiography, The future lasts a long time.

The sardine can

The extinction of the Ministry of Racial Equality (MIR) by the government of coup leader Michel Temer, confirmed in the neo-fascist misgovernment of Jair Bolsonaro, testifies to the onslaught of supremacism in institutions and in everyday life, in a reckless and cruel way. The corporate media reduces the creation of ministerial portfolios to negotiations between elected officials and political parties, in the search for a parliamentary basis – Eureka! The pejorative connotation against politics accompanies the news about barter, labeled as mercantilist and immoral. To remember the tale The secret weapons, by Julio Cortázar: “It’s curious that they think that opening a can of sardines is like opening the same can of sardines to infinity.” The hood fits the loquacious National Journal.

The procedure is placed under suspicion and criminalized to embarrass political actors and, in particular, left-wing groups. In addition to ignoring the symbolic prominence of the Ministry of Racial Equality and the diseducational effects on social relations caused by its cancellation, in a nation with 350 years of slavery tradition, the media is ignorant with provincial arrogance of the functioning of real democracy in democratic states, in world. His oblique and dissimulated gaze confuses heaven and earth in the blurred mirror of the forged Lava Jatist populism.

The media see the reduction in the number of ministries as a virtuous feat to honor the “fiscal adjustments”. From the perspective of a “minimum State”, the intention to invest in public equipment means expensive and ineffective expenditure, by definition. The evaluation does not follow any socio-political criteria, but accounting ones. It doesn't matter if it takes crucial issues for legitimate governance off the agenda, such as anti-racism.

With the elimination of the official organization chart of the State of exception, requests for help are left to the “Police Stations to Combat Intolerance”, which encompass, in addition to racism, crimes of religious prejudice and against people with disabilities or trans visibility. The service centers for constitutional guarantees support activism condensed on International Down Syndrome Day (21/03), on the International Day to Combat LGBTphobia (17/05), on International Gay Pride Day (28/06) and, recently, on National Zombie and Black Consciousness Day (20/11). Under the conservative bias, not even an “ecumenical” police station should exist so as not to inspire new egalitarian and emancipatory demands. Fashion catches on.

Hate as politics

The governor of São Paulo refuses to equip the military police with body cameras to curb the violence of agents, under the pretext that the cost would be expensive for state revenues – he is not the only one to quibble. He acts to contemplate the vision of white and racist “elites”, by comforting the illusions of extremism for whom colonialism (racism, sexism) makes up the nature of Brazilianness. Between the lines, we read that the fate of black people and women does not concern the State despite the fact that police lethality has skyrocketed, with the Bolsonaro leader.

The São Paulo governor's position contradicts the opinion of experts and statistical surveys. It is part of the context of necropolitics. Death is in script of civil servants who work at the end of the “social contract” (life, security, property). Its militarized function conditions the habitus of color aporophobia. Fear-mongering works to keep communities in check. It celebrates the brutality towards human rights and the toxic affects of neo-fascism, to justify the narrative about the “dangerous classes”. Body cameras would qualify police reports and improve the corporation's image by gathering data that, when analyzed, would help in the programming of a comprehensive, integrative and non-discriminatory policy.

“The endemic victims of urban violence are young black and poor people from the outskirts, as well as women. Black genocide, feminicide and ethnocide are the hallmarks of a warlike society, even if it is cunning enough to declare itself respectful of differences and racially democratic. For decades, public security management has invested in the militarization of life and the strategy of war. The more violent the State is, the more the social situation presents itself as one of crisis caused by crime and the more investment in extralegal actions is authorized” (at the limit, the militias), emphasizes Edson Teles, in the article “The production of the enemy and the insistence of violent and exceptional Brazil”, in Hate as politics, book edited by Esther Solano.

In Juiz de Fora (MG), the administration of Mayor Margarida Salomão plans an important experience for the PT (Workers' Party). According to the Secretary of Urban Security and Citizenship, Letícia Delgado, lawyer, with a doctorate on the role of the municipality in public security: “Police violence is perverse, it tears the State apart with institutional violence. The premises for intervention include social agreement, citizen security, compliance with municipal duties and the construction and strengthening of the identity of the municipal guard” (Perseus Abramo Foundation, 11/12/2023). Academic research helps transparent, civil administrative praxis. Hence the connected agenda on “integrated public security”. History extends its hand to everyday life, when it integrates actions.

The dehumanization

As long as the discriminators and the discriminated do not achieve mutual recognition, there is no chance of achieving reconciliation. The extermination of indigenous people and the slave trade following the arrival of Europeans on the island of Guanahani (1492, Bahamas) and Porto Seguro (1500, Bahia) left consequences. Contempt for those sacrificed, objectively and subjectively, is reproduced by the rationality of neoliberal capitalism. Without ceremony, the excluded see the eclipse of their violated “right to have rights” in the production circuit. Claude Lefort's definition, in the democratic invention, that democracy is “a cumulative process of civilizing values” tears apart the grammar of command and obedience of the old colonialism, reiterated in neoliberalism.

If there ever was a unicolor world, it will never happen again. The destiny of humanity lies in pluralism. “One of the consequences of this new condition is the reactivation, for many, of the fantasy of annihilation”, warns Achille Mbembe. The fantasy is shared by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK, in its acronym), the terrorist organization known for persecuting and killing black people and – little commented on – Jews in the United States.

The eugenicist daydream is renewed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with eternal bombings of the Gaza Strip. South Africa formally accuses Israel of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Brazil condemns exterminating practices. The morality of the Global South criticizes crimes that evoke the Cholula Massacre (1519) in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, by Hernán Cortés.

For the Cameroonian thinker, the annihilating conception of racialist policies underlies metaphysics itself. By placing the West in the place of “Being” and, metaphorically, lowering what is below to the level of a simple “being”, Heidegger makes the universal gain the status of the colonizer. His behavior sets in motion Eurocentric ideals in the measurement of beings and things. Ontohistory forgives colonialist infamy. The destruction of the planet and humanity is interpreted in the light of purification by fire, with the rebirth of Aryan desire.

In primitive groups, anthropophagy involves eating the flesh of enemies fallen in battle, to internalize their courage. Today, enemies are stigmatized and dehumanized as if there was nothing admirable and worthy in the otherness that summons us. Disfigurement and invisibilization are inseparable from the contemporary logic of hate. The racialist paroxysm is repeated in Porto Alegre where, uncomfortable with the crowd of motorcycle couriers waiting for service in front of his building, in a middle-class neighborhood, a white man attacked the black delivery man with a knife. The Military Police were called and arrested the victim instead of the attacker (ops).

Brazil and Africa

“The idea of ​​the barbarian black is a European invention”, says Aimé Césaire, in Discourse on colonialism, originally released in France in 1950 and becoming the bible of anti-colonialists. This manifesto, cited by Frantz Fanon, was the source of inspiration for the Black Panther movement. In Brazil, we now live in a “State in motion” led by President Lula, who refounded the Ministry of Racial Equality in January 2023.

The agreements in the strategic areas of education, culture and memory recently signed by Minister Anielle Franco at the 37th Meeting of the African Union, in Ethiopia, enrich the soul of the nation and reinforce the implementation of Law 10.639, which deals with the teaching of African history and culture and Afro-Brazilians. There is no future without the past. The country's present incubates both – time for dialectics.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.

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