They painted Marighella black!

Image: Wojtek Pacześ


Identitarianism and the manipulation of history and consciences

I have followed the political-ideological excesses of the racialism in Brazil. At first shy, then more confident, today on free rein. Therefore, I expected everything and a little more from this ideological-conservative strand. But reality always surpasses imagination. They took my breath away when they painted Marighella black, when he was portrayed in the recent homonymous film, by Wagner Moura, by a black actor, Seu Jorge. And they quelled the discussion about this abnormity by proposing that Marighella was not white, silencing that he was not black either.

It is common knowledge that the Bahian revolutionary was mulatto, the son of an Italian father and a mother of African descent. And the son was proud of both origins: “I come from Italian. My father was a factory worker, born in Ferrara. He arrived as an immigrant in São Paulo and moved to Bahia. My ancestry on my mother's line comes from Hausa blacks (…).” (Brasil de Fato, SP, 4/11/2018.) Film forgery was met with timid protests, signaling the current sad times that our left is experiencing.               

Only a white father was removed from the family portrait, in order to propose a non-existent full blackness of the historical character biographed cinematographically. For ideological reasons, a father who, due to his social, political and national origin, helps to understand the vision of the world embraced by the revolutionary combatant, was extinguished. A father who had, he and his family, in the case of Marighella, a strongly marked influence.

With identity sleight of hand, Carlos Marighella lost the links he established, through his father, with the historic struggles of workers in the city and countryside of the rebellious Ferrara, in Roman Emilia, the heart of Red Italy, the scene of very hard battles for rural and urban workers. . We will never know Marighella's opinion on this operation. He would possibly send fanculus the racialists responsible for the cancellation of his dad August!

Racist view of the world

The obliteration of the Italian father and the construction of an arbitrary full Afro-descendant identity supported and expressed, on the big screen, the ongoing racialist operation in Brazil.  Mutatis mutandis, it is a question of refuting the insane principles of the Iberian Inquisition, German Nazism, American supremacism. Everyone proposed that just “a drop” of Jewish, Gypsy, African blood canceled the quality of other ancestries. The dirty blood individual could not be noble, be a priest, choose who to marry and could end up at the stake or be lynched.

In the present case, the rich political-ideological ancestry that came to Marighella through her father is incinerated, in the general service of conservative ideological abstraction, the bichromatic racial division of Brazil, into blacks, exploited, and whites, exploiters. It was, therefore, an unavoidable operation since, for the racialist view, Augusto Marighella, for being white, would necessarily be an exploiter or, at the very least, privileged by racism!

The arbitrary racialist metamorphosis that, on the fringe of eggs, transformed Marighella into a black man, fatherless, the son of only an Afro-descendant woman, creeps through the entire film, giving him an identity profile, dropped from the enlightened heads of the screenwriters. The aberrations in the script are not “artistic licenses”, freedom of the author — in this case, the director — director when artistically treating a historical theme to better express its essence.

The film Lamarca, 1994, by Sérgio Rezende, based on the book Lamarca, the captain of the guerrillas, with the masterful performance not only of Paulo Betti, it is a magnificent example of the eventual use of artistic license to record the tension of the successes covered. (EMILIANO & OLDACK, 2015.) Like prison memories, film also unavoidable, from ten years earlier, directed by Nélson Pereira dos Santos, with a magnificent Carlos Vereza in the role of prisoner Graciliano Ramos, based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by our greatest writer. (RAMOS, 2008). Both films were produced during the offensive of the world of work that preceded and preceded the end of the Military Dictatorship (1964-1985).

If Marighella entered as a mere allegory, in a film without concern for historical facts, little interest would be aroused, due to its scarce artistic quality. But it's not the case. Like the classics by Sérgio Rezende and Pereira dos Santos, the film also proposes to artistically address reference successes from the Brazilian past, in this case, the foundation of Ação Libertadora Nacional and the last days of Marighell. (CAMACHO, 2018). And that is where the interest arises, mainly from the public born especially after the death of the top leader of that militarist group, on November 4, 1969, 52 years ago.

The lack of commitment to the essence of the successes, by not only plastically suggesting Marighella as an almost Brazilian Malcolm X, and the ALN action as a bang bang from the left, makes the historical moment approached semi-unintelligible, the world view of the Bahian and his organization. This ideological-conservative bias miseducates and does not raise awareness.

In order to discuss the meaning of this operation, we will leave a more circumstantial analysis of the film for another opportunity and we will approach the political-ideological meaning of black identity, the substrate of this filmic operation.

The racialization of Brazil

Conservative historiography has defined the so-called three races that form Brazilian nationality: Lusitanians, Africans, natives, and Gilberto Freyre proposed its essential qualities. The Portuguese were born to command but were not very resistant to manual labor in the Tropics. The natives, warriors and nomads, would be useless for the productive effort. “The hoe never took hold in the Indian's hand [...]” (FREYRE, 2003, p. 160.). Africans were narrow-minded but good for the hoe. The effort, poorly distributed, of the three races would have acclimatized Western culture in the New World, according to the brilliant and cabotino sociologist.

Since the beginnings of colonization, for economic, social and demographic reasons, Brazil experienced enormous miscegenation, unusual in much of slave-owning America. It gave rise to a multiplicity of terms trying to apprehend and classify individuals somatically, at a time when photography did not exist: light black, dark black, light mulatto, dark mulatto, brown, moreno, cafuzo, goat, caboclo, caribuca, mestizo, mameluco, sarará , zambo, tapuio, caburé, turkish, marranos and so on.

In newspaper advertisements for escaped captives, those designations were used, followed by other distinctive features: height, speech, signs of punishment, etc. (GOMES, 1996). At the time of sale, the precise declaration of color and other characteristics was not universal, as the ability to work was of particular interest. During the war against the Republic of Paraguay (1864-1870), in the lists of numerous deserters, color was also a distinctive element, now entering the descriptions especially the Germans from the colonial regions of Rio Grande do Sul! The white-black bichromatic divide has never been functional for objective and ideological purposes.

Brazil's huge mixed-race population gained even greater complexity from the mid-19th century onwards and especially after Abolition, in 1888, when the arrival of the Swiss accelerated; assorted Germans; Italians, with emphasis on the Venetians; Galicians and other Spaniards; Poles; Jews; middle-eastern communities called Turks and Lebanese; Japanese; in recent decades, Chinese from Taiwan and the mainland; Bolivians, Colombians, Venezuelans, Haitians, Cape Verdeans, Angolans, Senegalese, Nigerians, etc. An immigration that was unevenly distributed throughout Brazil.


The IBGE intends to apprehend this enormous variety of “color” of the population through the self-classification of the interviewees in only five alternatives: white, black, brown, indigenous or yellow, with an enormous inaccuracy of the obtained data, not only due to the diverse social valuation of colors. In Brazil, an “indigenous person” is above all someone who lives in native communities, reserves, etc. A huge population of native origin, mainly from Pará, Amazonas, etc., with little or no miscegenation, is defined as white and brown. Individuals considered as pardos declare themselves white. Blacks propose themselves as pardos.

The distribution of communities of varied ethnic origins in Brazil is enormous, where diverse social views on colors govern. What is brown and verging on black in certain regions of the southern states, can and is commonly perceived as white in Bahia and other regions of Brazil. O status An individual's social status strongly determines the community's assessment of his or her color. A light or rich brown mulatto is perceived as white, since wealth is commonly associated with the color white. However, being white is not a sufficient condition for status social high.

In 2019, the IBGE synthesized the amalgam that provided the enormous epidermal complexity of the country. It proposed, through self-definition, that 42,7% of the national population would be white, 46,8% brown, 9,4% black and 1,1% yellow and indigenous. In this rustic simplification, the underreporting of the population's self-definition as yellow and indigenous stands out. In Santa Catarina, whites would be 88,1%; browns 9%, blacks 2,7% and indigenous people 0,2%. Bahia, with a population of 63,4% brown, 20,3% white and 17,7% black, would have only 0,6% yellow and 0,6% indigenous. Bahia is the state in the federation with the highest proportion of blacks, heavily concentrated in Salvador. (IBGE, 2017.)

sum refereearia

Despite demographic surveys proposing, in an approximate and rough way, that the Brazilian population, as a whole, is made up mostly of pardos (46,8%), followed by whites (42,7%) and, finally, blacks (9,4 .54%), the ideologues of identityism, began to define Brazil casuistically as having a majority black-black population, that is, XNUMX%! This strange operation took place by defining as pretos or pretos all those who self-qualified as pardos and pretos.

From multi-chromatic, Brazil passed, in an identity magic pass, to cleanly bi-chromatic! The arbitrary procedure was supported above all by PT administrations, by State institutions, notably the IBGE, by the mainstream press, by big capital and by US imperialism, the origin of these proposals. He received a standing ovation from a large part of the so-called Brazilian left, even if it was organized, which avoided reflection on the operation and its meaning, not infrequently for opportunistic purposes.

The operation disrespects the population's self-definition, already constrained by the straitjacket of the IBGE's five options, followed by binary manipulation. And, if it is valid, in the next demographic sense only two alternatives should be presented: white and black. Or, even better, “all-white” and “not-all-white”! This, while genetic studies on ethnic groups in Brazil point to an enormous miscegenation that may not be registered in the somatic characteristics. (FAPERGS, 2000.)

The rustic statistical manipulation of the binary racial division is based on an allegedly progressive, but one-sided justification. And it hides, above all, the obscure political-ideological objectives that racialism-identitarianism pursues with its defense and apparent naturalization of a bichromatic Brazilian society, at the service of conservatism. The justification for adding pardos and pretos as pretos-negros is simplistic, arbitrary, and falsely axiomatic.

For the racialist interpretation, Brazil would always be dominated by totally white people, holders of wealth and power, who exploited non-whites in the past and continue to exploit in the present, making use of a racism that is now proposed to be “structural”. ”. That is, a structuring element —permanent and not episodic, dominant and not subordinate— of social organization and oppression. (MAESTRI, 2021. A) The white world would have used racism in the past for a super-exploitation of blacks and browns and today would use it to prevent the social progression of these communities, maintaining the white monopoly of power and wealth. (MAESTRI, 2021.B)

Goals of forgery

It is proposed, as another founding truth, that all non-completely-white communities would be victims of the same white ethnic-economic discrimination. Therefore, they should assume themselves as a single ethnic block: the Brazilian black-black community. As a matter of fact, the arbitrary compaction —black+brown+not entirely white— should be around the majority term “pardo”. The proposal for Brazilian bi-chromatism does not arise from social reality, but from a discretionary and conservative theoretical construction, of southernmost clear falsehood.

In Brazil, power and wealth have always been in the hands of the holders of the great means of production, national and foreign. In general, until recently, they were mostly monopolized by Euro-descendants, pure and, commonly, less pure. Since the Colony and the Empire, there has been a minority of Afro-descendant slaveholders. And, in Brazil and elsewhere, the whites —or perceived as such— who were the owners of wealth never had any qualms about exploiting poor whites. (LUNA, 1981.) In the USA, in the Antilles, etc., white men and women were hired, or bought, for a long time of work, by white owners, being treated literally as slaves — indentured servants.

The first captains-general started exploring the grantees with the “small” Lusitanian population, brought from the Kingdom. The alternative failed because they were free men and preferred to live like caboclos than toil for a gourd of flour in the mills and gardens of the coast. They were no longer brought to the Colony due to the resistance of selling their workforce for miserable remuneration, being replaced by natives and later, African slaves. Sociologist José de Sousa Martins summarized this contradiction: “In a free land regime, work had to be captive; in a regime of free labor, the land had to be captive.” (MARTINS, 1998.) As much as identity holders are horrified, colonial slavery was born for economic and social reasons and not for ethnic-racial choices.

There are more exploited whites than blacks

Under the broad hegemony of African slavery, there has always been an exploited white and brown population, in the countryside and in the city, which grew over the course of the 19th century. (GORENDER, 2010.) In Brazil, today, quantitatively, there are more exploited whites than than blacks, even though, due to the smaller number of blacks compared to whites, they are proportionally more exploited. There are southern regions where Europeans and Euro-descendants supported and continue to support almost exclusively the burden of exploitation by capital. And, if we embrace the 54% proposal, there is already a significant portion of black-blacks among the exploiters — 17%, in 2014. (UOL.economia. 4.12.2015.) race and not class in Brazil, with “whites” exploiting “blacks” as a way of organizing exploitation in the past and present.

It is another fallacy that racism is homogeneously distributed among all non-white Brazilians. In fact, the agglutination of “blacks” and “browns” in a unitary category covers up the population segment that is really the object of racial discrimination. The proposed principle of “a drop of blood” never prevailed in Brazil. In the past, in Portugal, even in the wealthy classes, a Jewish, Moorish or African ancestor prevented the occupation of ecclesiastical and other positions, motivating genealogical research on ancestors. (MAESTRI, 2006.) In Colonial Brazil, so “dirty” was the blood of the dominant classes in new Jewish Christians that the Crown never allowed the “Court of the Holy Office” to “establish itself in Brazil”, acting “on the Portuguese-American colony through sporadic visits, that is, temporary and limited in nature”. (OLIVEIRA, 2008.) The Portuguese Crown was more interested in sugar taxes than in combating Judaism. Economic greed trumped racial prejudices.

On whom does racism weigh?

Racism weighs heavily in a deleterious way on the poorest population, directly proportional to the degree of African descent and low social insertion. Even though the deleterious action of racism is extensive and diluted, it is the blackest and most marginalized men and women who suffer most from the burden of racism. In states of Brazil, the dominant classes, the middle class, the intellectuals, etc. they are mostly brown, being treated as white by the so-called elites. Crowds of brown and light colored people occupied, in the past, and occupy, at present, prominent political posts.

Traditionally presented historical examples of pardos and mulattoes, above all, who achieved high distinction before and in the years following Abolition, are presidents Floriano Peixoto, Nilo Peçanha, the writer Machado de Assis. But there were thousands like them — senators, ministers, bankers, landlords, lawyers, composers, artists, etc. And, as members of the dominant classes, they were socially treated, in their times, as whites. Hamilton Mourão, of very strong native ancestry, is certainly seen by the population as white and never as indigenous and never as black!

In past elections, according to TSE data, of the more than 5.400 mayoral candidates elected in the first round, 1.700 declared themselves to be black or brown — 32,1%. Of the more than 57 elected councilors, 54% declared themselves white — the remaining 46% would be non-white. And the possible under-declaration of blacks and browns, who declared themselves white, would further increase this participation. It would not be long before a perfect correspondence between the coefficient of elected representatives and members of non-white communities, that is, pardos plus blacks.

Therefore, according to identity, we would have a huge number of black mayors and councilors in Brazil! We would be very far from the proposed white political hegemony! Mainly conservative brown and black mayors and councilors, unconcerned with subordinate classes, of all colors! However, the racialist proposal, embraced by the STF, IBGE, the mainstream media, etc. it buries the objective reality: the candidates who declared themselves black — and not brown— were just under 11%. And, possibly, they were not elected in the same proportion.

Who suffers from racism in Brazil?

It is an opportunistic operation to bring almost white pardos to men and women with strong African ancestry, who really suffer the harsh consequences of racism. And they suffer from racism, even when they belong to the rich middle classes and the bourgeoisie itself. As rich and conservative as he may be, Pelé, rich and prestigious, is not unaware of racial discrimination, certainly hushed up, even when he makes an effort to deny it.

It is political-ideological manipulation to propose that someone with three Euro-descendant grandparents and one Afro-descendant is black. Such a proposal not only denies, often in a rhetorical and ridiculous way, the community perception of color, but also arbitrarily obliterates family roots and the cultural load they commonly carry, as in the case of Marighella, by the way, registered as "white". (MAGALHÃES, 2012, p. 45.) They deny objective reality, building phantasmagorias of ideological roots.

The reasons for the arbitrary construction of a bi-chromatic Brazil are clear, with on one side the totally white, or opportunistically considered as such, and on the other, all the others, defined as black or black, no matter how white they are. This operation divides the country between white exploiters and black exploited, with the “structural” mechanism of oppression not class but race. Proposal that would horrify Marighella and Joaquim Câmara Ferreira, “Toledo”, since it was, when they were alive, defended by the ideologues of imperialism.

Improve the lives of some

The racial confrontation thesis, between exploiting whites and exploited blacks, abstracts from the issue of private ownership of the means of production, controlled by colorless capital, the great organizer of social exploitation and its reproduction. It abandons the proposal of structural transformation of society through the expropriation of big capital from its holders and its socialization in favor of the exploited and of society, by proposing relative improvements for factions of the black middle class, above all, in the context of capitalist order and exploitation . Racialism is capital's line of defense within the social movement.

Identitarianism liquidates the demand for general improvements, in the here and now, for the entire exploited population, in which the black community has an important role. Claim rejected by big capital, which strives to confiscate it, where it subsists. For these reasons, identityism is strongly supported, in the world and in Brazil, by large imperialist corporations, such as Nike, Adidas, Twitter, Netflix, Citigroup, GloboPlay, YouTube.

UBER undertook an anti-racist campaign without relieving its “partners” who were driven by the apps to endless workdays. Magazine Luiza proposed an exclusive selection of black employees without increasing salespeople, whites, browns and super-exploited blacks. Globo strongly embraces the “black entrepreneurship” program, presenting black bosses as the path to success — logically stepping on white and black workers.

Em Structural racism, successful racialist book, Sílvio Almeida is clear in this sense. He proposes changes in current capitalist institutions, attributing “social advantages to members of historically discriminated racial groups”. (we highlight). In the same sense, he defends “affirmative action policies” to “increase the representation of racial minorities”. (emphasis added) It proposes, therefore, as a program, to create and increase a black, political, social and economic elite, in the context of the permanence of capitalist order and exploitation. (MAESTRI, 2021. A)

Racialist politics, despite its verbal radicalism, exhausts itself in claiming policies of “positive discrimination”, for just a few lucky people: reservations in Universities, public tenders, parliament, etc. from some captive places. Measure that does not require any new investment from the capital government, which only redistributes investments already allocated — “quotas”. Without any advances with regard to the large black working and marginalized classes.

We also want to be explorers

In the political sphere, racialism and its bi-color division of Brazilian society require the need to statistically balance the representation of blacks in politics and in the State. What, paradoxically, as we have seen, according to the new vision of the black, which includes everything that is not completely white, is close to being realized, without having advanced socially one inch, to say the least. It is already proposed that, in Brazil in the 2030s, proportionality will be achieved between “white” and “not absolutely white” university students. Without, logically, the immense majority of the young black, white and brown Brazilian population having access to university, as is currently the case.

The objective of black identity is broader and more ambitious. It is organized to create separation of ethnic communities with their representatives, as largely promoted in the USA by imperialism, due to the alleged solidarity between exploited and exploiters of the same ethnic group. Policy that denies and fights the necessary horizontal solidarity of the world of work, between producers of all colors, against their real enemies — the holders of the great means of production.

In the racialist strategy of race confrontation, black collectives and individual black mandates already point to universities, unions, associations, clubs, and, who knows, someday, a black party. A more difficult step to be taken, since the large exploited black communities know, even if unconsciously, their real allies. A program already outlined by left-wing organizations that propose the election as a priority of blacks, feminists, LGBT, etc., without worrying about settling down roots and promoting classist leaderships, of all colors. In other words, they also turn their backs on the world of work, the only one capable of leading social progress and overcoming the historical impasse in which we find ourselves.

* Mario Maestri is a historian. Author, among other books, of Revolution and counter-revolution in Brazil: 1500-2019 (FCM Editora).

Thanks for reading the linguist Florence Carboni


CAMACHO, Carlos Eduardo M. To arms! The trajectory of the National Liberation Action (1968-1974). PERSEUS. History, memory and politics. CSBH Magazine. Perseu Abramo Foundation, 16, 2018. (Consulted on 4.07.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX.)

EMILIANO, José and OLDACK, Miranda. Lamarca, the captain of the guerrillas. 18th ed. Sao Paulo: Global, 2015.

FAPERGS, 2000. Genetic marks of miscegenation. Study evaluates indigenous, black and European heritage in white Brazilians. FAPERGS Survey, Edition 52. abr. 2000 (Consulted on 4.07.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX.)

FREYRE, Gilberto. Big House & Senzala: formation of the Brazilian family on [sic] the regime of the patriarchal economy. 47 ed. magazine. So Paulo: Global, 2003.

GOMES, Flavio dos Santos. Throwing the Net, Reviewing the Meshes: Escapes and Fugitives in Slave Brazil. TIME, UFF, 1996 (Consulted on 4.07.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX.)

GORENDER, Jacob. colonial slavery. 5 ed. São Paulo: Perseu Abramo, 2011.

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LUNA, Francisco Vidal. Minas Gerais: slaves and masters. an analysis of the population and economic structure of some mining centers (1718-1804). São Paulo, IPE/USP, 1981.

MAESTRI, Mario. Racism is not structural. THE EARTH IS ROUND, 07/04/2021. (A) (Consulted on 4.07.2021.)

MAESTRI, Mario. Abdias do Nascimento: quilombola or captain of the bush. Essays on Marxist Interpretation on Racialist Policy for Brazil 2nd ed. Porto Alegre: FCM Editora, 2021.

MAESTRI, Mario. Moors in Portugal: sad history, sad historiography. AGAINST REPORTS FROM EL SUR. Notes on Africa and the Middle East, Year II, no. 3. CEA-UNC, CLACSO, Córdoba, Argentina. Diciembre. (Consulted on 4.07.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX.)

MAGALHÃES, Mario. marighella: The guerrilla fighter who set the world on fire. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2012.

MARTINS, José de Sousa. The Captivity of the Earth. 7 ed. to Paulo: Hucitec, 1998.

OLIVEIRA, HRS de. The Court of the Holy Office: First Visit of the Court to the Parts of Brazil Bahia and Pernambuco (1591-1595). UFRN, 2008. // (Consulted on 4.07.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX.)

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UOL.economia. 4.12.2015. Blacks represent 54% of the country's population, but they are just...


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