race and racism

Image: Jessica Lewis


Racist ideology arises when the existence of a hierarchy of races is called into question.

“The force that lives in the water does not distinguish color and the whole city is from Oxum” (Geronimo).

The imperialist phase of capitalism began around 1880. A great territorial expansion of the main imperialist liberal states occurred in the last quarter of the XNUMXth century, as well as a significant advance in science. Scientism became part of the ideology of the imperialist bourgeoisie, along with positivism, nationalism, colonialism. New branches of science emerged or consolidated, including Anthropology, whose primary objective was to study “races” and “primitive peoples”, legitimizing colonialism.

The existence of human races was not in question. Phenotypic diversity was the scientific proof. Racist ideology arises when the existence of a hierarchy of races is called into question, which regards northern Europeans as superior to all other peoples. Several proofs were sought for the existence of this white superiority and inferiority of peoples with darker skin and inhabitants of the tropics or the South of the world. Anatomy or cultural traits served as proof.

Until then, the submission of the Other was generally seen as the submission of the conquered, not the inferior. Modern slavery among African peoples also had this characteristic, but the Christian ideology lacked a legitimization of African slavery transplanted to America and this was found in biblical mythology, which would claim that Africans were descendants of the cursed son of Noah. Thus, the enslavement of Africans in America had a theological justification. The salvation of Africans would be in adhering to the ideology of the dominant.

Those enslaved in Africa were from different peoples, as were many of the original peoples of America. The natives, according to Christian law, could be reduced to servitude, but not to slavery. They would be peoples who only had the defect of not knowing the Gospel. As soon as there was no racism per se, there was no argument of inferior race, if not from the point of view of religion. Ethnocentrism or Eurocentrism is not racism.

When slavery was about to be abolished, the theory of races began to spread, the Brazilian oligarchy, particularly the São Paulo one, proclaimed the need to import the workforce. Once the theory of races was assimilated, racism spread. They didn't want former slaves and the natives should really be exterminated. The explanation for Brazil's backwardness was precisely the presence of people originally from the tropics. The solution would be to whiten the Brazilian people by importing poor workers from Europe.

When massive European emigration ceased, around the end of the 20s of the XNUMXth century, and Brazil entered the phase of the bourgeois revolution, the bourgeois ideology also changed. The need to build a national State and to move workers from the Northeast to the Southeast, in order to feed industrialization, gave rise to the appreciation of miscegenation, of the people formed by the “three races”, of “racial democracy”. Racial democracy simply meant the freedom of the three races to mix with each other, not that there was any kind of social democracy, because of democracy there was only fiction and even then, not always.

The proletariat that formed in the cities was formed basically by descendants of Africans and Europeans. The occupation of each group is identified with the origin. Descendants of enslaved people are part of lower-skilled professions or are forced to live close to criminality, which increases racism. Consolidated racism was that of the dominant classes, basically descendants of Europeans. Subaltern classes tend to accept the dominant ideology, but translate it into their own conditions of life and existence.

Racism then also appears as a contradiction within the people, but not in the form of State violence or explicit racism of the highest fraction of the petty bourgeoisie. Among the subordinate classes there is an appreciation of miscegenation, which produces beauty (the example of the mulata, samba, capoeira). The issue of women's submission does not fit in this space, even though it cannot be dissociated from racism.

Although under the control of the State and the ruling classes, a people/nation was under construction, with a social hierarchy that had rich whites at the top, blacks and extremely poor indigenous people at the bottom, mestizos and poor whites in the middle. Skin color tends to identify race and class, a relationship that preserves racism. How to overcome racism?

This ideology configured at the end of the XNUMXth century was based on what was considered science. Absorbed in Brazil, it adapted, as the origin is in imperialist and Protestant countries. The institutionalized racism of the United States, Nazi Germany (and other imported fascisms), South Africa, Israel never existed in Brazil.

The struggle between racial hierarchy and racial equality ended with the denial of the existence of races. Institutionalized racism in the form of apartheid only survives in Israel. A scientific/ideological battle went to another level with the discovery – thanks to DNA – that there are no human races. The 8 billion humans on the planet belong to the genus Homo, kind sapiens, with no subspecies (races).

Eight species are known Homo, which followed one another, which coexisted, which intersected. O Homo sapiens it is the product of hybridization and was the only one to survive (for now) probably because it is the most sociable and has the greatest capacity to learn. It is more interesting to say that phenotypic diversification occurs mainly as a result of diffusion across the planet, through adaptation to very different and constantly changing environments (the Pleistocene was a time of great climatic turbulence).

O Homo sapiens that remained in Africa also diversified, but kept the original dark skin. Those who followed close to the coast of Asia as well. Those who went to the North (colder regions, with less sun) tended to lose melamine. Height, hair, eyes also underwent adaptations. In the Holocene, cultural adaptations gained greater weight, but physical changes continued to happen. Result of all this: there are no human races, the Homo sapiens It is a very diverse species, as it has adapted to all regions of the Earth, created cultures, languages, and very varied ways of living and surviving.

If there is no point in talking about human races, because they don't exist, pseudo scientific justifications for racism lose any argument. Perhaps the fight against racism as a common sense of certain social strata can pass through science, through the demonstration that there are no human races, that the Homo sapiens formed and survived on account of the marked sociability and ability to mix with others Homo, to stay together and mix. O Homo sapiens it emerged in Africa, spread throughout the world, diversified and humans from all over the planet came to meet again in Brazil with their colors of body and spirit.

The Brazilian people, from the genetic point of view, considered the X chromosome (maternal lineage) is composed of three almost equal parts of original peoples, African peoples and European peoples, each trunk, also very differentiated, contributed with about five million individuals . Some Europeans are particularly mixed: Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese are the product of immense diversity of peoples. The indigenous peoples suffered genocide, but they also provided the most women; African people provided enslaved labor; Europeans provided the ruling class, but also imported labor force, which explains the 75% Y chromosome (male lineage) in the population.

According to data from the 2019 National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), 42,7% of Brazilians declared themselves as white, 46,8% as brown, 9,4% as black and 1,1% as yellow or indigenous, but there are doubts.

The indigenous people who survive are 1/5 of the population of 1500, but their genes are 1/3 of today's Brazilians. Africans mixed with natives from the beginning of their fortunes. Quilombos were mobile and mostly male entities, hence the need to relate to indigenous people. They were ordinary victims of the Portuguese colonizer, with whom he mixed. Mixing with European migrants followed. What percentage of Brazilians transplanted or migrated from Africa never mixed with indigenous peoples or Europeans? It is not more than 10%.

European migration (1890-1930) changed the demographic profile of the country. These migrants were inserted in different ways, some were diluted and others were closed in “colonies”, but the mixture with what were the Brazilians of that time also progressed. Today, a maximum of 40% of Brazilians are of European or Middle Eastern descent, with no recent admixture with indigenous or African descent. Because being a more recent genetic contribution or being “white” is socially advantageous, the fact is that this number seems exaggerated. We would then have something around 50 to 60% of mestizos from two or three major genetic trunks. Almost certainly more, maybe 70-75%.

In this scene, is the reaffirmation of race the best way to fight racism as a good part of the left does? It doesn't solve it if you have to explain that race is a cultural representation and that common sense (and the law) defines race by skin color or by the place that the individual places himself. The reaffirmation of race, paradoxically, also involves the annexation of pardos (sic) as blacks or Afro-descendants, annulling the indigenous and even European contribution to important aspects of popular culture.

Doesn't the reaffirmation of race, a biological falsehood, tend to racialize the Brazilian people and dissolve their becoming as a people/nation, important for their self-determination and sovereignty? Ultimately, doesn't it tend to divide the subaltern classes and shift the priority from class struggle to "race"? Wouldn't this be a subaltern ideology, an inverted reflection of a dominant ideology that cannot define the path of human emancipation, establishing itself in finding culprits and claiming “compensatory policies” to the bourgeois State?

Wouldn't it still be an ideology forged in the “left” of the United States Democratic Party, in a historical environment and with a completely different racism, rooted in liberalism? Many questions.

*Marcos Del Roio he is professor of political sciences at Unesp-Marília. Author, among other books, of Gramsci's prisms (boitempo).

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