Where was the Afro-Brazilian community at the protests against Dilma Rousseff?

The racism of a middle class who is harsh on corruption, but tolerates prejudice and even simulates hangings of black people.

By Maria Carolina Trevisan, translated by Carla Locatelli and César Locatelli, special for Jornalistas Livres

Among the thousands of people who stormed through Paulista Avenue on Sunday (03/13), there was an obvious lack of representation of the Afro-Brazilian community. Just as last year, the vast majority of black people who went to the heart of São Paulo — and to other Brazilian cities -, were working. They were nannies or street vendors (or military police). This picture replicates the underlying position of this portion of Brazilian society, from slavery up to today.


Among the demands for honesty, there were no signs at all that demanded equal rights, quotas or labor right achievements for maids. Instead, what was seen on Paulista avenue was representing the desire of a middle class and the Brazilian white elite to maintain their privileges. The event is to social justice just as the casarão (slave owners large house) is to the slave quarters. Identical and widely self-evident.

“This demonstration is not only against Dilma and in favor of impeachment. It is also against human rights and social achievements.”, defines the business administrator and black educator Antonio Nascimento, activist of Human Rights in Bahia.

“For me, these rallies were against the possibility of a more just country, but pretending to be moral,” adds Nascimento.

Behind of a “fighting corruption” mask, what emerges is the desire of the Brazilian elite and middle class to defend their own interests. No wonder the rallies took place on Sunday in aristocratic locations of the cities: the seashore of south Rio, the Paulista Avenue, the Farol da Barra, in Salvador, and Praça da Liberdade, in Belo Horizonte. “The elite saw that this government’s support of their privileges is being threatened. They are not concerned with morality or honesty because they always coexisted with rogue governments.”


But the demonstrations went far beyond and this desire became evident. Explicit racism scenes were seen in some places: a man painted in black (the “Blackfaces” enslavers’ theater movement that aims to mock the black population) simulated the “Inconfidência” gallows (a protest against taxes in the eighteenth century in Brazil, that ended up with protestors being hanged).

Ladies, gentlemen, their white children posed next to that representation, smiling and without waver; in another scene, a white man holding a poster showing President Dilma, painted in black, imitating the black comedian Mussum; and finally, dozens of black nanny scenes pushing white babies’ carts, with the employers walking in front of them.

“I think most people do not realize what is at stake,” says sociologist Marcia Lima, a professor of “racial inequality” at the University of São Paulo (USP). “Brazil has changed. We have a conservative reaction to the accomplishments of this group [black people],” said Marcia.

The black population is no longer a minority in Brazil. Since 2011, more than half of Brazilians are black (black and brown, according to IBGE — the Brazilian National Institute of Statistics and Geography). Currently, corresponding to 53.6% of the total population of Brazil. This means that over 110 million people were not reflected in the pro-impeachment actions. “I have walked for two hours in the demonstration. There were no poor nor black people,” notes the lawyer Eliane Dias, producer of Racionais Mc’s rap group.


“It’s a class conflict in which the black people are not welcome. So it is a great contradiction people asking for justice in such protests. “says Eliane.

In fact, in order to talk about democracy, we must refer to the society as a whole. “It’s a very irresponsible behavior, for example, to simulate the hanging of a black man on Paulista avenue. I saw several giggling families there, “says Eliane. For her, it is as violent as taking a black nanny into this context. “It’s humiliating. You place a black woman, on Sunday, where there are no blacks … This conveys subordination,” she notes.

In regard to racial issues in a country that was once home of the largest and longest slavery in the world, nothing has changed in a year. Expressions of the March 2015 protests have already showed how impeachment advocates are white people. This scenario makes the verses of the Racionais increasingly compelling and current:

“This is the Brazil that they strive for: evolved and beautiful, but without the highlight of black people.” (Racionais Mc’s in ‘Active Voice’)


Babá negra empurra carrinho de bebês brancos em protesto no Rio de Janeiro

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