Commission on Research in Black Education
 

BLACK PEOPLE AND BRAZILIAN
EDUCATION

Terezinha Juraci Machado da Silva

 

The Brazilian people are the result of a mixture of other primary groups such as African, Indian and white, mainly represented by the Portuguese. This hybridism was supposedly the origin of the proclaimed "racially integrated Brazilian society", where there were no fundamental differences or racial conflicts. However, this myth of a racial democracy has been questioned more and more and debated openly, showing the veiled face of racism and discrimination in Brazil.

A recent scientific-journalistic study about racism in Brazil (Folha de São Paulo and the Institute of Research Datafolha) show us some results: 89% of Brazilians believe there is racism in the society; only 10% admitted they were prejudiced; 87% manifested some sort of prejudice or admited having had shown discriminatory behavior in the past. According the same study 48% of black people interviewed agreed with the statement "Good blacks have white souls". These results provoked a national debate about racism and freedom of expression. As we can see, the degree of racism in Brazil and how it is manifested in our society remains unclear, because explicit anger and hate are rarely demonstrated in people’s behavior towards Black Brazilians and mulattos. Racism in Brazil is deeply rooted and subliminal, making it very hard to determine when it is manifested. Even though the racial debate we are experiencing in Brazil shows us that:

  • Black people in Brazilian society and culture have suffered long years all kinds of veiled discrimination. Brazilian society doesn’t admit that white people are racist and Brazilians used to say that we — African-descendent Brazilians — are much more racist than they are because our organizations are always denouncing them and are paying so much attenton to white speech and other signs of their prejudice. Unfortunately, our laws, in most of the cases, don’t permit us to prove we are being insulted. In these situations they (whites) invert the situation and put the responsibility for the problem on our "black shoulders," saying that we are agressive and intolerant.

Once more the manifestation of racism is swept under the carpet. We must be vigilant regarding the changing faces of racism and we are trying to desmystify it through education. Our studies and research are headed in this direction, basically in the educational arena, where a group of educators is working especially with black teachers at the elementary school level of instruction (elementary schools), in our community, showing them the "new" (but at same time old) expression of racism and oppression in the lives of African-descendent people in Brazild. Their focus is on the forms of racism and oppression present, for instance, in children books, in the media, TV programs, pictures, reports, laws, general literature, and much more.

Unfortunately, most of these examples are not understood by black people here in Brazil. So, every time we "sit together," we to refer the distinction that has to be made between "ïndividual" and "institutional" racism. The former refers to personal prejudice and behavior and the second refers to procedures and regulations that may not even be racist in their intent but which are discriminatory in their impact, effectively reinforcing racial inequality. This distinction gives us the opportunity to prove to our community that black people are always outside of the context in which regulations and procedures are made, because the official of society structure is made and composed by whites. The question then arises: What are we to do?