The memory of black personalities censored in Brazil, spearheaded by Jair Bolsonaro

Several biographies of black Brazilian personalities have been censored at the site of the Palmares Foundation, an institution still responsible for defending the black cultural heritage in Brazil.

Is the threat of black people threatened in Brazil? Biographies of several black personalities have been removed in recent days website from the Palmares Foundation in Brasilia, reports the Brazilian daily Folha by S. Paulo. A censorship that may surprise even more that it comes from an institution that defends black cultural heritage in the country for more than thirty years.

Several articles about the lives of abolitionists such as Luiz Gama, André Rebouças and even the author Carolina de Jesus have disappeared from the official website. Even more symbolically, the biography of Zumbi dos Palmares, leader of the fight against slavery in the 17th century, was also censored – which gave the institution its name. Similarly, a statue of him standing at the entrance to the foundation was undamaged, the Brazilian newspaper says.

“Nutella racism”

At the moment, the department has not wanted to talk about the subject. However, it is difficult to imagine these initiatives expressing a simple difficulty. And for good reason: in the head of the Palmaresfigure Foundation Sergio de Camargo, “black to the right” in his words, and former journalist through education known for his racist origins. This close friend of the Bolsonaro government has regularly stirred controversy and assured, for example, that there is no “real racism” in the country, but “Nutella racism,” in other words, which minimizes the importance of this plague Brazil. In his eyes, slavery was indeed “terrible” yet “advantageous” in the long run for Afro-descendants.

Not surprisingly, his appointment as head of the foundation in November 2019 by the secretary of state for culture of the Bolsonaro government had made angry supporters of the black cause. Hundreds of activists so gathered outside the department headquarters and refusing what they considered a “provocation”. Despite an initial appeal from federal justice that interrupted his arrival, Sergio Camargo was finally able to take up his duties at the beginning of the year. And continue the provocations.

Thus, only appointed did he order the publication for May 13 – the day of the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the country – of several articles that questioned Zumbi dos Palmares.

“A memory conflict”

A “rewrite of history” reflecting the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro, believes Richard Marin, professor at the University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, specialist in Brazil contacted by France 24. “This is a conflict between memory. Bolsonaro represents this white America as has always had great difficulty accepting the promotion of blacks in culture, universities and public services, “the academic noted.

Since a law announced in 2012 under Dilma Rousseff, Brazil has reserved half of the university places for students coming from public schools. These racial quotas included a number of places reserved for blacks, metites and Indians and in proportion to the population composition of each state in the country. An action that was revoked on June 18, by former Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub.

Right now, inequalities are even more appreciated in the labor market: among 54% of black or mestizo-Brazilians, only 5% have senior positions, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Despite these discrimination, the black community is said to be more politically divided than we think. According to a survey published in December by the Datafollah Institute, nearly half (46%) of the Afro-descended Bolsonaro government estimates “bad or terrible” when a majority (53%) thinks it is “normal” (33%) ), either “good or excellent” (20%).

“Black Lives Matters” in Brazil

How does one explain such an opinion on difference? “Although the defense movement of the black community is familiar with the United States, it remains structurally different. In Brazil, there is a continuity of skin tones. The population census is done through six terms “branco” (white), “pardo” (mestizo), “preto” (black), “amarelo” (Asian), native or without declaration. There are no two blocks that confront each other, explains Théry Hervé, research director at CNRS-Creda, professor at the University of Sao Paulo, contacted by France 24.

This great diversity of breeding “would thus explain why the African American wrestling movements encountered very little echo in Brazil until the 1970s,” says Richard Marin. But the wind could now turn. “Black Lives Matters protests have already taken place in the country. The black movement is using the current context to hear even more and we can only agree with it, ”concludes Théry Hervé.