News / Americas

Brazil Racism Out of View at World Cup

A woman passes by a graffiti in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, June 18, 2013.
A woman passes by a graffiti in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, June 18, 2013.
Nicolas Pinault

Football's (soccer's) World Cup will end this Sunday in Brazil, a nation with the world's largest black population outside of Africa.  Although many Brazilians think of their country as the model of race relations, racism is a hidden reality.  

On the country's Atlantic shore, the tropical city of Salvador de Bahia faces the African coastline far beyond the horizon.  It's a city symbolic for Brazil's African roots.

Slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888 and here, more than anywhere else, the links with Africa are evident.  In Salvador, African descendants represent more than 80 percent of the population.  In Brazil, more than 50 percent of the population is of "metis," or mixed-race - and social contact, friendships and marriage between the races are common.

However, on television or seen from abroad, Brazil still portrays a white image.  Blacks, indigenous or other non-white people are seen less than whites on TV commercials and programs.   

Racism is both everywhere and invisible, and has its effect on education, employment, income and life expectancy.  

Celene Fonseca, an anthropologist, explains why racism is hidden in Brazil.
"You have the formal democracy in Brazil, but we are not part of it.  Black, Indian, Metis people in general, we are not here," she said. "In Brazil, there is an apartheid who does not say its name.  We are servants of the white people, even if we represent the overwhelming majority of the population."
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff says she wanted to have a World Cup without racism; but, outside the stadiums, the reality is different for black people.  Social worker Elaine Amazonas describes the daily humiliations.
"The restaurants... the stores you go to, the grocery stores when you go shopping, the security guy accompanying you," she said. "It's a daily thing."

Black teenagers are the first victims of the current situation.  According to Suely Santos Souza from the Unified Black Movement, nine out of 10 children killed between the ages of 12 and 23 are black.

In education, the situation started changing when the Brazilian government enacted sweeping affirmative action laws two years ago to vastly increase the number of university students of African descent.  Before this, only 1 percent of students at the university were black. Today, they represent 11 percent.
Suely Santos Souza works mostly to change to content of the programs at school.
"Nowadays in Brazil, it is mandatory to learn at school the history of African descendants and Indian people," she said.  "It is one of the accomplishments of the Unified Black Movement."
Politicians are viewed as conservative and minorities face challenges to be elected to office or hold high government positions.  The renowned musician Gilberto Gil, who is of African descent, was Brazil's culture minister between 2003 and 2008.  Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Joaquim Barbosa, who is black, announced he would retire from the court and might run one day for office.  But these examples are few.
The fight will be long and Salvador resident Anna Peskine, 67, is desperate to see changes.  Peskine lives in both Brazil and France.
"Racism exists everywhere.  In France, I accept it because I am a foreigner and black in the country of the whites," she said. "But here, at home, it is very difficult.  In Brazil, I am not home."
Such comments make clear that Brazil still has a long way to go to achieve racial equality among its citizens.

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Comment Sorting
by: Daddio7
July 10, 2014 10:00 AM
The Slave culture produced people who were told what to do and got by doing as little as possible. That mindset continues to this day. I don't know about Brazilian blacks but many American blacks see themselves as victims and try to be as non-white as possible. White Hispanics and non-black mixed race people feel no remorse for slavery so Black victim-hood doesn't work on them. As Whites in America are replaced by mixed race people Blacks will no longer be able to get anyone to care about their problems.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 11, 2014 5:56 AM
The point about Blacks in America is that they now feel they are just as important in America, as any other American. Hmmmmm, the president is what??? So for your point that American blacks (it's African-American, BTW) see themselves as victims, it is because they choose to feel that way.

Since 1965, African-American not only received the fair and equal rights that should have been given to them after the Civil War, but also became part of a great nation. Since then, they have made the country greater than ever. You should give African-Americans at least a little bit of credit for what they endured for centuries, and have climbed out of the sewers of racism, and they did that themselves!!!!

Go to Africa, and you will better understand what being labelled as 'African' really means to Africans. I have been to Africa, different places. Many Africans look at African-Americans as the 'lucky ones'. Other Africans have commented that African-Americans aren't anything like Africans. A lot of Africans are irritated that people in the US call themselves African. Most Africans don't even have an understanding of what equals rights are, much less liberty and freedom.

The issue in this report, is that people care more about sports/entertainment today, than they do about the sufferings that are still plaguing humanity!!!!

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 10, 2014 8:15 AM
I am a racist. I am a proud racist! I am a racist against RACISTS!

But on a serious note, treat racists as less than you. Then you will start to feel the climb out of the sewer of racism. You can be poor, and you can be proud of who you are. No one has the right to make you feel less because of your status, race, or gender..............EVER!

by: Anonymous
July 10, 2014 6:27 AM
Somehow it always falls back to "white"

A catch all term that describes everyone who isn't naturally tan or darker. I'm blonde hair and blue eyed but my skin isn't white. We're all different shades of the same color yet allow ourselves to be divided so the powers that be can conquer
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 10, 2014 8:11 AM
The struggle of racism in the world is far from over. The first thing that Dr Martin Luther King, Jr instilled upon his people was that no race is to blame. Any race that has power over you, is because you have permitted such. He paid the ultimate price for his words, African-Americans realized what he was saying: That if you continue to blame another race for the racism you are enduring, you will NEVER overcome!!!!! African-Americans not only became a part of a great nation, but made the nation greater!

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 10, 2014 4:06 AM
The reporter of this story is French. Just because it is on the VOA sight, doesn't mean this is an American point of view. America has come a long way to combat racism, more so than any other nation in the world. Brazil is at the same point of racism that America experienced in the 50's. Nobody hears there cries, nobody hears their pains.

I feel the point to this reporter's issue is that while billions of tourist money is flowing in and around Brazil for the world cup, Brazil hasn't stepped up to help the poor, combat racism, or any of the economic struggles of its lower-classed society. "Oh, he's French, what does he know about racism?" or "Americans are not in the best position to be reporting on economic inequality and race relations of other countries."

People around the world stood up against South Africa's Apartheid, but no one seems to care what is going on in a country that is pleaing for the world to hear. This is the point of this story, and it is valid. Regardless if it is from a French reporter. Others are just too blind to understand what it is like to be poor and judged by the color of your skin.

by: Leo Wilk from: USA
July 10, 2014 12:47 AM
For Black people in Brazil, where they have no economic power it will be very hard for them to overcome their current situation, Now for Black in USA, who face racism as well have the economic power to really advance further and make changes, bu they will not work together to boycott establishments and brands. Slavery is still deep rooted for Black people in the Americas (South/North) but also Whites still perpetuate it. I don't think think things will change for black people any where in the world.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 10, 2014 6:53 AM
Speak to Africans about this exact concern of yours. You make a valid and just point. For African-Americans, who have for the most part, overcame the bigotry and racism, that plagued their race, at a great cost. Why speak to actual Africans about this topic? Because Africans now see that the African-Americans, who are prospering and thriving in America, have now become diinterested in the plight of Africans still struggling in other nations, including African nations. Africans have also made the comment that African-Americans want the title "African" but don't care about their actual culture nor the origin of their African lineage. Of course this isn't true for all African-Americans, but this is the general view from Africans themselves.

The struggle of racism in the world is far from over. The first thing that Dr Martin Luther King, Jr instilled upon his people was that no race is to blame. Any race that has power over you, is because you have permitted such. He paid the ultimate price for his words, African-Americans realized what he was saying: That if you continue to blame another race for the racism you are enduring, you will NEVER overcome!!!!! African-Americans not only became a part of a great nation, but made the nation greater!

These people that are enduring racism were hoping that the World Cup frenzy would attract some kind of attention for their struggles. But it sure does seem like nobady really cares. That's the point of this article. That's the point Leo made that nobody (internationally) spoke out against the ongoing racism that is plaguing Brazil!!!!!!!!

by: CD
July 09, 2014 11:00 PM
America, pick the beam from your eye before you comment on racism in other countries. Racism should not be condoned in any country around the world.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 10, 2014 7:04 AM
Here we go, people that just want to poke insults to America, instead of addressing the issue at hand. That's great, and I bet the people who are enduring racism in Brazil hear just how concerned you are!!! Since you are obviously IGNORANT, Nicolas Pinault is a French reporter....from FRANCE. Do you need a globe? This was not an American nor an American story!!!!!!! Just a story that VOA felt that should be shown and discussed, by intelligent people....which doesn't include you!!!

Since you know wo much about America, African-Americans have not only defeated the majority of racism in America, but have thrived and prospered more so than any of the Africans in any other part of the world!!!! African-Americans have more rights and civil liberties than any other African in any other nation in the world!!!! So YES, America does have something to say about racism!!! Moron!

America, AMERICA, was the #1 nation fighting apartheid in South Africa......AMERICA! Is there any other ignorant comment you care to make about America?

by: Cranksy from: USA
July 09, 2014 12:58 PM
This article and others VOA has published during the World Cup will stop me from having just fleeting images of beaches, bikinis, carnivals and a statue of Christ when thinking of Brazil.

Americans are not in the best position to be reporting on economic inequality and race relations of other countries
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 10, 2014 3:54 AM
Nicolas Pinault is a French reporter, not complete and utter anti-American moron!!!! Go to Brazil, and experience the racism, that has mostly vanished since the days of the 50's. Again, you MORON! Minorities in the USA (my great and marvelous nation! Not yours!) have more rights and protections than do the majority, you know, WHITE PEOPLE!!! The same rights and protections that should have been in place when Lincoln 'freed' the slaves (wink,wink). Hope this helped your anti-Americanism feelings..............MORON!

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