Racial Equality Statute completes fifth anniversary

Five years after the introduction of a special law to address racial

Published in 20/07/2015 - 13:45 By Mariana Tokarnia reports from Agência Brasil - Brasília

Negros, educação

More than half of the population, 52.9%, describe themselves as black or mixed race. Agencia Brasil/Arquivo

The Statute for Racial Equality completes its fifth anniversary this Monday (July 20), faced with the challenge of providing equal rights and overcoming racism. Composed of a total 65 sections, the statute covers a wide range of areas. But in order for the provisions to take effect, more action on federal, state and local levels is needed, as well as private sector engagement.

According to the 2013 National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), more than half of the population, 52.9%, describe themselves as black or mixed race. The demographics, however, do not hold true when it comes to higher education. Out of a total of 387,400 postgraduate students, only 112,000 are blacks – less than half of the 270,600 whites. Nor are they reflected in the Chamber of Deputies, where almost 80% of the deputies describe themselves as white. The same story goes for the media.


Background

Thomaz Pereira, Law professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, explains the Statute was a response to claims from the society, social movements, in a context in where several policies were being put in place to promote racial equality. Initiatives included affirmative action policies such as racial quotas for admission into the State University of Rio de Janeiro and, at the federal level, the University of Brasilia (UnB).

“The Statute resembles a mini-constitution in that it represents and combines different policies in a single document. One interesting aspect of it lies in its very framework. It covers health, education, sports and leisure, as well as the right to freedom of thought, belief, religion, access to housing, work, and media representation. All these different areas occur differently and require different approaches,” the professor explained.

“When people keep saying that there's no racism in Brazil, it gets much harder to overcome it. The first step toward overcoming the problem is to recognize that it exists,” says Vera Baroni, from the Coordination of Black Brazilian Women. According to her, despite the efforts made so far, the statute is not well-known enough to allow closer monitoring and implementation.


Reform

The executive director of NGO Educafro, Brother David Santos, advocates amending the statute. He said the changes made to the original draft in the course of its approval through Congress have made it weaker. As an example, he mentioned the removal of provisions to introduce a 20% quota of black people in casts and background roles on film and television. He believes there would be more blacks in these spaces and racist behavior would have waned if the quota had been kept.

“Brazil is experiencing a black awakening. Racial issues will still need to be addressed as long as society fails to recognize our rights and to embrace all – blacks and whites alike – as brethren, which is what we're aiming for,” he said.

O senador Paulo Paim, durante audiência pública interativa para debater o racismo sofrido pelos os jogadores negros nos estádios (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

Senator Paulo PaimAntonio Cruz/Agência Brasil

According to Senator Paulo Paim, the sponsor of the bill that originated the statute, a reform would be a step back. While conceding that the statute has flaws, he said people cannot use a couple of line-item vetoes as an excuse to downgrade a national achievement for Brazil.

“There are dozens of sections and each of them introduces a law. It will take time until it has been fully implemented. But I think that it has made a difference. If things are possible with a law, without one, we're helpless. The law is a tool to fight racism, and we have made progress on some issues,” he said.


Translated by Mayra Borges


Fonte: Racial Equality Statute completes fifth anniversary

Edition: Talita Cavalcante / Nira Foster

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