Are white Brazilians friends with black Brazilians?
Racism, fascism, militarism : A look into the dark soul of Brazil
The text was first published in Portuguese by Deutsche Welle Brazil. Translation by Philipp Lichterbeck.
1. We have never been better. Everything is very good - almost optimal, I would say. I have to explain.
2. For the French writer Georges Perec, it is always the extraordinary event that tells us something. “The trains don't begin to exist until they derail, and the more passengers die, the more the trains exist; the planes only come into existence when they are hijacked. ”It is no coincidence that we are intoxicated with reality today.
Democracy never arrived in the favelas
However, around the equator, some societies have developed sophisticated mechanisms to hide and even normalize certain disasters. The Brazilian bourgeoisie, for example, has always been very satisfied with the persecution of the blacks and the poor and the concentration camps that are ready for them (in this country they are called prisons).
There is a huge (and for many invisible) rail network in Brazil that leads to the abyss. Its origin lies in the dehumanization of the other - as in every fascism, every slavery, every regime of oppression.
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Democracy - it never made it to our favelas; our so often invoked rule of law - it never became a reality. But only now, under the Bolsonaro government, which also openly threatens whites, does our daily massacre seem a little more visible.
3. Even the Covid-19 pandemic did not stop the genocide. In Brazil, the military dictatorships only end for the whites, never for the blacks.
Last week, the case of 14-year-old João Pedro Martins, who was murdered by the police while he was playing with his cousins, became known. The officers threw two grenades and shot 72 times at his family's home in São Gonçalo. The next day, João Vitor da Rocha, 18, was shot dead by a military policeman while volunteers were distributing food in the Cidade de Deus favela.
There is a video from the chairman of a residents' association who says, “We are born goals. João Pedro was yesterday! They are killers and we are their targets, brother! We are black, brother. "
4. Although fragile identity politics have attempted to mitigate injustice somewhat in recent times, the country that was the last Western nation to abolish slavery has retained its structural racism.
This inequality is not only reflected in the differences in income and access to education and health, but in much more brutal figures. 42,000 people were murdered in Brazil in 2019, two thirds of them were black men, most of them between 15 and 29. The Brazilian police also killed a lot in 2019, around 6,000 people. This makes Brazil’s officials the most violent police force in the world. More than 75 percent of their victims are black.
Young blacks are being exterminated
Even the pandemic didn't stop them. In April, Rio's police killed 60 percent more people in operations in slums than in the same month last year.
5. The genocide was always there, but it caused little stir in the years of social democracy under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002) and during the left-reformist cycle of the Labor Party (2003-2016). The extermination of young blacks and the lack of basic civil rights for groups such as indigenous peoples, smallholders and fishermen have never been treated with urgency. No New Republic government since 1988.
Like the famous "cake" of the former finance minister Delfim Neto, which had to grow before it could be distributed, the basic rights for millions of Brazilians were also saved for later. The state criminalized the poor through the murderous "war on drugs" - or it drove them from their land through criminal projects such as the Belo Monte hydroelectric power station.
6. At the tables of pre-Olympic Rio de Janeiro, at which the “virtuous” alliance of federal, state, commune, left workers' party, right center and the TV broadcaster Globo sat, it would have been very embarrassing to mention all of this, if it hadn't can question the nice additional income of those involved.
The film "Tropa de Elite" paved the way for Bolsonarism
It is the brutal contradictions of the Brazilian social order. If you speak to them, you usually get eye rolls. Or you are threatened. I received the first death threat in 2007 after I published a column on the film Tropa de Elite, this anthology of necrophilic memes in feature film format. As a cultural virus, the film - it won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale 2008 - paved the way for Bolsonarism. For the first time since the democratization of speech, he normalized a neo-fascist discourse.
A few months after the premiere, the MP Flávio Bolsonaro (son of the current president) demanded that the symbol of the Bope special unit depicted in the film become part of the cultural heritage of Rio de Janeiro. It shows a skull with two crossed pistols. Ten years later, his father appeared in police barracks during the election campaign and shouted the slogan of the elite troops: "Skull!"
7. At the time I wrote that the film looked like a motivational video for the Bope. It was a work that disguised itself as an indictment, but in reality celebrated the subject of its criticism. I linked its great success with the torturers of our last dictatorship, who, after looting the state and murdering their opponents, now devoted themselves to the game of badminton on the beach of Copacabana. Some of these fascists wrote to me that they knew my address, had weapons and were on my tail. I published some of the threats and the names of the senders, but I didn't fit all of my column in the O Globo newspaper.
Swastika tiles in the pool
8. Two years later I was at an Adidas party in a villa in Gávea, one of the poshest neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. A wall separates it from the largest poor settlement in Brazil, the Favela Rocinha. When I went to the bar, I saw the swastika tiles in the pool. And behind the beer glasses in the bar was a portrait of Admiral Karl Dönitz, whom Hitler had appointed head of state of the German Reich at the end of the war. Although Adidas surely spends millions of euros on public relations, the Brazilian producers of the Adidas party didn't seem to care about the symbolism. The house was allegedly rented from a collector, it was said.
9. In 1998, in a speech in Brasília, MP Jair Bolsonaro defended the students of the Porto Alegre Military Academy for having chosen Adolf Hitler as the most admired historical figure: "They chose someone who knew how to enforce order and discipline." Four years later said Bolsonaro: "Hitler was a great strategist."
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In 2018, Bolsonaro's campaign slogan was “Brazil Above All”. Members of the government repeatedly use Nazi phrases. Bolsonaro's communications department unveiled a campaign this month under the motto: “Work, Unity and Truth make you free.” When Brazil’s State Secretary for Culture Ricardo Alvim paraphrased Joseph Goebbels in a speech in January and imitated the Nazi Propaganda Minister, there was a minor scandal.
Only recently, the video of a cabinet meeting became public and we learned how Economics Minister Paulo Guedes imagines stimulating the economy after the pandemic. He cites the National Socialist Economics Minister Hjalmar Schacht as a good example of how militarized workers can be used.
Bolsonaros did not deceive anyone
Chile's dictator Augusto Pinochet? The Brazilian torturer Carlos Ustra? It is not enough for Bolsonarism to refer only to Latin American fascists. You want to go back to the origins.
Last Sunday, Bolsonaro shared a video on Twitter with a sentence attributed to Benito Mussolini (also quoted by Donald Trump in 2016): "It is better to live a day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep." Just a few hours earlier Bolsonaro supporters with flags of Francoist Spain and the rallying movement of Ukrainian right-wing extremists, Pravyi Sector, demonstrated in the center of São Paulo. And in Brasília, our capital, masked men with torches marched in front of the Constitutional Court that night. They imitate the symbolism of racist groups from the USA.
None of this should come as a surprise. Bolsonaro and his fanatical supporters have not deceived anyone. If there is anything to be admired about Bolsonaro, it is its coherence. Over the years, he and his clan of militiamen have never hidden who they are. Many of Bolsonaro's 57 million voters knew exactly who they were voting for.
10. Today I don't see any big differences between the fascists and the noble citizens who only protect their comfort, their incomes and checks - and whose only answer to injustice, displacement and the constant massacres of blacks and indigenous peoples is an indifferent shrug.
I also no longer see any differences to the politicians who had the chance to do something against injustice - but who decided not to do it. Or the journalists who helped normalize a fascist candidate. Or to the commentators who claimed there was an equivalence between a democratic candidate and a fascist.
And finally to those who manage to drink happily next to swastikas at a party. The only people who went back then were me and two friends: a black woman and a Jewish man.
And maybe that's why everything is fine now. Much better than it ever was. Because for the first time in its history, Brazil shows its fascist, racist and misogynist soul. Is she ugly? Yes, but really. We have never been so awake.
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