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Brazilian suggestions for Mestizo peoples whishing to organize themselves – Leão Alves

There are expressions of discontent among mestizos in several countries with the treatment received from groups opposed to them. We intend here briefly to present suggestions on what to do and what not to do learned in our performance in the Mestizo movement in Brazil, since 2001, and to observe at a distance the experiences of mixed people organizations from other countries. In this article we use the terms mestizo and mixed as synonyms, meaning anyone with ancestors of different races.

1. ESTABLISH THE MESTIZO PEOPLE DEFINITION
Discussions about the proper term for meaning and for defining a person or group descended from the miscegenation of Amerindians, whites, blacks, yellows, etc., are endless. There are several mixed peoples in the world with specific historical origins. Each people defines their identity. To initiate an effective movement it is necessary to determine a term and its definition and from there aggregate those who accept the term and the definition. Those who do not accept are free to go their own way.

2. DEFINE MIXED PEOPLE AS ONE ETHIC AND RACIAL IDENTITY, NOT A RACE
Mestization is homogenizing, tending to unify the various groups that mix and become a mixed people. Mestizo is a racial identity, but it is not a race; it is a mix of them. To form a mixed people movement requires a definition that embraces and unites racially and ethnically all manifestations of miscegenation: caboclos, mulattos, cafuzos, ainocôs, hapas, etc. Make a nationally unifying definition. Mestizo people are born and strengthened by racial and ethnic unification, not diversity.

3. CREATE MIXED PEOPLE ASSOCIATION
One of the reasons that mixed people, even in majority countries, are discriminated against is because they are often not organized as groups in associations, as is often the case with immigrants. Ethnic associations serve to aggregate the community, strengthen the sense of unity and promote the defense of ethnic interests. Working in social networks individually collaborates, but it is necessary to act as a group and as a legal personality.

4. DO NOT TREAT THE MESTIZO ISSUE AS AN INDIVIDUAL BUT COLLECTIVE
Reducing the issue of mestizo to individual issues puts you at a disadvantage in the face of groups with a strong sense of unity. History is fed up with examples of numerically minority groups that dominated – and dominate – numerically larger groups. The conquest of Brazil by Portugal and South Africa by the Dutch and then by the British are just two examples.

5. DON’T TREAT MESTIZO ONLY AS RACIAL, BUT ETHNIC
Although mestizo originates from the mixture of races (and we will not waste time on the diversionist discussion of whether races exist or not), defining mestizos in racial, biological, genealogical terms only creates unity problems. What a unit, for example, would there be between an mixed person of Amerindian and black ancestry and a mixed person of white and yellow origin? Ethnicity, unlike race, refers to family, culture and history. Although an ‘Amerindian and black’ mestizo and a ‘white and yellow’ mestizo have distinct ancestors and kinship as distant as their ancestors from each other, both being within the same country, living the same history, they can unify as one ethnic group, similar to an adopted child who becomes part of a family that, by blood, has no relationship to him.

6. REFUSE MULTIPLE RACIAL OR ETHNIC IDENTITY
While it may seem advantageous for an individual to be of one race and another at the same time or at the convenience of the occasion, for a people or mixed ethnicity it is fatal. If a mulatto is black and white – and not neither white nor black, but simply mestizo –, whatever rights he has will depend on whites and blacks. If a Colored is Zulu and Dutch – and not neither Zulu nor Dutch, but only the Colored –, he will be dependent on the Zulus and the Dutch and not on himself. The same applies to any mestizo of any country. Or if you’re a typical mixed person, or if you’re a dubious (to put it mildly) member of an ancestral group. For an individual who prioritizes his own interests and is willing to pay the price of being a renegade and being seen as a second member in another people, it may be acceptable, but not for a mixed people ethnic movement that claims to stand before other racial and ethnic groups.

7. PREFER TERMS THAT EXPRESS ETHNIC UNIT, AVOIDING BI, TRI, MULTI
The term that defines an ethnicity or a people is very important. There are even cases, such as the term “Macedonian”, that generate conflicts over the right to be identified by the word. Terms can be used to erase mestizos, as was the case with the suppression of the term Mulatto, which appeared in US censuses until the 1920s, and was replaced, along with Black, by Negro. In Spanish there is the word ‘mestizo’ and in Portuguese there is the word ‘mestiço’, perfect for expressing the unity of the mestizo. In Canada there are the ‘métis’ people. Terms like bi-racial, multiethnic may convey the idea that the mestizo is not an identity of its own, but only a gathering of identities. The term ‘Mixed’ in English avoids this problem. There are mestizo people who also avoid the idea of multiplicity because they have a specific term to identify with, such as the Burghers of Sri Lanka and the Basters of Namibia.

8. CREATE DEFENSE LEGISLATION OF THE MIXED PEOPLE
Creating legislation recognizing the mestizo people as an ethnicity is important, among others, to put the mestizos on an equal footing with other ethnic groups and when judicial protection against anti-mestizos is needed.

9. MAKE LEGISLATION DEFENDING MIXING
Mestizaje itself, the process of racial and ethnic unification that gives rise to mestizos, must also be protected. Policies and laws that promote territorial and ethnic divisions within a country’s territory are aimed directly or not at eliminating mestizos as an ethnicity or even as a person.

10. TREAT THE MIXED AS NATIVE PEOPLE
As a rule, mestizo peoples originate from the miscegenation between natives and conquering peoples: in Africa, from khoi, san, black natives, in America from Amerindian natives, in Asia similarly. As descended from indigenous people, the mestizos are also native and must state and legally require this condition.

11. SUPPORT NATIONAL UNIT
Mestizaje tends to unify. There are situations where mestizos are minority and so discriminated against that they tend to advocate separatist or isolationist projects. As a rule, however, mestizaje brings to the mestizo the legacies of the peoples that gave rise to it. In countries where the national identity itself originated from mestizaje, as occurs, for example, in Latin American countries and Cape Verde, in Africa, separatism means losing territory.

12. PROCESS ANTIMIXING RACIST
There are abundant manifestations of racism against mestizo and mestizaje by both individuals and institutions. There are countries where it is not a crime to manifest racism and in these it is worth pointing out the racist, including those who are but deny being. In countries where racism is a crime, racism against mestizos – as well as racism against whites – is often more tolerated by the authorities than racism against blacks and Amerindians. They must be prosecuted because not making use of judicial means would be a further disadvantage for mestizos against negrism, indigenism and similar racism.

These quickly written notes can and should be deepened, but it is most useful to take a piece of paper right away, write down your definition of mestizo, and prepare the founding assembly of the association that will unify the mixed persons of your country into one people.

Leão Alves is former president of Movimento Pardo-Mestiço Brasileiro (Nação Mestiça).

Posted in Artigos, Leão Alves, Português.


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