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Mestizo Identity Elimination Public Policies and Color, Race, Ethnicity Classificatory Systems

Honourable Ministers,
The observations that we will do result from the treat since 2001, with ideas and practices of ethnic and racial policies in Brazil and other countries. This performance makes us the conviction that the System of Quotas for Negros of UNB is not, strictly speaking, a measure of affirmative action. It do not intended to combat racial, color, or origin discrimination, or to correct effects of past discrimination or ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms of ethnic and racial groups, as required by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial  Discrimination to distinguish a particular measure from a measure of racial discrimination.

Mestizo Identity Elimination Public Policies and Color, Race, Ethnicity Classificatory Systems

On March 5, 2010, Mrs. Helda de Sá, representing the Brazilian Brown-Mestizo Movement (MPMB) and the Association of the Caboclos and Riversiders of the Amazon (ACRA), spoke at the Public Hearing on the Constitutionality of Affirmative Action Policies of Access to Higher Education convened by Minister Ricardo Lewandowski of the Federal Supreme Court. Below, a copy of the statement.

Honourable Ministers,

The observations that we will do result from the treat since 2001, with ideas and practices of ethnic and racial policies in Brazil and other countries. This performance makes us the conviction that the System of Quotas for Negros of University of Brasilia (UnB) not, strictly speaking, a measure of affirmative action. It do not intended to combat racial, color, or origin discrimination, or to correct effects of past discrimination or ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms of ethnic and racial groups, as required by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial  Discrimination to distinguish a special measure from a measure of racial discrimination.

The System of Quotas for Negros of University of Brasilia, conversely what was advocated by Darcy Ribeiro, the creator, founder and first rector of UnB, is based on an elaborate ideology of racial supremacy that aims to eliminate politically and ideologically the Brazilian Mestizo identity and the absorption of mulattos, caboclos, cafuzos and other browns into the negro identity in order to produce a population composed exclusively by negros, whites and indigenous.

UnB requires that “To compete in the places reserved by the system of quotas for negros, the applicant should be black or brown color, declare (him/her)self negro and choose the quota system”. Thus, the quotas of UnB are not intended to protect blacks and browns in itself; blacks and browns that self-report mestizos, mulattos, caboclos are excluded from the quota system of UnB. Those African descent who declare themselves negros, but are of white color, are also excluded.

For these quotas were affirmative action measures would be necessary to identify as negro cause of racial discrimination, but when exclude self-identified negro of white color from quotas, the UnB itself tacitly acknowledges that only identify himself as negro does not expose a person to racial discrimination in Brazil, as happen in other countries. Otherwise, the UnB was also discriminating them.

They are not directed to correct the present effects of discrimination practiced in the past, in which case the segment would be benefited on the basis of ancestry and not of color and much less self-declaration.

Why, then, UnB, instead of establishing a system of affirmative action for all blacks and browns, exclude blacks and browns who do not identify as negro? The history of racism, and specifically of mestizophobia, elucidates the motivations that led to the current racial project for the Brazilian people implemented by the federal government.

The UnB was not the first Brazilian university to disseminate ideas and defend public policies based on race in Brazil. In the 19th century and up to half 20th century, in several universities in the country and abroad, racist ideas were part of the content taught. Reflecting the power of scientific authority that universities have, many, including governors and legislators, believed that there were superior races in intelligence, physical strength, in moral skills. They taught, too, that would be detrimental to a nation of people supposedly of superior race generate Mestizo children with people of inferior race.

Some racists argued that the Mestizo would be an intermediary between the upper and lower race, others would be less than the inferior race. The latter racist current stated that the Mestizo, unlike the superior and inferior races, and because was not a race, was an abnormal being, not suitable for any environment, prone to physical and psychological illnesses, deprived of the best qualities of the races that gave origin and the worse the more he/she differentiate them.

In Brazil, with large and growing mestizo population, this was seen by academic racism as a problem that would jeopardize the chances of progress of the country. Nina Rodrigues argued racially differentiated criminal policy. Sylvio Romero and Oliveira Viana defended the gradual disappearance of Mestizos by bleaching. Racism had also great opponents. Intellectuals like Gilberto Freyre and Darcy Ribeiro argued that miscegenation was not a problem for Brazil, but an advantage, among others, formed the national identity and protect the nation of racial and ethnic conflicts.

In other countries, the ideologues of racism provided the material for political discourse in Germany that led the Nazis to power and mestizos to concentration camps and surgical sterilization. In Australia, mestizos were separated from their aboriginal mothers. In Africa, were segregated by apartheid.

In the U.S., from the end of the 19th century, along with laws prohibiting interracial marriages, racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan managed to gradually impose, even legally, an innovation, the One Drop Rule, in which a drop of African blood would cause a person was classified as ‘Negro’ (word that also exists in the English vocabulary). In the U.S. census until 1920 there was not the ‘Negro’ category. Since 1850, there was the categories ‘Black’ (ie, ‘preto’) and ‘Mulatto’. In the census of 1930, however, the blacks and mulattos had only the option ‘Negro’.

These rules were intended to define spaces of racial power, hence the need to eliminate politically and also ideologically the Mestizo and mixing [mestiçagem]. Only in 1970, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, the term ‘Black’ returned to the census;  in the census of 2000, Mestizos could be counted again (and again in this year’s U.S. census).

In Brazil, its first official census, in 1872, had for the variable “color/race” the options ‘white’ [branca], ‘black’ [preta], ‘brown’ [parda] and ‘cabocla’; in the 1890 census, the ‘brown’ was replaced for ‘mestizo’ [mestiço], returning the term ‘brown’ in all following censuses that had the item “color/race”, including also the Mestizos ‘caboclos’. Thus, the Brazilian census has always brought a space for the expression of Mestizo identity. The options ‘black’ and ‘white’ has always present in the categories of “race/color” of the census, which never brought the ‘negro’ option. Sum ‘black’ and ‘brown’ and include them in a category ‘negro’ became, however, claim of negro movements, including along the IBGE [Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics].

After the end of World War II, the idea of ​​race was losing credibility. In Brazil, however, the Mestizos came to be seen as a ideologic and political problem. The sociologist Florestan Fernandes, from University of São Paulo (USP), stated that “within the negro and mestizo population there is no homogeneity. Create this homogeneity is a political issue preliminarily.”

It would take the mulatto “to accept their status as negro.” And wondered, “(…) How to reeducate the mulatto, how to get him out of a selfish and individualistic behavior?” Before there would be a superior race and an inferior and Mestizos should not be miscigenate to do not differentiate themselves from one, the white; now would be an oppressor and an oppressed race and Mestizos should be reeducated to identify with one of them, the negro.

Anthropologist Kabengele Munanga, from USP, on the same topic, put it this way: “If in the biological level, the ambiguity of ‘mulattos’ is a fatality which they can not escape, in the social and political-ideological level, they can not remain ‘a’ and ‘other’, ‘white’ and ‘black'”, and added, “Building the ‘mestizo’ or ‘mulatto’ identity would include ‘a’ and ‘other’, or exclude ‘a’ and ‘other’, is regarded by aware and politically mobilized mestizos as a political and ideological aberration, because it assumes an attitude of indifference and neutrality to the process of building a democratic society”.

This way of seeing the Mestizo, however, is not only a marginalization and morally offensive, it also leads to a bias of biological nature: it would have normal a white has a white identity, a negro has a negro identity, the indigenous has a indigenous identity, but not the Mestizo has a Mestizo identity; he would be an incomplete being, in need of negro identity. Come to be attributed to Mestizo a risk of psychological problems because of an alleged ambivalence.

The mixing itself, which generally occurred and occurs in Brazil smoothly, also happened to be presented in a misleading and negative way. Says a Cuban ethnologist with a book recently published in Brazil, “the mestizo arises in societies raped and complexed. That is, violent insemination of females of the group dominated by the male of the dominant group and the physical elimination of the male of the dominated-conquered group.” That is, are teaching the Mestizo to be ashamed of their origins, to deny the blood of his father or his mother.

Those depreciations reproduce in moral aggressions outside the academic environment.

Also reflected in the recent decree of the National Human Rights Program (PNDH 3) signed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who determines the inclusion of mulattos and browns in the negro category. Herein there is no innovation: by the Royal Charter of April 4, 1755, the king of Portugal, Dom Joseph I, banned the use of the term ‘caboclo’ for the Mestizo children of Portuguese and indigenous and we are gone for decades out the official documents.

These discourses aiming at the incorporation of browns by negros clung to the mulattoes, and generally silent about the millions of ‘caboclos’ of the country, whose population is possibly more numerous than the black also nationally. In the North, about 14 browns (mostly ‘caboclos’) for each black and here in the Midwest, the proportion is about 11 to 1. Even in the Southeast, where the ratio of browns and blacks is 4 to 1, portion of these browns are ‘mamelucos’ [‘caboclos’]. Mestizos of white and indigenous already inhabited Brazil decades before the arrival of Africans.

Our Constitution guarantees the appreciation of regional and ethnic diversity and protection of all groups participating in the national process of civilization. The Brazilian Mestizo, organizing himself into associations for the defense of his identity,  is officially recognized by law as that setting up the Day of the Mestizo in the states of Amazonas, Roraima and Paraiba, and also the Day of Caboclo.

Contradicting its domestic policy, Brazil became a signatory of the final documents of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and. Related Intolerance, and its Review Conference, organized by the UN in 2001 and 2009,

“We recognize the presence in many countries of a Mestizo population of mixed ethnic and racial origins and its valuable contribution to the promotion of tolerance and respect in these societies, and we condemn discrimination against them, especially because such discrimination may be denied owing to its subtle nature”.

The selection committees theirselves, however, have shown that brown is not negro. Several cases have been reported involving two people with blood relatives, including identical twins, where one is accepted as negro and another not. And the exclusion of student accepted by quotas when he already taking the course in college.

We do not know a single case in Brazil where this has happened with two black color parents, all cases that we know occurred with brown people. Tells the UnB that his committee responsible for the decision is made ​​by representatives of social movements linked to the issue, experts on the subject. From negro movements, because browns do not make up such committees.

Quotas for students from public schools and poors values ​​public education, meritocracy, solidarity, encourages investment and no the racial conflict. It is necessary to introduce elementary school full time (there is even a PEC, the 94/03, in the Senate – would be very interesting to be implemented) and increase the number of university places. Racial quotas do not cost a penny to the government.

Affirmative action is not to create differences; on the contrary, it seek to overcome discrimination on grounds of differences. They aim to lead to citizenship, not relativize. Harmonize with the Citizen Constitution that this Supreme Court has upheld.

Thank you.

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