Race in Brazil: Black Brazilians are much worse off than they should be. But what is the best way to remedy that?
January 29, 2012
IN APRIL 2010, as part of a scheme to beautify the rundown port near the centre of Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic games, workers were replacing the drainage system in a shabby square when they found some old cans. The city called in archaeologists, whose excavations unearthed the ruins of Valongo, once Brazil’s main landing stage for African slaves.
From 1811 to 1843 around 500,000 slaves arrived there, according to Tânia Andrade Lima, the head archaeologist. Valongo was a complex, including warehouses where slaves were sold and a cemetery. Hundreds of plastic bags, stored in shipping containers parked on a corner of the site, hold personal objects lost or hidden by the slaves, or taken from them. They include delicate bracelets and rings woven from vegetable fibre; lumps of amethyst and stones used in African worship; and cowrie shells, a common currency in Africa.
It is a poignant reminder of the scale and duration of the slave trade to Brazil. Of the 10.7m African slaves shipped across the Atlantic between the 16th and 19th centuries, 4.9m landed there. Fewer than 400,000 went to the United States. Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888.
Brazil has long seemed to want to forget this history. In 1843 Valongo was paved over by a grander dock to welcome a Bourbon princess who came to marry Pedro II, the country’s 19th-century emperor. The stone column rising from the square commemorates the empress, not the slaves. Now the city plans to make Valongo an open-air museum of slavery and the African diaspora. “Our work is to give greater visibility to the black community and its ancestors,” says Ms Andrade Lima.
This project is a small example of a much broader re-evaluation of race in Brazil. The pervasiveness of slavery, the lateness of its abolition, and the fact that nothing was done to turn former slaves into citizens all combined to have a profound impact on Brazilian society. They are reasons for the extreme socioeconomic inequality that still scars the country today.
Neither separate nor equal
In the 2010 census some 51% of Brazilians defined themselves as black or brown. On average, the income of whites is slightly more than double that of black or brown Brazilians, according to IPEA, a government-linked think-tank. It finds that blacks are relatively disadvantaged in their level of education and in their access to health and other services. For example, more than half the people in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (slums) are black. The comparable figure in the city’s richer districts is just 7%.
Brazilians have long argued that blacks are poor only because they are at the bottom of the social pyramid—in other words, that society is stratified by class, not race. But a growing number disagree. These “clamorous” differences can only be explained by racism, according to Mário Theodoro of the federal government’s secretariat for racial equality. In a passionate and sometimes angry debate, black Brazilian activists insist that slavery’s legacy of injustice and inequality can only be reversed by affirmative-action policies, of the kind found in the United States.
Their opponents argue that the history of race relations in Brazil is very different, and that such policies risk creating new racial problems. Unlike in the United States, slavery in Brazil never meant segregation. Mixing was the norm, and Brazil had many more free blacks. The result is a spectrum of skin colour rather than a dichotomy.
Few these days still call Brazil a “racial democracy”. As Antonio Riserio, a sociologist from Bahia, put it in a recent book: “It’s clear that racism exists in the US. It’s clear that racism exists in Brazil. But they are different kinds of racism.” In Brazil, he argues, racism is veiled and shamefaced, not open or institutional. Brazil has never had anything like the Ku Klux Klan, or the ban on interracial marriage imposed in 17 American states until 1967.
Importing American-style affirmative action risks forcing Brazilians to place themselves in strict racial categories rather than somewhere along a spectrum, says Peter Fry, a British-born, naturalised-Brazilian anthropologist. Having worked in southern Africa, he says that Brazil’s avoidance of “the crystallising of race as a marker of identity” is a big advantage in creating a democratic society.
But for the proponents of affirmative action, the veiled quality of Brazilian racism explains why racial stratification has been ignored for so long. “In Brazil you have an invisible enemy. Nobody’s racist. But when your daughter goes out with a black, things change,” says Ivanir dos Santos, a black activist in Rio de Janeiro. If black and white youths with equal qualifications apply to be a shop assistant in a Rio mall, the white will get the job, he adds.
The debate over affirmative action splits both left and right. The governments of Dilma Rousseff, the president, and of her two predecessors, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, have all supported such policies. But they have moved cautiously. So far the main battleground has been in universities. Since 2001 more than 70 public universities have introduced racial admissions quotas. In Rio de Janeiro’s state universities, 20% of places are set aside for black students who pass the entrance exam. Another 25% are reserved for a “social quota” of pupils from state schools whose parents’ income is less than twice the minimum wage—who are often black. A big federal programme awards grants to black and brown students at private universities.
These measures are starting to make a difference. Although only 6.3% of black 18- to 24-year-olds were in higher education in 2006, that was double the proportion in 2001, according to IPEA. (The figures for whites were 19.2% in 2006, compared with 14.1% in 2001). “We’re very happy, because in the past five years we’ve placed more blacks in universities than in the previous 500 years,” says Frei David Raimundo dos Santos, a Franciscan friar who runs Educafro, a charity that holds university-entrance classes in poor areas. “Today there’s a revolution in Brazil.”…
Outrage has predictably followed Twitter’s announcement yesterday that it has developed a system to block (or, as the company euphemistically puts it, “withhold“) specific tweets in specific countries if they violate local law, while keeping the content available for the rest of the world. The hashtag #TwitterBlackout is bursting with calls for a boycott of the microblogging service on Saturday, and headlines like “Twitter caves to global censorship” abound.
But the indignation may be overwrought. The Next Web‘s Anna Heim points out that Twitter users who want to see a blocked tweet can simply change their country setting. In fact, Twitter’s decision to link to instructions on how to change that setting as part of its announcement has some speculating that the company is actually feigning respect for local laws while winking at its users.
“Chances are that Twitter perfectly knows about this workaround,” Heim writes. “Users won’t need to hide their IP address with a proxy: Twitter lets them change it manually, despite the potential loss in hyperlocal ad dollars for the platform.” Indeed, in an email exchange with Foreign Policy, Twitter spokeswoman Rachel Bremer emphasized user control. “Because geo-location by IP address is an imperfect science,” she explained, “we allow users to manually set their country.”
What’s more, Twitter has promised to disclose any information it withholds through a system that looks a lot like Google’s Transparency Report, which tracks requests by government agencies and courts around the world for Google to hand over user data or remove content from its services. Twitter pledges to alert users when their tweets or accounts have been removed, clearly mark withheld content, and post notices on the website Chilling Effects. The company will only remove content in reaction to “valid legal process — we don’t do anything proactively,” Bremer explained. She insisted that Twitter’s commitment to free speech, which “has been demonstrated in our actions since the company was founded,” is “not changing.”
But that’s just the problem. Twitter has long built its brand around free expression. While the company has never joined tech giants such as Google and Microsoft in supporting the Global Network Initiative, which seeks to protect online privacy and free speech, Twitter has championed those values in other ways. CEO Dick Costolo likes to say that Twitter is the “free speech wing of the free speech party,” while former CEO Evan Williams once described the company’s goal as reaching the “weakest signals all over the world,” citing protests in Iran and Moldova as examples. Not only did Twitter famously postpone a planned outage at the height of the Iranian protests in 2009, but when the Egyptian government shut down social networks last year at the start of the revolution, Twitter teamed up with Google to develop a “speak-to-tweet” service. While “Google only promises not to be evil,” Jeff Bercovici writes at Forbes, “Twitter’s devotees have built it up into something much more exalted: a force for global progress and human enlightenment.”
And, so far, Twitter has not done a particularly good job of explaining how this week’s changes will alter its process for removing content and why the company is willing to imperil its brand by implementing the new rules. In announcing the policy, Twitter explained that it will need to “enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression” as it grows. But what does “enter countries” mean for a website theoretically available from anywhere? Spokespeople have since added that there are still countries where Twitter will not operate as a business (read: China, where Twitter is blocked) and that the changes have nothing to do with Saudi Prince AlWaleed bin Talal investing $300 million in the company. But when asked byForeign Policy for an explanation of how notices under the new system might differ from the copyright complaints currently clogging Twitter’s section on Chilling Effects, Bremer declined to comment on “hypothetical situations about when or how we might have to remove content in the future.”…
January 29, 2012
Terrorism isn’t a 20th-century phenomenon, but the circumstances of September 11—the way al Qaeda organised and funded itself and conducted its operations—could only have come out of the globalising world of the 1990s.
That decade began with one of the 20th century’s most unanticipated events, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the crumbling of the Cold War structures that had shaped global politics.
This is a good place to begin because, however we weigh up the reasons for the fall of the Soviet empire, a central element was economic; the incipient impact of emerging technology that led to a revolution in the cost of transferring information and distributing goods. By driving the opening of markets and the rapid dissemination of data, these brought out starkly the inability of autarkic economies to compete with their rivals, and made closed political systems much harder to sustain.
Such changes—the growth of the internet and mobile communications especially—dominated the 1990s. They led to a greater integration of international and domestic economic policy than the world had seen before, a fusing of the external and internal economies.
The disappearance of the barriers between the Cold War blocs of East and West gave a new vitality to regionalism, enabling the EU to expand, ASEAN to embrace Indochina and APEC to be formed.
The emerging economies of Asia set themselves up best to benefit from this globalising world. It was the “Time of the Tigers”, and the Asian miracle accelerated, as rapid growth spread from North to Southeast Asia.
The first big challenge to this emerging story came with the Asian financial crisis from July 1997 onwards. In Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia, currency links with the US dollar broke under pressure, sharemarkets collapsed and foreign capital fled. In a single year we saw a reversal of capital inflows to Korea and the ASEAN countries on the order of $100 billion.
Asia experienced the worst slowdown in the developing world for thirty years. But it was the political rather than the economic results of that crisis that mattered most for Australia, and shaped our contemporary environment more directly than September 11.
In May 1998, Soeharto’s new order government fell. But contrary to the pundits who predicted the imminent break-up of Indonesia, a more diffuse and decentralised power structure emerged, shaped by an authentically Indonesian democracy.
This reform and democratisation in turn transformed Southeast Asian regional politics and made possible the development of a deeper and more politically sustainable Australia-Indonesia relationship. And in the aftermath of September 11 and the Bali bombings, it would underpin one of the world’s most successful efforts against terrorism.
And the crisis led directly to the independence of East Timor, the final act in the long process of decolonisation in Asia, which had defined so much of Australia’s foreign policy since the end of the World War II; and provided Australia with pre-September 11 experience in stabilising fragile states.
But perhaps most importantly, the crisis consolidated the rise of China. A lesson Beijing had drawn from the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 was that economic growth was essential for the party’s continuing hold on power. So, during the 1990s, Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji drove greater economic openness and pushed forward market-oriented reforms. In 1997 the loss-making network of state-owned enterprises was opened to diversified ownership, and reform of the bloated public service began. In the same year, the private sector was officially described as “an important part of China’s socialist market economy”.
But China’s capital account remained resolutely closed. So when the Asian crisis came, China was insulated from exposure to international financial markets. Its share of Asia’s foreign direct investment had begun to edge up from 1992, but after the crisis, more foreign investors asked themselves why they should fiddle around on the edges when they could go directly to the world’s most populous market. Investment stampeded northwards from Southeast Asia and China’s total stock of foreign direct investment grew to become second only to that of the United States.
By 2001, China was ready to take the most important step towards its integration with the global economy by joining the World Trade Organisation. Just months before its accession, and facilitated by the same technology which made China’s growth possible, al Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre. So globalisation’s two sides—dark and light—were brought into sharp focus.
The 9/11 attacks shook to its core the confidence the US felt in its traditional security between the moats of two great oceans. The world that changed after September 11 was principally the world as the United States felt it to be; and to that perception in varying degrees the world had to adjust.
Threats from radical Islamist terrorist groups against American targets, and even on American soil, weren’t new. Important sections of the national security administration of the United States had been focusing on them during the 1990s. But the World Trade Centre and Pentagon atrocities moved the issue to the very centre of American thought.
For the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, there was an urgent weighing-up of the possibility of some nightmare scenario—not just the prospect of more big terrorist attacks, but the potential use of weapons of mass destruction, even of crude nuclear-explosive devices.
The sense of vulnerability and anger sparked by September 11 made the US much more ready to act against threats to the US homeland and to US global interests. For many Americans, this was worse than Pearl Harbour: an attack on the core symbols of the US economy and government.
The US response answered dramatically the question which had been unresolved since the end of the Cold War of what American grand strategy would be. The “post-Cold War” hiatus was over. The war on terror had begun.
In September 2002, President Bush outlined a National Security Strategy of exceptional ambition. It brought together a series of themes he had spoken about since the attacks on the American homeland, beginning with the belief that “the 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress”: freedom, democracy and free enterprise. America’s actions in confronting terrorists and tyrants were not to be undertaken for unilateral gain, but to create “a balance of power that favors freedom”. The terrorist attacks of September 11 had provided a moment of opportunity for the US to “extend the benefits of freedom across the globe”.
That required US power, and it was the goal of the United States, in the president’s words, “to build and maintain our defences beyond challenge … Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing or equalling, the power of the United States”.
Pre-emptive action would be necessary to prevent the use of WMD by terrorists, as would national missile defence and cooperation with other states on non-proliferation. A common threat would help to bind all the great powers of the world for the first time.
Australia’s response to September 11 was heavily shaped by the coincidental presence in Washington on that day of the prime minister John Howard. The force of his response to the disaster and the first-hand understanding it gave senior Australian policy makers of the impact of the catastrophe, set the scene for a deeper political, security and economic relationship with our major ally.
The ANZUS alliance was invoked for the first time—and remains the basis for our engagement in Afghanistan. Australia was also an early participant in Iraq in 2003. These military commitments, helped by the personal closeness of Bush and Howard, intensified Australia-United States security integration. There is no doubt they also helped congressional passage of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
After the 2002 Bali bombings—killing 202 people, 88 of them Australian—Australia’s regional relationships took on more of the dimensions of the emerging, post-September 11 transnational agenda.
It was understood by then that borders that were increasingly permeable to trade and tourism were also open to threats ranging from terrorists to money launderers, from nuclear proliferators like Pakistan’s Abdul Qadeer Khan to pathogens like the SARS virus.
Counter-terrorism co-operation was an important element in bringing Australia closer to newly democratic Indonesia. Indonesia’s successful prosecution of more than 470 terrorism suspects in public and transparent trials was a major achievement of the counterterrorism effort, and has been a key factor in turning Indonesian public sentiment against terrorism. But other aspects of the transnational agenda such as the Bali processes on people smuggling were also engaged.
One lesson we drew from September 11 and from al Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan was that if you let problems fester they could become major international security threats. The mode of the time was interventionist.
IF the 10 years before September 11 were marked by the merging of domestic and foreign economic policy, in the decade afterwards it was the amalgamating of domestic and foreign security policy that mattered.
We’ve lived through what will be seen in retrospect as the “national security” decade—a period in which most governments, including Australia’s, revised fundamentally their ideas of what national security is, who is responsible for it, and how it is done…