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Friday, November 20, 2009

Black Consciousness Week in Brazil. What Have We Accomplished?

Not much.

In Brazil, Blacks suffer more: injustice, hunger, illiteracy, violence, discrimination, lack of adequate housing...The UN has seen it first hand.

Prompting High Comissiner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who has spent a week in the country, to say that countless Afro-Brazilians and indigenous people to be "mired in poverty". As a national, I have to say that it is true.

Brazil needs urgent changes in its educational system and significant investment in secondary education may be the key. It is no use trying to make people go to university if they do not have a substantial academic foundation.

The Brazilian Congress passed this last week a constitutinal amendment designed to provide free universal education to children aged 4 to 17. Laudable, we say. However, plans have to be implemented so that the educational reforms reach both teachers and students.

It is expected even, when one watches TV or hears of this or that crime being committed, to see a black or brown (yes, we have brown people - they are called pardos) face on the screen.

It is no wonder that Brazilian prisons are chock-full of Black citizens. And brown.

What about Blacks in position of authority? Virtually none. In the state of Bahia, as the Comissioner rightly points out where most of the state is Black, there is not a Black face in a position of authority. An indication?

Blacks in Brazil have had this complete disregard heaped on them for centuries. Nothing of substance is being made to change the status quo.

Brazil needs an urgent overhauling of its educational and perhaps cultural soul. We need songwriters to write songs with intelligent lyrics and film-makers to be making intelligent and critical movies and soap opera directors to step up to the plate for when they show their usual serving of drama, they are guilty of racism by showing only actors and actresses one would think hailed from Norway.

This country has a long way to go - an uphill climb for sure. It can be done. It can be accomplished. Brazil can be an all-inclusive and democratic country where all the citizens in the skin-color spectrum benefit.

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