Opinion: Anti-racist agenda needs to be at the center of the electoral debate and provided for in the Budget

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Of the multiple inequalities that structure Brazil, racial inequality occupies a central place. Affecting more than half of the Brazilian population, it means substantially worse living conditions and opportunities for black people compared to white people.

The data are eloquent in pointing out this disparity: the average income of black people is little more than half that of white people, and their poverty rate is more than double that of them, making up 75% of the poor.

The homicide rate of black people is almost triple that of white people, and they have fewer years of schooling and a higher rate of illiteracy. A dramatic scenario aggravated by the pandemic that, as acknowledged by the CPI, affected more black people. In addition to getting sick and dying more, they lost more jobs and income, which led to record racial inequality in the labor market.

This abyss is not born by chance: it is the work of centuries. Forged in slavery, it remained largely thanks to the action or omission of the Brazilian state.

The examples are plentiful: whitening policies, inequality of educational and work opportunities, police violence, underfunding of public services, persecution of artistic, cultural and religious manifestations of African origin, the dissemination of the myth of racial democracy. Added to them is a certain intellectual apathy, which contrasts class with race and ignores gender, as if economic development alone had the power to resolve structural racism.

There will be no true nation as long as this state of affairs —unconstitutional, by the way— continues. And it cannot, under any circumstances, change naturally. This reality can only change when the State assumes an explicitly anti-racist stance.

Thus, it is essential that the country’s reconstruction process has anti-racism as its guiding principle.

After years of destruction of public policies, daily hit by ineptitude, negligence and authoritarianism, it is necessary to place the improvement of the socioeconomic conditions of the black population at the center of state action. The minimum expected from the rulers of the blackest country outside of Africa is that their plans and budgets are built based on the specificities and needs of this population.

This challenge will require meticulous planning, high-level political and managerial articulation, in addition to confronting normalized privileges.

And it will require, in particular, budgetary space. This implies, first, promoting profound reforms in the current fiscal framework, which makes it impossible, for all practical purposes, to build and improve any relevant public policy. It implies re-discussing the tax system, which proportionally burdens black people more. It implies rescuing and expanding policies for the promotion of racial equality, which are now practically exterminated from the budget, explaining the portions of the budget aimed at guaranteeing their rights, which allows for ex ante and ex post social control.

There will only be democracy if the Budget supports the humanization and citizenship of the black population.

And this debate cannot only start on January 1, 2023. On the contrary, it must start immediately and be the central theme of the next presidential campaign. It is unreasonable to postulate the highest office in the Republic without making a firm commitment to a concrete plan for promoting equity and combating racism. Black Brazilians are fed up with being foundlings in their own land.

On the eve of 200 years of Independence, it is necessary to reflect on what we were, what we are and what we intend to be. Any reconstruction project that deserves this designation will have to take the fight against racial inequalities as the foundation of public intervention — and not as an accidental cut. It is time for the State to stop being silent in the face of this agenda, because if we have made little progress towards a substantive racial democracy, the time has come to make it happen.

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