a blog with cultural bulimia.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Reality and reality check.

Two news split the front pages of brazilian newspapers yesterday.
First, our president, Lula, during a trip in Africa, apologized for Brazil's role during slavery. Second, an Argentinean soccer player was arrested - really arrested by the police - after making racial comments towards a brazilian player during a soccer match in São Paulo.

When I lived in New York I was often asked if there was racism in Brazil. My answer was always that it is the same as in the U.S. except that in the U.S. there are laws and special programs that are enforced. In Brazil I had never seen a wealthy black person that was not a soccer player or a musician.

Things have improved - slightly - because of our leftist government. There are many more black public figures. The Minister of Culture is black: Gilberto Gil (although he is also one of our most famous artists). Also, because of a very strong miscegenation, there are many shades of color skin darker than pure white that are considered white and that are sometimes more prejudiced. I always considered myself white - that's what I answer the census here - until I moved to the U.S.

So we should be glad with the police swift action in São Paulo? Well, things are not so black and white.

Racism is deplorable and should be condemned. But what happened during the soccer match is such an integer part of how we play soccer that things start to blur. We ahve a cultural problem here not a policial one.

These are considered the most natural things in Brazil: Players have always teased other players with slurs, trying to diminish their performance. We have NEVER respect the judge's mother - NEVER. We have nicknamed the player who suffered the insults, Grafite. We HATE the Argentineans. If someone messes up we say he made a "baianada" and call him a "paraiba" (Bahia and Paraiba are two nothern - and poor - states). And these are very natural things...

As they say it here: "the hole is a further down".