World Cup Racism Undercuts Brazil ‘We Are Equal’ Campaign
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It was just a regular evening of monkey noises and racial slurs for Brazilian soccer referee Marcio Chagas. Then he left to go home.
As he entered the parking lot after overseeing the March 6 state championship game in Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil’s south, the black physical education teacher found his tormentors had vandalized his car and piled bananas on the windshield. One was inserted into the exhaust pipe.
“I felt offended, like I’d been the victim of violence,” Chagas, 37, said by telephone from his home in Porto Alegre. “It was a cowardly act because I couldn’t defend myself. The jeering is normal. This kind of action was new for me.”
Racism in soccer came to the fore over the past month when Brazilian defender Daniel Alves ate a banana thrown at him by a fan while playing for Barcelona in the Spanish league. While the incident caused an uproar back home in Brazil, the outpouring of support masked how far the World Cup host has to go to eliminate prejudice in the country with the largest black population in the world after Nigeria.
Acts of racism in soccer stadiums have tarnished the image of tolerance that the government is trying to portray, according to Jorge da Silva, a political science professor at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro.
“Brazilians are used to saying that Brazil is a racial democracy: That’s just a myth,” da Silva said. “If you go to an elegant shopping center you won’t find black people there, not even working. If you board a plane in Brazil you will not see black people working, maybe one or two, let alone as passengers.”
In a country whose most famous person is black soccer icon Pelé, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is planning to use next month’s World Cup, played in 12 new and refurbished stadiums across the country, to promote the antiracism message. An advertisement currently on Brazilian television has the following tagline: “The cup of cups without racism.”
“Such a multicultural country, where all of the world’s races may be found, provides the possibility for interventions against racism and discrimination,” she said in January after meeting soccer governing body President Sepp Blatter.
Blatter said in an interview posted online by FIFA today that he will ask member associations to ratify tougher rules against racist behavior at a meeting in Sao Paulo on June 11.
In 2011 Brazil’s census showed for the first time its population was majority black and mixed race, with 51 percent declaring themselves as such…
…Determining who is black isn’t easy.
European settlers, mainly from Portugal, brought almost 5 million slaves to the country between 1502 and 1867, almost half of all Africans entering the new world and 10 times the number headed to the U.S. Interracial marriage was common and an official policy of “whitening” the population by inviting Europeans to the country until the middle 20th century has meant there are a more than 100 definitions of skin color, according to a government survey.
In a case at the University of Brasilia, identical twins in 2007 applied for entry as part of a quota system the institution has introduced. Only one was deemed black…
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