RACISM IN BRAZIL IS LIKE A VERY dangerous snake kept in a dark room where all of us who are black are forced to live. While we don't touch it, it is there, quiet, but deadly frightening. When we get close or touch it, it attacks us with no mercy. As result, we have learned to live with an invisible enemy that closely monitors our every step and prevents our capacity for growth and social mobility, says Dojival Vieira.
The 54-year-old, Sao Paulo-based Afro-Brazilian race campaigner is in the frontline of a battle against "racismo cordial, Brazil's subtle but no less dangerous brand of bigotry. As a lawyer, he defends poor, Afro-Brazilians in race-related cases; as a journalist, he focuses on stories about racial discrimination which are published in the Afropress, a digital newspaper he founded; as a political activist he lobbies politicians in a bid to end Brazil's ongoing official silence on racial discrimination and exclusion; as a husband and father he continuously has to calm his family's fears about the dangers of his activism including death threats he frequently receives.
"In Brazil, the more black and curly-haired you are, the more distant you are from the universe of white people, which has been constructed as the superior model and only those who belong are granted full citizenship rights," Vieira says. "Racism is an ignored, hidden evil. It is a disease hidden in the social body which is silently killing the self-esteem of our black children and forcing many Afro-Brazilians to deny they are black."
Afro-Brazilians continue to suffer racial discrimination in almost every area of their lives - in childhood, schools, workplaces, prison, stores, hotels, at the hands of judges, the police, landlords and doctors. Yet at 90 million, and making up 50.8% of the country's estimated 190 million population, they are the majority racial group. Despite their large number, on average, they are paid half the salary of whites. The gap is even wider among educated Brazilians.
In Brazil's booming fashion industry, there are only a few Afro-Brazilian models. They don't get the high level of exposure which blue-eyed models of European descent, like Gisele Bundchen, who has exploded on the global fashion scene, get.
As the majority of Brazil's poor, many Afro-Brazilians still lack basic services including sanitation, housing and healthcare, according to new research by Amnesty International. Racial...