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Opinion: Racism in Brazil Exists, It Just Doesn't Manifest Itself As Racial Hatred Like It Did in Charlottesville

08/15/2017 - 12h09

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JOEL PINHEIRO DA FONSECA
FOLHA COLUMNIST

The racial protests that took place recently in the United States, in Charlottesville, were shocking not because of their size but due to their repugnancy.

According to media estimates, there were no more than a couple hundred protesters, but their speeches were heard all around the world. This is the most abhorrent face of the so-called "alt-right".

The group is a minority in the United States. They are not representative of the bulk of the American right.

To the contrary, they have the opposite vision: instead of a government limited by the Constitution based on universal values and individual rights, they defend an ethno-racial autocracy to defend the white collective against its supposed enemies.

The truth is that traditional conservatives are one of the favorite targets of the virulent rhetoric of the alt-righters. A handful of people make a huge amount of noise on the internet and because of this, end up being treated as a larger political force than they really are.

In addition to this, ideological racism in the United States has been around for a long time and, under Trump, it is more pronounced.

In the middle of so many negative things going on here in Brazil, we can say something: this kind of protest is unthinkable here.

Racism in Brazil exists but doesn't manifest itself as racial hatred. We don't have groups of white supremacists or other relevant racists. Our racial mixture produced a different reality from the American one.

When even Brazilian Neo-Nazi groups themselves count mixed-race individuals among their ranks, it's clear that they aren't viable. Biology imposes limits on ideology.

But there is another characteristic of the United States that is surprising: the protest by racists wasn't illegal. Even with all the controversy, the chance of infringing on the legal guarantee of freedom of expression is zero. The law is above momentary passions.

The fight against racism, which over the long run has been victorious, hasn't taken place in courtrooms or even in prisons. It has allowed opinions - even those considered to be loathsome and detestable - to be publicly expressed.

This has served as an obligation for even those promoting laudable opinions to arm themselves with sustainable arguments. And this necessity is giving a welcome shock to the mainstream, who now realize that bullying is incapable of victory with an erroneous or even hateful proposal.

Here in Brazil, freedom of expression is more precarious. The first reaction of many people when confronted with opinions that they find offensive is to prohibit, fine or arrest the proponents.

We feel complacent in the certainty that the State is here to prevent evil ideas from spreading further. Criminalized opinions transform themselves into martyrs and weaken our best defenses.

In the realm of ideas, we are an unprepared country. Our efforts are concentrated exactly in attempting to prevent ideas from being taken too seriously. We don't yield to the insanity of the alt-right (which already has spokespeople around here) nor to the totalitarian left. What unites us is stronger than class or racial hatred.

But this doesn't exempt us from necessity of seeking to understand what fortifies this hatred, and when we have to confront it, to have something besides moral indignation against the reality of what we are confronting.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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