How Brazil's Media Celebrates November-Black Consciousness Month

Black Consciousness Month, celebrated every November in Brazil, has become the time for the mainstream press to publish data and stories on inequality between blacks and whites

This "Novemberism" isn't necessarily bad, but the over-concentration of reporting on the theme annoys those who would like to be represented and have their issues discussed year-round.

At the same time, it is a period in which the exclusionary mechanisms of Brazilian society are highly visible.

With the help of research agencies and universities, data on black inclusion in different areas show how eloquently racist we Brazilians are.

A quick look at the history of the relationship between the black population and the media shows that for most of the 20th century, blacks have been confined to the crime, sports, and culture newspaper sections.

Not surprisingly, significant changes have come in sport, especially with the lucid speeches of sportscaster Júlio Oliveira, recently made on SporTV, and that of Bahia coach Roger Machado.

The ethnic-racial debate gained strength only at the end of the dictatorship, especially after the emergence of the Unified Black Movement.

However, a change in journalistic coverage only emerged during the debate on affirmative action policies (quotas) designed to increase the participation of blacks, mulattos, and indigenous people in Brazilian higher education.

More recently, mainstream media has picked up on race discussions that initiated on social media, pushing them into the forefront.

The approach to covering racial issues is also better. Reporting that used to focus on personal self-improvement as a way to overcome racism has evolved into contextual debates.

Is there room for improvement? Yes. A few days ago, I learned that blacks and browns, for the first time, are the majority in federal universities.

This revelation should have been accompanied by further refinement of the data. There was little discussion, for example, about the presence of blacks in more prestigious courses. There is also the risk of promoting the fallacy that quotas have already achieved their goal of putting more blacks into university.

This improvement in coverage didn't emerge without resistance. Some of our own newspapers positioned themselves, in the editorial section, against the political policy of quotas. Folha was one of them.

In a more recent example, in the same issue that featured this historical emergence of blacks in higher education, the newspaper O Globo made a point of highlighting what it called "injustices" committed by a quota policy, based on something that does not exist: race.

A divergence in coverage is welcome. But the quota policy does not guide the biological implications, but rather the idea of race as a marker that dehumanizes a group and affects its entire existence.

Can there be mistakes in this process? Yes, but racial markers have shown themselves to be efficient. When in doubt, consult a taxi driver, doorman, or police officer—they are skilled in defining race.

Other coverage is changing at a much slower rate. Black people continue to be associated with violence, for example.

There is nothing more serious going on in Brazil today than the violence suffered by the black population. According to the IBGE, the homicide rate among 15- to 29-year-olds is 34 per 100,000.

It rises to 98.5 among young blacks. Among men, the homicide rate is 63.5 per 100,000 among whites and 185 among blacks.

The trivialization of racism still causes black people, killed in certain places, not even to make the news, and television programs exploit violence through stereotypes, vulgar terminology, and explicit racism.

The subject who is dead is not named, is no longer seen as a young person or a worker, or has a criminal record highlighted as justification for death.

Another noteworthy point is that blacks are not featured in the prestigious newspaper sections. They are excluded from debates over economic policy, whose outcomes affect them the most.

But there have been improvements. Folha created a diversity editorial council that has been publishing relevant content, as well as bringing columnists to discuss these guidelines. Amplifying this is critical.

Absences create an invisibility cloak that reverberates in all areas and dimensions. A more permanent journalistic coverage, beyond November, justifies studies and investments, expanding possible solidarity ties.

Made by and for an elite, major media always reflects their fears, prejudices, and concerns. It has helped to normalize the picture of racial inequalities and now needs to help overcome this narrative.

Flavia lima

A reporter specializing in economics, she holds a degree in social science from USP and a law degree from Mackenzie. She has been an ombudsman for Folha since May 2019.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon