Francis L. Holland Blogging in Brazilian Portuguese.

As part of a new effort to live mentally, emotionally and physically where my body is–in Brazil–I have started a blog called “Brazil with Pleasure” in Portuguese, and I'm posting to that blog.  Eventually, I hope to express myself there as much as I do here, and more.

Like many bloggers, much of what I write about are my own thoughts and reactions to what I've learned in the mainstream press outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times.  Today, I set my Internet homepage to Folha de São Paulo, the New York Times equivalent in Brazil.  As time goes on, I hope to learn more about Brazil, although I am not legally authorized to start political groups that exercise political influence here until I become a citizen of Brazil, with dual nationality, which might take as much as nine years more, or which I might endeavor to accomplish next year.

The most dangerous job in Brazil is advocate for the poor in confrontations with the rich. Advocates for Blacks in confrontations with whites don't seems to exist very much here as such.  Although Blacks have significantly less wealth and earning power in Brazil than whites statistically, it is not generally discussed and not generally perceived as a Black/white problem.  “There is no racism in Brazil.” :)

Likewise, Blacks are not a distinct voting block that politicians target at election time.  To a much greater degree than in the United States, Brazilians relate to and are aware of their financial circumstances on the ladder of economics more than they concern themselves with their financial status as associated with their skin color. And politicians relate to poor people, including Blacks, by emphasizing programs for the poor.

In Brazil, the newspapers and the rest of the media break society down into socioeconomic groups based on income and wealth, with the wealthiest Brazilians in the A group and the jobless and most economically “miserable” (no running water or sewage provisions) Brazilians considered to be in the E group, or some such thing.  Many Brazilians are within the “D” group, earning between one and three times the minimum wage monthly.  This group is not able to send children to private school, but may own a humble house, a television and more lately may have a computer and Internet access in the home.

In Brazil, the newspapers and the rest of the media break society down into socioeconomic groups based on income and wealth, with the wealthiest Brazilians in the A group and the jobless and most economically “miserable” (no running water or sewage provisions) Brazilians considered to be in the E group, or some such thing.  Many Brazilians are within the “D” group, earning between one and three times the minimum wage monthly.  This group is not able to send children to private school, but may own a humble house, a television and more lately may have a computer and Internet access in the home.

Although Brazil does not speak about the lack of political power of Blacks as a group (there are very few  politicians recognized as being Black who also have high name recognition), nonetheless if Blacks voted as a consciously distinct voting group, it is likely that their votes would have a revolutionary effect on the color of power here.

Because the current president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has less than a high school education and was a steel worker before he rose through the union ranks to represent workers and the poor as a presidential candidate, and running twice unsuccessfully before being elected president, with programs that benefit the poor regardless of color, Lula would likely be considered an honorary Black man in the United States.  There's also a high likelihood that some of his ancestors are truly recent (last 400 years) descendants of Africans, as is very common in Brazil.  Lula announced with pleasure last year that the nation is now comprised 50% of African descendants.

With all of this to work with, you would think I would have little difficulty turning my focus from US politics to Brazilian politics.  However, as I said above, even the woman running for president who has the skin color almost as dark as that of Barack Obama is not referred to as “the Black candidate.”  She is not even referred to as the woman candidate.  In fact, the two woman candidates for president in Brazil have combined support exceeds that of the male candidate.

Unlike the speculation that surrounded the candidacies of Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton in the United States, there is no discussion of a “women's vote” in Brazil, and no discussion of whether men will vote for a woman.  Perhaps that's because Lula's presidency represents the victory of a man from a poor family, which seems more exceptional in retrospect than would be the election of a middle-class woman.  

The choice in Brazil really is between the bourgeoisie candidate and the candidate who will continue the common-man-oriented programs of President Lula.  However, it would be oversimplified to describe Lula as the candidate of the poor, since he has maintained economic growth policies which have continued to enrich the wealthy and which have really not significantly challenged the reality that Brazil is one of the world's nations that has the most stark difference between the wealth of the rich and the misery of the poor.  The stretches on arable lands in the hands of individual Brazilian wealthy people and corporations would easily exceed the size of many US states.

So, one cannot simply arrive in Brazil and describe the Brazilian reality using the terms to which we are accustomed in the United States.  Brazil's history and current political reality, as well as the conception and reality of people with non-white skin are radically differently conceived and experienced here in Brazil as compared with the United States, even if there are similarities that people from the US perceive. 

For example, and to my knowledge, there has been no systematic effort among Blacks as such to elect members of the Brazilian government on the local, state and national level, as far as I am aware. There may not even be sufficient Black identification among those who are not considered white for such campaigns to have relevance in Brazil.

Brazilian politics have made such campaigns seem relatively unnecessary, for example, by criminalizing expressions of “racism” and by designating a certain number of quota spots for the poor (among whom Blacks are overrepresented) as well as for Blacks and native Indians at public and private universities. 

Because we brown people in Brazil feel less likely to be singled out for Jim Crow-like humiliations and physical threats than are Blacks in the United States, we may experience less urgency in terms of winning political power for Blacks that would end the color-based discrimination that were and continue to be such a glaring and publicly debated issue in every arena of United States life.