The month of Black Consciousness is also the month in which the day of the Proclamation of the Republic is celebrated. The proximity of commemorative dates is an invitation to critical reflection on the meaning of republicanism and racism in Brazil.
If it is true that African slavery was the mainstay of the Empire, under which a true pact of Brazilian society against the enslaved was founded, it is also true that with the advent of the Republic and the abolition of slavery, racism emerged as a fundamental element of Brazilian social life.
It was in the First Republic that the racial issue gained centrality in the debate on national identity. After all, the construction of a republican, economically liberal and slave-free country would require the emergence of a type of nation that, as we know, did not even remotely point in the direction of a more egalitarian country.
The Republic in Brazil, unlike the USA and France —countries where modern republicanism was born—, did not coexist with slavery.
However, Brazilian social inequality was redefined in the republican period in inconclusive racial terms, in this case, through the formulations of “scientific racism”.
As Lilia Schwarcz shows us in “The Spectacle of Races”, the Brazilian state and its institutions —faculties of law, medical schools and natural history museums— were directly responsible for the creation of racist repressive mechanisms and the ideological diffusion of racism that endure to this day. Racism was, to a large extent, a project of the Brazilian State.
Racism has always been part of republican historical experiences. In the case of the USA, it is worth mentioning that, with the end of slavery in 1863, and after an intense dispute for the country’s hegemony between the Northern and Southern states, the laws of racial segregation known as Jim Crow.
In France, the marks left by imperialism and colonialism are presented in the form of xenophobia and problems of social integration of a significant immigrant community.
Recognizing the contradictions is the first step to think about the possibility of a redefinition of the ideals and practices of republicanism that has history and political struggles as a material basis.
For this reason, it is possible to state that the month of Black Consciousness marks the dispute for a new sense of the Republic, inspired by the ethical and imaginary reconstruction of Palmares, a “land without kings and slaves” and, of course, without racism, as he wanted the lawyer Luiz Gama.
As done by the black movements for decades, the dispute for the imaginary, symbolic and political territory of Palmares is part of the list of battles for a conception of republicanism that takes into account the entire Brazilian people.
In the midst of its historical contradictions, the republic is ideally projected as the form of government capable of combating the threat of tyranny and privilege, in such a way that every republican worthy of the name should have, in the fight against racism and other forms of discrimination, a of your highest goals.
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