The history of Brazilian society is inseparable from slavery. Much is said about the consequences suffered by the black population, but what legacy belongs to whites? This is what Cida Bento seeks to answer in her book “O Pacto da Branquitude”.
PhD in psychology from USP (University of São Paulo) and columnist for Sheetthe author summarizes the knowledge acquired during her master’s and doctoral research, her professional experiences in the area of human resources and her personal experiences.
She highlights, in the ten chapters, something clear that seems to be forgotten by Brazil: slavery and racism benefited and continue to benefit white people in the most different social spheres.
To build her argument, Cida first mobilizes history. The author states that before the establishment of slave trade routes in the context of European colonization, both Africa and Asia were relatively rich and productive regions – unlike Europe.
The arrival of Europeans and the established trade dynamics had a negative impact on these continents, not only through the extraction of resources, but also through the destruction of the economic and social structures that existed.
With hard work being transferred to the colonies, European countries were experiencing a period of economic development. This benefited not only the rich families, who participated directly in the extraction of wealth, but also the poorer (and white) classes.
According to Cida, the notion of whiteness was born precisely in this process of European colonization. Conceptually, it concerns the idea that the white race would be the standard, and everything that is different from it would be the different, the “other” of the supposedly universal white self.
The whiteness pact, in turn, consists of agreements made to keep white people in a privileged situation and, at the same time, sanitized from the entire historical and violent process that built it.
This hygiene would be justified as a matter of merit the privileges that white people have today in the economic, political and social spheres. And not as a result of hundreds of years of exploitation of enslaved blacks. An example is that most leadership positions are held by white people.
In the case of Brazil, a country that holds the shameful title of being the one that allowed slavery for the longest time, the consequences of this process are mixed with practically all social cleavages, whether they be gender or class.
An example of this cursed heritage is domestic work, a remnant of colonial dynamics that still functions as a fundamental livelihood, especially for poor black women. Racism is manifested not only in color and income, but also in practices involving the worker-employer relationship, still permeated by practices of submission, contempt and even harassment.
According to a survey by Made/USP (Center for Research in Macroeconomics of Inequalities, at the University of São Paulo), the 705,000 white men who are part of the richest 1% in the country have a higher income than all 33 million women. blacks from Brazil.
In March of this year, the Sheet showed that labor and cultural changes are calling into question the existence of specific rooms for domestic servants. However, the author states that the middle and upper classes disapprove of the formalization of this type of service and that there is still much to be done.
The book is about how poor whites have benefited from slavery in the past and today. As much as they did not directly participate in the extraction of wealth from the colonies, they benefited from the economic development that came from them. In addition, heavy work was transferred to the colonies.
Poor whites today would benefit from the whiteness narrative, which favors them because they are more likely to be chosen in job interviews, for example, because of their appearance.
The black population, on the other hand, cannot ignore the violence that permeates this pact. Cida reports in the book how she, like her father, mother and seven siblings, suffered countless episodes of racism in her daily life, whether at school or at work.
She says that when she was working as a recruiter, she once selected two black women for a secretary position. The customer offering the spot responded with a scolding.
These cases go beyond direct discrimination, and also take the form of white discomfort with the presence of blacks with similar hierarchical status in the corporate environment. Here, whiteness reveals itself beyond prejudice: it is also a way of ensuring the sovereignty of a group, the white. Here’s the pact.
This idea is taken to the extreme — but not to the absurd, given its everyday materiality — in the feature film “Medida Provisoria”, the first film directed by Lázaro Ramos. In the work, the discomfort with the presence of blacks is so great that the government creates the project “Rescue Yourself Now”, in which it pays this part of the population to return to Africa.
By merging personal experiences with historical argumentation, Cida takes racism out of the theoretical or personal field and treats it as a process — in other words, a structural gear that organizes society and shapes individualities.
“Whiteness Pact” is incisive. It starts from a premise that seems to be forgotten, returning color to whites and pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of each part of the population.
The book dares to show a Brazilian face that we do not want and do not like to see, but which is essential if we want to advance as a society.