Former Supreme Court Justice Joaquim Barbosa hasn’t made an official statement on the possibility of throwing his name in the hat of presidential candidates. But even so, his registering with a political party only one day before the deadline of possible candidates to do so is reason to believe that will soon make an announcement.
The press clearly has reason for all of the clamor since Barbosa joined the PSB (Brazilian Socialist Party) earlier this month. Of course, he was the first black president of the Supreme Court, no small accomplishment. And having chosen the PSB, Barbosa has chosen to sidestep allegiance to the two political powerhouses that have dominated Brazilian politics since the mid 90s, the PSDB and the PT. Barbosa was one Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2013, and one of ten Brazilians who were international news items, also in 2013, according to the BBC. Barbosa also became a hero for millions of Brazilians who are fed up with political corruption during his performance in the so-called mensalão trials that saw numerous poltical figures sent to prison.
But one of the questions on the minds of many is what a Barbosa presidency would mean for black Brazilians. I’ve got my own thoughts on the topic, but for now, I’ll let facts rain on individual thought.
Would Joaquim Barbosa in the Presidency be an achievement for the blacks?
Would Joaquim Barbosa’s election be a victory for blacks in Brazil? The likely entry of the former STF (Supreme Court) minister into the presidential race throws doubt on whether his coming to power would imply effective measures for racial equality
By Nasr Escobar
Joaquim Barbosa’s likely entry into the presidential race raises doubts whether his victory would imply effective measures for racial equality.
Apart from the symbolic factor of a black man occupying for the first time the presidency of the Republic after the re-democratization since Nilo Peçanha, president of 1909 to 1910, became the only black to command the country -, there is no evidence that Joaquim Barbosa would create a government committed to reducing the social chasms provoked by the racist structure that formed Brazil.
Appointed minister of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) in 2003, by then President Lula da Silva, JB carries some credentials that enable him to fill hopeful voters with hope. From a poor family, he made his career in the Public Ministry and in the academic area before becoming the first black president of the Supreme Court.
He is the author of the book Ação afirmativa & princípio constitucional da igualdade (Affirmative Action & Constitutional Principle of Equality) in which he analyzes legal and philosophical aspects of affirmative action in the United States. In 2012, in the STF, he voted in favor of the constitutionality of racial quotas in an action of the Democratas party against the mechanism of insertion of blacks in university education.
During an interview with the laughing Roberto D’Avila, he admitted that as a child he cried due to suffering racism and refuted the interviewer’s insinuation that in Brazil social discrimination prevails over race.
A closer look at these issues reveals that JB is far from being an uncompromising advocate of the black cause. In the vote on the legality of quotas, his vote was the same as that of his STF comrades, all white.
Although he spoke to Roberto D’Avila about the existence of structural racism, he shied away from the idea that his appointment at the STF was a way of fighting against racism.
“I don’t think I came here to fight racism. I always thought that my presence here would contribute to de-racializing Brazil, to de-racialize the relations, I hope the day I leave here, the presidents know how to choose the people here and choose black people naturally,” said JB in the interview from 2014, assuming a discourse that would not sound strange in Ferdinand Holiday’s mouth, if the anti-quota councilman was more elegant with words.
A frequenter of Twitter, JB has been making some sarcastic remarks about President Michel Temer and opinions on international politics, but he has not used characters to speak of the extermination of young blacks.
Recent episodes such as the death of councilwoman Marielle Franco and the murders of five young women in Maricá (RJ) have gone blank.
The last thing the black cause needs is silence on these cases. Silencing yourself with a platform to express yourself, as JB has, is to take a stand in the political debate. In this case, the position doesn’t give rise to movements in order to contain the exclusion caused by color.
As serious as the silence over the Marielle case was the ex-minister’s statement regarding the establishment of quotas in the Judiciary.
“I don’t know and I’m leaving. Es ist mir ganz egal (in German, ‘for me it makes no difference’),” he told reporters at the time of the STF, who questioned him after the Census of the Judiciary revealed that only 1.4% of the country’s judges declare themselves black.
JB can even use the political marketing ploy to minimize this claim and earn an activist veneer that he never had if he fights for the presidency. But what he said or did not say is there, registered for anyone who wants to see.
By Nasr Escobar ,Ambassador to The African Union and a Adjunct senior fellow for African peace and security issues at the Council of African Affairs,U.S. Representative to the Afro-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce