To the Palmares Cultural Foundation

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The Black Movement has tirelessly demanded that the national and international legal order take actions and measures to protect and promote the dignity of human beings, equality of all people and the ancient culture of African origin. Therefore, documents like the Federal Constitution (1988), the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1969), the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity in Cultural Expressions (2006) and Brazil’s Racial Equality Statute (2010) intercede upon the activity of the Brazilian State and its institutions, limiting their power when they act in detriment to the dignity of the Brazilian people, especially black people, guiding them when orientation is needed to promote actions to overcome the structural and institutional racism that results from crimes committed by this country against humanity, such as colonialism, slavery and racism.

All negative actions against the Black Brazilian Movement taken by the Foundation, as mentioned earlier, deserve our profound repudiation. We demand transparent and responsible investigations of the Palmares Cultural Foundation President’s actions. We call for his immediate resignation because, in a short period of time, his steps have demonstrated a clear project to destroy this federal institution that was built to appreciate African-Brazilian heritage. These racist practices and attitudes are unacceptable to the Black Social Movement, black Brazilian intellectuals and, particularly, to the black population in all segments of Brazilian society, whose memory cannot be eliminated by State agents.

TO THE PALMARES CULTURAL FOUNDATION

The Black Movement has tirelessly demanded that the national and international legal order take actions and measures to protect and promote the dignity of human beings, equality of all people and the ancient culture of African origin. Therefore, documents like the Federal Constitution (1988), the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1969), the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity in Cultural Expressions (2006) and Brazil’s Racial Equality Statute (2010) intercede upon the activity of the Brazilian State and its institutions, limiting their power when they act in detriment to the dignity of the Brazilian people, especially black people, guiding them when orientation is needed to promote actions to overcome the structural and institutional racism that results from crimes committed by this country against humanity, such as colonialism, slavery and racism. It is important to highlight that such crimes were acknowledged by Brazilian State at the Third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Correlated Forms of Intolerance, organized by the United Nations and held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa.

If on one hand our demands contributed to our struggles’ standing as landmarks in the development of legal civilization, on the other hand we know very well that they are only a starting point to ending racism. While the Brazilian State has a commitment to the international legal order of human rights, we cannot forget that it has been judged by the International Commission of Human Rights (in the cases of Simone André Diniz and Wallace de Almeida) and by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (in the case of Alyne Pimentel). These cases explain how structural and intersectional racism operates in our country, especially with respect to omission by governmental authorities.

Moreover, Brazil is aware of the genocide of black people, which is structured by the practices of State agents and paramilitary groups that kill black people in the peripheral areas as if they did not have the right to dignity. This fact is sadly confirmed by the Map of Violence of 2016 and The Atlas of Violence of 2017. Thus, the fact that the Brazilian Federal government is composed almost entirely of white cabinet members, meaning that very few black people are in the upper echelons of government, objectively evidences the reproduction of discriminatory practices against African Brazilians, the acclaim of white culture as the only positive way to develop the country and the consequent vilification of black culture. Together, these factors drive and exacerbate structural racism. From the perspective of our diversity in blackness, we, black intellectuals, stand against the Brazilian white supremacist government and we fight, alongside the memories of our ancestors, to have our thoughts and values respected and considered fundamental to the civilizational process of this nation.

We address this letter to the person in charge of this administration. We want to remind him, and remind everyone, of the meaning of representation in places of power. Representation is crucial to us as part of the racial freedom project that black people have demanded over the years, despite numerous attempts to silence us. We recall the project presented by Luiz Gama dealing with our ancestors’ emancipation. We speak of Lélia Gonzalez and the emancipation of black women. We refer to Abdias do Nascimento and his project of tackling the genocide perpetrated against Black people. Thus, Sergio Camargo’s racial identity as a black man does not matter to us because his position consolidates white racial power in this government. Since racism is structural and institutional in our society, i.e, it does not require intention to express itself, the change we want to make in this society requires, beyond objective demands and the moral repudiation of racism, promotions, decision-makings, adoption of new practices and the active participation of black people and non-black people in antiracist activities. This can and must be a commitment made by all Brazilians.

We all know as well that different racisms have different foundations, shapes, modalities, contents, subtleties, consequences, and impacts on societies’ past and present. Therefore, it is important to highlight that in our country, racism is crime without bail or statute of limitations, according to Brazil’s Federal Constitution of 1988, as well as an unacceptable practice in any contemporary society because it is seen not only as inequality of access to goods and values presumed by the Constitution, but also as something that denies and damages human dignity. Therefore, it is not possible to accept the intolerant and the anti-democratic individuals who want to rip up our Constitution and its ethical and civilizational values. There is no place here for those who want to bring chaos and fear to our country with the endorsement of the Executive branch. We must put an end to the damages being wrought to our Constitution.

Having said that, we underline that we in this letter denounce the illegal acts committed by the person in charge of the Palmares Cultural Foundation and demand investigation as well as severe punishment for his irresponsibility. The Palmares Cultural Foundation, a public governmental institution created on August 22, 1988, by Law 7.668, was founded by the federal government with the purpose of promoting and preserving the values connected with blackness, building a consistent affirmative action program and supporting antiracist public policies. The Palmares Cultural Foundation's objectives are the recognition and appreciation of the Brazilian black population’s enormous contribution to the country, dealing with the true demands of the national civil society as well as its institutions, associations, and especially the Brazilian Black Movement. For instance, the Palmares Cultural Foundation partnered with the Ministry of Education to formulate actions and public policies favoring African-Brazilian culture and promoting religious diversity in the effort to overcome inequalities in average schooling between black and non-black students. It is also responsible for enforcing Law n. 10639/2003, which establishes the legal obligation to teach African and African-Brazilian history and culture on all educational levels in Brazil.

Moreover, as an agency of public administration, the Palmares Cultural Foundation is not the property of any government in office. It cannot be managed at whim, nor can it be a place for improvised amateurism or for noisy belligerent dilettantism about what one does not know but heard someone say. In State institutions there is no place for lack of commitment to manage them, operate them, and implement social and public policies in accordance with the interests of the Berazilian population, especially black people.

The Palmares Cultural Foundation issued a statement listing positive actions that it has been developing. However, the facts demonstrate that they are false because its president, Mr. Sérgio Nascimento de Camargo, constantly disqualifies the Brazilian Black Movement, demeaning it as “damned scum”, and often expresses his desire to repeal the commemoration of Black Consciousness Day. On top of that, he generally minimizes issues related to the genocide against Black people saying that “All lives matter”. His behavior undermines the meanings and goals of global and local antiracist movements that now, after the murder of George Floyd, clamor for the world to hear: “Black Lives Matter”.

Attitudes like the ones taken by the president of the Palmares Cultural Foundation are unacceptable and criminal, because they destroy the heritage and the historical, social, economic, scientific, ethical, and civilizational values that are the result of African influences in Brazilian society’s formation. The racist modus operandi of the current president of the Palmares Cultural Foundation and its governing body violates the constitutional principle of administrative morality. Nevertheless, the Foundation’s president seeks to reverse the direction of the constitutional logic of preserving African and African-Brazilian culture. Antiracism should guide the Foundation’s actions, not the contrary, as we have seen with the ongoing racist practices of administrative dishonesty perpetrated against the memory, the legacy, and the cultural heritage of the Brazilian population. When the Foundation publishes materials that defame and  revile the greatest black leader of this country, Zumbi dos Palmares, who is recognized by  various educational and scientific institutions and diverse spheres of power, the Foundation  subverts and distorts History, particularly by ignoring the relevant studies published by these institutions that demonstrate an array of academic and scientific bibliography related to the fight for freedom, access to land, human dignity and the end of slavery (XVI-XIX).

It is worth recalling that since 1988 many Presidents have been at the helm of this institution, but none of them committed crimes against the national legacy or acted against its institutional, political, and constitutional mission. The current president has explicitly collaborated with the empowerment of white supremacist ideologies and the exacerbation of inequalities between blacks and whites; inequalities that result from secular racism that persists in this country. Therefore, any premise of continuing in this direction is unacceptable. We cannot accept the current activities of the Palmares Cultural Foundation, nor can we accept its current president, Mr. Sergio Nascimento de Camargo. We demand that the institution return to its goal and mission, which is to work to promote a cultural policy of equality and inclusion that contributes to the appreciation of History and the preservation of cultural, scientific, and artistic manifestations of black Brazilians as national heritage.

All negative actions against the Black Brazilian Movement taken by the Foundation, as mentioned earlier, deserve our profound repudiation. We demand transparent and responsible investigations of the Palmares Cultural Foundation President’s actions. We call for his immediate resignation because, in a short period of time, his steps have demonstrated a clear project to destroy this federal institution that was built to appreciate African-Brazilian heritage. These racist practices and attitudes are unacceptable to the Black Social Movement, black Brazilian intellectuals and, particularly, to the black population in all segments of Brazilian society, whose memory cannot be eliminated by State agents.