Posts

Homage

God created the black and white man; the Portuguese the mulatto (Anonymous)

It is often said that Portugal is not a racist country, despite enormous structural inequalities and decades of documented discrimination. All over the country, you can find monuments and statues dedicated to navigators – glorifying the epic 15th to 17th-century discoveries; crusading missionaries – converting indigenous people to Catholicism, and soldiers – fighting colonial wars in the 20th century against African independence.

But until now there has never been a memorial to Portugal’s pioneering role in the transatlantic slave trade nor any acknowledgment of the close to 6 million lives stolen until the 1960s when the country was still using de-facto slave labor in its colonies.

The forthcoming Memorial-Homage to the Victims of Slavery in Lisbon by Angola’s most successful contemporary artist – Kiluanji Kia Henda – will be the first of its kind. The installation – due to be unveiled at the Campo das Cebolas this spring – features 540 three-meter-high aluminum sugar canes, set five feet apart and painted in black. The artwork refers to the cold economic rationale that drove the lucrative slave trade.

Most of the Black population in Portugal today are immigrants and their descendants from the former Portuguese African colonies – Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé Principe – holding in their memories and histories a very different version of Portugal’s famous past.

‘Our history is full of blanks on how Africans have been portrayed, declares Christina Roldão, a sociologist researching the histories of Black women in Portugal since the 16th century. ‘It is important to know how Black people lived, not only for the Black population today but for everyone else in Portugal’.

It is of note that the memorial is not an initiative of the Portuguese government, but of the Djass Afro-descendent Association, an NGO founded by the Portuguese MP Beatriz Gomes Dias.

Interesting as well is the fact that the memorial’s artist comes from Angola, the country that suffered the most catastrophic loss of lives during the Portuguese slave trade. By the 19th century, Angola had become the largest source of enslaved people taken to the Americas, in particular to the sugar plantations in Brazil.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights – recently stressed that Portugal should do more to confront its colonial past and role in the transatlantic slave trade in order to help fight the increasing racial discrimination and xenophobia in the country.

The Council also expressed concern at the rise in racist rhetoric in political discourse, singling out the far-right Chega (‘Enough’) party, whose sole MP Andre Ventura keeps making derogatory remarks against ethnic minorities.

Initiated by Black Portuguese and conceptualised by an African artist, ‘the slavery memorial will finally bring a visual counter-narrative against the supposed absence of racism and lack of racial prejudice in the Portuguese’, concludes Marcos Cardão, a historian of Portuguese culture and identity.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/EsqNet)














Black

‘Portugal is one of the most racist countries in the EU’ – European Social Survey

– ‘No one has ever said to me that I could not rent the house because I’m black

Mamadou Ba is born in Senegal and has the Portuguese nationality. He is graduated, has a steady job at the Parliament, and speaks with a slight African accent. When he is calling for an apartment in Lisbon’s Parque das Nações neighborhood, he gets an appointment 2 days later. Although the tenant promises him to send an SMS with additional information, he never does. If shortly thereafter a journalist of the newspaper Público– with a Portuguese name and a Lisbon accent – calls the same tenant, he immediately gets the necessary information by phone and an appointment for the next day. In only two out of five phone calls, Mamadou and the journalist were treated the same way.

– ‘It’s hard for blacks to find a job. There’s always a preference for whites.’

Amélia Costa is born in Guinee-Bissau and in possession of a Portuguese passport. When submitting her application for a management position, she doesn’t include a photo in her CV. After a call from the director of Human Resources, she is invited to an interview.
On entry, the director stares at her in amazement. ‘Apparently, he was expecting someone else’, she says.
The interview is going well and Amélia gets the job. When she asks the director at a later stage, why he looked so surprised when they first met, he says ‘the person I called and the person I met, didn’t seem to be the same’. ‘Since you speak without an accent, I didn’t expect you to be a black person. If you had submitted a photo with your CV, I probably would never have called you for an interview’, he confessed.
‘In Portugal, you hardly come across black people in leading positions or in the media. You’ll find them back office, in factories, kitchens, and supermarkets. We are not even given a chance to get to know us’, she explains.

– ‘The presence of black lecturers in the academic community is nil

‘It isn’t true that social class eliminates racism.
‘If I come somewhere, where I’ am the only black person, I will be discriminated.
It’s no question of social discrimination, it’s the color of the skin’.
‘I’ll give you some examples’, she explains in Público.

‘When I return at the airport from a trip abroad, they often direct me to the line for Non-European passports and my luggage is nearly always checked by customs’. ‘Once I entered a meeting and heard a colleague – a bit too loud – say: ‘I don’t understand what that black one is doing here.’
And something that happened to me recently in the Santa Marta hospital, when I asked for a particular department and someone showed me the way. ‘When you see an indication that says Outpatients, you turn right – can you read?’
Inocência Mata is the only black professor in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Lisbon, where she is teaching since 1990.

BOM  FIM  DE  SEMANA

Bias

When I was stopped by the police and asked them ‘why’, the officer said ‘a black man is always suspicious’ – José Fernandes, legal advisor.

In Portugal, prisons are painted black! Of every 10 prisoners, 9 (90%) are Africans. If you are from Cape Verde, the situation becomes even worse, as 15 times more Cape Verdeans than Portuguese stay in jail. Compared with these figures Afro-Americans are relatively better off. In the US black people are ‘only’ 5 times more likely to be imprisoned than their fellow Americans.

‘These numbers are shocking’, says Alípio Ribeiro, an attorney from the Criminal Investigation Department and confirm what he already thought: ‘there is a legal system for whites and a legal system for blacks’.
‘You can’t just derive from these data, that black people are more criminal. It is much more likely that black people are locked up easier. Apparently little is needed to put them in prison.’

Approximately 1% of the population – 100.000 people – originates from the former Portuguese colonies in Africa, most of them from Cape Verde. The majority lives around the capital, in deprived neighborhoods, like Amadora and Sintra. Their exact number is unknown as collecting ethnic data is prohibited by Portuguese law.

Already in 2014, the Immigration Observatory indicated that sentences are tougher when committed by black Africans. Information from the General Directorate of the Department of Justice (DGPJ) and recently disclosed by the Portuguese newspaper Público, shows that black Africans indeed get the maximum sentence twice as often for offenses like robbery and domestic assault.

Celso Manata, head of DGPJ, however, rejects the idea that the legal system is discriminatory. He admits that there is an over-representation of blacks in Portuguese prisons, but believes that ‘this is caused by the poor socio-economic circumstances of black people, who therefore are more likely to commit a crime’.

‘In a society aimed at keeping an eye on certain communities, it is not surprising that the number of prisoners from these communities will be greater’, declares José Semedo, a lawyer at the National Immigrant Support Centre.
’Both our legal and prison system are much more aggressive to black people’.This is also reflected in the fact, that black people often have to serve their time and hardly get remission. ‘These findings clearly demonstrate that black prisoners are not getting the best defense and therefore stay unnecessary long behind bars.’

BOM FIM DE SEMANA