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Racism in the Brazilian Educational System

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This petition/protest is to stand against Racism in the Brazilian Educational System. The last two presidents of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1994-2001) and Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (2002-2010) recognized the existence of racism that plagues not only the social fabric as the individual and their interpersonal relations. However, due to the mobilization around the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women*, what perspectives were placed for black women, young girls, as well as black men and young boys in Brazil?

There has been a significant investment in maintaining the role of black women as being an unintelligent, relegated only to  housework chores, and being commanded by a white woman. Would it be the image of the illiterate housemaid, caricatured, animalized, "big lipped" and a "coal monkey" the only place that society reserves and allows as the place of  visibility to the black woman? Despite of the human rights struggle in Brazil, the book Caçadas de Pedrinho (Pete’s Hunting) by Monteiro Lobato has not gone through any rigorous evaluation regarding specifically the issue of race and it was approved by the evaluators of National Library Program in School (PNBE).

Notably, in 2005 we were led to believe that progress had been made in the book policy of the programs of the Ministry of Education (MEC) - the National Library Program in School (PNBE), the National Textbook Program (PNLD) and the National Book of High School Program (PNLEM) - to contemplate the principle of respect to  ethno-racial diversity. The announcements of these programs categorically state  that " it will be excluded from the collections books that do not obey the following rules (...)" (Edict PNBE/2010) "it will be summarily disposed of the works that do not comply with the following criteria (...)" (Edict PNLD 2010) and "All works must conform to legal principles and legal (...)" (Edict PNLEM 2007).

The rules of the National Library Program in School report explicitly that works that “convey stereotypes and preconceptions about  social,regional, ethnic, racial, gender condition, sexual orientation, age or language, as well as any other form of discrimination or violation of rights (...)” will be excluded. Given this political game it is clear that the edicts have been changed in their content, but were not able to change the criteria of the evaluator and therefore did not alter the process and forms for evaluation and selection of racist and prejudiced books.

Thus, in 2010, unfortunately we are faced with the failure of the exclusion criteria of the works submitted to the process of evaluation of these programs, since both the rules of notice as the political position of the Brazilian Ministry of Education run counter to what was proposed and disclosed in their respective announcements. Therefore, there was the need for the National Education Council (CNE) to develop the report CNE/CEB No.: 15/2010, advising on the situation and considering historical, educational, cultural and identitary implications for the selection of the book: Pete’s Hunting, due to its explicitly discriminatory and racist content**.

What's behind a political book management that makes changes to their edicts  and publishes them, making it look like they are complying with the law, but actually produces quite the opposite effect? ? What's behind the Brazilian publishing cartels controlled by some foreign corporations submitting racist books for selection of the Brazilian Ministry of Education programs?  That is how the white supremacist social power evinces its social power, because in spite of being aware of  the rules for book selection, books with racist content are submitted, selected and approved. In fact, these book programs are used as ideological State apparatus, which  demonstrate to  efficiently serve  the production, reproduction and reinforcement of discriminatory practices, especially towards black girls, and young black women.

Why subject our black children to the painful exercise of reading: : "Aunt Nastasya, forgetful of her  many rheumatisms, climbed the tree, just like a coal monkey “? Why opt for distributing a book that is confirmedly an attack to the image of black Woman: "... nor even aunt Nastasya, who has black flesh"? Why invest in the destructive, shocking and terrorist image: "... birds, from the stinking black vulture up to this jewel of wings ..." and then bet that the teacher will properly elaborate such text in classroom  in a racist society like Brazil?

Undoubtedly, this context is only to show that the traditional tricks of the technologies of power applied by conservative groups who can only see  and wish for policies that favor the "white" intelligentsia. Thus, these groups maintain an economic supremacy at the expense of the selection of books paid for with public money, this way spreading a racist ideology, as expressed through stereotyped texts, which are vilifying and disrespectful  to the black characters. Now we can clearly perceive is that managers, technicians  and others who are responsible for these book programs do not take  the Brazilian legislation seriously, and take even less seriously an anti-racist education  for all. Similar racist situation has been dennounced worldwide and lawsuits were filed against the state, for example, in the U.S.A (book "From Slave Ship to Freedom Road"*** by Julius Lester's) and in Belgium (“Tintin in the Congo”**** - comic strips created by the Belgian Georges Rémi, who used the pen name of  Hergé).

Thus, what is left for us is to criticize, to protest, to file lawsuits, demanding that the State takes appropriate action in relation to racist books or we shall have to relinquish once and for all the discourse of valuing diversity and promoting racial equality in education in Brazil. Let us protest against the violence towards  women, youth and children and against the discriminatory content in this Pete’s Hunting book. We should not allow that a narrative that appeals to the abominable use of stereotypes, as well as discriminatory texts and illustrations holding the image of black characters stain our history of struggle. Sign and publish this petition against Racism in the Brazilian Educational System*****.

 Andreia Lisboa de Sousa

* On 
November 25, 1960, three activists sisters (Patrícia, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, known as Las Mariposas) were tortured and violently killed on orders of Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. On account of this atrocity, during the First Feminist Summit: Latin American and Caribbean countries in 1981 (Bogota, Colombia) was established the Latin America and the Caribbean Day to fight against violence against women. Eighteen years later, the United Nations officially designated November 25 as the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women in 1999.

** Please, sign another Portuguese petition regarding Pete’s Hunting issues:

*** Source:

**** Source:

***** The full article can be read at:


Andréia Lisboa de Sousa Specialist in Children and Youth Literature. Co-author of the pedagogic book: An Eye on Culture: Views of Afro-Brazilian Studies - Winner of the National Competition Textbooks on Afro-Brazilian Culture (Ministry of Culture and Federal University of Bahia/CEAO, 2005). Ph.D. candidate in Education at the University of Texas at Austin/USA. International Affairs coordinator of the Black Brazilian Researcher's Association. Ford Foundation Fellow.


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