When President Obama campaigned to become America’s first black president, African Americans threw their full support behind him. Although there were some critical voices within the African-American community, those voices were quickly silenced by voters who sought to make history. In Brazil, however, blacks didn’t their full support behind the candidate who had a chance of becoming the first black president.
Brazilians could’ve made history by electing Marina Silva as their first black president, but that didn’t happen, and some speculated prior to the election that it had to do with lagging support among black voters.
White president President Dilma Rousseff was given half the support of people of African descent within the country, a sharp contrast from the overwhelming support African-Americans gave President Obama in the U.S. elections.
Reuters interviewed several black Brazilians and found that although many would be proud of a Silva win, their main focus was on economics, not race:
Yet they also said they were more focused on the economy than any other factor. Since taking power in 2003, Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party has made enormous strides in reducing poverty – especially among blacks.
In that sense, policy trumps symbolism for Brazilians.
Even Silva shied away from discussing what it would mean to be the first black president, which isn’t uncommon in Brazil since they are wary of discussing race.
“I’m very proud of my identity as a black woman,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “But I don’t make political use of my faith, or my color. I’m going to govern for blacks, whites, (Asians), believers, non-believers, independent of their color or social conditions.”
Silva’s main problem with blacks seems to have been her centrist views because Brazilian blacks preferred the policies of the left leaning president. In the end, politics trumped race and Rousseff won re-election.