May this heinous hate crime against a famous Black and gay man be a wake-up call to America. The Civil Rights Movement and the election of Barack Obama did not deliver us a post-racial society. Nor did Obergefell v. Hodges or Caitlyn Jenner deliver us an LGBTQ inclusive society. What happened to Jussie Smollett happens to queer people of color every day.
This is the ugly Brazilian paradox. While the country appears celebratory of LGBTQ individuals, on most days LGBTQ people are neglected, abused and often killed. Just as Brazil is the country with the largest Pride parade in the world, it is also the country with the most reported violence against the LGBTQ community. To better understand how these two contradictory realities can apply to a single country requires a greater understanding of how conservative cultural norms and social values contribute to regression in acceptance for the community.
The question of people versus state has been particularly visible this decade. In the last five years, Britain voted to leave the European Union and the autonomous communities of Catalonia and Scotland have made notable efforts to leave Spain and the United Kingdom, respectively. Although it has obtained less traction and media attention, another interesting example, which will serve as the focus of this paper is the Southern separatist movement in the state of Brazil. Known as “O Sul é O Meu País” (The South is My Country), this political organization seeks the independence of Brazil’s three most southern states: Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. The organization cites that historic, economic, cultural, social, and geographic differences between their region and the rest of the county, as well as the central government’s (Brasilia) corruption, have driven them to seek secession as the rightful next move.
Civilian inaction exists on a much larger scale than what you likely accredit and it stagnates the efforts made to close socioeconomic gaps between the rich and poor. Specifically, there is a pronounced lack of support for the third sector: NGOs and nonprofits. The organizations comprising this sector are the primary actors and agents of change in the lives of those homeless, hungry, ill, jobless, and poor that you walk by day-to-day. These organizations, often lacking in resources to sustain themselves, are the primary vehicles providing resources to the needy. If you want to help you should be supporting these organizations, but research shows you likely do not.
Do not think that speaking English makes you special. Take it from one privileged, but lost American in Brazil. English will only get you so far. You will still need to put in work and learn the language of wherever else you go. You will want the people there to be easy with you. So, be easy with those in the States. Let language unite, not divide.
Regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or background, everyone there felt and acted truly equal. We talked to, danced with and got numbers from complete strangers. It felt normal. Gender and sexual fluidity which still feels so regulated in the U.S. felt normal here. Carnaval felt like one giant middle finger to elitism and structure. This gave our drunken stupor some purposeful action. That is why Brazilian Carnaval is “The Greatest Show on Earth.” No longer do masks and performances hide our real identities, but they are rather used to amplify our true colors.