Lusosphera Reactions to Obama's Speech on Race

Following the international trend, Brazilian and Portuguese bloggers reacted to the controversy surrounding comments from Pastor Jeremiah Wright and presidential candidate Barack Obama's speech on race delivered last Tuesday. Translations in Portuguese by Luiz Carlos Azenha and Paulo Migliacci circulated on the internet helped Portuguese speaking bloggers to better understand Obama's speech, and on whether to agree with or despise it, as well as to reflect on how the media benefits from racism and on racism in their own countries.

Luiz Carlos Azenha quotes the section of the speech in which Obama states that “Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.” The blogger believes that, while this part of the speech will be looked down by both Brazilian and American media, the idea is spot-on:

Eu diria que essa frase se aplica perfeitamente ao Brasil. Voltando à novela Duas Caras, por exemplo, houve uma clara tentativa de desqüalificar o debate sobre as cotas raciais. Ficção? Com certeza a novela é ficção. Mas faz um discurso que atende a um projeto ideológico que quer encobrir a desigualdade histórica existente no Brasil, em que a mulher negra e pobre está no piso e o homem branco e rico está no topo. Isso é verdade factual. O que fazer a respeito? Deveria ser discutido com seriedade, por todos os segmentos da sociedade brasileira. Como não é, fica por conta de um autor de novelas da TV Globo dar o tom.

I would say that this statement applies perfectly to Brazil. Returning to the soap opera Duas Caras [whose director according to the blogger pokes fun of people's convictions in a irresponsible way], for example, there was a clear attempt to disqualify the debate on affirmative action. Fiction? Surely, soap opera is fiction. But it does provide a voice to serve an ideological project that wants to cover up historical inequality existing in Brazil, where black and poor women are at the bottom and white and rich men are at the top. That is truly factual. What to do about it? It should be seriously discussed by all segments of Brazilian society. As this doesn't happen, it is down to a Globo [biggest Brazilian TV network] soap opera author to tone it down.

José Miguel Iglésias hopes that Portugal, a country he considers to be racist and with no elected black politicians, will benefit from the debate should Obama win:

Este debate que vai dominar o combate político nos EUA nos próximos meses, graças a Obama, caso se confirme a sua nomeação, é um debate que vai acontecer em Portugal também. No futuro. Sinceramente, espero que não muito longínquo.

This debate is going to dominate the political fight in the United States in the coming months, thanks to Obama, and if his appointment is confirmed, this is a debate that will happen in Portugal too. In future. Frankly, I hope in a not too far away future.

Renato Guimarães believes this speech alone has guaranteed Obama a place in history, whether he is elected or not:

Uma peça de oratória tão elaborada, verdadeira e sofisticada, embora de simples compreensão, que por si só posiciona a Barack Obama como um dos maiores oradores americanos de todos os tempos, sem exagero. Se será um bom presidente, caso eleito, é outra história. Mas sem dúvida ele passa um grau de convicção extraordinário.

It was a so well drafted, real and sophisticated piece of speech, and at the same time so simple to understand, that places Barack Obama as one of the greatest Americans speakers of all times, with no exaggeration. Whether he will be a good president if elected is another story. Undoubtedly he shows an extraordinary degree of conviction.

In Portugal, Rui Oliveira, on the other hand, is not that convinced and found the speech far from a “Lincoln moment.” He felt most uncomfortable with Obama's comments that his grandmother confessed having “fear of black men who passed by her on the street.” He thinks this was in fact a problematic, non compelling speech:

“Sinceramente, não sei se Obama conseguiu ultrapassar este problema, ma, francamente, o discurso não impressiona. E o facto de ter metido a avó a despropósito, numa falsa analogia, ao barulho, comparando-a com alguém que é racista, diz-me que este é um homem em que não posso confiar. De qualquer modo, são os americanos que têm que ajuizar sobre o assunto.”

Honestly, I do not know if Obama has overcome this problem, but, frankly, the speech was not impressive. And the fact that he absurdly added his grandmother, in a false analogy, to the noise, comparing her to a racist person, tells me that this is a man whom I can not trust. In any case, the Americans are the ones who have to judge on the matter.

[All links take you to blogs written in Portuguese]


  • […] of choice, and I’ve been thrilled to see Obama’s brilliant speech on race in America passionately discussed as far away as Brazil and Portugal is […]

  • John

    Some of the rhetoric here “gets it” and some of it is…
    …typical hypocrisy from “Democrats” and liberals. From Gore (one of the biggest hypocrites and “embellishers”) to Hillary to Obama (closet Islamist???? ) hypocrisy, self loathing and anti-US rhetoric are trademarks. We will never have a need for liberals or “Democrats” in power. Ever.




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