Cablegate: Mission Participates in Diversity Panel On Race And
DE RUEHSO #0467 2481526
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041526Z SEP 08
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8493
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 9630
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 4179
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8832
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 3237
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3484
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2762
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2484
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3897
UNCLAS SAO PAULO 000467
STATE PASS TO BSC FOR BVASQUEZ
STATE FOR DRL
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO BR
SUBJECT: Mission Participates in Diversity Panel on Race and
1. Summary: Congen Management Officer (and published author) gave
a U.S. perspective on diversity as an invited member of a panel on
the subject at Sao Paulo's Biannual Book Festival on August 20. The
event featured many of the most important members of Brazil's
diversity community. Panel discussions revealed how participants
see diversity/social inclusion issues developing in Brazil, showed
the experts' frequent tendency to relate Brazil's experience to that
of the United States, and showcased the potential for Mission Brazil
to help meet the programming needs of the U.S.-Brazil Action Plan to
Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality.
Overall, the event demonstrated how the U.S. can play a constructive
and even essential role in Brazil's discussions about its own
diversity challenges. End Summary.
2. Congen Management Officer took part in a panel on diversity at
Sao Paulo's Biannual Book Festival on August 20. The book festival
has a 40 year history and is a major event, attended by thousands of
people. All of Brazil's publishers and a number of foreign entities
have extensive display areas. The diversity panel featured
important members of Sao Paulo's and Brazil's diversity/human rights
community. The Management Officer appeared with the following:
Andre Fischer, a magazine and website publisher and Gay, Lesbian and
Transsexual rights activist; Myriam Chinall, a psychologist and
educator; Cida Bento, coordinator of the NGO Center for the Study of
Inequality; Sister Coen, a peace activist and member of Brazil's Zen
Buddhist community; Zulu Araujo, President of the Palmares Cultural
Foundation (named for a famous 19th century social rebellion in
which Afro-Brazilians played a critical role); and Zeze Motta, a
famous Afro-Brazilian actress and now Superintendant for Racial
Equality for Rio de Janeiro.
An Energetic Discussion...
3. The panel discussion centered on the work that Brazil still needs
to do to achieve a greater levels of social justice through
increasing the social consciousness of diversity. While Brazil
prides itself on diversity, a number of the panelists cited ongoing
patterns of racism that persist in the society. Fischer noted how
gays, lesbians and transsexuals still face discrimination. Zulu
Araujo cited the example of young, Afro-Brazilian mothers in
predominantly black Bahia who, when they give birth to a baby
lighter skinned than themselves, are said by locals to have a "clean
belly." And Zeze Motta recounted how, in her early days as an
actress, those casting productions would complain about her African
features, including "a flat nose and curly hair," to the point where
the actress considered cosmetic surgery. Motta acknowledged that
the "Black is Beautiful" movement in the U.S. during the 1960s
helped to awaken her to her inherent beauty of her natural
...And Frequent Comparison to the U.S.
4. Brazilians, in focusing on their own diversity challenges, made
frequent references and comparisons to the U.S. In general, they
see the U.S., not as a model to be copied, but as a source of
positive and instructive examples, as a sister society still
struggling with the same issues.
The Author's Story
5. Management officer Watlington is the author of a children's book
on diversity entitled "Zoe" (
www.amazon.com/Zoe-Calvin-Watlington/dp/09724 28402 ).
6. "Zoe" tells a positive story of diversity celebration led by the
children in the story. Just as interesting to the audience was the
officer's own account of how he came to write a children's book.
The author recounted how he had originally sat down to write an
essay about diversity, but ultimately came to the conclusion that
the challenge was "not so much adult/intellectual as generational."
From there, he decided to write a children's book, an undertaking
that required months of research, including spending many hours
talking to little children about differences.
Telling Our Story, "Warts 'n All"
7. Panelists' frequent references to the U.S. created a natural
opening for Management Officer to provide a realistic recounting of
both U.S. achievements in the diversity area and a straightforward
account of the United States' continuing challenges in this area.
Reaction of both fellow panelists and the audience was positive.
8. The Brazilian activists' tendency to use the U.S. as a point of
reference was quite striking. While many saw much that was positive
and instructive in the U.S. experience, there was also a tendency on
the part of some in the panel to occasionally both overshoot or
undershoot the mark, either overestimating the degree to which the
U.S. has resolved diversity issues or underestimating U.S.
achievements in this area. Given the Brazilians' tendency to cite
the U.S. example, it was important to have an American there to
share the stage in a positive way, and offer a U.S. perspective on
this critical issue.
9. Post's participation in the panel shows that Mission-developed
programming can complement Washington resources in realizing our
Action Plan with Brazil on eliminating racism and promoting
equality. Brazilians' energy and willingness to address diversity
issues offers us a unique opportunity to enter into a positive
partnership, sharing hard lessons learned in two of the hemisphere's
biggest and most diverse societies.
10. This cable was coordinated/cleared by Embassy Brasilia.