The CERD is a body of experts on racial discrimination formed to supervise the application of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Argentina signed and ratified in 1968, and which was formed after the constitutional reform of 1994. in an instrument for the protection of human rights with constitutional hierarchy, according to article 75, paragraph 22. The last periodic evaluation was in 2016, and the next one will be in 2028. The work of the 18 CERD experts is to evaluate previous reports, and receive both organized civil society and National State officials and listen to the parties. Then they issue a new document where they report on progress and setbacks in terms of racial discrimination, and make recommendations to the State to stop and repair in some cases, and to promote policies that are respectful of human rights, in others. In the report that was released at the end of April, recommendations are made in relation to the production of statistics without racial bias, the approach to racist violence, the deployment of policies against racism in the justice system and the security forces, among others. topics. I propose, in this case, to review the recommendations related to education, regarding a key date in our national history.
In all schools in Argentina there are tribute acts within the framework of May 25, every year from the last two decades of the 19th century to the present day. We all go through them, and we all know what it’s about. Most of the time, patriotic acts tend to be a moment of small distorted appearance of a reflection of black memory in our country: the caricatural recreation of mazamorreras, broomsticks and candle sellers as self-employed, posing happily before the events of history. . In reality, these people were victims of the slave system, one of the most atrocious crimes against humanity in Argentine and world history.
Although less frequently, fortunately, than a few years ago, in some educational establishments boys and girls are still painted with burnt cork to represent these free and content proto-monotributistas. This practice, known as “Blackface”, is a form of racial discrimination that has its origins in the 19th century, when some non-Afro-descendant actors painted themselves black to represent Afro-descendants, exaggerating their features and way of speaking, ridiculing them. This is how negative stereotypes about black people were built and reproduced. A historical example of this practice in national cinema is the first feature film of Argentine cinema, “Amalia”.
In the month of December 2020, in the Cantando por un Sueño program, hosted by Marcelo Tinelli, there was a case of blackface that had a notable impact on social networks. At that time, the African Diaspora of Argentina (DIAFAR) denounced the incident before the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI). The producer responsible for the program, La Flia, went to mediation with DIAFAR and they finally reached an agreement that consisted of creating a spot for May 25:
The situation highlighted a practice that has been going on for more than a century, and although it served as a drop in a glass of boredom and allowed debate on the phenomenon, it was not necessarily reflected in a change in the logic of the educational system. It is notable that the little material available designed for the primary and secondary level is mostly produced by Afro-descendant organizations. The State does not echo this lack, on the contrary, with its omission it contributes to the reproduction of stereotypes at the same time that it denies the national identity of its entire population. The CERD referred to this problem using a reparation concept:
(…) The Committee regrets the lack of information on wide-ranging initiatives related to reparations for this legacy (Afro-descendant and indigenous), which continues to fuel racism, racial discrimination and structural discrimination in the State party, and undermines the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms under conditions of equality by all individuals and communities in Argentina. The Committee is also concerned about the information according to which the National Education Law, Law No. 26,206, omits the existence of the Afro-descendant population and culture in the school curriculum. (para. 42)
Although since 2013 we have Law 26,852 that establishes the National Day of Afro-Argentines and Afro-Argentines, and that in its article 3 entrusts “to the Ministry of Education of the Nation, through the Federal Council of Education and the educational authorities of the different jurisdictions, to agree on the incorporation into the curricular contents of the educational system, at its different levels and modalities, the commemoration of said day and the promotion of Afro culture”, little has been done for the application of said law. On the one hand, not all provinces have adhered to the regulations, and on the other, the National Afro-Argentine Day Law has had very little development as a public policy, except in some cases where the organized community promotes its application, such as the case of the province of Entre Ríos.
This situation affects not only the Afro-Argentine community that has been historically denied in the country, but also the indigenous communities that are minorized and made invisible in the educational system. Indianness and Afro-Argentineness are inseparable from the creation of our Nation, denying the existence of a racialized population is denying the nation itself. This is how the CERD understands it, requesting the State to:
Establish dialogue mechanisms with representatives of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant communities that lead to the establishment of institutions dedicated to the study and elaboration of proposals and wide-ranging initiatives related to reparations for historical injustices. Review the National Education Law and ensure that the national and provincial educational authorities prepare school curricula for the primary and secondary levels that include the history and contributions of Afro-Argentines to the construction of the nation. (para. 43, Subsection c and d)
The omissions in relation to the racialized population of the homeland in education are one of the forms of expression of institutional racism, the counterpart of this effect is the ghostly appearance. In other words, the few times that indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants appear in our educational contexts, it is not the women and men leaders who stood out for their ability, but rather, as was pointed out in the case of those enslaved in the plaza of the revolution in May, are cartoonish apparitions and from a remote past. The denial of slavery, and its consequences in the conformation of the Argentine State, is not something new in the educational system, understand as a sample of this structural situation the words pronounced by sarmiento“the father of education”, on the occasion of a lecture on Darwin that he gave in 1882: “Seeing Indians and blacks, however, he cannot resist the temptation to compare the one with the structure of the baboon, the other with that of the chimpanzee..
Although no one would expect to hear this type of argument from any education official today, this racist propaganda has permeated the national imagination. The invisibility of Afro-descendant and indigenous heroes such as the notable cases of Bernardo de Monteagudo, or Juana Azurduy, or the racist lies about the disappearance of the racialized population, or the deformed appearance that is sometimes proposed on national holidays, have implications for the construction of our national identity, at the same time that it notably affects the subjective construction of each racialized boy and girl.
It should be noted that in the face of this panorama, there are many voices of resistance. The Afro-Argentine community, as well as the different indigenous communities, have launched experiences that are worth recovering and reinforcing. In recent years, several provinces have incorporated celebration dates linked to Afro-Argentine and indigenous leaders, and have created regulations on the teaching of Afro-descendant and indigenous culture in schools. However, on many occasions it is still depending on the good will of the teacher so that the issues are dealt with in the classroom. Hence the need for an active participation of the State in the promotion of laws in force but that are little implemented. The CERD recommends that in order to give impetus to the initiatives, the organized community itself participates as a protagonist, requesting the State to “Develop and implement, in consultation with Afro-descendant and indigenous communities, guidelines to combat structural and institutional racism, federal and provincial level” (para. 43, subparagraph a).
The report addresses various issues related to the problems faced by indigenous people, Afro-descendants and racialized migrants, all complex and some pressing, such as police violence and the unequal application of the law. In the case of education, the axis of the report revolves around the visibility and enhancement of the work that the organized community, both indigenous and Afro-descendant, has already been carrying out. We have a consistent national legal framework, several provinces have joined and even developed local regulations, there are also experiences of schools that work on the subject, and articulations of different educational establishments with museums or relevant historical sites. However, there is still a long way to go before anti-racist education becomes a reality at all educational levels in our country.