SOS Racismo, a pioneer association in Portugal that denounces and combats racial discrimination and xenophobia, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The priorities at that time, in the 1990s, were condemning the violent neo-Nazi groups who attacked in the name of “white supremacy”, recognizing the rights of immigrants, providing legal support for situations of individual discrimination, seeking justice and use of stereotypes and biased language in reproducing and perpetuating prejudices visible in most media and institutional practices. At that time, the idea that racism based on individual attitudes was a punctual, marginal phenomenon took revenge in Portuguese society.
The narratives created by the Estado Novo that the Portuguese people are tolerant rather than racist in order to counter the legitimacy of anti-colonial struggles, which were inherently anti-racist, stretched over the decades and continued. Only now, sixty years later, does this myth that the country is not racist begin to collapse in the face of events of police violence and the rise of the far right.
Times have changed and a lot. In the institutions, in the public debate, in all areas of our society, there are legacies of colonialism and the white supremacist ideology that have structured our contemporary society. But times are changing and the perception of the privilege of being white in a society built by whites is gradually becoming apparent. In the academy, in literature, in the arts, there are new protagonists examining how racism is present and structured in Portugal, from education to justice, from police to administration, from media to politics and to all power structures.
On the other hand, we are witnessing the naturalization of hate speech, the acceptance and normalization of right-wing extremist movements, which are gaining a lot of ground. It is a global phenomenon that is compounded by the manipulation of social networks and the ease of sedimentation of totalitarian ideologies that spread hatred and lies. Racist parties arise in our country and let their voices be amplified uncritically.
Racism is more evident, more present and more dangerous than ever before in our democracy. But there are new protagonists who denounce it, with an expression stronger than ever. Racized people – experiencing this structural racism – organize and raise their voices to propose strategies for visibility and reparation. SOS Racismo wanted this activist to express its 30 years in a documentary that brought together Roma and black associative leaders from north to south of the country, which was just published on YouTube.
Healing the wounds of the past and building a more just, just society, taking into account all differences, will only be achieved if these new voices are given space for visibility and representation.