The creation of The Intercept, and then the Intercept Brasil, was motivated by a core purpose: to provide crucial journalism and commentary that, for whatever reasons, is not being adequately provided to the public. We are especially thrilled to announce the arrival of Ana Maria Gonçalves as our new columnist because her work so powerfully advances that objective.
By virtue of “Um Defeito de Cor” (A Color Defect), her 952-page 2006 novel about the life of an African woman enslaved and brought to Brazil who buys her freedom and sets out in search of her lost son, Gonçalves has become an important voice in global debates on race and culture. The book, which spans eight decades, powerfully connects modern Brazil with its long history of slavery, and — like the main character herself — confronts some of the most difficult, entrenched, and complex interactions between politics, race, culture, and power. The book is now being made into a Roots-like miniseries, to be broadcast next year.
What makes Gonçalves’s journalism particularly valuable for The Intercept is that it simultaneously examines the unique political and cultural manifestations of race in Brazil while also illuminating the most relevant debates that are unfolding today in the U.S. We will, for that reason, publish her columns in both English and Portuguese. Gonçalves was a writer-in-residence and taught classes at Tulane, Stanford, and Middlebury, and has developed expertise in the role of race in the politics and culture of both countries.
The role of race in Brazil is fascinating and relevant both in the ways it is unique to Brazil and the ways it is universal. Brazil was the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery (1888), and — just as in the U.S. — that historic sin continues to shape institutions and identities in ways society would rather not acknowledge.
Elite Brazilian circles are virtually obsessive about denying that the country has a problem with racism at all, even as the undeniable evidence of it is ubiquitous. The head of the news division for Globo TV, Ali Kamel, literally wrote a book titled “Não somos racistas” (We are not racists), devoted to denying the problem, and it was widely (and predictably) celebrated by Brazil’s oligarchical media. Such a denial was particularly ironic coming from that crowd given the stunning and shameful dearth of diversity those very same media outlets feature.
Gonçalves became a leading voice criticizing this mentality generally and Kamel specifically. One of the many dangers of having a country in which a tiny handful of families control all the large media outlets, and having one outlet in particular (Globo) so indescribably dominant, is that it becomes very difficult to maintain a career in journalism if you criticize those outlets and their top executives.
But one of the primary goals of The Intercept Brasil is to provide a platform to critical voices like Gonçalves to freely critique and report on the nation’s most powerful institutions without fear of recrimination. We are very excited to see what she produces and quite confident that it will be provocative, illuminating for both our English- and Portuguese-speaking readers, and exactly the type of journalism we were created to produce.