Brazil: The Fall of a 'Racial Paradise'

By Jere-Malanda, Regina | New African, February 2008 | Go to article overview

Brazil: The Fall of a 'Racial Paradise'


Jere-Malanda, Regina, New African


In 1923, a Brazilian congressman declared that "Black Brazilians will disappear within 70 years". Afranio Peixoto, a renowned Brazilian author, added that, "in 200 years, the black eclipse will have passed entirely". As one of the most racially diverse nations in the world, Brazil has for centuries wrongly considered itself a colour-blind nation. But as Regina Jere-Malanda reports, the veil is now off and black Brazilians, instead of disappearing within 70 years, are increasingly realising that deep-seated racism has been alive and well, and as a fightback, are becoming more assertive, partly thanks to the efforts of President Lula.

**********

Since the country ended slavery in 1888, Brazilians have not officially accepted the existence of racism. For three centuries, Brazil prided and touted itself as a country that has avoided racial tensions, by embracing the concept of "racial democracy". But in the past decade, cracks started showing, revealing that this epitome of "racial harmony and equality" is not what black Brazilians have always been made to believe it is.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Conceived by an anthropologist, Gilberto Freyre, in 1930s, the carefully crafted ideology of "racial democracy" has stipulated that Brazil is composed of a single race forged through the harmonious mixture of its African, European, and indigenous ancestors.

But despite this deliberate strategy, the uncomfortable reality is that there has always been widespread social prejudice against black-skinned people in Brazil, the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery.

In contrast to the situation in the USA or South Africa under apartheid, where race was defined by ancestral background, in Brazil what has counted for all these years is one's hue. For example if one's skin appears white, looks white-ish or somewhere in between, then they are white. As simple as that.

This blurred vision of racial identity has for generations made it difficult for black Brazilians to develop a positive image of their African heritage or to see racism in their midst, let alone to fight it. Because of the "racial democracy" myth the country didn't even see the need to be ethnically specific. Yet Brazil has more people with black ancestry than any other country outside Nigeria. Today, more than 76 million of Brazil's population of 180 million is of African descent.

With over 300 years of denial, practising "racial democracy" meant eclipsing deep-rooted state policies of racial discrimination. But Brazil is, thankfully, finally coming to terms with its long-ignored history of racism and exclusion. Today, innovative policies and national attention to racial disparities are being plugged--led by Affirmative Action programmes and quota systems--albeit grudgingly in some elitist quarters.

But it is President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (popularly known as Lula), who will go down in history as the crusader of racial equality for black Brazilians. Among many other policies, his government has established the much-hailed Secretary for the Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR), a cabinet level ministry that coordinates efforts to promote opportunities for Afro-Brazilians, racial minority groups, as well as to work towards strengthening Brazil's ties with Africa.

However, there are disturbing reasons behind this change of heart in government policy. According to Brian Fried, of the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago, Brazil is riven by socioeconomic inequality. Darker skin colour is disproportionately associated with lower levels of education, poorer healthcare and inferior remuneration. "Racism causes much of this inequality and until recently, however, Brazilians regarded the mention of racism as taboo," Fried says.

Ironically, racism in Brazil is constitutionally banned and punishable by imprisonment.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Brazil: The Fall of a 'Racial Paradise'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.