Brazil’s new racial reality: Insights for the U.S.?

Brazil’s new racial reality: Insights for the U.S.?

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

Cheryl Staats, Research Assistant

Brazil has been a long-standing place of interest for many scholars due to its fluid racial categorization that focuses on phenotype rather than hypodescent.  With the release of Brazil’s 2010 census data, the newly-minted “minority-majority” country only further piques the interest of many in the U.S. as our country quickly approaches its own “racial tipping point” in approximately 2042.  What insights can the U.S. gain from Brazil and its experiences with this demographic transition thus far?  While the two countries possess similar yet distinct racial histories, some possible parallels are worth considering.
Non-white birth rates outpacing those of white women is one of the key factors in the U.S. demographic transition, as twelve states and the District of Columbia already have white populations below 50% among children under age five.  Seven additional states are poised to also attain a “minority majority” designation among children within the next decade.
Similar to the U.S., one of the drivers behind the numeric rise of nonwhites in Brazil has been the rise of the non-white birth rate.  Moreover, experts also cite an increased willingness of Brazilians to self-identify as black or pardo, a Brazilian term akin to mestizo or mixed race.  Among the reasons attributed to this include: a period of economic growth that is helping to dispel associations between poverty and skin color; increased presence of blacks in high-profile positions, including the appointment of a black judge to Brazil’s Supreme Court and the country’s first black actor in a leading telenovela role; and a sense of hope that is permeating the country…

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