Facing up to the Failure of “Racial Democracy” in Brazil

Facing up to the Failure of “Racial Democracy” in Brazil

Planète Afrique: Articles on Africa and the African Diaspora Written by Hishaam Aidi for Various Magazines
First published: 2001-11-28

Hishaam Aidi, Lecturer in Discipline of International and Public Affairs
Columbia University

What do the Brazilians who call themselves “prieto,” “pardo” and “mestico” have in common? Despite a dizzying array of options when it comes to racial classification, all would be considered “black” by US standards.

A DNA study by Brazilian scientists found that 80 percent of the population has at least some African ancestry, and fully half of the nation’s 165 million inhabitants consider themselves to be of African descent. Brazil, the largest country in South America, is home to the largest black population outside of the African continent.

But despite the widely held and consciously promoted view of Brazil as a “racial democracy,” vast inequalities exist between the country’s white minority and the mixed and black majority. Afro-Brazilians live in appalling conditions often concentrated in impoverished, crime-ridden favaelas (slums) of Brazil’s large urban centers; very few Afro-Brazilians are in government, whether in the legislature, state bureaucracy or the military. Afro-Brazilians have also long been excluded from the civil service and other professions, with newspapers advertising private sector jobs stipulating “good appearance,” code words for “white.” And only two percent of Brazil’s 1.6 million college students are black…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,