Dismantling the Racial Paradise

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-03-31 18:42Z by Steven

Dismantling the Racial Paradise

Stanford University Press Blog
March 2015

Tiffany Joseph, Assistant Professor of Sociology; Affiliated Faculty of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York

How migration to and from the U.S. is transforming notions of race in Brazil.

I still remember my first trip to Brazil—I was amazed by the diversity of physical features I saw among the population, a continuous range of skin tones between what Americans think of as “white” and “black.” Everyone seemed to get along well; residential segregation levels were low and interracial couples, families and friend groups appeared to be the norm. It would have been easy to believe that Brazil was a racial paradise compared to the United States. However, as I learned Portuguese and spent more time in the country, I came to realize that Brazil was a country of racial contradictions.

Despite having seemingly more “cordial” interpersonal relations, Brazil has struggled with rampant social inequality, especially between lighter and darker Brazilians. While Brazilians espoused the beauty of its multiracial population, I was perplexed every time I passed stands full of Brazilian magazines and saw a sea of fair-skinned faces with blonde hair and blue eyes upheld as the ideal image of beauty. As a black American, I began to notice commonalities between the pervasiveness of structural racism in Brazil and the U.S. while being keenly aware of the different racial ideologies that characterized each nation’s history.

Brazil was once considered the global model for burying racial hatchets and fostering social inclusiveness, while the U.S. has garnered a reputation for being an overtly racist country. As the two largest countries in the Americas, both indelibly impacted by long histories of structural racism, Brazil and the U.S. have been the focus of countless comparative studies on race. And though the number of people traveling and migrating between each country has increased significantly in the last few decades, there are few accounts of how these migrations facilitated movement of race between these countries…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Race on the Move: Brazilian Migrants and the Global Reconstruction of Race

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2015-03-31 17:26Z by Steven

Race on the Move: Brazilian Migrants and the Global Reconstruction of Race

Stanford University Press
February 2015
240 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9780804792202
Paper ISBN: 9780804794350
Digital ISBN: 9780804794398

Tiffany D. Joseph, Assistant Professor of Sociology; Affiliated Faculty of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York

Race on the Move takes readers on a journey from Brazil to the United States and back again to consider how migration between the two countries is changing Brazilians’ understanding of race relations. Brazil once earned a global reputation as a racial paradise, and the United States is infamous for its overt social exclusion of nonwhites. Yet, given the growing Latino and multiracial populations in the United States, the use of quotas to address racial inequality in Brazil, and the flows of people between each country, contemporary race relations in each place are starting to resemble each other.

Tiffany Joseph interviewed residents of Governador Valadares, Brazil’s largest immigrant-sending city to the U.S., to ask how their immigrant experiences have transformed local racial understandings. Joseph identifies and examines a phenomenon—the transnational racial optic—through which migrants develop and ascribe social meaning to race in one country, incorporating conceptions of race from another. Analyzing the bi-directional exchange of racial ideals through the experiences of migrants, Race on the Move offers an innovative framework for understanding how race can be remade in immigrant-sending communities.

Tags: , , ,

Race and Making America in Brazil: How Brazilian Return Migrants Negotiate Race in the US and Brazil

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-07-10 00:54Z by Steven

Race and Making America in Brazil: How Brazilian Return Migrants Negotiate Race in the US and Brazil

University of Michigan
314 pages

Tiffany Denise Joseph

Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Sociology) in The University of Michigan

This dissertation explores how US immigration influenced the racial conceptions of Brazilian returnees, individuals who immigrated to the US and subsequently returned to Brazil. Since Brazil was once regarded as a multi-racial utopia and represents a very distinct social environment when compared to the US, the dissertation objective was to learn how returnees adapted to the US racial system and if they “brought back” US racial ideals to Brazil upon returning. I conducted semi-structured retrospective interviews with 49 Brazilian returnees in Governador Valadares, Brazil, the country‘s largest immigrant-sending city to the US to explore how these individuals perceived and navigated racial classification and relations in Brazil and the US before, during, and after the US migration. To more effectively isolate the influence of immigration for returnees, I also interviewed a comparison group of 24 non-migrants.

Findings suggest that returnees relied on a transnational racial optic to navigate the US racial system as immigrants and to readapt to the Brazilian racial system after returning to Brazil. I use the term “transnational racial optic” to demonstrate how migration transformed returnees‘ observations, interpretations, and understandings of race in Brazil and the US. Returnees felt the US racial system was characterized by more rigid racial classification, overt forms of racism, and pervasive interracial social and residential segregation compared to Brazil. The US migration also influenced returnees‘ perceptions of racial stratification in both societies, particularly with regard to the socio-economic positions and behaviors of US and Brazilian blacks.

After the US migration, most returnees were not conscious of how their racial classifications or perceptions changed, although the results indicate shifts in their racial and skin tone classifications over the course of the migration. Furthermore, returnees felt that they did not remit US racial ideals to Brazil after returning. While both returnees and non-migrants thought racism existed in Brazil, returnees, after having lived in the US, were more cognizant of the structural manifestations of racism than non-migrants. This suggests that returnees‘ observations of race in the US influenced their perceptions of race in Brazil post-migration, which is indicative of the transnational racial optic.

Table of Contents

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • List of Appendices
  • Abstract
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • Chapter 2 Background and Theoretical Framework
  • Chapter 3 Methodology
  • Chapter 4 Examining Brazilian Return Migrants‘ Personal Conceptions about Race in the United States
  • Chapter 5 Examining Brazilian Return Migrants‘ Societal Conceptions about Race in the US
  • Chapter 6 The Return: Brazilian Return Migrants‘ Post-Migration Conceptions of Racial Classification in Brazil
  • Chapter 7 Contemporary Life in GV: Conceptions of Race among Return Migrants and Non-Migrants
  • Chapter 8 Conclusion
  • Appendices
  • Bibliography

List of Figures

  • Figure 1: Returnees‘ Race in Brazil Pre-Migration (Brazil Census)
  • Figure 2: Returnees‘ Race in US (US Census)
  • Figure 3: Returnees‘ Average Skin Tone Classifications during Migration Process
  • Figure 4: Non-Migrants‘ Racial Classifications (Brazil Census)
  • Figure 5: Returnees’ Racial Classifications at Time of Interview
  • Figure 6: Coding Schema for Returnees’ and Non-Migrants’ Brazilian Racial Conceptions
  • Figure 7: Coding Schema of Returnees‘ US Racial Conceptions

List of Tables

  • Table 1: Demographics of Return and Non-Migrants
  • Table 2: Immigration Demographics for Return Migrants
  • Table 3: Topics in Interview Protocols
  • Table 4: How Participants Racially Classified Interviewer
  • Table 5: Importance of Race before Immigrating
  • Table 6: Importance of Race in US
  • Table 7: Importance of Race before Immigrating vs US
  • Table 8: Brazilian Racial Classifications
  • Table 9: Open-Ended Racial Classifications in US
  • Table 10: Self-Ascribed vs. External Racial Classification in US
  • Table 11: Factors Influencing Open-Ended Racial Classification
  • Table 12: Experiences of Discrimination by Racial Classification
  • Table 13: Defining Race- Return Migrants vs Non-Migrants
  • Table 14: Factors Influencing Return Migrants and Non-Migrants
  • Table 15: Returnees’ Skin Tone Classifications at Each Retrospective Migration Stage
  • Table 16: Racial Classification in the US vs Racial Classification
  • Table 17: Pre-Migration Racial Classification vs Racial Classification
  • Table 18: Self-Ascribed Racial Classification-Return Migrants vs. Non-Migrants
  • Table 19: Importance of Classifications
  • Table 20: Return Migrants‘ Skin Tone Classifications across Racial Categories
  • Table 21: Returnees’ Perceptions of Racial Democracy
  • Table 22: Manifestations of Racism
  • Table 23: Return Migrants’ Demographic Info (Returnees 1-24)
  • Table 24: Return Migrants’ Demographic Info (Returnees 25-49)
  • Table 25: Non-Migrants‘ Demographic Info

List of Appendices

  • Appendix 1 Demographic Information
  • Appendix 2 Coding Schema
  • Appendix 3 Interview Protocol for Return Migrants-English Version
  • Appendix 4 Interview Protocol for Non-Migrants-English Version
  • Appendix 5 Interview Protocol for Return Migrants-Portuguese Version
  • Appendix 6 Interview Protocol for Non-Migrants- Portuguese Version

Chapter 1: Introduction

I filled it out [Census form]. Yes, they asked [for my racial classification] and I put white because I wasn‘t Hispanic or Latino. [The form] had Hispanic, white, black, there wasn‘t an option for me specifically. Even though in Brazil, I considered myself white, there [in the US] for them [the Americans] I am not white because white there is blue eyes and blonde hair.

–Renata, white woman, 46 years, New York

Because when they [Americans] look at you, they know, they know that you‘re not American. (quirks) I don‘t know how they know, but…if you speak English [with a foreign-sounding accent] like in America, they know you are not American. I don‘t know why.

-Amanda, white woman, 33 years, Massachusetts

Increasing immigration to the United States in the last fifty years has had a significant impact on the population’s racial and ethnic diversity. Although the US historically has been predominantly white and black, the 2000 US Census revealed a population that has become increasingly racially nonwhite since the majority of recent immigrants have come from Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean.2 While these immigrants bring with them hopes for a brighter future, they also come with conceptions of race from their countries of origin, which are not easily shed and may influence their perceptions of and incorporation into US society. In the US, race is a primary mode of social organization and the social construction of race has created widespread social inequality between whites and people of color since the nation’s inception (Feagin 2000; Omi and Winant 1994). Feagin (2000) argues that the black-white racial binary is the foundation of US race relations and is the ruler by which other racial and immigrant groups are measured. Therefore, immigrants who come to the US enter a racially polarized social context.

The quotes at the beginning of this chapter provide recollections of how Brazilian return migrants, or Brazilians who immigrated to the US and subsequently returned to Brazil, negotiated race while living in the US as immigrants.3 The ideas captured in Renata and Amanda’s quotes suggest a reconfiguration in the US of self-ascribed racial classification that differed from their racial self-classifications in Brazil, as well as recognition of how “Americans” identify foreign others.

While race is a strong structuring factor for US residents, race and racial classification in immigrants’ countries of origin may be very different from those in the US, which means immigrants must learn how to negotiate race in their new context. According to Landale and Oropesa (2002):

“Not only must migrants adapt to change in their status from majority group member to minority group member; they also face pressure to redefine themselves in terms of the black-white dichotomy that delineates race relations in the U.S.” (pg. 234).

Such a process of redefinition may be challenging for immigrants who never before have classified themselves using rigid racial terms, particularly for those who come from Latin America, which has a history of more socially-accepted racial mixing that has resulted in populations with a diverse range of physical racial markers, such as skin tone and hair texture (Landale and Oropesa 2002; Roth 2006; Duany 2002; Itzigsohn et. al 2005). Brazil, once considered a racial utopia compared to the US because of its perceived harmonic interracial relations, is such a country. Whereas one’s ancestry and physical features are generally the basis for classification into a single specific racial group in the US, such characteristics may signify different racial classifications in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Renata’s quote clearly demonstrates how her physical features are considered white in Brazil although she is considered nonwhite in the US. Thus, Renata and other Latin American immigrants come to the US with a different understanding of race and must adjust to existing racial classifications and race relations upon arrival. As Latinos are currently the largest ethno-racial minority in the US and do not easily fit into the historical black-white racial binary, it is important to explore how immigrants from Latin American countries, more specifically Brazil, adapt to race in the US.

Brazil is the Latin American country of interest in this study for three reasons. First, there have been various comparative studies of race in the United States and Brazil that have explored the unique racial characteristics of these countries (Degler 1986; Marx 1998; Telles 2004; Bailey 2009). Brazil and the US are two of the largest countries in the Americas and share a history of European colonization, Indigenous conquest, and African enslavement. Yet, the social construction of race has unfolded very differently in each context, motivating studies that explored how the racist US differed from Brazil’s multi-racial paradise.4 Second, as the largest slave-holding societies in the Americas, Brazil and the US have large African-descended populations. The majority of African slaves imported to the Americas were sent to Brazil. Even after the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade, African slaves were still illegally imported to Brazil, which was last country in the Americas to abolish slavery in 1888. Thus, Brazil’s African-descended population is significantly larger than its US counterpart (Telles 2004). In fact, it has been argued that Brazil has the world’s second largest-African descended population after Africa (Telles 2004; Martes 2007). Finally, this research is also motivated by the increase in Brazilian immigration to the US in the last thirty years. Brazil’s economic recession in the 1980s with its high unemployment and inflation rates encouraged significant emigration for employment purposes to the US, Canada, and Japan (Goza 1999; Margolis 1994; Takenaka 2000). Since that time, Brazilians have migrated to the US in large numbers, yet there had been very little research examining their experiences until the mid-1990s.

Given the plethora of comparative race research on Brazil and the US and the growth of Brazilian immigrant communities in the US, a study exploring how Brazilian immigrants come to understand race in the US is warranted. The primary goal of this dissertation is to comparatively explore the social constructions of race in Brazil and the US through the observations, perceptions, and experiences of individuals who have lived in each country for an extended period of time. While other comparative studies have relied on survey and historical data to understand how race and racism “work” on a macro-level in each society, I examine how individuals make sense of and negotiate race in both countries at the personal level. Because Brazilian immigrants are one of the most recent immigrant groups to the US and extensive return migration has been documented among this group, Brazilian return migrants are the ideal group for such a study. As individuals who were racially socialized in Brazil, they entered the US with a different perception of race and encountered a racial system that relied on more rigidly defined racial categories and groups and appeared to be more overtly racist than Brazil.

Furthermore, upon leaving the US, Brazilian return migrants go home with a different mindset that has been shaped by their experiences abroad. Migration between both countries facilitates comparisons between migrants’ quality of life in Brazil and the US that make it difficult to readapt to life in post-migration Brazil (Margolis 2001). Margolis (2001) argues that “some returnees become people in-between [who] are not entirely satisfied with life in either country” (pg. 243). Thus, if their mindsets are “changed” by living in the US, it is possible that US migration also facilitates a change in these individuals’ racial conceptions in Brazil after the US migration. I define racial conceptions as a set of ideas that help individuals understand how social actors, in this study Brazilian returnees, negotiate race in a particular context. In this study, I operationalize these conceptions in three ways using data from respondents’ experiences of: (1) racial classification, (2) observations, perceptions, and experiences of racism or racial discrimination, and (3) an understanding of how race functions on a societal level. For example, Brazilian return migrants in this study negotiated racial conceptions in the US through: (1) their personal, professional, and miscellaneous interactions with other Brazilians, other immigrants, and native born US citizens, and (2) their “consumption” of US culture through television, music, and newspapers.

This dissertation examines how exposure to racial systems in the United States and Brazil influences the racial conceptions of Brazilian return migrants in three contexts: (1) in Brazil before the US migration; (2) in the US as immigrants; and (3) in Brazil after the US migration. To comparatively explore race in the US and Brazil via Brazilian return migrants’ racial conceptions, I address two major questions in this study:

(1) How does immigration to the US change racial conceptions for Brazilian return migrants while they are living in the US and after returning to Brazil?

(2) Do return migrants “bring back” racial ideals from the US and if so, what impact does extensive US migration have on racial relations in returnees’communities?

To address these research questions, I rely on data obtained from semi-structured interviews with 49 Brazilian return migrants and 24 non-migrants (Brazilians who never migrated) in Governador Valadares, Brazil, a city of 250,000 residents in the South Central state of Minas Gerais. Governador Valadares (GV) has historically been Brazil’s largest immigrant-sending city to the US. Emigration to the US has so heavily influenced the local economy that the city has been famously nicknamed by Brazilians as “Governador Valadolares,” as in US dollars. About 15 percent of GV residents, also known as Valadarenses, are estimated to be living in the US and nearly 80 percent of Valadarenses have at least one relative residing in the US (CIAAT 2007; Margolis 1998). Additionally, return migration to GV after the US migration has been heavily documented (Marcus 2009; Assis and de Campos 2009; Martes 2008; Siqueira 2008; CIAAT 2007; Siqueira 2006). The prevalence of US migration has created a constant flow of people, money, and culture between GV and the US, so much so that GV and particular US cities with large numbers of migrants from GV are considered transnational social fields or:

“… set[s] of multiple interlocking networks of social relationships through which ideas, practices, and resources are unequally exchanged, organized, and transformed… [that] connect actors through direct and indirect relations across borders” (Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004, 1009).

Because the majority of migrants from GV intend to return to their native city after the US migration, they maintain social and economic ties while living in the US. Valadarenses generally immigrate to the US to work for two to five years to earn and save as much money as possible for the purpose of purchasing a home and car or starting a business upon returning from the US. This process has been referred to as “Fazer à América,” which translates in English to “making America” (Martes 2008; CIAAT 2007; Siqueira 2006). These migrants hope the US migration will facilitate upward social mobility and access to what they perceive to be a better or more “American” quality of life in GV after migration…

…Additionally, the exploration of racial conceptions for this subset of individuals who are on the move between the US and Brazil also helps me develop a more nuanced argument about race as a social construction that varies from place to place. This is particularly true for the comparison of the US and Brazil, two countries with very distinct racial histories that are now experiencing shifts in racial discourses due to changing ethnic demographics (US) and the introduction of affirmative action policies (Brazil). The increase in rates of interracial marriage, introduction of an option to classify in more than one racial category on the US census, the dismantling of race-based affirmative action policies in the US and the recent election of Barack Obama as the first black (biracial) president of the United States have spurred debates about whether the US has now become a postracial society. Furthermore, the growth of the Latino population into the country’s largest ethno-racial minority and increased immigration from Latin America have had a significant impact on US demographics.

At the same time, to address racial inequality in Brazil, some universities and companies have begun to implement racial quotas to increase the representation of Afro-Brazilians in Brazil’s higher education system, which has been very controversial. Although nonwhites constitute nearly half of the Brazilian population, whites constitute about 73 percent of university students (Telles 2004; Stubrin 2005; Bailey 2009). Due to the prevalence of racial mixing in Brazil and many white Brazilians’ acknowledgment of having black racial ancestry, the implementation of affirmative action has made it necessary to racially classify individuals (blacks) in a socially meaningful way to determine who can benefit from race-specific policies. This policy has facilitated discussions about an importation of US racial classification standards (Telles 2004; Araujo 2001; Fry and Maggie 2004; Maio and Santos 2005; Bailey 2009). Because both Brazil and the US are experiencing shifts in racial discourse as they relate to discussions of racial demographics, racial classification, and inequality, some researchers have argued that the US will undergo either a (1) “Latin-Americanization” of race in which existing racial boundaries will become more ambiguous or (2) shift from the traditional black-white racial binary to a black-nonblack binary in which existing racial boundaries will be realigned (Bonilla-Silva 2004; Skidmore 2003; Lee and Bean 2004; Yancey 2003). Other researchers suggest that the US and Brazilian racial classification systems are on “converging paths,” as each country’s racial dynamics seem to be resembling its counterpart (Daniel 2006; Bailey 2009):

It appears to be the case that racial dynamics in the United States and in Brazil are like two ships passing in the night, one showing signs of movement toward mixed-race framings and the other toward single-race identification (Bailey 2009, 8).

Thus, it is possible that just as Brazilians are moving back and forth across US and Brazilian borders, that racial ideals in each country are also being exchanged, which highlights the significance of this study in another way. If race in the US is becoming “Latin-Americanized,” it is important to understand how Latin Americans (in this study Brazilians) conceive of race in their countries of origin and in the US if researchers are to understand how the social construction of race in the US may evolve in the future…

Read the entire dissertation here.

Tags: , , ,