What it means to be Black in Brazil

Racism rooted in slavery has not gone away in Brazil — and it took time until its existence was even acknowledged.

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Brazil imported more African slaves than any other country in the world: over 4 million people. Despite the ancestry of a big part of the population, the development of a national Black identity was hindered in the country after abolition in 1888.

The country didn’t have an Apartheid system like South Africa’s or Jim Crow laws like the United States, and its mixed population was seen as a symbol of harmony between races. The idea of Brazil being a “racial democracy” affected how Brazilians saw the role of race in their own lives — until the myth was debunked.

“Several people were raised with certain privileges for being a light-skinned person, but still suffering some discrimination and not understanding exactly why is that so,” explains lawyer and Diversity studies professor Thiago Amparo. “Only by understanding the history of Brazil, the [social] construction of whiteness and their own Black ancestry, they start to self-identify as Black.”
The rise in the number of Brazilians who self-identify as Black came as a result of the Black movement’s fight to denounce racism that exists in the country and to promote positive references of Blackness. Many achievements were made over the past decades, such as the implementation of affirmative actions. However, challenges still remain. Seventy five percent of people killed by the police in 2019 in the country were Black, and socio-economic characteristics of this population widely differ from those of white people.

About agogo22

Director of Manchester School of Samba at http://www.sambaman.org.uk
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3 Responses to What it means to be Black in Brazil

  1. When I was young, I also was under the impression that Brazil was a real melting pot, all races happily united under one flag. When I met a travel group of young people consisting of all kinds of skin colours, I thought that it supported the impression. But then it seems that some white people got the idea to whitify the population. People who do not care what colour a person has, would never get an idea like that, would they? Brazil could have been that one melting pot, after slavery was abolished, but no … I mean so called white people are the minority on earth anyway, aren’t they? Maybe that is why they are so afraid? We should all just mix until everybody has such an individual look that nobody cares anymore.


    • agogo22 says:

      Some scientists said that’s what will happen eventually anyway, given time. I’m not sure it’s necessary.
      I approached Brazil through it’s culture, particularly that popular from the 1960s onwards. The reality of a “racial democracy” pervades the work of many of the country’s great artists so I was under no illusions. That said I was surprised by how much Brazil looked like Europe whilst being completely different, and (IMHO) very few people looked completely white, black or indigenous (I did spend my time in cities). Its the only time I’ve ever encountered someone with black skin, blond hair and green eyes (all natural as far as I could tell)!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have seen a documentary about mixed children in America. There were also some interesting combinations. But people seemed to look at them as freaks. In my eyes they were all beautiful, they are the future. A fairytale future would be that everybody can just be a person in the first place, just him-/herself and be met and accepted as that, with gender, colour, religion etc. being secondary.

        Liked by 1 person

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