Skin Color in Brazil

by Mari Ryoha

Brazil is the big immigrant country. In 16th Brazil was colonized by Portugal. At that time, intermarriage between European and indigenous people started. Also intermarriage between European and African who sold as slave in Brazil, or indigenous people and African started. In such ways Brazil has generated diversity of race. Through such history racial mixing was identity of Brazil. Brazilian regarded racial mixing as good thing, and was proud of this moral consciousness compared with the United States. It was like ideology of non-racism. Also Brazilian prefers using the word “color” to using “race” because “color” shows the continuous and ambiguous aspects of Brazilian notion.

Brazil has three methods for classifying racial groups. First method is conducted by Brazilian census. The institution carries out the census is called IBGE. IBGE classify the race into five categories, white (branco), brown (pardo), black (preto), and Asian/yellow (amarelo), Indigenous (Indigena). The census carries out based on self-identification. And second method is popular discourse. People classify themselves into certain category by skin color. When they classify the race, they often use the word “moreno”. It covers the vast range of skin color. This term shows Brazilian’s ambiguous race notion well. Third method is racial classification by the black movement system. This classification only two terms, “branco” and “negro”. This classification makes contrast to the classification which uses the word of “moreno”.

In these days, “negro” shows the pride of blackness. Also this black movement argued that Brazil had racial discrimination. It destroyed the ideology of non-racism. Actually racial discrimination exists in Brazil. They have big gap between white and brown, black. Recently Brazilian government recognized racial discriminations within the country. Then Brazilian government has tried to “Affirmative Action”. “Affirmative Action” should aim to enhance racial equity and confirm self-respect among black people, evolve the racial diversity among all social classes. In Brazil “Affirmative Action” passed through Brazilian national assembly two months ago. Brazil has to remove extreme inequality and culture of racism and the situation which certain race can’t be raised to high social class.

I was so surprised at the Brazilian view point toward race. It was interesting compared with the United States. Brazilian government doesn’t hide the racial discrimination. And they tried to overcome the discrimination. I think their attitude toward racism is positive. Also “Affirmative Action” is a landmark law. Although there are many points of improvement, I expect Brazil to actualize the non-racism.

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