by Lee Hyeon Woo
I remember watching a film about Brazil. It was a film titled Tropa De Elite, or Elite Squad. The film was about special police forces named the BOPE hunting down drug dealers in Brazilian slums known as the favela. As I watched the movie, I realized that most of the population consisting the favela were dark colored. There were only a few completely black men, and most of the population had brownish skin. At first it didn’t matter because I thought Brazil was a “dark country”. But when the movie suddenly showed the image of a Brazilian medical university, I was surprised to find out that most of the students who are introduced as Brazilians were white. That’s when I realized that Brazil was not free from racial problems.
I found out that Brazil’s major populations were white people, who took up 49 percent of the entire Brazil population. Then followed brown, or pardos, which took 42 percent of the population. Blacks, contrary to my original belief, took only 7 percent of the entire population. However I also found out that due to the long history of Portuguese colonization, most of the population were of mixed ancestry regardless of skin color. These include mulato, a black-white mix, mestiso, an indigenous-white mix, and cafuzo, an indigenous-black mix. To my surprise there were also considerable numbers of Japanese Brazilians. Because of this mixed ancestry, Brazilians have no point of discriminating each other with racial ancestry. It was no wonder that the Brazilian government would promote that, since there are so many races living together in harmony, their nation is a “racial paradise”.
While it would have been the best if what the Brazil government claims are completely true, I unfortunately found out that even in a “racial paradise” discrimination exists. Even if the ancestry is mixed, Brazilians would still discriminate race by fundamental means – the skin color. To simply put, the whiter you are, the more advantageous you are in Brazilian society. These discriminations can apply in job interviews, education, and environment. As I mentioned the Favela in the film, Tropa De Elite, most of the populations in the favela are dark skinned people. On the contrary, in university, which requires a large amount of tuition, most of the students are white, implying that white Brazilians have more economic benefits than darker ones. The most difficult part in solving this discrimination is that it is hidden. Everyone in Brazil says that they are not racists and they respect all races, but when they face a situation which involves other races, they would subtly engage in discrimination. Sometimes they don’t even know that their act is a racial discrimination.