Blackness in Brazil: ancestry, skin color, and race

by Hiroki Matsuyama

In today’s modern world, there are many types of injurious racisms all over the world. However, the elements to discriminate against people are different, and they are depending on countries. There are several interesting aspects in terms of the way to distinguish people in Brazil according to ‘The social consequences of Skin Color in Brazil’ by Edward Telles.

On the one hand, people in the U.S tend to discriminate against those who are black, on the other hand, people in Brazil do not distinguish people depending on their race, but they do depending on situation, classifier and region. In other words, skin color is more commonly used than race in terms of distinguishing people. The most interesting point in this reading to me is that some U.S blacks may be seen as white in Brazil, only people having very dark skin are considered black. In fact, there are Brazilians who call themselves white, have non-white ancestry, and the numbers of those people is not small surprisingly. In spite of the fact that the U.S does have the ‘one drop’ rule  to discriminate against blacks, you would not be considered black in Brazil if you do not have black ancestry. From this point of view, it can be said that miscegenation tends to whiten the population in Brazil, which is totally opposite idea of the U.S. This is because Brazil was the colony of Portugal, and Brazilian people were born between Portuguese males and African or indigenous females.

Honestly, racial discrimination in Brazil did not seem to be worse than it in the U.S as my first impression. However, there is severe discrimination depending on their skin tones in Brazil. Although, in the U.S, there are color differences within races of Black and Latino, not among white people, there are color differences within the entire population in Brazil. It means that job wage or opportunities in Brazil depend on skin color. Hence, there is the difficulty for policymakers to define racial boundaries, and decide who should benefit from affirmative action even though they try to make a move for low-income citizens.

There are totally different notions between two countries, the U.S and Brazil in terms of discrimination. I would not say which is in better or worse situation; people in both countries are struggling in different ways. As I am an Asian person, I would like to research how Asian people in Brazil are considered. If people in Brazil discriminate against people depending on their skin tone, Asian people might not be discriminated because so-called ‘yellow color’ is close to white color.

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