The “Return” of Race in Brazil 

cotasby Chloe Lyu

Different from the American white or black model of racial classification, there is a large range of choices between black and white for Brazilians to identify themselves, since Brazil applies skin colour as criteria for classifying one’s race. However, skin colour is more than skin tones in Brazil, as it also relates to the texture of hair, the shape of nose, lips and cultural background.

Moreno (brown) is the most popular term, which is used by nearly 44% of the population when people describe their skin colour. Its ambiguity allows a wide range of people with different skin tones to fit in the same box. In addition, brown is celebrated as a national symbol of mixed raced Brazilians. The founder of Brazil’s national identity, Gilberto Freyre, declared that the skin colour of brown was a great combination of Black, Indian and European, thus it symbolized mixed races of Brazilians’ commonness. Freyre’s work created an image that Brazil was a racial democracy without discrimination, due to everyone’s mixed background, thus everyone was the same.

democracyNevertheless, the reality tells a different story, from the statistics it is obvious that white Brazilians have more opportunities accessing education, work, and a higher standard of living. Despite the race-mixing, the white Brazilian population still occupies the top of Brazilian society, while black and brown people are largely struggling in poverty; Racial democracy is a myth and never actually existed. The colour classification, which has been promoted as a wonderful racial democratic system, sugars up the racial differences and inequality by obscuring the concept of race. In fact, colour and race are the same thing.

The current racial quota policy that benefits black people puts race back on the table and has raised heated discussions. In a debate about the racial quota policy, Demetrio Magnoli, a Brazilian professor, stated that Brazil enjoys racial democracy because people are identified by colour but not race. The new policy has created races by putting into racial boxes and would result in racial discrimination.

Nonetheless, it is really so? Hasn’t race existed forever in Brazil? Without applying the word “race,” people are still judged by their skin colour and treated differently. Racial problems are not returning to Brazil because they never left, while the word race is returning. Brazilians have been fooled so long by the myth of racial democracy, and the black community has begun to say no to the situation.

This response asserts that the American Black or White system is a universal system that should be applied in Brazil for achieving racial equality. However, the colour classification system, as an outcome of myth of racial democracy, makes the race problem rather vague and glosses over the shadow of racial differences and inequality in Brazil.

References

Guimarães, Antonio Sérgio Alfredo. 2012. Race, colour, and skin colour in Brazil. FMSH-PPhttps://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00714628/document

Edward Telles. 2009. The Social Consequences of Skin Color in Brazil. In Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Still Matters, edited by Evelyn Nakano Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Brazil’s racial quotas (2012), http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xr52qg_brazil-s-racial-quotas_news

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Japanese Women in the Workforce

by Olivia Katherine Parker

Due to Japan’s conservative and traditional society, most Japanese women have played the role of wife and mother instead of pursuing careers. The common ideal for young women within Japan is to marry a salary worker and to raise a family. Oftentimes, Japanese women do not plan to pursue a career because the challenge of raising children is enough for them.

Japanese women also face a large amount of pressure from society. Not only must a wife cook her husband meals and make him bento lunch boxes, but she must also care for her children, dress them, keep a tidy house, make sure the children get to school on time, make dinner, bathe the children, tuck them into bed, satisfy her husband, and then plan for the next day. The vicious yet “rewarding” cycle of motherhood doesn’t leave much room for a career let alone a part time job.

Since 1990 around 50% of all Japanese women have participated in the paid labor force, however, they leave due to factors such as marriage, child birth, or to assume the role as caretaker. Over two-thirds of Japanese women leave their jobs when they have children and don’t come back. If a woman returns to the workforce after having children, it is usually 5-10 years after the birth of her first child and instead of seeking out a career the majority of women take on part time jobs for extra income.

Japanese companies notoriously under pay their female employees. Women roughly earn 60% as much as men and very few women hold positions of authority such as manager or CEO. On top of that many female employees receive fewer benefits and smaller insurance policies within companies. This makes the allure of a career less enticing and deters many women. For most, job security is crucial and very hard to find.

Recently, Japan’s birth rate is on the decline. In theory this should not make sense. Women are staying home to fulfill the role as housewife so that should result in a higher or stabilized birth rate. Along with a declining birth rate Japan is also facing problems such as longer life expectancies and an increasing elderly population resulting in an economic recession. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to boost Japan’s economy by encouraging more women to join the workforce. However, Japan is also facing a child care crisis. Women who want to return to the workforce are faced with the difficulty of finding care for their children. Day care centers are often looked down upon by Japanese society because a child is not “receiving enough maternal care”. The Japanese perspective or normality is to see a mother with her child instead of in temporary care. So if a woman wants to come back to work after fulfilling her role in Japanese society as a mother but faces criticism and backlash by placing her child in day care (assuming she even finds a day care) it only perpetuates Japan’s contradictory views of women.

Many people believe that Japanese society and culture must change before women can be seen as equal in the work place. Societal pressure, stigmas, and sexism are so ingrained in Japanese culture that it could take decades or generations before a significant change can be seen.

Balancing equality, justice, and opportunity

by Luke Eldridge

In class we have been discussing how to fight inequality and whether an unequal society itself is an unjust one. Many societies are constantly trying to reduce inequality but is it always the right thing to do?

I believe that a completely equal society does not always provide the best foundation for development and other factors such as economic growth. Yes, from a moral viewpoint, an ideal world would be one where everyone is equal in social status and/or fundamental worth. But there would then be a lot less motivation for individuals to work or try any harder than the next person. Some people would still be driven by their own desire to do better, but i think that for most, including myself, if there were no opportunity to earn more than anyone else, this would not be the case. Rewards are necessary to motivate people.

We also went on to discuss one of John Rawls‘ principles, the Equality Principle, which is divided into two main points. The first is Fair Equality of Opportunity, which in essence states that everyone should have an effective equal chance as another of similar natural ability to any offices and positions. From where I’m from in the United Kingdom, society leads us to believe that this is the case. Wherever you are born, however wealthy your family is, what ethnicity you are; everyone has the same chance to become whatever they want to in life. Be it a wealthy business man or a professional football player. I do think that it is possible if you try hard enough and experience luck along the way. In reality however, this is not usually true. If you are born into a family wealthy enough to send you to private schools then you will achieve higher levels of education and therefore be able to enrol in a superior university.

This itself opens up many more opportunities, as most companies in London look at what university you attended to gauge whether you are fit for the job or not. Higher class families also tend to have connections with each other, giving their children priority in receiving jobs/internships etc. It is much harder for poorer individuals to achieve the same things as those who are lucky enough to be born into a higher class family. There should be more done by governments to combat this type of inequality, like building state schools that provide free education (which they already do), but it will never truly disappear as there will always be people who earn more than others and can therefore give their children greater life prospects.

This leads us on to the second point: the Difference Principle, which essentially says that the only just inequalities are those that work to the benefit of the least well-off. The individuals who are earning more than everyone else may have achieved this prosperity through luckily being born into it or from working their way up from the bottom. In either cases, they will then be paying more taxes which are then used to help support the poorer individuals who do not have as great opportunities. It comes in many other forms, such as if someone was born with a talent for a certain sport. When the public go to watch professional athletes play, it provides enjoyment for the worse-off people. In these cases, inequality can actually turn out to be good, which corresponds with my earlier idea that inequality is not always a negative thing.

My vision of my future as a woman

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Mizuki Watanabe

According to Anne Allison, current Japanese society is absolutely precarious and complicated. Especially for women, it is very difficult to find a stable job such as not a clerical worker but a managerial worker in a company. Therefore it is essential for me to think about my future clearly.

I have been interested in law since I was twelve years old. I became interested in this topic for the first time when I attended a trial my father was conducting as a lawyer. It was a first time to know what is law and what my father does as a lawyer. The topic of the trial was to acquire an application for refugee status of an illegal immigrant from Myanmar. Then I understood that Japanese government was extremely strict toward immigrants and it was really hard for them to settle as well. Actually different from other developed countries, immigrants in Japan are extremely a small number. Later I asked my father about immigrants in Japan and what is law. The more I studied, the more I was interested in that. And I became to think I wanted to be a lawyer like him.

Now my future plan is to be a lawyer and to protect immigrants’ rights in Japan. To achieve my dream, I have to enter law school after I graduate Ritsumeikan University and study three years, because now my major is international relations. I wanted to enter the law faculty however I felt. Nevertheless it is good for me because I can study both of international relations and law. Studying international relations is helpful to understand immigration in Japan. Or I am thinking it is also good for me to work at company for some years before I study in law school because it must be important to know the Japanese social system in companies.

For women, to have qualifications is one key word to make their lives stable. Most women workers in Japan leave their companies when they are married or pregnant. After that, they will stay at home as “a wife” and do cooking, cleaning, raising their children, and so on. There must be many people who think when their children grow up, want to work again. However it is difficult for them to find stable jobs such as a specialist job or a managerial work if they do not have qualifications. I am not sure that I will be married or not. However if I will be a wife or a mother, I must think I want to work as a specialist in society. If I will be a lawyer, it is possible to continue to work after I am married or have children.

Now many people worry about Japanese society because there is a great amount of problems. However I have a hope for my future and have to do what I have to do for my great future.

Seeking ibasho at home and work

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

My goal in the future is to work for the Ministry of Defense in Japan. I had an opportunity to listen to a lecture by a staff member of the Ministry of Defense at Ritsumeikan University. I became interested in working for Japan and thinking about how improve the position of Japan in international society through this lecture. The staff at the Ministry of Defense requires a high knowledge of security. Therefore, hard work and various experiences are necessary when I am a Ritsumeikan University student. Although I have a clear future goal in working, working is not everything in life. Through Anne Allison’s Precarious Japan, I rethink the concept of ibasho.

Where is my ibasho? Ibasho is a comfortable place to me. Although it is invisible, a good life needs it. My present ibasho is family, Ritusmeikan University, the American football team, and so on. I think having more than one ibasho is necessary, one is family and the others are public, for example school and company. My anxiety in the future is that I can get ibasho in both family and work.

Unfortunately, Japan is still not a women-friendly society. It is true that the number of working women is increasing and the condition for working women is improving. However, Japanese society still has a trend in which woman should have the burden of child rearing and housework. A lot of working women quit their jobs because of giving birth and child rearing. Some companies wish pregnant women to quit their job. It is difficult for women to get both ibasho in family and work.

I would like to be able to cope with my work and my family like my mother does. However, my mother’s work is women-friendly. She took childcare until I was 2 years old and got summer and winter vacations. I would like to choose work that I want to do. When I am employed, I hope Japan is a more women-friendly society.

My opinion about the situation of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

by Ryota Takatsuka

In class, we discussed about people who have no legal passport in the U.S. Before this class, I was not familiar with this problem. The reason why the guy who appeared the video we saw (Jose Antonio Vargas) does not have a legal passport is that his parents brought him when he was a baby and made fake passport. According to the video, generally those who have fake passport realize that truth when they go to driving school at 16 years old. They were revealed by reception that this is fake passport and you should not come here anymore. No identification prevents those people to try many things. In his case, he could not travel overseas, and he hid his secret and he lived in fear of being arrested. My opinion against this problem is that country should support them to fit the country. There are two supporting reasons why I think that way.

The first reason is that through supporting immigrants America can be a model country in terms of diversity. In this world there still severe ethnic or cultural conflicts. They argue that what ethnic group is suitable as ruler or what culture should be promoted. However, under the globalization, it is nonsense to think that way. Accepting cause diversity into America automatically, and if America set some good policy to immigrants and achieve leading this movement toward growth of the country, whole world may accept diversity and globalization will move to more high level than scientist expect now.

The second reason is that rejecting the undocumented ruins their opportunity or talents. In fact, the guy is now famous journalist in America, however, before his ability admired, he had to give up chances to step up such as going to coverage to another country which has potential to make his career better because of illegal passport. There are many people who have same disadvantage for their future. In other words there must have been talented person who ruined their gift and forced to fade out from society. Preparing enough environments for immigrant will give chance for them to contribute to American society.

To sum up, according to the documentary, many immigrants face obstacle to fit into American society such as language barrier and parting from their family. As generally regarded, there is severe competition in American society and people can achieve the American dream. However, under the policy of the U.S, the starting point of the competition is not even. In order to make circulation of contribution system that was mentioned above, the U.S has to consider immigrants as precious investment for the future.