Affirmative action backed in largely black Brazil

Affirmative action backed in largely black Brazil

Associated Press

Bradley Brooks

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s top court has backed sweeping affirmative action programs used in more than 1,000 universities across this nation, which has more blacks than any country outside Africa yet where a severe gap in education equality between races persists.

The Supreme Court voted 7-1 late Thursday to uphold a federal program that has provided scholarships to hundreds of thousands of black and mixed-race students for university studies since 2005. Its constitutionality was challenged by a right of center party, The Democrats. Three justices abstained from the vote.

The court ruled last week in a separate case that it was constitutional for universities to use racial quotas in determining who is admitted.

“If I didn’t have the scholarship, I wouldn’t be here. It pays my entire tuition,” said 22-year-old student Felipe Nunes, taking a break between classes at the privately run Univerisdade Paulista in Sao Paulo.

Nunes, the mixed-race son of a mechanic, said he’s the first person in his family to attend university. He’s one of 919,000 recipients of a “ProUni” scholarship since 2005. The ProUni program funds studies in private universities for black, mixed race, indigenous and poor students whose primary education was in the public school system…

…Norma Odara, a 20-year-old journalism student at Mackenzie University in Sao Paulo, considers herself black, though her mother is white, and her youthful face embodies Brazil’s mixed heritage.

She’s not the recipient of any government scholarship and her university does not use any sort of quota system, something made clear by the fact Odara was one of the few black students in a sea of whites on Mackenzie’s leafy campus. Still, Odara said quotas and other such programs are only temporary fixes, and that what is needed is more government spending in public grade schools where most black Brazilians study, so that they are better prepared to enter universities on academic merit alone…

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