In Brazil I glimpsed a possible future in which there is only one race

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2012-04-17 05:15Z by Steven

In Brazil I glimpsed a possible future in which there is only one race

The Guardian

Timothy Garton Ash

By its own definition it is a mixed country, but extreme poverty and violence occur mainly at one end of the spectrum

Some time ago, Brazil’s census takers asked people to describe their skin colour. Brazilians came up with 134 terms, including alva-rosada (white with pink highlights), branca-sardenta (white with brown spots), café com leite (coffee with milk), morena-canelada (cinammon-like brunette), polaca (Polish), quase-negra (almost black) and tostada (toasted). This often lighthearted poetry of self-description reflects a reality you see with your own eyes, especially in the poorer parts of Brazil’s great cities.

Walking round the City of God, a poor housing estate just outside Rio de Janeiro—and the setting for the film of that name—I saw every possible tint and variety of facial feature, sometimes in the same household. Alba Zaluar, a distinguished anthropologist who has worked for years among the people of the district, told me they make jokes about it between themselves: “You little whitey”, “You little brownie”, and so on. And those features, with their diversity and admixture, are often beautiful.

Brazil is a country where people celebrate, as a national attribute, the richness of miscegenation, giving a positive meaning to what is, in its origins, an ugly North American misnomer. There is, however, a nasty underside to this story. “Racial democracy” is an established, early 20th-century Brazilian self-image, by contrast with a then still racially segregated United States. Yet the reality even today is that most non-whites are worse off economically, socially and educationally than most whites. And part of this inequality is due to racial discrimination…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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