In Adam Stefan’s documentary film “Brazil in Black and White,” Brazil, one of the most racially mixed nations, confronts the idea of race and affirmative action. According to interviews shown in the documentary, some middle-class whites in Brazil believe that affirmative action is not necessary. In fact, they believe that since they live in a colorblind society, affirmative action is a dangerous step to take because it will spark the beginning of racism and segregation. They also feel that it is an unfair advantage toward blacks. This all sounds familiar – similar to views held by the new right and neoconservatives in the U.S. about reverse discrimination and antistatism (Omi & Winant, 1994).
Data presented in the documentary supports the view that race exists in Brazil. Blacks earn half as much as whites, and are twice as likely to be illiterate. Paolo Paim, one of the few black senators states that “poverty in Brazil has a color, and the color is black” [emphasis added]. He believes that the white majority in the Brazilian Congress is against affirmative action because educated blacks will be able to “compete in the job market on equal footing with the whites.”
Brazil in Black and White click on this link for the full video.
In the University of Brasilia, a quota system is established that gives Afro-Brazilians an opportunity to apply and be accepted into the school. I was surprised to see that, aside from a standardized exam, students who were applying to the university under the quota system had to take a picture. A secret committee would judge this picture to see if you would be categorized as black. This seems like a very inaccurate way of judging one’s race. Fellow SOC 217 classmates would agree with me that it is not easy to classify someone according to race by their appearance – remember the activity we did a few weeks ago? I think that the economic and financial status also needs to be taken into account in order to be considered for the quota.
If you think that you can accurately categorize people by their self-identified race, go to this link: <http://www.pbs.org/race/002_SortingPeople/002_00-home.htm>