Apartheid in Brazil– Will we ever see past Brazil’s pretty?

By Malena Amusa Jul 16, 2007

Why are people so slow to admit that apartheid exists in Brazil? Today, I ran across an article that made my point. When the media covers it at all, it seems to grapple with the concept of baked-in racism in Brazil. Often times, a balancing act of acknowledging Brazil’s problem but also the beauty of mixed-people in Brazil replaces resolved reports on the issues. For example, in this article, "In Brazil I glimpsed a possible future in which there is only one race," Timothy Garton Ash writing for the Guardian does a good job of depicting the race wars in Brazil. "To be back was to be poor," one guys said in the piece. So the country has established some affirmative action measures, Ash writes. But a battle continues over race classifications that divide people into black, brown, white, and yellow. Here’s the telling part: despite the majority of Brazilians having more than 10 percent Black African blood, only 6 percent claim "black." Because in Brazil being Black is a poverty sentence. But this political and racist disconnect shouldn’t distract us from the mixed racial beauty of Brazil, Ash argues.

It is precisely this mixing that has helped to make Brazilians among the most handsome human beings on earth. What is foreshadowed here – but I repeat, only if Brazil can correct its dreadful social and economic imbalances, including a heritage of discrimination – is the possibility of a world in which skin colour is nothing more than a physical attribute, like the colour of your eyes or the shape of your nose, to be admired, calmly noted, or joked about. And a world in which the only race that matters is the human race.

Ash so grapples with the Brazil’s race issues, he almost evokes some eugenics rhetoric in his solution-building. If only we all kept mixing racially, then everybody will be roughly the same color and then, after many many decades, race will be futile in allocating social value. Sorry to tell you Ash, but race will always matter. It’s how it matters that concerns progressives. But you know, I gotta give Ash some credit. Some white folks just don’t know what to do with the racial mess some of their distant cousins started. So they keep pushing towards erasing race altogether. And in the case of Brazil, lauding the beauty of miscegenation like this author suggests, that conflates the "best of both worlds," prevents Brazil from being put on par with places like apartheid South Africa? So I wonder, will we ever see past Brazil’s pretty that hides the dark side?