Robin Sheriff’s book Dreaming Equality can give readers deep insights into the problem of interracial relations in the contemporary Brazil. The first two chapters of this work are aimed at describing the experiences of people living in favelas or shanty towns. These examples that the author provides can tell much about the challenges faced by the residents of these settlements.
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The main strength of this book is that the author relies not only on the statistical data, but also on the interviews given by people living in favelas. This approach makes his arguments more informative and convincing. This is why this source is worth reading.
According to Peter Sheriff, Brazilian academicians avoid mentioning that nearly 75 percent of people living in slums are non-white (Sheriff 18). Furthermore, one can speak about the existence of residential as well racial segregation. The ancestors of these people were enslaved and brought to the colonies (Sheriff 18).
To a great extent, this economic inequality can be regarded as a legacy of slavery in Brazil. It seems that such a trend can be observed in other countries in which slave labor was extensively used, for example, one mention the so-called inner cities in the United States. Certainly, Peter Sheriff’s arguments cannot be generalized, but he is able to show that modern societies are still affected by the discourse of race.
For instance, one can mention that some governmental officials in Brazil have a rather biased attitude toward the residents of favelas. Very often, they believe that they are rude and uncultured (Sheriff 19). Certainly, I am not directly familiar with this form of discrimination, but it seems that it is widespread in modern communities.
Another aspect of this reading is that Peter Sheriff tries to give voice to favela residents. Judging from their responses, in Brazil the language of race is still vital for describing the identity of a person (Sheriff 39). Moreover, there is a distinct correlation between the race of an individual and his/her socio-economic status in the community.
Furthermore, one should remember that in the public opinion, the word negro is often associated with ugliness, marginality, and darkness (Sheriff 39). In my opinion, by focusing on people’s experience, Robin Sheriff is able to throw a new light on the challenges that they encounter.
Nevertheless, the author’s discussion leaves many questions unanswered. Certainly, it is vital to know how people perceive race. However, one still has to determine ways of overcoming the legacies of slavery in Brazil. This issue is particularly relevant to the residents of favelas who struggle with poverty and crime.
This is the main limitation of the writer’s analysis. However, one can argue that Robin Sheriff has successfully demonstrated that despite the emphasis on diversity and tolerance, racial rhetoric still plays an important part in the modern world. Such a country as Brazil is only one example of state in which there is a distinct relationship between race and social status. This is why this work should not be overlooked.
On the whole, Peter Sheriff’s analysis is useful for understanding how colonial past and slavery can shape the development of the country. It can help people better understand various academic works examining such concepts as race and racism. Finally, by reading this book, one can get a better idea of contemporary Brazil.
Sheriff, Robin. Dreaming Equality: Color, Race, and Racism in Urban Brazil, New York: Rutgers University Press, 2001. Print.