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Racial Democracy in Brazil Essay

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Updated: Sep 7th, 2022

Introduction

A belief that one person’s race is superior has been causing discrimination and prejudice for many years. The theory of racism states that biological characteristics predetermine individuals’ moral and social traits (“The (Un) Happy Objects of Affective Community” 25). Some people also define racism as explicit hate towards human beings because of their distinguishing features, such as skin color, country of origin, religious beliefs, or native language. Governments around the world tried to solve the issue of racism, and some of them are believed to be successful in educating their populations about it. For instance, different scholars claim that Brazil has effectively escaped racial discrimination. As noted by Da Cota, there exists a view “that Brazilian race relations are relatively harmonious and that race is of minor importance in shaping identities and life chances” (“The (Un) Happy Objects of Affective Community” 25). Nevertheless, it is claimed that Brazil’s racial equality is just a myth created by the government. Therefore, this paper will prove that racial democracy is absent in Brazil by, first, defining this term and explaining its cons and, second, discussing how and where racism is present in the state.

Main body

Racial democracy in Brazil is a phenomenon connected to the idea that racial differences encourage individuals to look for a broad identity that would include every population presented in the country. Race plays a secondary role in shaping one’s personality and affecting a person’s behavior. On the other hand, it unites people and helps them to appreciate their distinct characteristics. Da Costa stated that this belief had been occupying the minds of Brazilian citizens as a hope for a better future and equality in the society (“The (Un) Happy Objects of Affective Community” 25). For the country’s population, their motherland is a state that successfully reduced the level of racism by blending its native, European, and African inhabitants (“The (Un) Happy Objects of Affective Community” 25). Thus, the power of cultural mixture encourages individuals to believe in interconnectedness and support rather than separation depending on racial differences. Blending helps people to seek a more extensive collective identity that exceeds characters based on racial categorization (“The (Un) Happy Objects of Affective Community” 27). Hence, distinct features are seen as the way to unite and discover familiar characters each culture has.

However, there exists a strong belief that racial inequality is highly present in Brazilian society despite the mixture. The faith in racial democracy due to cultural connectedness is viewed as a contradiction or paradox since people who achieve happiness through blending “see racism and discrimination as aberrations among general conviviality” (Da Costa, “The (Un) Happy Objects of Affective Community” 29). These delusions are perceived as obstacles on the way to accomplishing understanding of society and the self and, consequently, developing strong personal relationships with other individuals” (Da Costa, “The (Un) Happy Objects of Affective Community” 29). In other words, blending does not let people discover the advantages of their culture that, eventually, cannot move them towards a complete understanding of society. Therefore, it means that racial discrimination and inequality have not disappeared because cultural blending did not prove to be an effective means of concretizing racial democracy in community relationships. The use of cultural mixture as a way to achieve racial justice can be proved inadequate since it does not take into consideration the effect of difference on the foundation of an ideal community.

Moreover, Brazil is not successful in applying the idea of racial democracy since it operates with the help of racialized power while, at the same time, claiming that race is insignificant. Da Costa defines Brazil, and other states using the same forms of governance, as “post-racial ideologies” (“Confounding Anti-racism” 497). These forms of discourse and thought to try to reduce racial differences and their influences from the attention of activists, public debaters, academic scholarships, and state policies (Da Costa, “Confounding Anti-racism” 497). Post-racial philosophies create complete understandings of inclusion and belonging that ignore racial differences and the issue of racism within a community (Da Costa, “Confounding Anti-racism” 497). Thus, despite transforming inequalities within local and international development, ideologies merely take away attention from the existing problems. In addition, when post-racial ideology is applied as a strategy of governance, it continually seeks to depoliticize race and difference in a way that disarms anti-racism politics and unique cultural recognition (Da Costa, “Confounding Anti-racism” 497). The government of Brazil tries to portray its effective use of racial democracy while hiding the real way of accomplishing things.

Furthermore, even though Brazil is presented as an equal country because of the existence of different cultural groups there, the superiority of white people can still be seen in everyday life situations and the media. Most Brazilians are sure that racism is common and that discrimination turns the lives of various cultures into suffering. The population reports that while the state is known for “mulatas” and an Afro-Brazilian community, once people turn on the TV program or open a newspaper, all one can see is light-skinned and white faces (Duarte). Even in traditional television movies and soap operas, only a few of the characters are played by black actors and actresses (Duarte). Thus, the Brazilian population can easily understand that their eyes are being blinded and minds overwhelmed by the ideas of cultural blending and mixed identity. By simply watching a television program, it is evident that racism did not disappear with the termination of slavery. Contrarily, it is present in modern society and needs action.

One of the prime examples, when racism was explicitly present on the Brazilian media and resulted in a response from people, is a situation concerning a Brazilian actress Tais Araujo. As indicated by Duarte, in November 2015, a famous Black Brazilian media personality Tais Araujo received extensive media coverage due to several offensive comments on her Facebook profile. Dozens of racist social media users stated that Araujo can be compared to an animal and a monkey and commented with sexually embarrassing statements while disrespecting her cultural origin and skin color (Duarte). However, instead of deleting irritating reports from her profile, she decided to publish them to all social media accounts and started a legal procedure against insults (Duarte). As a result of this situation, Brazilians created a multimedia campaign aimed at fighting racism and inequality in the country. Individuals designed supportive hashtags and contributed to the emergence of similar events on the local social media space (Duarte). The process helped to raise awareness about the current issue in society and proved that people need to learn to speak out and punish the offenders through the court.

Even though Brazil attempted to fight and hide the problem of racism for years, its Afro-Brazilian population remains to be an oppressed group in society. Brazil created the concept of a cultural mixture, confirmed legal ownership of land for citizens, and implemented laws in the sphere of education, which allowed all people to attend schools and universities (Araujo). Besides, the government implemented the program which purpose was to fight poverty among the black population of Brazil (Araujo). Nevertheless, these changes were not enough to diminish racism in the country. As noted by Araujo, nowadays, no one can state that racial democracy exists in Brazil. The presence of severe racial and social inequalities is detectable in different spheres, such as healthcare, housing, and education (Araujo). For instance, the young generation of Afro-Brazilian youth is in the first place on the list of those who are most likely to be the sufferers of crimes in Brazil (Araujo). The black population has a 2.5 times higher risk of being killed than the light-skinned community (Araujo). Hence, despite constant attempts to fully implement racial democracy in Brazilian society, the country still occupies a prominent position concerning the issue of inequality.

Conclusion

To summarize, Brazilian scholars and public activists do not make a mistake when starting to challenge racial democracy in their native country. According to various sources and events in society, they have the right and ability to claim that racial justice is a myth and that inequality is highly present in modern Brazil. An ineffective concept of cultural blending and offenses of individuals because of their country of origin, skin color, or language continually contribute to the worsening of the social equality situation in Brazil. Therefore, the central issue of racism needs to be addressed through various actions, such as raising awareness on social media platforms. The presented paper proved that racial democracy does not exist in Brazil by discussing this concept and its disadvantages and by providing examples of racism in the country.

Works Cited

Araujo, Ana Lucia. “The Mythology of Racial Democracy in Brazil.” openDemocracy. Web.

Da Costa, Alexandre Emboaba. “Confounding Anti-racism: Mixture, Racial Democracy, and Post-racial Politics in Brazil.” Critical sociology, vol. 42, no. 4-5, 2016, 495-513.

Da Costa, Alexandre Emboaba. “The (Un) Happy Objects of Affective Community: Mixture, Conviviality and Racial Democracy in Brazil.” Cultural studies, vol. 30, no.1, 2016, 24-46.

Duarte, Leopoldo. teleSUR. Web.

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