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Black Brazilians endured slavery conditions while working in the agricultural plantations of the Whites during the 19th century. When their slavery conditions became worse with time, they decided to fight for their rights by embarking on massive demonstrations against the police and the whites, paralyzing public order all over the country.
This slavery crisis caused a lot of tension countrywide as slaves went on strike and armed themselves with guns, threatening the lives of the whites and the survival of the large agricultural plantations owned by the whites. The crisis resulted into the abolishment of the slavery in Brazil in 1888.
The collapse of slavery had huge economic impact because the agricultural plantations became unproductive forcing the whites into hiring paid workers based on racial affiliations. The abolishment of the slavery in Brazil heralded the emergence of racism where the blacks received unfair treatment in terms of employment and denied access to other privileges that the whites enjoyed. This essay explores the slavery and racism experiences of the black Brazilians relative to the black Americans.
In Brazil, there were many slaves than masters, so every master could own more than twenty slaves in sugar plantations. The relationship of the slaves and their masters depended on the working environment of the slaves.
According to Cooney “slaves on small farms had more freedom than plantation slaves; slaves in urban areas had fewer restrictions in many cases than slaves in rural areas” (12). Masters owning small farms in some instances loaned out their slaves to other masters with large sugar plantations for the benefit of both the masters and the slaves.
On contrary, the slaves who worked on large sugar plantation overworked the whole day under strict supervision with no income and freedom to rest. “Slaves received beatings or other physical punishment for refusing to work, attempting to run away, or participating in plots or rebellions against their owners” (Cooney 18). The masters were very harsh to the slaves in that, if the slaves defied any orders from their masters, they would be tortured or executed without mercy.
Although relationship between masters and slaves appeared to be harsh and degrading the slaves, their masters still had some considerations concerning their welfare. “In Latin America the long and active tradition of slavery in Portugal and Spain provided an elaborated legal and moral tradition which qualified and softened the power of master over slave” (Cooney 15).
Catholicism and Protestantism helped in softening the relationship between the masters and slaves since they taught that the slaves and the masters were equal before the eyes of God. The religious influence enhanced the respect and regard of the slaves because “Brazil not only permitted the manumission of slaves but encouraged and rewarded the practice” (Cooney 8).
The black Brazilians were only under slavery during their productive ages but when they were no longer productive due to age; their masters released them to be free. Manumission was a common practice in Brazil than in the United States showing that the Masters of the slaves in Brazil were more concerned with the rights of the slaves than those in the United States were.
The Portuguese masters did not have racial discrimination against the blacks since they intermarried. Cooney argues that, “the lack of sufficient labor power made the white Portuguese very willing to mate with both Indian and Black women” (21). The Portugal law of marriage approved any kind of union with the view of increasing population, which translates into the human labor.
Since Brazilians considered the white skin as a powerful color, women considered themselves fortunate to have a white baby. Even though the intermarriage created good relationships between the masters and their slaves, it resulted into a social control device where the black Brazilians thought that, if they whitened their race, they would become equal to their masters.
Intermarriage became a racial system that controlled social relationships because it compelled a black Brazilian to marry “a sexual partner of lighter skin color, so that their children would be more likely to have a lighter skin color, and thereby not subjected to the extremes of racism as the black mother or father” (Cooney 9). The color codes in Brazil formed the basis of racism for they recognized finer shadings of colors, unlike in the United States where the lighter skin was the single preferred color.
Comparative Slavery and Post Slavery
The United States and Brazil experienced slavery period and passed through slavery crisis, but their differences occurred in the nature of their experiences. The slavery conditions in Brazil were harsher than the slavery conditions in the United States because, the economy of the United States was better than in Brazil. On the other hand, the rate of manumission of slaves was higher in Brazil than in the United States for the Brazilian masters were more humane.
The major difference between the United States and Brazil is the kind of economic system they relied upon. According to Schwartzman, “the United States was home to two fundamentally contradictory economies: a slave economy and capitalism, while Brazil relied mostly on agriculture and slave economy” (7). The contradicting economies of the United State triggered civil war during the time of anti-slavery movements, which led to the abolishment of the slavery in the United States.
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Another comparative study shows that, there were more slaves in Brazil than in the United States. One master in Brazil could own more than twenty slaves while in the United States, several masters owned a few slaves.
The higher ratio of slaves to masters caused series of slavery revolts in Brazil. “The greater number of slaves than whites in those Latin American areas made slave revolts more common there than in the United States” (Cooney 10). Thus, slave revolts threatened the lives of the whites and productivity of the large sugar plantations leading to the abolishment of the slavery in 1888.
After the abolishment of slavery, racism emerged as a social form of discrimination against the blacks in both Brazil and the United States. ”Since Brazil is a country consisting of a greater intermixture of peoples, it is no wonder that Brazil is correspondingly more divided by race than the United States” (Cooney 17).
In the United States, racism was due to the two colors, either white skin or black skin, but in Brazil, racism entailed finer shades of colors, which divided people into socials classes. The desire to fit into a better social class compelled many blacks to intermarry with the whites to improve the social status of their children as a way of overcoming racism.
Racism in Brazilian Society
Racism is still rife in the Brazilian society today because there are diverse cultures. The perception of race using finer codes of skin colors and social classification of races, perpetuate racism in Brazil. Cooney argues that, “the complexity of race in Brazil and its connections to class makes eradicating racism in the national culture even harder to do” (13).
Racism has become part of national culture since politicians are very complacent with racial democracy they operate under; however, they pretend that they are not racists. Cooney further argues that, “the most disturbing element of Brazil today is how racially distinct so many states are” (13). For instance, the blacks dominate the city of Salvador, while the whites dominate most government cities. Racism in Brazil will continue as long as racial democracy persists in politics.
Lack of affirmative action in Brazil has led to the continued racism in the society and since the blacks are the minority, they have endured the impacts of racism. After slavery, the government marginalized the black Brazilians forcing them into both education and economic oblivion.
According to Schwartzman, the black Brazilians have suffered “various systems of informal exclusion, discrimination in labor market, differential treatment and application of the law by the police and public authorities” (4). The black Brazilians’ community did not keep abreast with the whites’ community since the government marginalized them in terms of education, employment, economic activities and in accessing basic rights as citizens.
The black Brazilians have suffered slavery and racism due to the color of their skin. The ancestors of the current black Brazils worked tirelessly in the large sugar plantations to support the economy of the country; unfortunately, the fruits of this hard labor benefited mostly the whites as they pursued their selfish interests.
The slaves fought for the abolishment of the slavery, but when the freedom finally came, racism emerged Racism was another form of slavery since it compelled black Brazilians to attain qualities of their masters through intermarriage. Today, Brazil is still struggling with the racism due to the racial democracy in the politics that condone racism.
Cooney, Patrick. “Brazil: Where Class Is More Important Than Race.” The Vernon Johns Society 12.3 (2009): 1-24. Print.
Schwartzman, Farah “Quantifying and Qualifying Brazilian Affirmative Action Experiences.” Latin American Studies Association, 2010. Web.