Racism in Brazil

Today, there are more than 75 million people of African descent living in Brazil, which currently gives it the second largest black population in the world.[1] However, despite its large black population it was also the last country in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery, in 1888. Brazil proudly refers to itself as a "Racial Democracy," originally coined by Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre in his work Casa-Grande & Senzala (The Masters and the Slaves), published in 1933. Additionally, racism has been made illegal under Brazil's anti-discrimination laws, which were passed in the 1950s after an African-American dancer was barred from a hotel.[2] Nonetheless, race has been the subject of multiple intense debates over the years within the country.

Definition of Race in Brazil

Because the country has a long history of miscegenation, color lines in Brazil have long been blurred.[3] The Brazilian census organizes the population into five, albeit imperfect, racial groups. These are branco (white), preto (black), pardo (brown, or multi-racial), amarelo (yellow, or Asian), and indígena (indigenous). Because there was never a legal genetic definition for these categories, throughout history, each of these racial groups has been defined in different ways. Racial classification in Brazilian society is often inconsistent and influenced by a myriad of factors including: class, status, education, location and phenotype.[3] For example, a light-skinned multiracial person who held an important, well-paying position in society may be considered branco while someone else with the same ethnogenetic make up who had darker skin or was of a lower class may be considered pardo or even preto.