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May 16, 2011


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I think I'm not going to waste my time watching it.

I bet the video is made with that typical tone analysts from the West adopt when discussing the Third World: paternalistic, condescending, and arrogant. All shades of reality are erased. After all, Third World countries aren't supposed to be complex for the understanding of the typical American or European. Thus, those countries' realities are reduced to stereotypes or patterns that can be easily recognized by populations in First World countries. And this, so this message can be delivered: "Those Third World countries, we have nothing to learn from them; instead, they're the ones who should adopt our worldview, for theirs is what keeps them lagging behind, being primitive, and so forth."

Even though I haven't watched the video, I'm pretty sure it explores statistics on racial differences - for example, racial differences in involvement in criminal activities, prison population, income, educational attainment, etc.. And every single difference will be adduced as evidence that there's racial discrimination.* Any significant improvements on this respect - for example, that Brazil, in contrast to ANY OTHER big economy in the First or the Third World, is the only country that has been reducing inequality for well over a decade, that today income and educational attainment among the Blacks and the poor grow much faster than among whites and the rich - any such improvement will be conveniently bypassed. After all, as I said above, the main reason those countries are being studied in the first place, is so that they can be lectured by superior others on how to improve themselves. If we Third Worlders show improvements that First Worlders haven't seen, then they won't get to pose as superior as they intend to.

Meanwhile, to facts such as these - that hate speech and discrimination against minorities have been forbidden by law for many decades, since at least the Vargas regime; that even our conservative military dictators took provisions to criminalize racism and classism; that interacial marriage, in contrast to the US, have been accepted for decades, something to which Brazil owes its huge mixed-race population, and that even self-identified Blacks and Whites have a degree of racial admixture; that Brazil has never had leaders such as Nixon or Reagan, presidents who exploited racial tensions and social divisions under the mask of "state's rights" to get political support from the most powerful racial group - to facts such as those, as I was about to say, analysts will turn a blind eye. They'll instead portray Brazil as some kind of apartheid society which only recently, if at all, has commenced to change its historically cruel racial relations. After all, this fits very well what the typical First Worlder "knows" about Brazil, which he has learnt by watching "Cidade de Deus" or other such movies that mention "favelas" about once in every single sentence.

* Forget the fact that Japanese-Brazilians have a more recent history of racial discrimination, yet today they're among the most succesful in educational attainment and that their average income is the same as that of white Brazilians in the South and Southeast.


Well done, but with some common mistakes. One is that "most Brazilians are black", that´s not true. Most Brazilians, specifically in the North and the state of Rio, have less European genes then indian or black genes, that would be the correct way to describe it. Indian genes are stronger in the North and most of the Northeast states then black genes. More then 50% of Brazilians have indian and/or black genes, but blacks are not the majority, not even in the North.More blacks in Bahia, Maranhão and Rio. More whites in Minas, São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. Center states have more white and indian then blacks. Northern states have much more indian blood then anywhere else, with very little white or black presence.


Thanks for sharing this. The documentary is amazingly true since we never had a racial democracy in Brazil. Racism always existed and it always will until black people have the right and opportunity be become "first-class citizens". I worked in a company where managers are forbidden to hire black people, no matter what. If you would like to apply for a position in that company, you MUST submit a picture of yourself along with your resume. When I came to Canada I was surprised how black and white are treated more equally, although there is still racism here at some level. The middle and upper classes in Brazil must open up their minds and see beyond their own world. There is a say in Brazil that states that the worst thing for a human being is being born black, women, and poor. This is wrong in so many ways.


Passando para comentar, um post em outro blog que visito com frequencia acabou me chamando atenção para esse hábito que pretendo cultivar mais. (se não me engano você conhece o LLL, não é Rachel?)

Adorei o documentário, é uma pena não ter legendas para outras linguas pois isso ajudaria muito a divulgar o projeto, mas tudo bem, é bom treinar o inglês de vez em quando, consegui entender grande parte sem legenda alguma desta vez.

Penso que ao menos no que se refere ao Brasil foi um bom documentário para algo que tem somente uma hora de duração, uma visão honesta da realidade do país no que se refere a questões raciais, e eu amo quando um gringo vem e quebra essa magia de que somos um paraíso de diversidade e aceitação.

Está na hora de parar com a hipocrisia e o comportamento defensivo e discutir o assunto mais abertamente.

Bom post, vou recomendar o documentário a amigos. =)

Marcio Bernardo

Hi Rachel, thanks for posting this, I came expecting something about Palocci case and I find this amazing series... nice treat

Regarding Prof. Gates Jr. take on Brazilian racial issues I though we got it right, no we aren't a social democracy nor a racial paradise, yes we do have prejudice (I would say a lot of prejudice) and yes we also have racism.

We are mixed and I don't think we are a racist country nor do we have segregations (but we are more tolerant to daily practice such as profiling that would astonish any American), we have a different definition of White (don't buy the one drop rule that American use).

I thought the end this episode got a bit unbalanced he went to see to activist and he draws conclusions or induce the viewer to conclude based only on personal experience - the rest was fantastic

Rio Gringa

Hey guys! Sorry again for the delay!

@RFS - It's pretty difficult to judge something if you refuse to watch it :) I think you may be surprised.

@F Sousa - Infelizmente não tem legenda mas também tem muita dublagem em inglês, sabe aquela com sotaque...anyway, obrigada por lembrar que tenho que mandar isto para o Alex do LLL. Se ele não viu ainda, vai gostar.



I agree to a certain extent at what RFS said: "The first world always looks at the third world from an elitist perspective. "And also, there is nothing the first world could ever learn from a third world country" I live in America and watch the news and this is very true. In America, we learn to accept criticism, make adjustments, and confront ugly truths. That is the secret sauce to success, that is why immigrants risk their life to come to the U.S., in spite of our current economy.

The documentary highlighted very real social issues that many people in Brazil ignore and push to the side, as a result Brazil is lagging behind on many levels. Racism is a booming in Brazil and it always has been. The abundance of mixed race people is a farce to confuse the Brazilian population that black, white, yellow, and brown races live in harmony, when in reality that is a LIE. Most Brazilians who experience racism know this. You can have mixed race people all day, but if social mobility is not an option for all races in Brazil, then there is a fundamental racial issue there. If Brazil has to have a law that makes racism a crime, that is a HUGE sign that racism is alive and well. The root of it started with slavery and "Lei da Terra". After slavery was abolished, its impossible to find a law that specifically states race as a factor from exclusion from anything..but racism is implied and not written in law. Lei da Terra is a perfect example of implied racism..the effects of it are the numerous favelas that exist in Brazil etc. Also, if there are songs in Brazilian culture that reference things like "nega do cabelo duro que nao gosta de pentear" "meu cabelo duro e assim, cabelo duro de pixaim"...what does that mean to the self esteem of black and mixed raced Brazilians? In my opinion, it is an insult to black Brazilians disguised as "its just a Brazilian sense of humor"...are you kidding me!? Because education is not a priority in Brazil, the people that suffer from discrimination are not race sensitive enough to demand change because they are complacent and led to believe that they live in a racial democracy since their family gene pool consist of every race imaginable. The non white Brazilians(except Japanese) are psychologically brainwashed to not pledge allegiance to a single racial identity because of the promotion of 'miscigenacao' and miscigenacao is a reality for almost every Brazilian. The Japanese are recent immigrants within the last 50-60 years and their native identity and culture is in tact, that is why they are so successful compared to non-white Brazilians. Other non-white Brazilians can be as successful as the Japanese but they have been psychologically damaged by the Brazilian government that their spirit and self esteem is broken...if you don't have those two things you stand for nothing and fall for anything.

Brazil has great potential to be a super power. The country is rich in resources and has a huge population. Unfortunately, more than 50% of the population have bird brains that won't advance them on the economic scale. The government and its citizens need to face reality and address racism and give non white Brazilians greater opportunity to advance. Education is a starting point!

The United States has so many racial issues even today in 2011, but guess what, we had the civil rights movement that helped our economy soar. We confronted our ugly racism and squashed most of it to pave the way for social mobility for all Americans...that made a difference in our economy and the lives of many Americans. The U.S. civil rights movement is the best history lesson on earth and Brazilians needs to come off their high horse and learn from it!

My perspective is based on my American upbringing and 1 year living in RJ, Brazil and experiencing life.


Eric: "One is that "most Brazilians are black", that´s not true."

I expected as much from Gates, who like most American academics erroneously beleives that U.S standards of race are correct and natural.

Marcio: "we have a different definition of White"

From what I gather, there is no formal definition of "white" or any race in brazil, like there was historically in the U.S.

Pedro Mundim

Não é de hoje que as relações raciais peculiares ao Brasil despertam o interesse de observadores estrangeiros, e por certo que haverá ainda muita discussão a respeito. Também não é de hoje que alguns brasileiros aprsentam a aparente harmonia das relações entre as raças no Brasil como uma peça de propaganda, espécie de lição que deve ser dada ao mundo.

Quanto a mim, não vejo nada de extraordinário aí. Há racismo no Brasil, assim como em todo o resto do mundo, mas o racismo, tal como todo sectarismo baseado em uma dicotomia Nós X Eles, só é efetivo se Nós formos perfeitamente distinguíveis d'Eles. A miscigenação torna essa diferenciação problemática, e como conseqüência, o racismo no Brasil torna-se difuso e atenuado.

Mas se não há dúvida quanto à existência de racismo no Brasil, eu discordo totalmente de que seja o racismo o real responsável pela falta de ascenção social dos afro-brasileiros. Um ou outro funcionário preto pode sofrer discriminação da parte de seu chefe branco, mas a grande maioria dos pretos sequer se habilita ao emprego, por falta de qualificação. As barreiras que dificultam a ascenção social dos pretos são as mesmas barreiras que dificultam a ascenção social de qualquer pobre no Brasil, principalmente as escolas públicas ruins. O ensino deve ser melhorado a fim de propiciar mais mobilidade social? Sim, isso é óbvio. Mas não faz o menor sentido dar um tratamento diferenciado a estudantes pretos e brancos, isso é o mesmo que tirar os ovos de um cesto e botar em outro: o total de ovos permanece o mesmo. O problema não está aí. A única solução para elevar o nível de vida dos pobres do Brasil, aí incluídos os pretos, é o crescimento da economia, nos moldes do que já está sendo feito nos demais países "emergentes". Mas os índices de crescimento no Brasil têm sido diminuidos em razão da alta carga tributária, que desvia o dinheiro que deveria impulsionar as atividades econômicas e direciona-o a um Estado perdulário, que usa-o para criar enormes burocracias que estudam os problemas sem resolvê-los. Não adianta nada incrementar os direitos civis dos pretos no Brasil, se direitos civis eles já têm, o que lhes falta são oportunidades de emprego. Mas tenho observado que muitos estudiosos e ativistas estrangeiros procuram enquadrar a questão dos pretos no Brasil nos mesmos moldes que a questão dos pretos nos EUA, ignorando as diferenças históricas, isso quando não vêem os pretos brasileiros como simples massa de pagãos a serem convertidos ao novo "credo" e convencidos de que são discriminados por todos. Nesse ponto eu tenho que concordar com as colocações de RFS.

Tereza (Bruxelas)

Great video and so true... Thanks Rachel !

Ian Nieves


Your attitude reminds me of those expressed by many Southern US Segregationists during the 1960's. They too protested that "Outside Agitators" ignorant of the "complexity" of local Race Relations were making unjust generalizations and being "paternalistic, condescending, and arrogant". Usually such protestations were in fact obfuscations deployed by Whites who either knowingly benefited from racism, or were earnestly trying to ignore ugly injustice. During that era the Kennedy's and others warned the USA that its continued vitality was contingent on economically and politically enfranchising all its citizens regardless of race or ethnicity. Simply put, a global power or major player cannot condemn sizable segments of its population to nonproductivity for no good reason. If Brazil is to achieve the successful future all here hope it will, it must aggressively and systematically combat and remove racism and discrimination that mires Blacks, Pardos, Mestizos and Indigenous Peoples in poverty, and which either diverts their valuable economic energies to crime or smothers them entirely. The process will be long, hard and expensive, but the examples set by the USA and South Africa prove it possible. Brazil will only thrive if it extends the opportunities and freedoms enjoyed by its Whites to its roughly 100 million Citizens of Color; if Brazil won’t do so, it deserves neither prosperity nor peace, and will attain neither.

James Miller

Let's just admit that the couple of people that have anything in terms of wealth in Brazil are white or of European decent. Racism is alive and well in Brazil, in fact it's a way of life. I spent 7 months there as a black American and I can tell you, you just can't say how you feel in public.


As I expected, there's been a flood of self-righteous and PC comments. Brazil is practically an apartheid society, racism is curaazy in here! Every other country is less racist, less homophobic, less objectfying of women! No virtues in this country!

@Mundim: Yes, for activists it's convenient to portray the situation with the darkest terms, otherwise their activism in meaningless. I don't know if you've noticed this, but every time a famous Black person from BR says he's never experienced racism - Pelé, for example, said that once -, the activist crowd starts to scream till losing their breath. This is because anything short of the "apartheid Brazil" rhetoric is not convenient for their agenda.

@Amanda: Please, spare me from your chichés. Where did you learn about BR? Disney Channel? The Encyclopaedia of Easy, Self-Righteous Rants? So Japanese Brazilians have preserved their culture, huh? That's certainly a novelty for me. After all, most of them no longer speak or understand Japanese, 60% are Roman Catholic, and a large part of them are now mixed-race. In fact, Japanese-Brazilians are so well integrated to Brazilian culture, that the dekasseguis - Japanese-Brazilians who go to work in Japan - experience severe difficulties in assimilating with the Japanese-born population. Read the article "No place to call home: Japanese Brazilians discover they are foreigners in the country of their ancestors" by Takeyuki Tsuda. And of course, miscigenation is a plot by the devious white minority to pretend there's no racism. True no-racism, however, one finds only in countries like the US and Canada: countries where there's big stigma against interracial marriage. :) Be that as it may, I must say this: I'm very thankful to afro-brasileiros that they don't invent self-esteem problems just so they can blame them on the mean society and that they aren't nearly as willing to take to heart silly crap such as the "pixaim" song you quoted. I recognize, though, that it's curious afro-brasileiros' attitude is so distinct from that of their counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere. My explanation - an admittedly politically incorrect explanation - is that it's precisely the fact race matters have been of little importance in Brazil that explains why Brazilians are so flippant about them, why we aren't offended when we're called "cabelo de pixaim" or "gasparzinho", why we don't care when someone makes those Asian eyes as a joke. And on the other hand, it's precisely the fact that racism is so much of a bigger problem up in the North, that people in there are less tolerant to any reference to racial issues that is less than sensitive. That you think our unfazedness is offensive to afro-brasileiros, is of no importance. Are you even Brazilian? From your comment, I gather you're not. So please stop lecturing Afro-brasileiros on what they're supposed to feel about those imaginary slights.
Your worldview is so unrealistic, that you attribute the US's status as a developed country to its fight against racism. I'm sorry, but the laws of economics are distinct from the laws of political correctness. Just a proof of that is that Brazil grew more, way more, duyring the 1930-1980 period - most of which we were under the rule of military dictatorships - than after that, when Brazil experienced its longest period of democratic rule. During the last military regime, from 65 to 85, Brazil grew an average of 7% per year - way more than the US during the same period, and way more than post-dictatorship Brazil. And guess what? Inequality was also greater at that time than it is now. Still the country grew a lot more those days. See? Political correctness =/= economic growth, development levels.
I'm sorry for spoiling your own propaganda, but the US has not squashed racism. US Blacks are still the poorest in your country - they are even poorer than the recently arrived Hispanics -; they have the lowest levels of educational attainment; they compose the largest fraction of the US prison population; people still live in de facto segregation as seen in the existence of "Black ghettos" (something that doesn't exist in Brazil) and low levels of raciam mixing; and your first mulato President is often called a monkey.
Social mobility in the US is also pretty much a myth. Some time ago The Economist ran an aticle about social mobility in the world's largest economies. Brazil was at the bottom of the scale. But do you know who was the second to last? Your country, the USA. Here's the link:
I must say this, it is funny how some people - people who seem to be so brave when they point to "racism" in other countries - are nonetheless so willing to buy propaganda regarding their own nation. Perhaps it's because their braveness, as I wrote in my first post, isn't founded on a desire for true justice: it's about showing off and wanting to pose as superior. Inequality in Brazil may be a bigger problem than in the US, but inequality in my country is decreasing; in yours, it's increasing. Brazilian Blacks are increasing their participation in superior education faster than whites; and their incomes are growing faster, too: during the last decade the incomes of the 50% poorest Brazilians increased an average of 7% per year; among the 10% richest, it grew only 1%. In your country, on the other hand, the two main political parties are falling over each other to see which one will cut the most taxes for the top 2% richest: the blue-eyed people Lula spoke about.

@Ian Nieves: Your comparison is only valid if Brazil was somehow like the US South. But see this: Brazil has never had KKK; it has never had "states' rights" - that is, rights for the state to keep discriminating against minorities in spite of federally established civil rights acts -; we never had - at least not since 1930 - Presidents who campaigned on "states' rights" (that is, the right to discriminate); and even our military dictatorships - the Vargas Estado Novo and the military regime - passed legislation to forbid discrimination and hate speech. God, even the Integralismo - the Brazilian variety of Fascism - was openly anti-racist for the sake of national integration. So you should consider that my opposition to PC propaganda is founded on different motivations from those of US whites. I'm not trying to defend a right to discrimination simply because discrimination is already forbidden in Brazil, and has been so since 1950, when the Afonso Arinos Law passed. And neither am I denying the existence of racism in any place. The tendency to mistrust, or even to be hostile towards, those who are different from us, is wired in human psyche: perhaps it probably served some purpose in man's evolution, and that is why discrimination, all kinds of discrimination, is found everywhere. And even though personal experience and a PC education can ameliorate the situation, it won't do away with it. All I said is this: that the problem in Brazil is distorted, overstated, and even lied about, in the foreign press for propaganda purposes. The press in First World countries often adopt a moralizing and condescending attitude regarding domestic affairs in Third World countries. Just see Amanda's post. This works to give First Worlders a feeling of superiority and entitlement to intervene in other nations' affairs.

@Eric: Your information is completely wrong. Read the article "The Genomic Ancestry of Individuals from Different Geographical Regions of Brazil Is More Uniform Than Expected."


@RFS: read your own Data source before telling me I´m "completely wrong":

1)North:European 0.688 African 0.105 Amerindian 0.185
2)Northeast:European 0.601 African 0.293 Amerindian 0.089
3)Southeast:European 0.742 African 0.173 Amerindian 0.073
4)South:European 0.795 African 0.103 Amerindian 0.094

Not to mention ALL data was collected from big cities, where everybody knows there are people immigrating from everywhere, its almost like comparing New York City or Los Angeles with the US Christian Belt region. You end up doing just like the ones you criticized here, ignoring the environment "in the name of the first world science". If you go to any small city in the states of Santa Catarina or São Paulo, you know the people there don´t look like the people in a small city of the states of Amapá or Rondônia. Chuck Norris is Mexican, but his genes make him look like an American cowboy. There is a difference in the way you "look" if you are a "white" American with some Cherokee or Jewish blood, or if you are an "euro" Scandinavian with some Lapp blood compared to if you have lots of indian or black blood. This is obvious, here, in the US or anywhere in the world.
My comment was about how society treats these cases ,there is no lab and blood samples involved.

I don´t know what state you live, but here in SP, if a black man jumps in an expensive club swimming pool, everybody notice that, either if they are racist or not, they will be at least surprised.

Ian Nieves

@ RFS Although I stand by my assertions regarding racism in Brazil, your observations do assist me in making sense of the distinctive dynamics of Brazilian racism. Legislated racial discrimination a la Jim Crow or Apartheid wasn't enacted in Brazil since extensive race mixing made such unfeasible. Any attempt to formally award rights based on race might ensnare everyone, including the rich and superficially White. The situation was compounded by Brancismo, which stressed progressive social advancement in tandem with blanching, thus necessitating no legal obstacles bar ascent up the color-graduated rungs of Brazil's social ladder. In short, the differing racial realities of North and South America spawned racist systems whose separate means of dishing out discrimination ensured gross racial inequality and injustice throughout the Americas.

As to the reality of Brazilian racial discrimination itself: Ever ask yourself why so many Pretos, Pardos, Mestizos and Indigenes complain so vehemently about it? Why the recent academic Affirmative Action and quota measures? Why is there now a expressly Afro-Brazilian University, i.e Zumbi Dos Palmares in Sao Paolo? Why the gross disparities between visibly White Brazilians and everyone else? Why a country were half are People of Color prizes blondes as the female beauty standard? Why "funny" nicknames denoting dark skin are commonplace, but no equivalent dubious appellations exist for fair skin? It seems to me these and innumerable other examples attest to a race-based social order and mindset too extensive and pervasive to be the mere paternalistic projection of arrogant First Worlders.


@Ian Neves

First, I must say that I think there's racial discrimination and racism in Brazil. But, to be fair, there are "funny" nicknames to denote fair skin. Ever heard of "branco azedo"?

Brazil has racism and racial inequalities, just as all countries that once had slavery in the Americas have. Brazilian society took quite a while to address these racial problems, due to several factors:

1) the duration of slavery (1500-1888). Brazil was the last country in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery (1888). And lots of it was due to external pressure. There were native abolitionists, but the power to abolish slavery mainly came from British intervention at the international slave strade.

2) racist policies of the elite from 1850-1930. Some might say this is the nadir of racial relations. The Brazilian political elite started adopting outright racist laws, with a racist intent. To "whiten" the country, for example, and avoid a majority black or indian population, European immigration was encouraged and African and Asian immigration was outlawed, and the black and indian population was neglected (or abused more in the case of the indians). Another example would be the policies in Rio de Janeiro regarding the "bairros africanos", populated by former slaves, and their removal from the center of the city (which created the favelas). Yet another would be outlawing umbanda, candomble and capoeira, because those were things that "vagabonds" did. To be fair, most countries in the world were adept of racism back then. Argentina, Canada and the US, for example, tried to exterminate their natives and encouraged european immigration. In the case of Argentina, this policy of "whitening" was succesful.

3) dictatorship (Estado Novo, 1930-1945). Just as the Brazilian blacks were starting to organize themselves to fight racism (read things about Frente Brasileira Negra, the Brazilian Black Front), the Great Depression happened and then the Vargas dictatorship, the Estado Novo. The dictator outlawed all political parties and reunions, and the Brazilian Black Front was just starting to become a party (they intended to have a black candidate for president in the 1938 elections).

4) the myth of racial democracy (1930-1980). During the 1930's Brazilian intelectuals would start to develop this thesis that Brazil was a racial democracy, especially Gilberto Freyre. Anyway, due to the nonexistance of outright racist segregationist laws, like in the USA or South Africa, these intelectuals would think that there was no racism in Brazil and would sell this image to the world. This would make even more sense considering the policies of certain countries at the time, like Nazi Germany and Jim Crow US. After WWII, for example, when the UN was created, Brazil was named an example of racial relations. This theory would be used by the Brazilian state to say there were no racial problems for the next decades, especially under the military dictatorship (this was one of the reasons there was no racial census in 1970).

But this thesis would be put to the proof by several other intelectuals over the next decades, like Florestan Fernandes and Fernando Henrique Cardoso (who'd later become president). Eventually they'd unmask Brazil's racial inequalities and even its racism. Then, after re-democratization, the Brazilian government would start to address these issues, especially after 1988 (100 years after the end of slavery). It's in this time we are now.


WOW.This topic is so interesting and i am learning a lot and i find it funny that a lot of the observations made here about the Afro-Brazilians response to racism(especially about their complacency towards the subject)are the same ones i have made when the topic comes up with my fiance who is Afro-Brasileira who looks obviously like a black female(i am a black American male).I will say things to her like i think her nose is cute and she will squish her nose together saying she likes mine better because mine is more narrow.We where having a conversation about a co worker of hers and some how her level of attractiveness came up because i said''oh that co-worker of yours is giving you a hard time because your are pretty'' and my fiance responds '' não ela é bonita sim,ela é loira''

I said to myself wow just because she is blond that makes her more attractive.Then i tell her ''nenhuma mulher é mais bela do que você minha negra bela'' wow racism is sure there in Brazil i have seen first hand how it has affected some one i love.I will be moving to Salvador next month to be with her and can only imagine the things i will hear and see next.

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