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Gilberto Freyre Learned in the US How to Craft a New Brazilian Self-image PDF Print E-mail
2013 - November 2013
Written by David Kenneth   
Monday, 04 November 2013 04:08

Gilberto FreyreBrazil, the perennial country of the future, has finally taken its place on the world stage. Yet, as the United States learned after the Second World War, Brazil now realizes that with economic prosperity comes responsibility.

The American government had to eradicate racial segregation to avoid recriminations from the Russians during the Cold War. Similarly, Brazil has witnessed a marked increase in demands from within and abroad for greater inclusion of Blacks in mainstream institutions.

Some, such as Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., head of the Harvard Afro-American Studies Department, contend that affirmative action is the solution. These American-style approaches to racial diversity cause consternation in Brazil. Many call for a Brazilian answer to Brazilian problems.

The best approach just might be for Brazilians to take a cue from their intellectual heavyweight Gilberto Freyre. The doctor was a Brazilian who became the consummate Americano.

Freyre received his education in racial theory in the United States and then tailored that knowledge to the Brazilian context. In this respect, Freyre used a synthesis of new world thinking to help enlighten him about the situation at home. Likewise, rather than dismissing American public policies, Brazilians might do well by embracing these initiatives, to a degree.

Born in the Northeast state of Pernambuco, the professor attended college at Baylor University in Texas and Columbia University in New York City. His scholarship employed the race theories of Franz Boas, the father of American cultural sociology.

Freyre used this knowledge gained in the United States to craft a new Brazilian self-image. He helped create a society that did not ignore, at least publicly, its history of race mixing. In fact, Brazilians began to celebrate their multi-racial heritage.

In his magisterial work The Masters and the Slaves (1933), Freyre advanced the idea that Brazilian society was essentially a racially mixed one. Over the centuries, Africans, Portuguese and Indians had intertwined culturally and sexually to create a new people, the book explained. The multifarious colors visible on any street were evidence of this miscegenation.

The Portuguese comprised the master class, yet to Freyre, they remained open to the contributions of the others to society. Part of the explanation for this liberality was that Portugal had itself endured centuries of domination by the darker-complexioned Moors.

Hence, Brazilian society supposedly never dehumanized its oppressed classes, even during slavery. The nation was an example of a veritable racial democracy. All groups possessed a spot in the national self-image. In fact, this racial mixture was a thing to celebrate, rather than deny, as was common throughout Latin America.

Despite its critics, Freyre's work still stands unchallenged as literature that integrates Blacks and Indians into the national myth. Though some find Freyre delusional about the state of race relations, no one can deny inclusion is a positive aim.

That there is racial inequality in Brazil is a fact Freyre did not attempt to challenge. His goal was to figure out just where the nation should proceed, starting from its current situation. Freyre used the past to imagine a unique Brazilian solution to the future.

Brazilians today should consider embracing American ideas and theories about race. Freyre demonstrated that viewing the nation through the lens of an outsider could help increase perception of the meaning of being Brazilian.

The United States has much to learn from Brazil too. Americans waited until the late-1980s, over fifty years after The Masters and the Slaves, to embrace multiculturalism and diversity.

Americans have eradicated racial segregation and taken overt action to increase minority presence in society. Nevertheless, while acknowledging the need for diversity programs, the United States implicitly conceived of these groups as perpetual outsiders.

Brazilians have experienced less of a problem accepting multiculturalism. Freyre taught Brazilians to accept diversity as the point of origin rather than a destination. The question is how the Luso Tropical nation can better integrate its national institutions. In sum, both countries need intellectuals, artists and activists willing to learn from the other side.

Dr. David Kenneth P. is a professor of History and English language instruction.



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Comments (3)Add Comment
The works of the devils united
written by BlackBrazil, November 05, 2013
Should embrace american ideas?? The reason Brazil is white washed now and full of self hating BROWN people is because of American THEORIES like Franz Boas.

Ignorant how you DOCTORS are. Why do you care about BRAZIL anyway? Sure, just like whites there now, brazil isn't and will NEVER BE IMMUNE TO BLOOD of the land!
...
written by asp, November 06, 2013
brazil is a mixed nation, but the elites are white

the invention of tv in brazil , immediatly made it seem like a country from switzerland..the mixture in brazil only means the black and brown skinned people suffer together

look at air port gates in cities like sao paulo and rio, almost lily white...what about without quotas at universites? look at congress,and there is some notion out there that some of them have black blood in them so it makes it differant...??!! bulls**t..its white as snow for the most part..who cares if someone is 10 percent, greeks , italians , jews have some kind of 5 percent in their dna , 10 percent is like white . what about phenotype black people in high up positions? in realationship to the population...not token

plolics is a white world..even the far left..look at a group picture of all the people killed by the dictatorship..ive seen it on docus...mostly lily white by any stretch of the imagination
and, with what ever little political gains that have been made on the political front, culturaly, black brazilian culture is getting shoved down the hole..i saw pure afro brazilian culture at the lula calixto festival in arcoverde...these people wont get any break out there, they are hidden bured treasure
Hillary pays up! Clinton puts £40 parking fine
written by a.norlina, November 11, 2013
EXCLUSIVE By Mark Duell
PUBLISHED: 09:05 GMT, 17 October 2013 | UPDATED: 22:15 GMT, 17 October 2013


Hillary Clinton last night paid a £40 fine on a credit card after she was given a parking ticket by a fearless traffic warden in London, MailOnline can reveal today.
It comes after extraordinary photographs showed the former US secretary of state’s security staff getting into an argument with the warden after he issued her silver Mercedes with a ticket.
The Westminster City Council warden put an £80 penalty notice on her car last Friday while she was attending an event at Chatham House - but the fine was halved because she paid within 14 days.
However, Mrs Clinton's payment will do little to ease the £7.5million owed by US diplomats in London, who have picked up 66,372 penalty notices for failing to pay the congestion charge over ten years.

The row was caught on camera in Central London by photographer Greg Brennan, who said five of her guards were waiting inside a Mercedes van next to her car at the time because it was raining.
She had earlier arrived in a motorcade of five cars with around 10 security agents, Mr Brennan told MailOnline. Her car was parked in a bay on St James's Square in Mayfair, which costs £3.30 per hour.




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