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Race Speaks Louder than Class in Brazil

The most recent research on race relations in Brazil disproves the view that class prejudice is stronger than racial prejudice. This is one of the conclusions of a study published in August, 2004, by the Institute of Applied Research (IPEA).

The work called Social Mobility of Negroes in Brazil was authored by the consultant Rafael Guerreiro Osório. The study analyzed works on this subject published in the decades of the ’40’s and ’50’s, as well as more recent investigations done since the end of the ’70’s.


According to the research, the more recent investigations, especially the ones based on more detailed analysis, demonstrated that “even when whites and blacks at the same socioeconomic level are compared, there exist inequalities that cannot be ascribed to sources other than racism.”


Another aspect of Brazilian reality focused in the study is that racial inequality cannot be charged solely to the country’s slaveholding past.


According to Osório, racist ideology is embedded in society.


This has contributed over the generations to blacks being confined to the lowest levels of the social structure, through all sorts of discrimination, explicit or not, that have built up over the years.


The study also points out that it was a common belief in the first half of the 20th century, even among writers who questioned the myth of racial democracy in Brazil, that economic development could improve the living conditions of blacks at the bottom of the Brazilian social pyramid.


This hypothesis failed to be borne out by the facts, ever since data on race began to be included in the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics’ (IBGE) National Residential Sample Survey (PNAD) in the ’70’s.


At the time, it became clear that economic development, accompanied by intensive industrialization and urbanization, had taken place without an egalitarian distribution of the rewards.


“Despite the differences in methodological approaches, the newer studies were unanimous in revealing that economic development and the social mobility it engendered did not help to change the situation of blacks in Brazilian society,” Osório concludes.


Agência Brasil
Translator: David Silberstein

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