In Brazil, the white foe is black himself

Brazilians are far more dishonest about race than Americans.
The “whites” who are the racial villains in Brazil are close
relatives of “blacks”. That’s why grudgingly I admire the North
American Anglo racist.

William Javier Nelson

Brazzil is to be commended for its attention placed on race relations.
The focus of much of this has been the problem of “white” versus
“black” in Brazil. Were it not for the fact that I am a Dominican
Latin American, I would let my reaction to these articles run to simple
praise and little else. However, I have been dismayed by the dishonesty
of Brazilians when it comes to relations between “blacks” and
“whites”. Just as North Americans have learned a little about
their racial illogic from looking at the model of Brazil, so, it is my
contention that Brazil can learn something from the North Americans. And
the first thing that Brazilians must learn is that, in one important respect,
they are far more dishonest about race than US citizens.

Anglo North Americans have always taken hits for their well-documented
racism against, you name it, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Indians,
etc. However, they have been the most vilified for their treatment of African
Americans (“blacks”). The literature abounds (both fictionally
and academically) with descriptions and analyses of North American Anglo
racism. Much as indulgent parents are used to hearing from their teenagers
that they are “not with it” (and, so, expect to hear this complaint
from the younger generation on a regular basis), Anglo North Americans
rather expect to hear the cry of “racism!” whenever they encounter
persons who are not “white”. Standard reactions include such
things as denial and/or “conservatism” (which has, for many years
in the United States, come to be associated with “anti-black”
attitudes and postures).

However, in one respect, they are much more honest than racists in countries
like Brazil, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Most Anglo racists of North
American (US) culture belittle and berate persons (blacks) with whom they
have little ancestral connection. The United States is a country which
was initially taken from the “Native Americans” (Indians) by
large number of immigrants from Northwestern Europe (Southern and Eastern
Europeans came later). Most of these immigrants had little African ancestry.
Unlike the Spanish and the Portuguese, these immigrants were inclined to
confine their procreative energies to those who were also European. Although
a number of researchers have pointed out that miscegenation has certainly
existed in the US (Edwin Byron Reuter was one of the first, writing in
the early twentieth century), it has never assumed the proportions it has
in Latin America.

The recent anthropological work Mestizaje in Ibero-America, by
Claudio Esteva-Fabregat is a continuation of a long line of literature
chronicling the extensive miscegenation among Iberians (Spanish and Portuguese),
Indians and Africans in Latin America. On the other hand, extensive mixture
between Caucasians and Africans is just beginning to blossom in the United
States and it has not been a significant factor in the life of whites in
the US. The recent US Census has disclosed that only one out of a thousand
men classified as “white” has a black wife.

Miscegenation, far more of a factor in Latin American life, has had
a different historical effect. What the North Americans are beginning to
openly discover (race mixture) has been part of the Latin American cultural
landscape for centuries. Latin American countries (including Brazil) have
therefore had a far more elastic definition of “white”. The recent
US case of a judge telling a woman who was 63/64 European that she was
black would be unheard of in Latin America, especially Brazil and the Dominican
Republic. Many Dominicans, Cubans, Brazilians and Venezuelans who call
themselves “white” have African or near African grandparents.

The Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina (assassinated
in 1961) was African on both sides of his family. Because of the elastic
Dominican definition of “white”, however, Trujillo was considered
as “white” by many Dominicans (he is officially listed as “mulatto”
in many US historical accounts). A very close Dominican friend of mine
has a father who would be considered a dark-skinned “black” in
the US. His olive-skinned wife (who herself has African ancestry) and he
have a fine, healthy boy who, in physical appearance, fits the phenotype
of a white “crillollo”. Cases like this are innumerable in the
Dominican Republic. As I have visited Brazil and have studied its culture
and people for years, I know that this is commonly the case in Brazil as
well. It is also something which can occur in “Indian” countries
like Mexico (not normally thought of as having African input).

When I come across Brazilian articles detailing the struggles, trials
and tribulations of “blacks”, I have two reactions. The first,
of course, is one of relief for a belated admission by Brazilians that
discrimination and “racial” hatred are possible in the “Racial
Paradise”. The second, however, is one of bemusement: I know that
the “whites” who are the racial villains in Brazil are the first
cousins, grandparents, grandsons, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles of
these “blacks”. I am then forced to (often against my will) admit
a bit of grudging admiration for the North American Anglo racist. Although
he has no love for blacks, he has implemented a Civil Rights program which
has resulted in a great deal of progress for black Americans. Don’t misunderstand
me–most of the time the Anglo racist’s behavior is inexcusable; however
he is at least not discriminating against his cousins, grandparents, aunts,
uncles and brothers.

William Javier Nelson, Ph.D. 24 October 1996 Anglo North Americans have
always taken hits for their well-documented racism against, you name it,
African Americans, Latinos, etc. However, they have been most vilified
for their treatment of African Americans. The literature abounds (both
academically and ficationally) with descriptions and analyses of North
American Anglo racism. However, in one respect, they are more honest than
racists in countries like Brazil, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Most
Anglo racists of North American (US) culture berate and belittle persons
with whom they have little ancestral connection. For example, most of the
US bound European immigrants of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
had little African ancestry. Even the well-documented cases of US Southerners
having ancestral similarity with African Americans speak of persons who
might be 1/16 or 1/32 African or less.

On the other hand, Latin American countries (including Brazil) have
had a far more elastic definition of “white”. Many Dominicans,
Cubans, Brazilians, Venezuelans who call themselves “white” have
African (or near African) grandparents. The Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo
(assassinated in 1961) was African on both sides of his family. Because
of the elastic Dominican definition of “white” however, Trujillo
was considered as “white” by many Dominicans (he is officially
listed as “mulatto” in many historical accounts). A very close
Dominican friend of mine has a father who would be considered as a dark-skinned
“black” in the US. His olive-skinned wife (who herself has African
ancestry) and he have a fine, healthy boy who, in physical appearance,
fits the phenotype of a white “crillollo”. Cases like these are
innumerable in the Dominican Republic. As I have visited Brazil and have
studied its culture and people for years, I know that this is commonly
the case in Brazil as well.

When I come across articles speaking of “blacks” in countries
like the Dominican Republic and Brazil (which are known worldwide as mulatto
countries), I sometimes shake my head in amusement because I know that
the “whites” who are the villians in these articles are the first
cousins, grandparents, grandsons, brothers, aunts and uncles of many of
these “blacks”. I am then forced to (often against my will) admit
a grudging bit of admiration for the North American Anglo racist. The Anglo
racist’s behavior is inexcusable; however he is at least not discriminating
against his cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and brothers.

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