Brazil’s unique views on race

Hi there, I’m Doce! 👋 I’m your favorite Brazilian person working in Datawrapper’s app team and this time around I’d like to talk about how we view race and color here in Brazil.

Last year, I was invited to visit Berlin for Datawrapper’s summer party, and it was an eye-opening experience for a lot of reasons. I had never been to Europe before. In fact, I had never left Brazil before that. And for the first time in my life, I realized that I was not considered white outside my country, despite self-identifying as such for as long as I can remember.

In Brazil, we usually auto-declare our color or race as white, pardo, Black, yellow, or Indigenous, and that by itself tells you a lot about how Brazilian people see their own color.

A lot of people here are declaring themselves as “pardo” or “moreno” which could be translated to “mixed” and that makes a lot of sense — Brazil is a very diverse country full of mixed ethnicities and backgrounds.

At the same time, more and more people are starting to identify themselves as Black. In a time when some people choose to call light-skin Black people moreno instead of Black because of the attached stigma, and sometimes not even recognizing them as such, understanding and calling yourself Black sometimes requires more consideration than just your skin tone, but also your phenotype and your life experiences.

There is also the demonym "Latino", which can be a useful and convenient way to refer to people from countries in Latin America, including Brazil. However, Latino may not fully capture the diversity of experiences and identities of Brazilians and its usage is mostly limited to the United States, a country that has a completely different view on race.

Since I was raised in Brazil, I have always self-identified as white. My mom is white, my dad was Black, and my sister is parda. Due to my lighter skin tone, I have not experienced any of the pain and discrimination that many people of color face on a daily basis here, nor have I had to confront any of the systemic barriers that limit their opportunities and potential. I can only recognize the privilege that my skin color and social position have afforded me.

The persistent socioeconomic disparities between different racial groups are a major issue. In Brazil, people of color are disproportionately affected by poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to education. And it’s easy to understand why when we look at how recent slavery was in the country.

After more than 300 years, Brazil only abolished slavery in 1888, the last country in Latin America to do so, and Black people could not even vote until 1934. Although the abolition of slavery was a significant step toward ending the exploitation of people of color, it did not solve the problem of racial inequality. After slavery was abolished, the former slaves were left without land, education, or job opportunities, which left them in a state of extreme poverty and vulnerability, in most cases continuing to be enslaved in one way or another.

The Brazilian government attempted to address this issue through the Quotas Law, sanctioned in 2012, nearly a decade after affirmative action policies were introduced in the country. It’s a law that reserves places for Black, pardo, and Indigenous people in public universities and other federal institutes of education. This form of historical reparation acknowledges the systemic disadvantages that these groups have faced.

Although Brazil has a unique and diverse mix of races and colors, the country is far from being a utopia free from racial discrimination, and we need to acknowledge that. The legacy of slavery and colonialism has left deep scars on Brazilian society, which continue to influence the experiences of people of color to this day.

I hope this article has given you a new perspective on race and color. That’s all from me, next week we’ll have a Weekly Chart made by Marten, also from the app team. See ya!