Can We Lean Anything from Brazil about Remediating the Lingering Consequences of Racial Discrimination?

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3 Responses

  1. Justin Hansford says:

    Great post. I lived in Brazil for awhile during my short stint as a musician, and one big difference that jumped out to me and that I think informs this discussion is the pervasive class narrative that dominates conversations on inequality in Brazil (I was there during the Lula years). Brazil spent most of the 20th century discussing class, and is late to the party in discussing race, and coherent approaches on issues like Affirmative Action in Higher Ed are still taking shape. Vice versa here in the US; a large amount of the 20th century was spent facing up to realities on race, and only recently with the occupy movement for example are class realities and economic inequality finding their way into the national conversation. It would be great to see the US class discussion informed by Brazil (Imagine the Bolsa Familia as a poverty reduction problem in the South Side of Chicago); and it also would be great to see the Brazil race discussion informed by Critical Race Theory

  2. AndyK says:

    Justin: Why? You make a conclusory statement about the fact that it would be good to infect Brasil with Critical Race Theory and I wonder why? What good has CRS done in America that Brasil has yet to achieve?

    I should think that race / class consciousness are two different levels of Marxist discussion, and if you have one, you don’t *need* the other. Having two competing theories just creates animosity between upper-class minorities and lower-class non-minorities.

    Why create additional fault lines for societal anger and hatred? The legacy of CRS in the United States, to my lights, has been violence and death, and I worry for Brasil that we would seek to destabilize their country with these ideas.

  3. A.J. Sutter says:

    Regarding the Economist article, I confess that the focus on public university admissions made me somewhat confused about what causes what. I live in a self-proclaimed ethnically homogeneous country (aside from some minorities like Ainu, Dowa and non-naturalized Koreans, Chinese etc.). As in Brazil, the top universities here in Japan are public and cheaper — and very tough to get into if you don’t come from a wealthy family. Ethnicity has nothing to do with it. The magazine story mentions that more than two-thirds of polled Brazilians favored color-blind university preferences for the poor. Maybe that’s a better intuition than to focus on race, after all — for this specific problem, at any rate (not necessarily about all forms of social inequality).

    Coincidentally I’m preparing to teach Machiavelli’s Discourses in one of my seminars next week, with a bit of John McCormick’s quite interesting Machiavellian Democracy (CUP 2011). The Discourses are intensely about class conflict, and how it can be a constructive thing if the right institutions are in place. McCormick contrasts it quite favorably with the “Guicciardinian,” aristocratic sort of republicanism bandied about these days by Pettit, Pocock, Skinner, Sandel et al. The Occupy movement brought class back into the conversation, although ultimately in a rather limp way. I think it would be worth looking into whether it’s simply the Cold War that made this topic so taboo in the US, or whether there were other factors as well (myths of social mobility?).