Brazilians don’t recognize their racial identity

by Daiane Souza

UnB doctoral thesis reveals that the population has difficulty accepting their ethnicity

Study conducted at the Department of Linguistics at the University of Brasília (UNB) found that Brazilians have a hard time accepting themselves as black and brown and ethnically identifying others. The discourse in respect to differences and harmony in the country in fact hide racism and prejudices dating back to the slavery era. That’s the conclusion of researcher Francisca Cordélia Oliveira da Silva, who defended her doctoral thesis in August. “It’s a lack of conviction. The Brazilians have many questions about race, ethnicity and color, because we are in a miscegenated country. These questions generate racial prejudice,” she explains.

For three and a half years, Francisca Cordélia analyzed news, laws and conducted a poll to support her doctoral thesis. The materials selected from online newspapers and websites such as FolhaMundo Negro and Folha de S.Paulo contained interviews of people who have gone through embarrassing racial situations. In them, the researcher applied discourse analysis and evaluated the language, terms, vocabulary, the strength of the words used and the way the texts were constructed.

She also studied two legal texts that labeled racism as a misdemeanor and law number 7716, which criminalizes acts resulting from prejudices of race or color. With these data, the researcher developed a survey that asked people how they are classified themselves according to ethnicity, color and race.

Photo – Comments left to right: 1. “My hair won’t allow me to think that I’m white.” 2. “I’m parda (brown). In reality, I’m morena*, right? No. I think I’m white.” 3. “I’m a big black man and very proud of it”, 4. “My birth certificate says that I’m white but I don’t agree.” 


During the implementation of the survey, two things caught the attention of the researcher: that people had questions to answer and some tried to return the response so she would not see them. “They were always questioning how I classified them, whether preto (black) or pardo (brown)*, and even if the answers were anonymous, they made a question of placing the paper among those of other respondents,” says Cordelia.

Photo – Comments, left to right. 1. “I never thought about this, but I think I’m pardo (brown)”, 2. “I’m black and I’m proud of my race”, 3. “I’m parda (brown). My father was black and he suffered discimination”, 4. “I’m parda (brown). No one in Brazil is white.”

She maintains that there is no racial harmony in Brazil. “Brazil is indeed a racist country. What remains is raising consciousness to prevent the proliferation of acts masked by discourse,” she says. An employee of UnB who prefers to remain anonymous agrees that there is this confusion of identities. The person considers himself brown, 49, and 5’8” tall, experienced an embarrassing situation few months ago in a bank when he helped his brother to solve a problem. “We were talking with the teller, when two police officers arrived and handcuffed me without reason. They only let me go because I persisted in saying he didn’t know what was going on and that they had no argument to arrest me,” he said.

The 4thsemester Biology student Tauã Santos Pereira, saw a black lady being morally assaulted by a younger woman in a supermarket. The lady was in a preferential checkout line and the girl told her that, being black, she had no preference at all. The two argued the market and the store manager and the police were called in. “If the country invested in education teaching values, attitudes like that would be banned and we would not need to watch that kind of situation,” said Tauã.

* – For a discussion of racial and skin color terms used in Brazil, please see here

Source: Portal Ciência & Vida

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


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