“Racist? Who me?”: 92% of Brazilians believe racism exists but only 1.3% consider themselves racist

Naiara Lara: Notes that for many, if she is beautiful, she can’t be black

Note from BW of Brazil: Brazil can be quite confusing to understand at times. How does one explain such strong evidence of racism throughout the country, the near invisibility of Afro-Brazilians in most areas of society yet a high rate of interracial marriage and persons of mixed ancestry? Welcome to Brazil! With all of the reports featured on this blog, we hope you can understand that racism can exist even within interracial marriage and even if people deny that they are racist. As one writer put it, the details hidden within interracial marriage can actually be seen as more evidence of racial inequality and a long standing racial hierarchy. The following report is also interesting in that it shows that nearly 20 years later, things haven’t changed much in Brazil. 

According to widely divulged 1995 study, 89% of Brazilians said that there is prejudice against blacks, while only 10% admitted to harboring these sentiments themselves. In the same survey, 87% of those same people revealed some prejudice by agreeing with racist comments or sayings.  In other words, everyone agrees that racism exists and that they knew racist people, but few people confess to being racist. A 1988 study conducted in São Paulo found that 97% of those interviewed said they didn’t harbor any prejudiced feelings while 98% of the same people said they knew prejudiced people. Commenting on this contradiction, anthropologist Lilia Mortz Schwarcz said that “every Brazilian seems to feel like they are an island of racial democracy surrounded by racists on every side.” 

Also consistent with material regularly featured on the blog, the study shows how common it is to offend black Brazilians with the term macaca or macaco, meaning “monkey” while another black woman expresses her annoyance with the widespread idea that if a person is a considered pretty or beautiful, said person cannot be considered black. Such is life in a “racial democracy.”

Brazilians think that racism exists but only 1.3% consider theselves racist

Article in Correio Braziliense presents an unprecedented survey of racial prejudice in Brazil

"Racist, me? No way!!" - by Maurício Pestana
“Racist, me? No way!!” – by Maurício Pestana

By Étore Medeiros and Ana Pompeu

Individually, the Brazilian has the habit of saying that he or she is not biased, but is convinced that he/she lives in a country in which people are discriminated against on the basis of skin color. This profile is part of an unpublished research to which the Correio Braziliense newspaper had access.

Prejudice is a common mark in the daily lives of Brazilians. It’s in homes, in schools and in the work environment. Preliminary data from an unpublished research of the Data Popular Institute put the myth of racial democracy to the test. The study, nearing completion, shows that although 92% of Brazilians believe there is racism in the country, only 1.3% consider themselves to be racist. The institute estimated that 92 million (68.4%) of adults have witnessed a white Brazilian refer to a black person as a “macaco (monkey).”

And of these, only 12% took some action. The survey also shows that one in six white men did not want to see their daughter marry a black man.

“Racism is a crime with no father and no mother. They say that it exists, but don’t admit that are racist. People want to put this (democracia racial or racial democracy) as part of the culture of Brazil, but it is a lie. It a farce created and every day, we need to deconstruct it. It is important that society see that citizenship and democracy will never be developed as long as we live with this type of crime,” says Carlos Alberto Júnior, ombudsman of the Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial (Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality or Seppir. “The Cláudia case in the first place, is not an isolated case. Unfortunately, it happened. But, fortunately, it was recorded. Such cases have happened almost systematically, and that is what we are fighting,” says the ombudsman.

The shock of how Cláudia da Silva Ferreira was “rescued” by Military Police, in Rio de Janeiro, was echoed in Brasília. An act against racism, scheduled for the end of the afternoon, at the Praça Zumbi dos Palmares (Square), in front of the Conic, pays tribute to the Brazilian woman victimized by a society that “authorizes” that blacks are “murdered daily”, as says the note that summons people to attend the demonstration. “She is no longer and became ‘the dragged woman’. The fact that she had lost her name says a lot,” exemplifies Naiara Lira, 28, who will be at the event.


Naiara is not accustomed to putting aside racial slurs, however small. A compliment, however, bewilders the singer. “Você não é negra, você é linda (You’re not black, you’re beautiful).” The comment shocked Naiara. “I can’t can be black and beautiful? How absurd this conception is. I couldn’t respond at the time,” she laments. According to the middle-class woman, society is not yet accustomed to the social mobility of millions of blacks. “When I, female and black, walk into a place of greater economic access, people have certainty that I can only be there working as a maid or servant.” Frequently wearing a turban, Naiara says that the simple adornment now causes change in how she is treated. “When I walk into a place wearing a turban, I become a foreigner, a gringa, I stop being black. I’m treated much better until they discover that I’m Brazilian.”

"When I was alive I hated blacks". By Maurício Pestana
“When I was alive I hated blacks and you?” – “Me? When I was alive I was black.” by Maurício Pestana

Lucas Barbosa, 23, a temporary public school teacher in the Federal District, was approached by Military Police when he returned to the University of Brasília, where he completed his second degree. Leaning on a motorcycle in Eixo Monumental, he was searched and offended by jokes. “They asked me where I lived, if I was a criminal, if I was dealing (drugs) at UnB. I said that the approach was wrong, then, they searched me again, took my jacket and put marijuana in it. The only plausible explanation is racism, and discrimination against the periphery,” says the Santa Maria resident. “Tomorrow (today) I’ll be there in Praça Zumbi, for sure,” says the young man.

Racists are the others…

The research institute Data Popular found troubling numbers about how the Brazilian population sees the issue of racism in the country

92% believe that there is racism in Brazil, but only 1.3% consider themselves racist

92 million adults have witnessed a white Brazilian refer to as a black person as monkey.

Only 12% took action against it

17% of white men would not want their daughter to marry a black man

Data Popular interviewed 2017 people in 53 cities in Brazil between January 15 and February 12

The services assistant Cláudia da Silva Ferreira died on February 16, a Sunday, after taking two rifle shots during a police operation in Morro Congonha in Madureira, North Zone of Rio de Janeiro. She had gone to a bakery to buy bread and bologna when she was shot.

According to witnesses, she was still alive when she was rescued out by Military Police (MP) and taken to the hospital. Along the way, the trunk of the van opened and Cláudia, hanging by her clothing, was dragged on the asphalt for at least 350 meters. The three MPs who rescued the woman were being held at Complexo Penitenciário de Gericinó, in Presídio de Bangu 8, but last Sunday, were released for lack of evidence as to the authorship of the shots that hit Cláudia. They argue that they placed the cleaning assistant in the trunk due to the inability of opening the side door of the car, which was surrounded by angry residents. The murder sparked angry demonstrations entities of civil society and authorities. The governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, rated the conduct of the MPs as “disgusting and inhumane.” President Dilma Rousseff posted on a social network that “Cláudia’s death shocked the country.”

Feliciano investigated for discrimination

In a decision signed yesterday, the Minister Gilmar Mendes of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) ruled that the Federal Police (PF) hear the testimony of Deputy Marco Feliciano (PCS -SP) in 30 days. The Minister authorized the opening of an investigation into whether the parliamentary committed a crime of prejudice against religion. According to the request to open the investigation made by the attorney general of the Republic, Rodrigo Janot, a video on YouTube shows the Deputy declaring: “I prophesy the collapse of the kingdom of darkness! I prophesy the burial of pais de santo! I prophesy the closing of the terreiros of macumba! I prophesy the glory of the Lord on earth!” (1)

Source: INCTI: Instituto de Inclusão no Ensino Superior e na Pesquisa


1. The term pais de santo refer to religious leaders of Afro-Brazilian religions, terreiros are the houses of worship where these religions are practiced while macumba is a derogatory way of referring to these religions, similar to the imagery associated with the term “voodoo”. For more on Afro-Brazilian religions and the problem of religious intolerance in Brazil see these articles.

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


    • Just like Americans in denial. All of this is a product of Western European White Superiority complex. Not sure why highlighting the woman dragged behind a police van was worth repeating. That sh*t goes on in America prepared by normal Americans; one of the latest is Alfred Wright, who ironically was married to a White woman and hand children with her. Still he lived in a same part of Texas where James Bird (Black) was dragged who his death by two unrepentant White men.

      Look Black people have three choices –

      1) Accept the world as is and STFU

      2) Take up arms and demand respect by force

      3) Investing into the Black Community to compete with the status quo

      Otherwise constant ranting about how unfair X country/society is basically useless.

  1. Black people in Brazil need to fight for their Civil Rights just as American blacks won Civil Rights against racist white Americans in the American South during the 1960s.

  2. In Europe, many whites deny the Holocaust against the innocent Jews. In the United States, many white Americans deny racism exists. The discriminatory and racist policies in the United States and Brazil were created by whites to ensure that whites would have full control of society. In South Africa, racist whites instituted Apartheid to ensure white Supremacy in South Africa. Because racism favors whites, many whites will not acknowledge its existence.

  3. While I don’t doubt that racism exists in Brasil (where doesn’t it), I must say that in my experience living and travelling there-almost 2 1/2 years in the late 1960s and a more than two months since, I rarely encountered spoken racism during all that time. And I’m fluent in Portuguese and was a foreign correspondent in Rio for four months.

    • It’s more about the whole than the individual. In America, we love love love to discount racism by citing anecdotal evidence. But if we take a step back, and look at the group as a whole, it is clear that white supremacy is very real.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.