Skin color influences professional relations, survey shows
by Felipe Gutierrez, Arícia Martins and Luciano Máximo
For 71% of Brazilians, professional relationships are influenced by skin color. It’s the kind of familiarity most susceptible to ethnicity, over the way people are treated by the police and the courts.
This is the main result of a survey released by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) conducted with about 15,000 respondents in the Federal District and the states of São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso, Paraíba and the Amazon.
Research Study of Ethnic and Racial Characteristics of the population had not intended to identify whether this influence is positive or negative.
For the head of the division of social indicators of the IBGE, Ana Lucia Saboia, asking whether the impact is good or bad is not effective. Respondents, she says, deny being prejudiced.
Among people who said they were black, 82.6% answered yes to question whether “race or color” influences work. The lowest rate was among those who declared themselves indigenous: 64.7% think that this is a factor that alters the relationship.
For Saboia, the fact that the job has been pointed out as the relationship in which there are more influence owes itself to the fact that this is “the most important activity of social integration for individuals.”
According to political scientist Daniel Cara, the opinions given in the study simply support the conclusions already verified in an objective form: “The racial question weights negatively on blacks in the key aspects for the construction of quality of life and the social question. The opinion given in the research only corroborates that it is necessary to take measures to overcome prejudice”, he concludes.
A recent report produced by Instituto Ethos and Ibope that sampled 620,000 workers from 109 large companies, 67.3% of management posts were occupied by whites while Afro-Brazilians represented only 31% of these positions. This isn’t surprising for those who are directly affected by discrimination in the job market. Lawyer João Antonio Alves has three degrees, one of which is in English Literature from Westminster College in London but he still encounters difficulty finding a job. Alves says he is “already tired” of suffering “veiled” racial prejudice in the selective processes mainly in large, prominent companies.
João Antonio Alves
“To say that Brazil is a country without prejudice, that there is no racism here is to deny the obvious. Look at the large corporations: how many heads of color (do you see)? I have three degrees and I suffered a lot in order to put myself in the market in an upper position in accordance to my capability, but today, I work for myself and I am doing very well professionally”, he says.
Maria Julia Nogueira is the Secretary for the Combat of Racism of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), one of Brazil’s largest unions and she reminds us that, in the past few years, the country has “advanced a lot” in terms of policies dealing with racial discrimination, but that prejudice can still be seen in the statistics. “Research shows, invariably, that the disparity between black and non-black workers in enormous, mainly in terms of salary and the occupation of management positions,” said the unionist.
Maria Julia Nogueira
For lawyer Antonio Guercio, associating race and color to professional questions is a clear sign that “prejudice exists and it is part of our day-to-day. A person saying that color holds weight in his or her job is obviously a negative perception because it shows that Brazilian society still maintains certain values entrenched from the era of Brazilian slavery. In other words, when we speak of blacks we continue to give importance to external values and not the intrinsic values of each citizen.”
The case of Simone André Diniz, 33, was a landmark for the history of the fight against prejudice in the country. When she was 19 years, she denounced that a potential employer was in search of a white maid.
At the time, prosecutors recommended closing the case, which is what the judge did. But the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS (Organization of American States) received the denouncement, and in 2006, condemned Brazil.
Simone André Diniz
Diniz won R$36,000 (Brazilian reais) in compensation from the state but the process still pending. She expects to receive a scholarship to attend college – one of the recommendations of the OAS.
To Diniz, the situation in the country has not changed. “Between a white woman and a black woman, they are still accustomed to choosing the white woman, and saying ‘your profile is not the one that we want.’ It’s always like that”, she says.
Helena Sofia Gomes heard from her immediate supervisor in the area of loss prevention for a retailer that she should appreciate her job. As she was “black and old”, and not managing to find another one, she remembers. Gomes sued her former employer for moral harassment and won in the first instance in the Labor Court. She also advanced the suit in the criminal court, but the case is still pending.