Note from BW of Brazil: This whole thing is beyond intriguing. For years, Brazil’s system of quotas has provoked all sorts of controversial reactions and incidents. First, people argued against them on the grounds that the system would lower the quality of higher learning. Along with that line of reasoning, many objected because, in a country such as Brazil in which races have been mixing for centuries, how would the system distinguish between those who were black or brown and those who were white? Then, not finding success in overturning the system, over the years, we’ve seen a growing number of cases of racial fraud in which people who look either clearly white or at least not black or brown enough, defining themselves as brown in order to enter universities under the quota system (see here, here and here). Afro-Brazilian activists have fought back by reporting students who fraudulently define themselves as black or brown and thus causing many of them to lose their places in various institutions of higher learning.
But this issue, in some ways, undermines a key piece of the black agenda. You see, Afro-Brazilians have long argued that the preto (black) and pardo (brown/mixed race) populations should be combined and considered representative of the black population. It is based on this combination that activists have long promoted Brazil as having the largest black population outside of Africa. The problem here is that, a large percentage of pardos don’t really look like ‘people of color’, although they may not look exactly white.
Herein lies the problem.
What should be done about those Brazilians who look mostly European but that present physical features that show they are not really white? Should almost white people be defined/accepted as brown and thus be allowed to enter universities and take away places from persons who are clearly black or brown? The problem lies in the fact that if these “almost white” people define themselves as brown, but black activists reject them as such, this also challenges the idea that 54% of Brazilians, or more than 110 million people, should be considered black based on the combination of pretos and pardos. Of course, it’s easy to ban the many students who are clearly white but have defined themselves as brown. But the question of who is legitimately pardo is problematic. As one prominent leader has pointed out, within the pardo group, there are people whose African or indigenous features clearly define them as non-white, but there are also those who look more or less white, but just not purely white. The photo above is good example of this issue.
There are a few people in the photo who I believe should be accepted as black or brown while many look pretty much white or that type of “almost white”. What do YOU see? This issue could lead to big problems for black activists who define ALL pardos as black. In essence, they can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim ALL pardos as part of the (largest) black population (outside of Africa) but then reject a parcel of those pardos who look almost white. Something is gonna have to give…
Students disapproved by UFPE’s quota commission protest
In all, 280 people were disapproved by the quota commission in the Recife, Vitória and Sertão campuses
By Lorena Barros
A group of people met on the morning of Tuesday (12) in front of the rectory of the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), in the West Zone of Recife, to protest against the rejections made by the commission of Racial Self-declaration of the institution. In all, of the 2,400 candidates approved in the ethnic-racial quotas, 280 were disapproved.
The UFPE Racial Self-Declaration Committee is composed of three people: a teacher, a technician and a student. All of the institution. Check out the document that details how the commission works by clicking here.
One of the students present at this morning’s protest was Guilherme Feitosa, 18. He was first approved for racial quotas in the Agreste unit and passed the evaluation in the city of Caruaru. “They didn’t ask me any questions about why I self-declared myself pardo (brown) or preto (black), they simply looked at me. I was judged while filming,” he says.
According to Guilherme, he arrived at the institution, filled out a form with his personal data and detailed what kind of self-declaration he made (black or brown) and waited to be called. “When they called me I handed in the form and they asked me to sign [the document]. I had a cell phone camera filming me,” he recalls.
The student, who had passed the physics course and appealed the ruling, said he was outraged by the situation. “I did the Enem (see note one), I got a good grade, I was passed in Sisu (see note two) first in my course, in the quota for which I felt I belonged because I am pardo,” he says.
Guilherme, one of those who had been rejected by the commission, said he was “outraged” by the situation.
Around 10 am Recife time, members of the verification committee met with the pro-rector of academic affairs, Paulo Góes, to discuss the matter. The university representative should speak at a press conference after the meeting.
- Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (National High School Exam) is a non-mandatory, standardized Brazilian national exam, which evaluates high school students in Brazil. The ENEM is the most important exam of its kind in Brazil, with more than 8.6 million registered candidates in 2016.
- SiSU (Sistema de Seleção Unificada or Unified Selection System (SiSU) is a digital platform on the air since January 2010 being developed by the Brazilian Ministry of Education and used by students who took the National High School Exam (ENEM) to enroll in higher education institutions that adhered fully or partially, with a certain percentage of their vacancies, to the ENEM score as a form of entry, replacing the vestibular, which is the college entrance exam.