Study finds that 99% of Brazilian diplomats and federal university professors are white

A group of Brazilian diplomats being trained in agribusiness to tackle barriers that prevent the growth of exports. Only 10 of nearly 1,000 diplomats are black
A group of Brazilian diplomats being trained in agribusiness to tackle barriers that prevent the growth of exports. Only 10 of nearly 1,000 diplomats are black

Note from BW of Brazil: In yet another stunning example of racial inequality in Brazil, a 2005 study found that 99% of Brazil’s diplomats and college professors are white. And there are those who continue to believe that implementing affirmative action policies to promote more even ethnic representation is “reverse racism”. This study doesn’t necessarily show that racism played a direct role in the color of Brazilian faculties and body of diplomats (although the idea also can’t be dismissed), it does show the inequality in access to the path that leads to these careers. Thus, besides the overwhelming whiteness of Brazil’s politicians, journalists, TV hosts, television in generalmagazine covers, beauty contests, modeling runways, retail store displays and other areas, the control of knowledge, influence in higher education and representation abroad is also firmly dictated by persons who define themselves as white. So, what was that argument against the system of quotas again? 

by Correio Braziliense

Study by Universidade de Brasília anthropologist shows that white professors are 99% of the staff of the Brazilian public universities. This in a country where people of African descent represent 47% of the population

Less than 1% of professors in major Brazilian public universities are black. Of the 60 scientists chosen by the Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC or Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science) as the most outstanding in the history of the country, 59 are white. And only 10 of the nearly one thousand Brazilian diplomats are of African descent. The data are part of a pioneering study, transformed into the book Inclusão Étnica e Racial no Brasil – A questão das Cotas no Ensino Superior (Ethnic and Racial Inclusion in Brazil: The issue of Quotas in Higher Education) by José Jorge de Carvalho, anthropologist and professor at the University of Brasília (UnB), released by Attar Editorial. “If young people entering the university are already the country’s elite, imagine the masters, doctors and scientists? They are the elite of the elite. In Brazil today, blacks don’t have their turn,” argues the anthropologist.

Professor José Jorge de Carvalho of the University de Brasília: Study found that blacks are vastly invisible in careers as college professors and diplomats
Professor José Jorge de Carvalho of the University de Brasília: Study found that blacks are vastly invisible in careers as college professors and diplomats

It’s true that it was already known that the Brazilian elite is white, but the black community was not prepared for such disparate figures. The scenario becomes even more disturbing when compared with the percentage of pretos (blacks) and pardos (browns) in the Population Census of the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics or the IBGE). In 2005, no less than 47% of the population consisted of African descendants. Today, they make up 51% of the population.

The University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil’s only representative in the list of top 100 higher education institutions in the world, for example, employs 4,700 professors. Of them, the number of blacks does not reach 10, or only 0.2%. The ratio is the same at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), where there are 670 professors and three of them black.

99% of professors in Brazil's federal universities are white
99% of professors in Brazil’s federal universities are white

The UnB, the first federal university to institute a quota system in the vestibular (college entrance exam), has 15 black teachers out of a total of 1,500 professionals. The survey was conducted in twelve public institutions, considered the most important in scientific production.

In the opinion of the researcher, the number of black professors in Brazilian public universities is so low that it becomes a scandal of global proportions, given the strategic position of Brazil. “I find no parallel in any country of multiracial composition equivalent to ours that maintains, in the XXI century, such an extreme degree of segregation,” he said. “Despite the great demand that exists, there has never been as many university professors as today. But the number of blacks in front of classrooms remains the same as decades ago,” he complains.

At the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), for example, are three black teachers, one of whom is an African teacher who was invited to lecture. That is, only two of them are Brazilian.

"Far from the classrooms: Less than 1% of principal institutions of higher learning of the country are black. The University of São Paulo is one of those that most segregates; only 0.2% of professors declare themselves to be black." Columns: Institution, Number of professors, black professors
“Far from the classrooms: Less than 1% of principal institutions of higher learning of the country are black. The University of São Paulo is one of those that most segregates; only 0.2% of professors declare themselves to be black.”
Columns: Institution, Number of professors, black professors

“If we don’t intervene now, with a policy of preferential access, we could easily pass over one hundred years embittering the unflattering position in terms of constructing one of the most racist academic systems on the planet,” reflects José Jorge, founder of the quota policy at UnB. “We are fighting, first, for inclusion in the entrance exam, but it’s necessary to understand that academic control of science and higher education on the part of the white ethnic group is 99%,” he said. The work raises a topic still considered controversial, as by 2005, little more than a dozen federal and state universities applied some form of quotas or quotas for black and indigenous students at graduation.

Bad predictions

Militants of the Movimento Negro (black rights movement) predict a future of confrontations if Brazil does not immediately adopt policies of racial inclusion. “The way things are going, we are building a future of much conflict. Do not delay, we have similar scenarios to those seen this year (2005) in France,” warns Frei David Santos, president of the non-governmental organization Educafro, referring to the 11 days of protests in the suburbs of major French cities in November of that year. “There was a revolt of the poor and immigrants. Here it will be blacks and the northeasterners.”

According to anthropologist José Jorge de Carvalho, Brazil assumed, in the last 20 years, a role on the world stage similar to that previously occupied by the United States and South Africa “We do not see so much discrimination in these countries because of the policies adopted in the ‘70s in the United States, and the 90s in South Africa,” he argues. “President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) missed a great chance to be the Nelson Mandela of Brazil. There was room for it, but I think he was afraid,” he opines.

The University of Brasilia (UnB) professor refers to a project of the Ministry of Education (MEC) and the Special Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality (Seppir) which was shelved by Lula in early 2004. The proposal sought to implement immediately the reservation of vacancies was ready to be signed by the president, but it was put aside. “Every federal university would search the profile of their students and teachers and start a differentiated selection in the vestibular, under the risk of not receiving the MEC budget transfers,” explains José Jorge. “The Civil House had already attested to the constitutionality of the text.”

In place of the proposal, the government opted to include the quota policy in university reform that pushes to 2010 the mandatory reservation of vacancies. “The struggle of quotas would benefit mainly the white middle class that would be free from facing the revolt of segregated blacks,” says Frei David Santos. The proposal of reform of higher education has been stuck in the Civil House for six months and there is no time to be submitted to Congress.


Meanwhile, the black community is organized to try to break through barriers. One of the experiences that has proven to be effective is the creation of pre-university courses aimed at disadvantaged students. The geography teacher Wilson de Sousa, 42, gives classes for courses at  Educafro, who works in Sobradinho. During the day, Wilson works in the Procuradoria Geral da República (Attorney General’s Office), at night and on weekends he helps young black and poor people to pass the entrance exam. “I suffered a lot of discrimination in my life. I still suffer and want to try to change this routine to save my three children and my grandchildren,” he says.

The teacher and his three brothers managed to attain degrees of higher education. Because of this, he speaks of the determination of his parents. “At home, we had no money for books, but they didn’t forfeit our studies.” Wilson’s father finished high school with more than 45 years of age. His mother left school in the fourth grade of elementary school, like most blacks.

Widespread exclusion

Only 30% of the black population manages to finish the basic cycle of elementary school. The data is also in the book by José Jorge de Carvalho. In practice this means that there are 59 million black Brazilians that are practically on the margins of society. In other words, they are unprepared for the labor market and with low possibilities of social mobility in adulthood.

The anthropologist notes that Brazil is regarded as the nation with the second largest population of black ancestry in the world, the first being a Nigerian. “We have 7% of pretos and 40% of pardos (2005 figures) and, of the 25 million Brazilians who live below the poverty line accounted for by the United Nations, 70% are of African descent. Of the 58 million Brazilians who live in poverty (with a minimum of R$200, about US$100, per month), 63% are black,” he says.

For Frei David, the exclusion reached an unacceptable level in Brazil. “The drama of blacks in Brazil, it was not constructed by blacks but by the colonizers. Now you can’t think that that desegregation depends only on blacks,” he argues.

Pioneering initiative

The University of the State of Mato Grosso (Unemat) is the first higher education institution in the country to adopt the preferential access of black professors in the public sphere. The decision was approved by the university council, at a meeting on November 16, and it is valid for the next term. 20 places will be offered in the areas of applied and social sciences, humanities, education, exact, natural and technological sciences and letters. The competition will be open next year with salaries ranging from R$1,216.98 (US$658) to R$2,799.62 (US$1,400). The ordinance will be available on the website of the university in mid-January. The proposal, unique in the academic realm for public teaching, was referred by the Núcleo de Estudos sobre Educação, Gênero, Raça e Alteridade (Negra or Center for the Study of Education, Gender, Race and Alterity) and presented by the advisor Paul Vieira, coordinator of the group.

Source: Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Sociais – UFRJ/Correio Braziliense

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

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Becoming a black woman: an identity in process | Black Women of Brazil

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


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