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pbs_logo.jpgThe Issue
As one of the most racially diverse nations in the world, Brazil has long considered itself a colorblind “racial democracy.” But deep disparities in income, education and employment between lighter and darker-skinned Brazilians have prompted a civil rights movement advocating equal treatment of Afro-Brazilians. In Brazil, the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery, blacks today make up almost half of the total population — but nearly two-thirds of the nation’s poor. Institutions of higher education have typically been monopolized by Brazil’s wealthy and light-skinned elite, and illiteracy among black Brazilians is twice as high as among whites. Now, affirmative action programs are changing the rules of the game, with many colleges and universities reserving 20% of spots for Afro-Brazilians. But with national surveys identifying over 130 different categories of skin color, including “cinnamon,” “coffee with milk,” and “toasted,” who will be considered “black enough” to qualify for the new racial quotas?

The Film
“Am I black or am I white?” Even before they ever set foot in a college classroom, many Brazilian university applicants must now confront a question with no easy answer. BRAZIL IN BLACK AND WHITE follows the lives of five young college hopefuls from diverse backgrounds as they compete to win a coveted spot at the elite University of Brasilia, where 20 percent of the incoming freshmen must qualify as Afro-Brazilian. Outside the university, WIDE ANGLE reports on the controversial racial debate roiling Brazil through profiles of civil right activists, opponents of affirmative action, and one of the country’s few black senators.

Click here to view the full documentary…

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  • Thanks for sharing this. I’d heard they’d be doing a documentary on it. The actual quota system has been in play for a while now, but I’d love to see their take, as I’ve always considered PBS to be a fair medium.

    Muito Obrigada!

  • Wow, that sound so confusing. I wish that I had gotten a chance to see the documentary. I don’t understand how they can differentiate between white and black when so many if not all are mixed with an African heritage and Portuguese heritage. One kid said he was “white” but he had “black” relatives. Well, how do you know if you have more of one side than the other? My father relatives are extremelly fair skin while my mother’s side is very brown. What do I consider myself ? African American because I am African first just somewhere down the line some white got in, lol. In America we live in a world of black and white but in Brazil you have a country that is Portuguese why not just except that is what everyone is? They just have different shades of Brazilians. Very interesting, how adding african blood can complicate things. It is so unnecessary. Why not just go by economics for the quotas?

  • ceecee

    I don’t know if the affirmative action policy by race is entirely the best solution. I watched the entire documentary and it was so great to see EVERYONE regardless of skin color enjoying each other’s company. Why mess that up and bring racial tensions into the picture and base the quotas based on economic class instead?

  • Miss Indiana

    After viewing the documentary, I found that Brazil is no different than the U.S. Blacks in America are of mixed ethnicity just like those in Brazil, but we have always been told how to identify ourselves. The Brazilians can chose their “racial” identiy. Notice when one of the teachers said that “you can embrace the Afro-Brazilian identity…” In America, for a long time if you were 1/16 th black you and your lineage were considered black. I believe with this current multicultural movement and people like Tiger Woods, more blacks will consider themselves, mulit, white, or or “other.” But I am sure they will take into account how Affirmative Action will impact their decisions.

  • HaitianRoots

    Thanks for this. During my studies in Brazil this was made very evident. I stayed with a host family that I guess would be considered “white” and they were completely naive to the race factor that was effecting their country.