Note from BW of Brazil: How many more Brazilians are there that have lied about their racial identity/classification to attain access to a college education? After so many people had already been busted or questioned in recent years, you’d think this sort of practice would have already ended. Apparently not. Today’s story is just about one woman that frauded the affirmative action system, but new reports show that those perpetrating such deceptions continues to be somewhat common.
I’ve already spoken at length about this topic and why counting all people who define themselves as pardos, meaning brown or mixed race, could be a way of Afro-Brazilian activists shooting themselves in the foot. There are literally tens of millions of people of mixed ancestry in Brazil and while there are many who for all intents and purposes look black, there many others who, look white, or pretty close. The problem with this is, it’s a catch-22 situation when Afro-Brazilian leaders want to include all pardos as part of the black population, but then want to exclude them for looking too white when it comes time to access the affirmative action law to get into universities.
The case in today’s story doesn’t really fit into that category as I think most people would concede that the woman in the middle of this latest controversy is white. As we know, in Brazil and Latin America, one can have African ancestry and still be considered white. There should be absolutely no problem with this when the person looks like the woman in today’s story.
The problem I have is with her story is that Brazilians have ALWAYS sought to distance themselves from America’s infamous “one-drop of black blood” rule. This means that whiteness in Brazil is judged strictly upon one’s physical appearance. In other words, if you look white, you’re white, even if people can see that you probably don’t have 100% European ancestry.
In 1954, Brazilian sociologist Oracy Nogueira famously defined the differences in racial prejudice between Brazil and the United States as “prejudice of mark” vs. “prejudice of origin”. This means that in Brazil, a person who looks white has a better chance of acceptance in such a country that discriminates against black people based on appearance, whereas in the US, one’s ancestry could inhibit such opportunities regardless of a white or near white phenotype.
When analyzing all of these cases of fraud in the affirmative action system with Brazilian whites claiming to be “pardo” due to having some distant African ancestry, it is clearly a contradictory situation of self-interest. After all, how do people point out how ridiculous the American one-drop rule is and then attempt to take advantage of such a ridiculous rule?
As everyone knows that Brazilians don’t adhere to the one-drop rule, it is highly questionable that the woman in today’s story claims that she thought having a distant black relative made her “non-white” or brown. I don’t buy this. In Brazil, it is estimated that at least 90% of the population has some degree of African ancestry and that includes nearly half of the country that identifies itself as branco, meaning white. For me, she saw an opportunity to get by and ran with it. Case closed.
Read the story for yourself and decide if you see it another way.
After exposure on the web, white influencer admits to having defrauded quota at UFRJ
Young woman entered the university in the modality that contemplated “self-declared black, brown or indigenous candidates regardless of income”
By Luana Benedito and Juca Guimarães
24-year-old digital influence Larissa Busch admitted to cheating the racial quota system at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) in a long post on her Instagram profile this Tuesday (2). The young woman, who is white, joined the educational institution in the Social Communication course, in the second half of 2014, in the modality that contemplated “self-declared black, brown or indigenous candidates regardless of income”.
“In 2014, six years ago, I made the worst choice of my life and I’m here to talk about it with all the guilt that I carry. I entered the university calling myself ‘parda’ (brown/mixed). Yes, this is horrible and there is not a day that I don’t think about it. I have kept this shame inside me for a long time and as much as I feel sad that the dirtiest episode of my life is becoming public, I always knew that this day would come”, said Larissa in an excerpt of the text.
The content producer’s apology, however, came after the repercussion of a publication by her about the anti-racist movement #VidasNegrasImportam (black lives matter) – an act in response to racism and police violence practiced by the State, in the peripheries of Brazil and in the world, against the black population, which has been happening and increasing recently, even in the midst of a pandemic.
“I don’t know why they haven’t done this before, but it’s there. there are people posting something about racism today that never gave a damn about it. this digital influencer, for example, entered UFRJ defrauding quotas and never suffered ANYTHING in relation to that. whoever wants to check”: https://t.co/NBHhNC9V8x pic.twitter.com/6j57W4rW5X – mari (@marimaginaria) June 2, 2020
An internet user wrote on Twitter: “I don’t know why they didn’t do this before, but it’s there. There are people posting something about racism today that never gave a damn about it. This digital influencer, for example, entered UFRJ defrauding quotas and never suffered ANYTHING in relation to that. whoever wants to check “. In the publication, there were also links to UFRJ quota students in “2014.2”, which included Larissa’s enrollment.
The young woman, who also works as a DJ and does events for several brands, has now received several criticisms on her Instagram profile. First, she deleted the post where she talked about racism. However, criticism persisted and the young woman even deactivated her account on the social network. Until the publication of this report, Larissa had already lost almost 3 thousand followers.
‘I thought my black ancestry justified me as parda’
This morning, the influencer shared her position on the episode. “As absurd as it sounds, at 18, I thought that my black ancestry justified me as brown. I believed that having a black great-grandmother made me non-white. I was wrong. My ancestry does NOT make me brown. I am a white woman and I had a lot of privileges because of it”, commented the DJ, in another excerpt from the Instagram post.
For Thamy Lopes, a journalist and activist in the black movement, Larissa’s apology is problematic. “It’s very complicated, using the question of ancestry to justify entering the university. It’s enough to see what it represents. She represents the image of a white woman and it’s even more complicated that she uses the question of her grandmother to put herself in a position. When in fact, she is taking the place of another black person”, says the founder of the channel Favelize-se.
“Her objective was to fill a vacancy, which theoretically was to be filled by a black person, who goes through several social inequalities arising from racism”, completes the journalist.
Thamy points out that the issue of color in Brazil is different from the United States, for example. “There is the rule of one drop of blood. So, if you have a black father and a white mother, you will not be read as white. However, here in Brazil, you can be read as white and will be socialized as white. And that means that you will have more privileges for that.”
Also according to Larissa Busch’s publication, she dropped out of UFRJ graduation two years later “for not being able to carry the burden of guilt”. Classmates of the influencer said, however, that she left the course because she wanted to focus on producing content for social networks.
Questioned, UFRJ reported that Larissa has not been enrolled in the university since 2018. “The rule that guaranteed access to UFRJ at the time was fulfilled – self-declaration. There were no complaints about this former student, specifically. The complaints received started to be investigated from 2019 and the new management of UFRJ, installed in July 2019, started to heteroidentify students from 2020, precisely to avoid fraud in affirmative actions,” informed the institution’s advisory.
Sought for comment, Larissa declined to speak on the episode. The O Dia website has reinforced that the space is open for the influencer to express herself.
Check out Larissa Busch’s publication in full
“In 2014, six years ago, I made the worst choice of my life and I’m here to talk about it with all the guilt that I carry. I entered the university calling myself ‘parda’ (brown/mixed). Yes, this is horrible and there is not a day that I don’t think about it. I have kept this shame inside me for a long time and as much as I feel sad that the dirtiest episode of my life is becoming public, I always knew that this day would come.
First of all, I want to apologize to the people who really should fill the vacancy. I also want to ask forgiveness of all black people and minorities who have fought/are struggling so that a system like quotas, which seeks social justice, has been created. I feel very ashamed, but I am here to admit my mistake. If you can’t forgive me, I understand perfectly. The mistake was big and I know. I also wanted to apologize to everyone close to me, friends and family, to whom I never told this before.
As absurd as it sounds, at 18, I thought that my black ancestry justified me as brown. I believed that having a black great-grandmother made me non-white. I was wrong. My ancestry does NOT make me brown. I am a white woman and I had many privileges because of that
Two years later, in 2016 I dropped out of the course, precisely because I was unable to bear the weight of this guilt. I didn’t graduate from the university, I gave up my diploma because I knew I didn’t deserve to be there. Of course, that does not excuse my mistake and I DO NOT want to be applauded for it.
This is my ugliest, most immoral and dirty part. And now you are facing her.
Larissa from 6 years ago has learned a lot in the last few years and I am willing to continue learning. I am willing to give up my privileges and continue fighting for the causes that I believe even though I know the irreparable mistakes I made. Even though I know that the internet does not forgive, I hope to continue learning from this mistake, now public.”
Despite the long apology posted on her social networks to her more than 50,000 followers, Larissa, who is a DJ and describes herself as a content creator, was well criticized by people who were outraged by the story.
“It was (Gabriela) Pugliesi who made the mistake. You committed a crime,” commented a follower who received more than two thousand likes. Pugliesi is a popular fitness blogger who was in the middle of controversy recently when she and her husband participated in party in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis. Another follower suggested that the girl pay for a black person’s education. “As your guilt and learning process doesn’t get you anywhere, I suggest that, to start with, you pay for a black person’s degree with your money.” In yet another comment, a young man states that Larissa only manifested herself because her story would have been exposed on another social network.
Quotas are reserves of vacancies for certain minority segments of the population, such as black people (preta/black or parda/brown/mixed race), indigenous people and people with special needs, becoming mandatory for federal universities as of Law No. 12.711/2012, which was amended by Law No. 13.409/2016 and Law No. 12.990, of June 9, 2014, which refers to federal public competitions. Bypassing the quota system is fraud and if it is proven the student can be withdrawn from the course regardless of the period in which he or she is studying.
‘Whites defraud quotas because of believing in impunity’, says professor at Unesp
Affirmative action, created to combat racial inequalities in Brazil, represents one of the achievements of the black movement and is the target of fraud by white students. In higher education institutions, mechanisms to identify and punish fraudsters continue even with face-to-face classes suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“Intentional saboteurs have no morals or ethics. They act based on opportunism and without any constraint. They believe in impunity and that they are protected by a white privilege,” says Professor Juarez Xavier, president of the Commission for the Verification of the Reservation of Vacancies at Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp).
In the case of Unesp’s 24 units in the state of São Paulo, there are local commissions for verifying the admission system by reserving places for public school students. The system has been in operation since 2014 and started with 15% of vacancies for quota students. Of this share, 35% were for students who declared themselves to be black, brown or indigenous.
“Over time, the percentage of reserve for vacancies for shareholders has increased to 25%, 45% and is at 50%. For black, brown and indigenous students, it remains at 35%,” explains Xavier.
Unesp currently has about 1,300 students who entered the educational institution through the quota system. In all, since 2017, 900 have already gone through the verification committee that analyzes fraud. Another 400 cases are in the process of being checked. “That year, the investigation commission created and produced a report in which there were strong indications of fraud committed by students in the vacancy reservation system. In 2018, 27 students were dismissed. In 2019, 31 more out of more than 100 cases investigated. The investigated students, in fact, usually abandon the course during the investigations,” remembers Xavier.
Due to the pandemic, the second phase of 2020 checks at Unesp will be carried out by tele-banking. A specialist in quota systems and an advocate for affirmative actions, Xavier highlights the impacts of this public policy.
“Education was a central theme in the founding letter of the Black Panthers, in 1966, in the United States. In Brazil, the Movimento Negro Unificado (MNU or Unified Black Movement) has spoken of quotas in universities since 1978. It’s a policy that brings diversity to society. It’s at the university that the decision-making and power frameworks in society are formed,”he considers.
Sociologist Najara Costa, author of the book Quem é negro/a no Brasil?(Who is black in Brazil?), which is being released this month, served as chairman of the Quota Commission of the São Paulo Municipal Secretariat for Racial Equality in 2016. The professional recalls that affirmative action policies have been the target of fraud since they began to be implemented in the country in the 1990s, in response to the Zumbi dos Palmares March, which took place in 1995.
“These are cases of attempted fraud due to a hidden whiteness that tries to pass as black. Whites appeal to an American context by saying that they have a black great-grandfather, when in reality the person has the phenotype characteristics of a white person,” she says.
Najara stresses that it’s necessary to understand the sociological concept of race that defines racism. According to the sociologist, there is a black phenotype that makes it difficult to access certain rights in Brazil, even for people from the same social strata. “Poor blacks have fewer opportunities to ascend socially than poor whites, due to the racism present in various environments and institutions”, she maintains.
Professor Juarez Xavier reiterates that he is perplexed by the students’ reaction, even in the face of evidence of fraud. “I saw white people, with light eyes and auburn hair, naturally insisting on the right to a place in the system because they ‘felt black’. White supremacism is not inhibited and bets on impunity to do things like that,”he says.
Exposure of fraudsters on social networks
In early June, a Twitter page called “Fraudadores de Cotas da UnB”, meaning UnB Quota Fraudsters, started denouncing white students who declared themselves as black to enter the University of Brasília through the quota system. The profile, which accumulated almost 8,000 followers, was banned from the social network after publishing dozens of alleged cases of fraud in courses such as political science, law, journalism, medicine, among others.
The University of Brasília (UnB) was the first in the country to adopt the quota system for black students, in 2004. Currently, the educational institution allocates 5% of vacancies to self-declared blacks. In addition, 50% of the vacancies are for students from public schools.
In 2017, the university began investigating 102 suspected cases of fraud in the quota system and 28 of them ended up in administrative proceedings, which have not yet been concluded. According to the institution, only cases formally denounced through the university’s ombudsman are investigated.