Note from BW of Brazil: When one thinks of Brazil, what type person comes to mind, physically speaking? For some, it is a person who is racially mixed or even indefinable. For others who see race from the perspective of white and non-white, Brazil is a black nation or at least, a non-white nation. This also depends on what parts of Brazil one has visited. For example, if one visited Brazil’s northeast, one would be inclined to believe that Africa has a strong influence on this population. If one traveled south, one would think they were in an extension of Europe in Latin America. The north on the other hand has a strong indigenous influence.
On this blog, race is seen from the perspective of racial representation, image and beliefs associated with race which have been clearly demonstrated in Brazil. When one judges Brazil’s history, first, in which the country’s leaders desired a population that looked as “pure and beautiful” as the people of the Old World (Europe); second, through the ideology of embranquecimento (whitening) through racial mixture. And third, by the near complete whiteness of its media, political and economic power structure, Brazil is clearly divided into white and non-white. It is seen as a country of the beautiful, intelligent, rich and powerful (white) that “others” should desire to be and the ugly, ignorant, poor and weak that are made to be ashamed of who they are.
Just to cover the bases, it should also be acknowledged that while pretos and pardos together are considered Brazil’s black population, this does not mean that more than 100 million people identify themselves as black. The fact is, more than 84 million of those folks identify themselves as pardos (browns). But as hundreds of statistics and reports have shown, pretos and pardos are equally excluded from power and representation, both experience racial discrimination based on physical features associated with African ancestry and socioeconomically speaking, are at the same disadvantage vis-a-vis the white population. So how does one categorize a population in which a vast majority doesn’t identify itself in a certain way although by all intents and purposes society treats them as such? That remains the question. The argument over the representation of Brazil will surely continue for years to come and today’s piece will surely help to continue the debate.
Black population has already passed 100 million, guarantees the IBGE
From the newsroom of Afropress
Brasília – The black Brazilian population, already the largest outside Africa, surpassed the 100 million people mark, according to the study “Projeção da População do Brasil por Sexo e Idade para o período 200/2060 e Projeção da População das Unidades da Federação Por Sexo e Idade para o período 2000/2030 (Projection of Population of Brazil by Sex and Age for the period 2000/2060 and Projection of Population of Units of the Federation by Sex and Age for the period 2000/2030)”, of the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics).
The preto (black) and pardo (brown) population, which corresponds to 50.7% of the population, according to the IBGE Census of 2010, has now reached 101,923,585 inhabitants. The publication reported that this week Brazil passed the 200 million mark of inhabitants: we are now 201,032,714 inhabitants.
The study also made a projection of how many people there will be by 2042 when the population is expected to reach 228.4 million; 115.7 million negros, which consists of self-declared pretos and pardos, in accordance with the classification criteria of race and color of the IBGE.
With a population of 170 million, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous in the world. In the IBGE Census of 2010, for the first time since the first census in Brazil in 1872, the self-declared preto and pardo population surpassed brancos (whites). Of the 190,755,799 inhabitants, 91,051,646, declared themselves whites, 14,517,961 declared themselves pretos, 82,277,333 declared themselves pardos (adding up to 96,795,294 negros, meaning pretos + pardos in total); 817,963 indígenas (indigenous) and 2,084,288 amarelos (yellows or Asians). Of those surveyed, 6,608 didn’t declare their color.
The growth of the population in general and blacks in particular brings down to earth a vision that intended to impose Eurocentric values on Brazil, for example, the standard of beauty, which justifies the predominance of blonde blue-eyed type as the dominant aesthetic.
During the I Congresso Internacional das Raças (First International Congress of Races), held in London in July 1911, the Brazilian delegate João Batista Lacerda, director of the National Museum, presented the thesis “Os mestiços do Brasil (Mestizos or Mixed-race people of Brazil)”, which guaranteed that within 100 years, precisely in 2012, blacks would disappear from the population and the mestiços would reduced to 3%. The racist elite, including intellectuals and scientists of the time attributed the backwardness of the country to the fact of having a black majority population. Lacerda’s thesis provoked revolt in this elite who considered a century a very long time for Brazil to become white.
Note from BW of Brazil: Lacerda’s proclamation in London was not new as Brazilian elites had already decided that a prosperous Brazil could only happen with the elimination of blacks and Indians from the midst of the country. For example, in the 1880s, literary critic, philosopher and politician Sílvio Romero wrote:
“My thesis, on this account, is that the victory in the battle for life, among us, will belong, hereafter to the white man; (…) Through natural selection, however, after rendering the assistance that is needed, the white type will take preponderance until showing itself pure and beautiful as in the old world.(…) Two facts will contribute widely to such result: on one side the extinction of African traffic and the constant disappearance of the Indians, and the other, European immigration.”
Lacerda’s presentation in London in1911 had at least two reactions in Brazil. According Fabiana Moraes:
“Many Brazilians, it was clear, were extremely uncomfortable. First, because Lacerda showed outside of Brazil, and in Europe, data showing a Brazil that was too black. Second (and more seriously) it would still need to wait one hundred years so we could walk happily among ‘pure and beautiful types of the Old World’ as the critic Silvio Romero wished.”
With this, one can argue on and on how Brazil is seen and how it sees itself, but for many years until the current day, it is clear how its elites want the country to be.
Source: Afropress, Moraes, Fabiana. “Sorria, você está no mundo da pele clara” in Nabuco em Pretos e Brancos. Massangana, 2012 . Martins, Carlos Augusto de Miranda. “Racismo científico e os projetos políticos de nação brasileira” in As veias negras do Brasil: conexões brasileiras com a África. Lourdes Conde Feitosa, Pedro Paulo Funari e Terezinha S. Zanlochi (editors). Syllabus, 2012
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