Brazil’s Affirmative Action Law Offers a Huge Hand Up

Sara Miller Llana, Christian Science Monitor, February 12, 2013

Thaiana Rodrigues, the daughter of an esthetician in Rio de Janeiro, tried to get into college three times. But having spent most of her childhood in poor public schools—her anatomy teacher in seventh grade never showed up to class so she simply never learned the subject—Ms. Rodrigues was unable to pass the entrance exam.

It was not until her fourth try, when she applied as a quota recipient based on her race and socioeconomic status, that she won a spot at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), a public university that pioneered a quota system for public school students.

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Now, many more marginalized Brazilians may be able to reap the same benefit. A system that was an experiment at scores of universities like UERJ over the past decade has become law: public federal universities must reserve half of their spots for underprivileged students hailing from public schools, disproportionately attended by minorities.

The law, signed in August and set to be completely implemented within four years, will have the widest impact on Afro-Brazilians, who make up more than half of the nation’s population.

“Without the law, many black students could not get into the system,” says Rodrigues, who is Afro-Brazilian.

With its new law, Brazil has gone the furthest in the Americas in attempting race-based equality. Not only is the law a state-mandated program, it also attempts to open up the traditional bastions of the elite to all. Quotas are strictly prohibited in the United States, but they have been implemented for race, ethnicity, and gender from the Americas to Europe, from legislatures to corporate boardrooms. But Brazil’s move does not just secure certain spots for minorities: It moves to reflect the racial and socioeconomic reality of the country, and it could ultimately have a major impact on Afro-Latino movements across the Americas.

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The Afro-Latino movement has made strides in the region in the past two decades. In Brazil, a black judge, Joaquim Barbosa, was recently appointed as president of the country’s supreme court. Ecuador and Bolivia codified the rights of minorities in recent constitutions. Peru appointed its first Afro-Peruvian to a ministerial position in 2011, though she has since stepped down.

In Colombiawhich has the second-highest percentage of Afro-Latinos behind Brazil, Afro-Colombians are guaranteed two seats in Congress.

But many consider Brazil’s quota law for public universities a game changer because it opens up the bastions of social opportunity to previously excluded populations, says Christopher Sabatini, editor in chief of Americas Quarterly (AQ).

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In Brazil, and throughout most of Latin America, public universities, which are free, are among the best in the country. But they are often filled with middle- and upper-class families who could afford tuition at private elementary and secondary schools that prepare their children for college. Meanwhile, those from public high schools usually have to attend private, often inferior, universities.

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The new Law of Social Quotas in Brazil, which received near unanimous support from lawmakers, came after an earlier supreme court decision in April that upheld quotas at the University of Brasília. The new law is still controversial.

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The law mandates that half of those admitted into the nation’s federal universities come from public schools and, among those, the spots will reflect the racial makeup of each state.

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Affirmative action has long been resisted in Latin America, which considered it an import of the US, where it was first tried. After abolishing slavery, Latin America never implemented the segregation policies of its neighbor to the north, and has intermixed racially and ethnically far more than has the US. But fuzzy definitions of race don’t preclude racism.

“The main problem is this idea that this is a mestizo country where mixed-blood people are the majority, and mixing bloods gave us democracy,” says Jaime Arocha, an anthropologist and expert on Afro-Colombians.

“This is the founding myth in most Latin America countries. [Many believe] that our systems are not as segregationist as those in the north,” Mr. Arocha says. “But if you go to a national university in Colombia, the amount of professors of African descent is not more than 2 percent. In terms of students, we do not have more than 5 percent. [Universities] should reflect the demographic profiles of the country.” (Some 10 percent of Colombia’s population is of African descent.)

The quotas now in place in Brazil are controversial in countries like Colombia. Last year, when the nation was debating issuing certificates to prove ethnic and racial descent—arguably a huge practical problem given the mixing of races—columnist Hector Abad wrote in the daily El Spectador that doling out a “black certificate” would be lambasted as overt racism if the same certificates proving “Aryan” descent were distributed.

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Fifty-one percent of Brazilians identify as black or mixed, according to the 2010 Brazilian Census. It was considered a landmark because prior to that Brazilians tended to self-identify as white.

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  • Triarius

    So affirmative action is now racial equality? Funny how blacks can’t get anywhere in life where things ARE equal. Brazil is the US, circa 2050 AD.

  • Mental note: do not recognize any degree from Brazil.

  • IstvanIN

    Fifty-one percent of Brazilians identify as black or mixed, according to the 2010 Brazilian Census. It was considered a landmark because prior to that Brazilians tended to self-identify as white.
    So one self-identifies based on which category they feel will give them the upper hand? Why not do a genetic test at birth and put the real, genetic, race, including gradations like mulatto, on birth certificates?

    • The__Bobster

      Yes, most people want to be identified as White, unless being a minority brings them benefits.

  • The__Bobster

    “Without the law, many black students could not get into the system,” says Rodrigues, who is Afro-Brazilian.
    _______

    Fixed it.

    “Without the law, black students could not legitimately get into the system,” says Rodrigues, who is Afro-Brazilian.

  • Must remember to avoid being treated by any Brazilian doctors at any time.

  • kjh64

    ” Latin America never implemented the segregation policies of its neighbor to the north, and has intermixed racially and ethnically far more than has the US.”
    Which is why many Latin American countries are 2nd/3rd world countries and the US is not, though as we become more mixed, we will slip from a first world country.

    • Jerrybear

      I remember when I was studying WWII that Hitler made that observation. He was correct.

      • jeffaral

        What a pity that Germany lost the war.

  • So CAL Snowman

    This is so funny I can scarcely believe it! They are going to have to add Remedial classes for virtually every single subject. What a great idea, let the dumbest of the dumb water down the universities and flood the campuses with violent non Whites! Oh man this is going to absolutely cripple and kill Brazilian higher education. Seriously, flooding Universities with africans is a Marxist’s wet dream. Liberals everywhere are the exact same, instead of promoting the best and brightest regardless of skin color, they have gone the exact opposite and decided to promote the least worthy and desirable. I can’t wait for the squeals of “dats rayciss” when the africans cannot pass Intro to Biology.

    • bigone4u

      Brazil will simply pass a law requiring that passing grades be given to the Afros.

  • Integration Anxiety

    minorities. Afro-Brazilians, who make up more than half of the nation’s population.

    Does anyone else notice the moronic reasoning within this part of the article? How can a group be called a minority when said group makes up more than half the population?

    • Jerrybear

      That’s the first thing I noticed. This shows that if the invaders become a majority, they will still be called a ‘minority’ in order to get preferential treatment. Who cares about using the actual English definition of words? In the quest of diversity and equality, logic and truth need not apply.

    • jeffaral

      You’ll find very few Brazilians without a significant amount of black or indigenous admixture.

    • Coming soon to America. Even when we (whites) become the minority we will still be expected to give the other races special treatment. Not to mention the harassment their own people (blacks) will give each other if we are given any positions over them. Look at politics. Blacks criticize and harass other blacks that even consider voting for a white (even if the black is a crook or in rehab). So just imagine when they become 50% or greater of the population, our race is done. They will never treat us as well as we treat them.

  • jay11

    That’s it! Brazil is light years ahead of our own racist, unfair society. I henceforth proclaim that all future ‘refugees’ and asylum seekers – even latino migrants – should go to Brazil instead of the hopeless U.S.

    • David Ashton

      What a good idea! Before the Jerusalem-first Zionists took over the Jewish homeland movement, the Territorialists suggested alternative areas for the Persecuted Pariah People, including then underpopulated Latin America – even Herzl mentioned Argentina.
      So how about all the world’s present-day colored migrants, DPs, refugees and so forth helping to build Brazil as the Multiracial Model, and let us Europeans get on with our own “square and boring” lives?

  • jay11

    Isn’t Brazil the place where during a public holiday called Carnival the women dance naked in front of tens of thousands of cheering men?

    • Tim

      After my Dream trip to Rio turned into a nightmare, my buddy made a point of bringing news articles from there to me. One I remember was “Carnival-870 Dead…’

    • David Ashton

      Might be a bit more honest than thousands of white saddos sitting in front of their computer screens with some tissue to hand! And how long before northern hemisphere “Gay Pride” parades do much the same, with the PC police keeping an eye on the few protesting “homophobic bigots”?
      Having said that, I am no fan of Brazilian “culture”, and think readers might gain something from Nancy Stepan’s “The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender and Nation in Latin America” (Cornell UP, 1996) – a PC/”Cultural Marxist” slant, but full of interesting facts.
      Allende reputedly started out as a racial eugenicist, and “Che” had little time for blacks.

  • Ulick

    “But they are often filled with middle- and upper-class families who could afford tuition at private elementary and secondary schools that prepare their children for college.”

    Whites had to spend their money to send their kids to private schools because minorities ruin public schools, and then whites are discriminated against in favor of minorities for college entrance. Double whammy against whites, and poor whites are the most screwed people because they can’t afford the private schools and won’t be chosen from the “underprivileged” schools because they’re the wrong color. Why are white leaders going this to us, again?

  • Anon

    Leftists in Brazil are just replicating the racial struggle fuelled by other South American caudillos like Morales, Chavez, Correa etc in order to acquire and hold power. Their political bases are made of colored/ black people and their policies are mainly to bully and expropriate whites of European (Spanish or Portuguese) descent who comprised the past ruling classes and distribute the resources to the “poor”. The absurd Brazilian quota system will create a highly combustible environment in a country completely external to racial warfare

  • MarcusTrajanus

    ‘“Without the law, many black students could not get into the system,” says Rodrigues, who is Afro-Brazilian.’

    Agreed. Maybe that means they shouldn’t “get into the system”, don’t ya think?
    I’m amazed at how blacks will shamelessly admit their inability to do well in in school, pass tests, etc, and then demand standards be lowered for them.

  • sbuffalonative

    Now we know why the multicultural Utopia known as Brazil has appeared to succeeded so far; they kept the non-whites out of the universities.
    The Brazilian model of success is about to come to an end.

  • MarcusTrajanus

    Brazil is only going to worse, the parts of Brazil that still have majority White populations need to form their own nation as soon as possible.

  • MarcusTrajanus

    “[Universities] should reflect the demographic profiles of the country.”
    What a stupid notion.

  • Comrade_Bob

    The second tenet of the Neocon religion is that education can change a human’s intelligence quotient.

    • a multiracial individual

      This delusion that intelligence is a reflection of study and “effort” is vigorously embraced by lefties too.

  • Bud

    If the law is applied honestly it will mean massive failure among the new affirmative action students, that can’t be allowed to happen so you’ll get the same sort of thing you have in the U.S. – large scale failure combined with enough phony degrees in Afro-Brazilian hair weaving or what have you, just to get black faces, both students and teachers, in the school catalog. Rodrigues graduated in August 2011 with a degree in social sciences and now has a job working as an administrative assistant in an educational exhibit in the state legislature. See what I mean? And the reputation of these universities will certainly drop through the floor.

  • bigone4u

    Maybe Brazil would be willing to accept millions and millions of illegal immigrants from the USA. I’m talking black immigrants who surely would be attracted to a land of black opportunity like Brazil. Brazil, open your borders and welcome the Norte Americanos.

    • David Ashton

      How could we discreetly get this going from novelty to fashion to feeding frenzy to political obsession to welcome implementation?

  • Felix_M

    They’ve taught chimps to read. So I guess it’s possible to teach Kyreesha and Tyrone the periodic table.

  • K..

    You cannot legislate away reality, DNA, and human nature. Not that that’s stopped anyone from trying, at the cost of failed states and millions of lives.