Posted on December 18, 2021

Mixed-Race Brazilians Increasingly Embrace Blackness

Agence France-Presse, November 19, 2021

When Bianca Santana was little, her grandmother used to put her forearm alongside her mother’s and her own, proudly showing how the family’s skin had lightened across the generations.

Now 37, Santana, a Brazilian writer and activist, sees the long-loaded issue of race in her country through a different lens: she is proud to call herself black.


She remembers how her black grandmother used to make her pull her hair into a tight bun, so she wouldn’t look like “‘those little blackies.'”


Today, Santana, author of the book “How I Discovered I Was Black,” proudly wears her hair in an afro, a style she only embraced at age 30.

Her shifting sense of identity is increasingly common in Brazil, the country with the largest black population outside Africa.


Brazil’s last official census, in 2010, found 43.4 percent of the population self-identified as “pardo,” or mixed-race, and 7.5 percent as “preto,” or black.

It was the first time black and mixed-race Brazilians constituted a majority. In 2000, 53 percent of the population identified as white.

The 2020 census was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but partial surveys indicate the trend has continued.

Today, 45.9 percent of the population identifies as mixed-race, 8.8 percent as black and 44.2 percent as white, according to mid-2021 figures from the national statistics institute, IBGE.


A key turning point has been the introduction of race quotas for university spots and government jobs over the past decade and a half, says Roberta Calixto of ID_BR, an organization that promotes the inclusion of blacks in the workplace.

“Before, there was an ideology of ‘whitening’ in Brazil. We grew up with the idea that being white was the goal, because being black was considered bad,” she says.

“Quotas have inverted that logic. Now, it’s valuable to identify as black, which leads to a process of self-knowledge that I think is fundamental.”