Racial Democracy

Racial democracy (Portuguese: Democracia racial) is a term used by some to describe race relations in Brazil. The term denotes some scholars' belief that Brazil has escaped racism and racial discrimination. Those researchers contend that Brazilians do not view each other through the lens of race and do not harbor racial prejudice towards one another. Because of that, while social mobility of Brazilians may be constrained by many factors, gender and class included, racial discrimination is considered irrelevant (within the confines of the concept racial democracy).

Racial democracy was first advanced by Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre in his work Casa-Grande & Senzala (English: The Masters and the Slaves), published in 1933. Although Freyre never uses this term in the book, he did adopt it in later publications, and his theories paved the way for other scholars who would popularize the concept.

Freyre argued that several factors, including close relations between masters and slaves prior to their legal emancipation in 1888 and the supposedly benign character of Portuguese imperialism prevented the emergence of strict racial categories. Freyre also argued that continued miscegenation between the three races (Amerindians, the descendants of African slaves, and whites) would lead to a "meta-race".

Freyre's theory became a source of national pride for Brazil, which contrasted itself favorably with the racial divisions and violence then taking place in the United States. Over time, racial democracy would become widely accepted among Brazilians of all stripes and many foreign academics. Black researchers in the United States would make unfavorable comparisons between their own country and Brazil during the 1960s.

In the past four decades, beginning around the publication in 1974 of Thomas E. Skidmore's Black into White, a revisionist study of Brazilian race relations, scholars have begun to criticize the notion that Brazil is actually a "racial democracy." Skidmore argues that the predominantly white elite within Brazilian society promoted racial democracy to obscure very real forms of racial oppression.

Michael Hanchard, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University, has argued that the ideology of racial democracy, often promoted by state apparatuses, prevents effective action to combat racial discrimination by leading people to ascribe discrimination to other forms of oppression and allowing government officials charged with preventing racism to deny its existence a priori.

France Winddance Twine's 1997 ethnography also appears to support those contentions.

Hanchard compiles a great deal of research from other scholars demonstrating widespread discrimination in employment, education, and electoral politics. The seemingly paradoxical use of racial democracy to obscure the realities of racism has been referred to by scholar Florestan Fernandes as the "prejudice of having no prejudices." That is, because the state assumes the absence of racial prejudice, it fails to enforce what few laws exist to counter racial discrimination, as it believes that such efforts are unnecessary.

Read more about Racial Democracy:  Gilberto Freyre On The Criticisms That He Received, See Also

Other articles related to "racial democracy":

Racial Democracy - See Also
... Demography of Brazil Race in Brazil Race in Brazil Lusotropicalism Racial whitening. ...

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