Blog of the International Sociological Association (ISA)

‘Black’ and ‘White’ in the Rainbow Nation?: Can US-style affirmative action ‘work’ in Brazil?

June 8, 2012 56 Comments

Affirmative action programs in higher education have been around for decades in the US, and have spread around the globe. In some parts of the world, universities have additionally implemented quota systems in an attempt to diversify the student body. But these programs become particularly difficult to implement in countries like Brazil where racial definitions are far more complex. Although it is true that darker colored Brazilians tend to be underrepresented in universities, it is also the case that the definitions of ‘black’ versus ‘white’ have never been standardized, making quota systems a challenging venture. More significantly, what might its impact be outside of the university? According to Professor Peter Fry from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, asking college applicants to declare their race as black of white will make “race a legal concept for the first time in republican Brazil.”

Read the full story here.

Read a New York Times op-ed featuring a discussion between eight experts on the same issue, here.

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