Notebook

The most profound difference between the two countries, however, is probably a simple matter of numbers. In the United States, blacks were always a minority, and steps were taken to keep things that way. In colonial Brazil, blacks came close to being a majority nationwide… For that reason, even Brazil’s embrace of miscegenation needs to be seen through a prism of scepticism. In the United States, segregationists inveighed against “race-mixing” because they feared it would degrade the white race, which they saw as superior. In Brazil, members of the white elite endorsed miscegenation because they saw it as a means of “whitening” the predominantly black population they regarded as inferior…

In any society, the first step in addressing the problem of race is to recognize that it exists. The United States has undertaken that painful process, reluctantly at first but with greater tenacity in recent years. Brazil has not been forced, or forced itself, to own up to its blemishes and shortcomings, and so continues to cling to myths that conflict with the more complicated realities of daily life.

Larry Rohter, “Brazil on the Rise: The Story of a Country Transformed”.

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