Click to zoom in and out. Monthly income includes respondants with no income. The legacy of slavery, and the failure to address it, is visible in myriad other ways as well.
Brazil has seen enormous social progress in the past 13 years: That boost came from both an economic boom driven by vast offshore oil finds, and high commodity prices fuelled by Chinese demand and from progressive social policies implemented by a series of left-wing governments that dramatically raised the minimum wage and used targeted cash transfers to bring economic security to the poor. But that progress has not touched all Brazilians equally.
Even after those 13 years of rapid change, black and mixed-race Brazilians continue to earn far less than do white ones: More than 30 per cent fewer of them finish high school. Black Brazilians die younger, and young black men die at dramatically higher rates, than do white ones, typically victims of violence, often at the hands of police. Thanks to an economic boom and progressive social policies, average income in Brazil has risen across the board since , however the large income gap between whites and non-whites remains.
Income in Brazilian Reais. Indeed, in many ways the economic and social progress has served only to bring into stark relief how entrenched the hierarchy of race and colour remains. At the last census, in , 51 per cent of Brazilians identified themselves as black or of mixed race.
But the halls of power show something else. Of 38 members of the federal cabinet, one is black — the minister for the promotion of racial equality. Eighty per cent of the National Congress is white. A higher percentage of whites have had 15 or more years of education, while black Brazilians are most likely to have gone to school for less than a year.
Even interracial marriages are not the tribute to colour-blindness that they might appear to be. Disaggregate the data on who is marrying whom, and they show that such marriages are least common in the highest predominantly white income brackets, and most common among the lowest earners, who are almost entirely black or of mixed race.
When such marriages do occur, the darker-skinned partner usually has a higher level of education or a higher income or both. The relationship, at least on one level, is an economic transaction — each person is gaining social mobility, of one kind or the other. There is also a sort of alchemy, Prof. Ribeiro explains, by which people with a mixed racial heritage who succeed in business or politics, such as billionaire media magnate Roberto Marinho, come to be viewed as white.
Even in the two fields in which black Brazilians succeed at the highest levels — sports and music — that alchemy can work its dark magic. Soccer phenom Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. They hung out with a multiracial bunch of kids, and neither thought about race, they say, when they wound up kissing on a street corner one night.
His own father is as dark-skinned as she is. He says it went over just fine. Turning to him with an expression of exaggerated surprise, she says: It felt like I was doing some great thing. This costs everyone, notes Prof.
And then there is another kind of cost, the kind that comes in an intimate moment between mother and daughter. This colour is ugly. I believed everyone was looking at me. She moves with the confidence of a woman who knows she is beautiful. And as an evangelical Christian, she does not want to suggest that God could have made a mistake when he created her. But those innately felt truths are sometimes hard to reconcile with what she has been told all her life.
Yet her mother never made comments like that to her sister. But it could be another universe. The roads are terrible, the police swoop through only to collect bribes, and people live in rough brick houses behind high walls. But there is space out here, away from the more expensive, congested favelas in the city centre, and a chance to build a house like she and her husband have; extended families move here seeking a toehold in the new middle class.
Simone Vieira de Lucena is Ms. Both grew up darker-skinned than any of their siblings. When she was a kid, she says, her sisters told her that someone with her nose, her hair, could not hope to find a husband. The idea took such firm hold that she would not let anyone take her photo until she was in her 20s. And, she says, as she got tired of hoping, fruitlessly, to be lighter. They do it, Simone and Daniele say, with complete affection. He insists that he, Ms. And she insists she was blind to race, too.
But I treated everyone the same. Her childhood, as she recalls it, was marked by the fact that no one in the family could or would take on the task of styling her hair, and instead her mother kept it in a buzz cut.
Simone cannot help herself; she pops her head back in the room and glares. Simone stalks out again. These are not conversations that Brazilians have easily. Although Simone and Daniele can call each other preta, among strangers, it is polite to describe colour by using a word that implies lightness: And for sensitive topics, it is better not to use the word at all. There is a universal gesture — hold out one arm, then take a finger from the other hand and rub a bit at the skin, as if you are testing a cream.
It makes his mother throw her hands up in exasperation. The state is per-cent black; Liberdade, even blacker. Freed slaves settled here, below the formal town; today the neighbourhood is a jumble of small stores and coffee shops, brick houses perpetually awaiting another storey, and creaking buses navigating narrow alleys.
Liberdade is under the control of criminal gangs who run drugs, and extract extortion payments from the small businesses; it is also full of kids playing in the street and old men gossiping on sunny stoops. The clinic is crowded from the moment it opens each day; it serves 6, people, or twice as many as it is meant to on paper, and it has a star attraction: Six-foot-four and lanky, with hipster glasses and a funky T-shirt under his white coat, he has a joke and a smile for everyone, and the line outside his door lasts all day long.
Vidal wears it in narrow braids gathered in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. Sometimes, he leaves it loose, in a nimbus like a late-season dandelion. He never cuts it short, the way most black Brazilian men do. Still, he understands the unspoken questions; he knows why people push open his office door, look at him in his white coat, then ask when the doctor will be back. He is the first black physician most of his patients have ever had. When he graduated from the medical school at the Federal University of Bahia UFBA , just two years ago, he was the only black student on the stage.
He grew up here, in Liberdade. Every time the government counted its citizens, more of them were white. The successive waves of immigration played the biggest role in this. But so did a less tangible process: And then, in , came a change that startled demographers. For the first time since the slavery era, there were more black and mixed-race Brazilians than white ones.
In , for the first time since slavery ended in , the Brazilian census recorded more citizens as black or mixed-race than as white. The shift is attributed not to the birth rate but to a change in the way that people see themselves. Soares, who is white. There has been a black movement here since before the end of slavery, but it has never been influential. With the end of two decades of military dictatorship in , however, there began to be new space for debate about rights.
The constitution adopted in awarded some descendants of former slaves title to the land they lived on. By , there was a national human-rights action plan, and it included a directive on the need to compensate black people for slavery, although no plan for how to do it.
Slowly, there began to be a public conversation about the legacy of slavery as more than just a range of skin tones and their corresponding adjectives. His grandmothers on both sides were illiterate; two generations before, his ancestors had been slaves.
At 21, she married a man with a basic education, like her own; he was a low-ranking member of the military police force, part of the vast pool of low-paid black men and lately women Brazil uses to do most of its street policing. The couple had two children; his work often took him away, while Ms. Instead, she sought out English lessons to fill his afternoons. English is still not widely spoken in Brazil; at the time, it was a preposterous pursuit for a poor black kid.
Everyone thought so, except Ms. Me working hard, the father working hard, so they could be like us? Vidal says nonchalantly, as if this were a perfectly normal thing to want in a neighbourhood where the only kids who ever had new shoes were the ones who ran packages for the drug lords.
But his plan required a university education. And that presented a conundrum. Brazil has two kinds of universities: There are private ones, which are either exceedingly expensive or of very poor quality. And there are public ones, run by the federal and state governments, which tend to be of a much higher calibre — and are free.
But because competition for spots in the public schools is fierce, only applicants who have had a private-school education, and the benefit of months or even years of private coaching for the entrance exam, can pass the entrance test.
But in , UFBA introduced a new policy: For years, black activists had been targeting the universities, as the ultimate symbols and purveyors of the elite, for a first effort at affirmative action.