To raise awareness about systemic racism in Brazil, the state government of Paraná conducted a test with Human Resources recruiters. Divided into two groups, they were shown pictures of people gardening, wearing a suit, spray painting a wall, and cleaning a kitchen.
For one group, the people in the pictures were white. For the other group, they were black.
Here’s how the HR recruiters interpreted the pictures:
In Brazil, black professionals earn 36% less than their white counterparts. Part of the problem is that many Brazilians still believe that racism doesn’t exist in Brazil.
In 2013, the anthropologist Lilia Schwarcz launched the book Nem Preto Nem Branco, Muito Pelo Contrário, which could be loosely translated as “Not Black, Not White – Quite the Contrary.” For the book, Schwarcz conducted a poll that revealed staggering numbers: 97 percent of people say that they are not racist, while 98 percent claim to know a racist person. As you can see, the math doesn’t add up.
This data shows that Brazilians don’t see themselves as racist, but acknowledge – at least partially – that there is a problem in the country. While Brazil is widely seen as a land of “racial democracy” and deep miscegenation, race has always been an issue. The first Portuguese to arrive on our shores were dismayed by the “strangeness” of the indigenous, often described as “godless barbarians.”
The idea of “the whiter the better” has, to some extent, always prevailed. In a 1912 book for children, tales were generally constructed around the same narrative: black people, if well behaved, could become white. Such is the case in The Little Black Princess. A queen is granted a wish by her fairy godmother – “a child, even if she was dark as the night.” The fairy takes the wish literally, thus giving her a daughter “black as coal.” But if she were to stay in the castle until her 16th birthday, her color would become the “white her parents always wanted for her.”