things that matter

The Brazilian Government Is Forcing Black People To Prove Their Blackness When Applying For Government Jobs

Brian Godfrey / Flickr

“I hope that they see that I’m not white.”

In 2012, Brazil enacted a law that makes requires 20 percent of federal jobs be given to black applicants, but how do they decide who is and isn’t black when applying for the job?

NPR’s new podcast, “Rough Translation,” explored how people applying for jobs have to prove their race if they want to get a federal job. White Brazilians are having to prove they are white to get a job, shining a light on the problematic nature of forcing applicants to prove they are black enough to receive one of the designated federal positions for black Brazilians.

Podcast host Gregory Warner explains that unlike the U.S. segregating blacks and whites, in the late 1800s, colonial authorities in Brazil not only accepted interracial coupling between white male colonizers and black and indigenous women (largely against their consent), it was encouraged before and after slavery was abolished as a way of erasing blackness in the country.

According to the UN Chronicle, Brazil never stopped miscegenation, which is the term for the mixing of races. It’s something the country prides itself on. This idea of racial mixing in Brazil led to what is known as a racial democracy. The result is a population of people in South America now trying to decide who qualifies for affirmative action for college and federal jobs based on race.

When affirmative action got passed, many Brazilians applied as black that others considered white. In response, people now have to have their race verified if they try to apply for something as a black Brazilian.

Warner explains that judges are given the power to decide if people are black or indigenous. Judging tribunals go as far as measuring skull shape and nose width to make determine applicants’ blackness, according to Foreign Policy.

This has led to major discussions about mixed-race people and whether they are seen as black or white. As Warner puts it, judges “try to see each candidate as a racist would see them,” ironically reinforcing racism in order to provide federal assistance aimed at abolishing racism.

Listen to the podcast above to learn more about the disc Brazilians are coming to terms about what race is and how it is defined.


READ: These Peruvians Are Embracing Their Afro-Latino Pride Like Never Before

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While Homesickness During College Is Hard Enough As It Is, This Latino Student Explains Why It's Been Even More Difficult For Him

things that matter

While Homesickness During College Is Hard Enough As It Is, This Latino Student Explains Why It’s Been Even More Difficult For Him

Shortened preview of Ale’s Graduation from Davis along with his family for being able to join him after not being able to see them for a number of years. Thanks Jo and Jon for helping along with this!

#undocumentedunafraid #undocumedia #fuckyourborders #undocugrad

Posted by Luis VC on Sunday, June 25, 2017

After dealing with homesickness for three years, this university student was finally able to reunite with his family and the tears were endless.

At 14 years old, Alejandro Espinoza made the decision to move to the United States with his aunt and uncle to learn English and attend high school. Coming to the U.S. to pursue an education meant leaving behind his parents and two younger brothers in Guanajuato, Mexico. Even though Alejandro’s family was able to visit him in the U.S. with tourist visas, their financial situation didn’t allow for this to happen frequently. Often times, Alejandro went months and sometimes years without seeing his family.

Once Alejandro completed high school and had the opportunity to attend a university, his homesickness only got worse.

While homesickness during college is hard enough, Alejandro explains that for him it was even more difficult because he knew his family wasn’t just a car or plane ride away.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“Other people would say, ‘Oh I miss my mom, I miss my dad,’ and I missed my mom too, but it wasn’t like I could just go home and see her.

It was especially difficult when my little brothers would post pictures on social media of my family. It sucks being absent from those pictures. And then you start to realize, ‘oh shit, mi mamá ya se ve mas mayor, or mi papá ya tiene más canas,’ and it sucks.”

Even though the original plan was to go back home to his family after completing high school, college then became an opportunity Alejandro could not miss. However, this opportunity ended up costing him the relationship he once had with his brothers.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“My brother is now 16 years old, that’s how old I was when I came to the U.S. I left them when they were six and three years old and the physical change has really thrown me off.

Nothing has changed, they’re still my younger brothers and I’m still the older brother. We’ve just been absent from each other’s lives for so long that we don’t know much about each other outside of that younger brother/older brother role.”

Since Alejandro made the decision to pursue his education in the U.S., he’s carried an overwhelming amount of guilt, feeling responsible for tearing his family apart.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“When I tell you about missing their birthdays, or missing Mother’s Day, just missing anything about their life, I don’t see it as, ‘Oh well, I missed it.’ I feel like, ‘Fuck, this is your fault because you decided to stay. It’s your fault that your brothers don’t have an older brother. It’s your fault that you can’t see your mom on Mother’s Day.’

I have always blamed it on me.”

But when Alejandro saw his family arrive at the airport and was able to hug them, it was as if all of that guilt had been lifted off his shoulders.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“I was really nervous going through the airport, and through the drive to the airport.

When I saw them my body just started crying on it’s own. I didn’t think about anything. When I hugged my brother, in that moment, after crying for like 15 minutes with my brothers and parents, coming back, my body felt so relieved.

It was until that moment that I was able to get rid of that guilt, and be like, ‘They’re here now, and they’re here because they want to see what I have done.'”

However Alejandro explains that that immense guilt wouldn’t exist in the first place if “there wasn’t a border.”

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“I wouldn’t have to make this decision…It wouldn’t be so hard if there wasn’t a border. Because then I could have access to my family any time I wanted.

My goals are separated from my family.

If I pursue my goals here, then I have to be away from my family. And if I stay with my family, then I have to leave my goals and dreams that I have here.”

Alejandro opens up more about this internal battle in his poem “Por lxs que están aquí, pero no lxs pueden ver” which he read during commencement.

CREDIT: ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

Little by little, whether it is through his poetry, documented videos, or any form of art at all, Alejandro wishes to touch on this subject that harms not just himself, but students all across the U.S.

“Once people see that someone is going through similar circumstances, they don’t feel alone. The reason I do art, why I share my art, is because I always see people at the end of the video or poetry reading who are like, ‘Fuck, I thought I was alone.’”

Although Alejandro was fortunate enough to have his family present for his college graduation, they are now gone and there’s no certainty about when he will get to see them again. All of the pain, guilt, anxiety and depression that he feels because of this separation is something he will continue to highlight through his art.


To help Alejandro with his tuition as he moves on to pursue his Masters degree, donate through this link here.


READ: A Teacher Thought She Was Funny Handing Out Racist Awards To Students But No One Is Smiling Now


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