“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.