Latin America

Brazil sees a rise in number of people who consider themselves black

Sociologists say changes in attitudes have made people more open about their origins

Marina Rossi
Participants in the “Curly Hair Pride March,” which was held in July in São Paulo.
Participants in the “Curly Hair Pride March,” which was held in July in São Paulo.CORDON PRESS

More and more Brazilians say they are black or multiracial when asked to describe their race, a new study reveals.

In a survey taken by the Brazilian Geographical and Statistics Institute (IBGE) last year, 53% of Brazilians classified themselves as either being black or multiracial while, 45.5% considered themselves white.

Last year, 53% of Brazilians classified themselves as either being black or multiracial

In the same National Household Survey taken 10 years earlier, 51.2% of Brazilians polled said they were white while 47.9% replied with black or multiracial.

Sociologists believe that the change in attitudes about race is a primary factor for the shifts in figures over the past decade.

Adriana Beringuy, a technician at the IBGE, says the percentage changes are not connected to a rise in birthrates.

The key factors, according to Beringuy, have been shifts in culture and how Brazilians now see themselves.

“It could also be that there are more mixed partnerships between people, but what we have noticed is how the description has become more common,” she explains.

The change in numbers was first noted in 2007.

Katia Regis, a coordinator for African and Afro-Brazilian studies, believes that the increases among the population who identify themselves as black can be attributed to long battles waged by the country’s black organizations, as well as more access to higher levels of education.

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“The black population has more access to effective knowledge about African and Afro-Brazilian history to realize that being black is a positive thing,” she says, adding that they become proud of their backgrounds when they learn the details about their origins and culture.

Last May, Katia and two other professors set up the studies course at the Maranhão Federal University, with the goal of exploring and appreciating diversity.

Maranhão is a state with the highest black population in Brazil – 80%, according to IBGE. The state of Bahía ranks second, with 79.3%.

While many may be proud of their roots, Brazil’s black population is the segment that suffers the most from violence, low wages and racial crimes. According to a study on violence released in May, murders of white women fell by 10% between 2003 and 2013 while the numbers rose by 54% for black women.

Shooting deaths also rose among blacks by 14% between 2003 and 2012, while the figures dropped by 23% for whites during the same time period.

Black soccer players are also often the victims of racist acts on the pitch

Black soccer players are also often the victims of acts of racism on the pitch, while black women continue to earn up to 75% less than a white man in the same job.

The difference between being proud about their race and the racism they continue to suffer pushed a group of black women last week to lead a march against a bill in Congress that proposes to impose more hurdles for pregnant rape victims who seek an abortion. The marches were held in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro last Thursday.

“Slavery has ended but we still haven’t been set free from the chains of racism,” said Maria da Neves, one of the leaders of the Black Women’s March.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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