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Author Topic: Brazil targets white racism in new campaign  (Read 6415 times)
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« on: December 16, 2004, 08:43:56 AM »

Brazil targets white racism in new campaign


RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazilian rights groups launched an anti-racism campaign Tuesday that aims to show white Brazilians how prejudiced they often are against blacks in a country claiming to be free of racial bias.

Organizers said the government-backed "Where do you hide your racism?" campaign was designed to show that unconscious but deep-rooted racism, not just economic issues as many politicians claim, was behind the plight of millions of poor Afro-Brazilians.

Brazil imported the most African slaves of any country in the world and was the last to abolish slavery in 1888. It was also the first to proclaim itself a "racial democracy" where all races are treated equally.

About 46 percent of Brazil's 180 million people define themselves as "black" or "pardo" - a loose definition including virtually all dark shades of skin. Whites, or people of European origin, make up almost 54 percent of the population. Less than 1 percent are indigenous Indians or Asians.

A survey by the Perseu Abramo Foundation of more than 5,000 people across Brazil showed 87 percent of respondents said Brazil suffered from racism. But only 4 percent acknowledged they behaved in a racist way.

"This racism cannot exist without racists," campaign coordinator Fernanda Carvalho said.

"The campaign motto assumes that everyone here is a bit of a racist and stimulates people to identify their prejudice to get rid of it."

Activists recorded brief interviews with about 200 random people in Rio de Janeiro that will be aired on television.

"If you ask if one is a racist, everyone says 'No." But the question 'Where do you hide your racism?' provoked very interesting reactions, it shook people up," said Mauricio Santoro, a researcher with the Brazilian Institute of Social-Economic Analysis.


Among hiding places respondents gave for racism were jokes, ethnic heritage and education.

"A common reply that drew our attention was 'in fear,' meaning that many are afraid of black people," Santoro added.

Among those at the campaign launch was Joel Borges, an Afro-Brazilian who spoke of how his cousin, a dentist in Sao Paulo, was shot to death by police who thought he was a robber because of the color of his skin.

Dancer Carmen Luz said she and her troupe were ill treated by the staff of a luxury hotel in Rio de Janeiro who made them use the back door and did not allow them to eat the food served at a reception.

"Their racism was implicit but very strong," she said.

"We always hear that in Brazil it's all about poverty in general, and not the skin color, but we have clear data showing that is not so," Carvalho said.

Statistics show Afro-Brazilians are paid less than whites for the same work, receive less formal education and die younger. Few Afro-Brazilians occupy the higher ranks of government and business.

Carvalho said the number of white children finishing primary school was proportionally much higher than that of Afro-Brazilians.

"They normally have the same social level, but black kids feel less comfortable at school due to prejudice, such as that they are lazy or ugly or less intelligent," she said.

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