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Back | Programme Area: Identities, Conflict and Cohesion

Racial Inequalities, Black Protest and Public Policies in Brazil (Draft)



In this paper, the author begins by providing a brief overview of the evolution of racial inequalities in Brazil. There is a steady and increasing pattern of social inequality between blacks (pretos and pardos) and whites in every aspect of social life (income, occupation, education, health, housing). The data show that the increase in wealth and quality of life that occurred in recent decades was almost completely concentrated in the white population. The emergence of a black middle class did not contradict the fact of rampant inequality between ethno-racial groups. On the contrary, the tiny black middle class that has emerged provides support for an organized black movement in the country.

The author then discusses the agenda for socioeconomic and political change of the black movement, the Movimento Negro Unificado (MNU), in the 1980s and 1990s; focussing on (i) the main areas of racial unrest (everyday forms of racial discrimination, prejudice expressed in books, mass media, educational system, and lack of political representation); and (ii) the political strategy of the MNU, its alliance with the left and progressive parties, and the gains that accrued to it under the 1988 Constitutional Charter.

Next, the author analyses the main state responses to the black movement's agenda; looking at the official policies as responses to black mobilization and as attempts to integrate black protest into the political system. He focusses on the province-based system of creating State Councils for the Black Population in São Paulo, Rio, and Bahia.

Finally, the author discusses the creation of the Fundação Cultural Palmares; the Brasil: Raça e gênero programme of the Ministry of Labour; the land tenure programme for Quilombos' remnants; the creation of a State Secretary of Human Rights; the implementation of specific Health programmes for the black population; and the enactment of anti-discrimination programmes in education.
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  • Pub. Date: 1 Jan 2001
    From: UNRISD