1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Project: Racism and Public Policy

Abstract of Paper by Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães

  • Project from: 2000 to 2001

Racial Inequalities, Black Protest and Public Policies in Brazil (The democratic regime, 1985–2001)
I begin 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.

I then discuss the agenda for socioeconomic and political change of the black movement, the Movimento Negro Unificado (MNU), in the 1980s and 1990s. I focus 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, I analyse the main state responses to the black movement’s agenda. I analyse the official policies as responses to black mobilization and as attempts to integrate black protest into the political system. I focus on the province-based system of creating State Councils for the Black Population in São Paulo, Rio, and Bahia. Then I discuss 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.

To facilitate an evaluation of the interrelationship of state policies, philanthropic activity and black protest, I analyse the main programmes and financial support of some Black NGOs: Geledés, Fala Preta!, CEERT, Zumbi and CEAP.

I conclude the paper by providing a brief appraisal of current federal programmes that can affect the black population and reduce inequalities (Agenda 2000-2001; Avança Brasil; Projeto Alvorada; Serviço Civil Voluntário; PLANFOR; Bolsa escola; Renda minima); and the social movement of Pré-vestibulares para negros e carentes. Given the increase in inequalities among ethno-racial groups, despite state efforts to tackle them, I try to answer the question: ‘What is wrong with Brazil’s anti-racist programmes?’