Video | Brazil: A Racial Paradise?

In this PBS episode, “A Racial Paradise?,” Professor Henry Gates explores whether Brazil is a color blind society or whether people have an ascribed status based on the color of their skin.  Brazil is South America’s largest country and home to the largest black population outside of Africa.


The documentary examines the issues of self image and self esteem in Brazil and how it is influenced by having African hair texture and African features. It also explores ways to improve the economic conditions of blacks through education, embracing African history and culture and examining the usefulness of affirmative action programs as a methodology to assist in democratizing the color divide.


According to the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE), people who self-identify as brown or black made up over half the Brazilian population of 183 million people in 2008. Throughout the country, however, racism and discrimination is still widespread and institutional.


According to a 2009 IBGE study, over the last decade racial equality has improved slightly, but it is still drastically skewed. Whites in Brazil have on average nearly two years more education than blacks. Nearly 15 percent of whites in Brazil have a college education, compared with only 5 percent of blacks. Over 70 percent of the poorest sector of society are black and brown, while 80 percent of the richest 1 percent is white. The same study in 2007 stated that more than two-thirds of the illiterate population in Brazil are black and brown and that whites earn roughly 40 percent more than blacks with the same education.


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