Racism in a Racial Democracy: Race and Regional Identity in Postcolonial Brazil

Noted historian Barbara Weinstein considers how racism operates in a society where virtually everyone insists that it is un-Brazilian to discriminate on the basis of "race" and where racial identities are regarded as more fluid and unstable than in the U.S.

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Brazilian national identity has been the claim that it is a nation without systematic racial prejudice. Recent research by historians and social scientists has been dedicated to demonstrating that this image of Brazil as a racial democracy is a myth, and that people of African descent have suffered various forms of discrimination and disadvantage. Yet that still leaves open the question of how racism operates in a society where virtually everyone insists that it is un-Brazilian to discriminate on the basis of "race" and where racial identities are regarded as more fluid and unstable than in the U.S. Noted historian Barbara Weinstein considers this broader issue from the point of view of São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous and economically dynamic state in the first half of the 20th century, by looking at the historical relationship between race and regional identity, as well as discourses about race and modernity. Weinstein gave her talk, the Professor Jerome Wood Memorial Lecture for 2011, during Black History Month. She was introduced by Rafael Zapata, assistant dean and director of the Intercultural Center and by Sara Lawrence Lightfoot Professor Emeritus of English Literature Charles James.