Diversity in Brazil is reflective of the country’s long history with slavery and its position as an immigrant recipient from across the world. With such a history, individuals within the country have forged different features of their identities through a combination of their origins and the realities they face in the country. Even with such diversity, it is important to note that sex, race, and ethnicity continue to affect the country’s geographies as well as its racialized relations, with an effect on the political systems and institutions within the country. A study of the relations and its effect on the country political system is therefore necessary, given Brazil’s reputation as one of the most unequal countries in the world. It would be interesting, therefore, to see how the themes of race, ethnicity, and gender all intersect in influencing the political systems in the country.
Understanding and discussing race, ethnicity, and gender in Brazil is a complex and contentious issue. For a large part, most of the comparison focused on racial relations in Brazil compares it with similar themes in the United States. Moreover, others point to Brazil’s attempts to espouse the ideals of racial democracy, while others point to the stark contrast in the quality of life between Brazilians of European and African descent. Population and quality of life comparisons between Brazilians of the two descent show that a bulk of Brazilians of European descent have better life outcomes in comparison with their counterparts with African ancestry.
Noteworthy is that any discussion on Brazilian racial, ethnic, and gender relations must include the historical contexts leading to the current racial categories present in Brazil. With a history of slavery and immigration, it is only natural that privilege and wealth distribution is skewed positively towards Brazilians with European ancestry. Attempts to solves the idea of racial inequalities bore the idea of racial democracy, an idea of blurring of racial lines through racial mixing. Ideally, the end game of such suggestion is the creation of post-racial individual free from discrimination.
Even as racial democracy has gained traction over the years, it is important to note that the disadvantage to non-European races has continued, with women bearing the brunt of disadvantage. Most women have remained disproportionately disadvantaged. Moreover, even with talks of racial democracy, the nation remains largely divided between whites and non-whites, with non-whites (blacks, mixed races, Asians, and indigenous) remaining mostly socioeconomically disadvantaged.
Research into race, ethnicity, and gender paint a grim picture of Brazil. Population composition in the country point to a country divided between whites and blacks. According to the country’s 2010 population census, Whites make up 47.73% of the total population, while blacks, mixed races, Asians, and indigenous races making up 7.6%, 43.13%, 1.09%, and 0.43% respectively. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Brazilian population aside from its composition is the resulting difference in earnings and level of educational attainment. Alexandre, Hiram, and Ichiro point that on average, whites earn incomes that are 84.50% and 81.96% higher than Blacks and mixed races respectively. For education, Whites were more likely to have more than eight years of formal education and less likely to have no education in comparison with their Black and mixed-race counterparts.
Clearly, the levels of inequality in the country are especially high, even as the government and policymakers push for racial democracy in the country. Warnings abound over such levels of inequality, particularly on the economic and political stability of the country. Of specific concern is the fact that “cultural and economic differences affect the provision of a range of public goods, and can lead to political instability or even conflict.”
Further research on Brazil indicates that while there has been a significant reduction in horizontal and vertical inequality, the inequalities still exist as evidenced by poor economic and education outcomes among Blacks and mixed races as compared to areas that have Whites as the majority population. Moreover, while women have been seen to make considerable steps, many joining the labor force and having higher education attainments, there still exists inequality between them and their male counterparts across all the races. The fact that Brazil ranks highly in gender equality in science as evidenced by more women publishing scientific articles, take up more leadership roles, and are among the top innovators in the country does not necessarily mean that the country is fairing well in matters gender equality.
Evidence from extensive research shows that while many countries are making progress towards gender equality, Brazil is indeed doing the opposite. The financial sector in Brazil, while employing 55 percent of women as its junior analysts, has only 37 percent women analysts, 31 percent as managers, 22 percent as executive superintendents, and 16 percent as executive directors. None of the financial institutions have a female as CEO. Women’s representation in government is similarly skewed against them, with only 16 percent and 11 percent of Senate and House of Representative seats occupied by women, while only one state has a woman governor, while only 12 percent of mayors across the country are women. Worse is the gender gap, where women earn 75.6 percent of men’s salary across the board while increasing to nearly 20 percent for executive roles within similar sectors.
Research into race, ethnicity, and gender paints a grim picture of Brazil. The fact that the country went through two different periods of colonization that include the sugar cane and gold booms that laid the foundation for the formation of the country has a lot in explaining the current economic and cultural difference experienced within Brazil. Essentially, the two periods were instrumental in laying the foundations of the country, issues that subsequent governments have failed to address. Blacks and mixed races continue to suffer negative financial, health, and education outcomes due to the foundations on which the country was built. Continued living under such levels of inequality, however, poses a potential threat to the economic and political stability of the country. Moreover, continued gender exclusion in government, education, economics, and social welfare only works to annex them from the daily operations of the country. Such a course sets a bad precedence for the country as it fails to tap into the labor and social progression potential presented through their inclusion into the society.
Brazil has a rich history of diversity that it should be proud of. The richness in diversity can work to its advantage if the government puts measures to explore diversity. Although the government has been encouraging racial democracy as a means of blurring the racial and ethnic lines that exist because of the country’s diversity, only racial, ethnic and gender equality will have desired effects. Promoting racial democracy is not a solution as long as a group gets an advantage because of their race. Moreover, the dangers of racial inequality are too grim to ignore, similar to the opportunities lost in the face of gender inequality.
Costa, Ana, Carla, Abrao, Laura, Maconi and Marina, Hellmeister. The Gender Gap Lifecycle. Oliver Wyman, 2018.
Filho, Alexandre, Dias Porto Chiavegatto, Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez, and Ichiro Kawachi, “Racial disparities in life expectancy in Brazil: Challenges from a multiracial society,” Am J Public Health 104, no. 11 (2014), p. 2156-2162 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202938/
Leivas, Pedro, Henrique Soares and Anderson, Moreira, Aristides dos Santos. “Horizontal inequality and ethnic diversity in Brazil: patterns, trends, and their impacts on institutions. Oxford Development Studies 46, no. 3(2018), p. 348-362
Marcus, Alan, P. “Sex color and geography: Racialized relations in Brazil and its predicaments.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103, no. 5 (2013), https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00045608.2012.700605?src=recsys&journalCode=raag20
Sim, Shannon. “Surprising new study: Brazil now a global leader in gender equality in science.” Forbes (2017), https://www.forbes.com/sites/shannonsims/2017/03/08/surprising-new-study-brazil-now-a-global-leader-in-gender-equality-in-science/#3ead6f416f44
Trinner, Gail, D., “Race, with or without color,” Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe 10, no. 1(2017), http://eial.tau.ac.il/index.php/eial/article/view/1052/1084
 Gail D. Trinner, “Race, with or without color,” Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe 10, no. 1(2017), http://eial.tau.ac.il/index.php/eial/article/view/1052/1084
 Alan P Marcus, “Sex color and geography: Racialized relations in Brazil and its predicaments,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103, no. 5 (2013), https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00045608.2012.700605?src=recsys&journalCode=raag20
 Pedro Henrique Soares Leivas and Anderson Moreira Aristides dos Santos, “Horizontal inequality and ethnic diversity in Brazil: patterns, trends, and their impacts on institutions,” Oxford Development Studies 46, no. 3(2018), p. 348
 Alexandre Dias Porto Chiavegatto Filho, Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez and Ichiro Kawachi, “Racial disparities in life expectancy in Brazil: Challenges from a multiracial society,” Am J Public Health 104, no. 11 (2014), p. 2156 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202938/
 Pedro and Anderson, p. 350
 Shannon Sims, “Surprising new study: Brazil now a global leader in gender equality in science,” Forbes (2017), https://www.forbes.com/sites/shannonsims/2017/03/08/surprising-new-study-brazil-now-a-global-leader-in-gender-equality-in-science/#3ead6f416f44
 Ana Carla Abrao Costa, Laura Maconi and Marina Hellmeister, The Gender Gap Lifecycle, (Oliver Wyman, 2018), p. 8
 Ibid, p. 9