Proposal Essay about Black People

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Racial Democracy?

Situation Statement: As a student of African descent who was born and raised in predominantly Black communities, I am speaking to my fellow Brazilian peers (about 40 people) at the University Of Notre Dame who are predominantly white and wealthy who might think that, since Brazil is such an ethnically mixed country, people have equal opportunities regardless of skin color. I want to help them have a more thorough understanding of the obstacles, challenges, and circumstances a significant part of Black people face in Brazil that hinders most of them from being able to attain a good education at prestigious universities and high-paying jobs.


Ola, meus amigos Brasileiros! I hope you guys have been having a great semester so far and that the finals season comes through smoothly for all of us. I know it is tough for all of us to be so far from home. God knows how much we miss acai, brigadier, and feijoada with churrasco on Sundays, or listening to pagoda and funk on a daily base. I like to think that it is all worth it at the end of the day, after all, coming to such a great institution like Notre Dame, we all have big aspirations of making our respective communities better places.

Being in the privileged spot we are with access to so many resources and opportunities, I feel like it is easy to forget that coming from a privileged background can help a lot getting into places like this, and even easier to forget that not everyone in our country is having the same type of experience or chance at this point of their lives, especially Black people. I know that many of you might be thinking “What are you talking about? Brazil is such a mixed country, there’s no such thing”.

I understand some of you might not know what I am talking about since it probably does not directly have an impact on your lives, so I wanted to bring the racial inequality of our country to light. I will present information that might make you feel uncomfortable, but I need to spread awareness and share the conditions a significant part of fellow Black Brazilians face back home to give you a broader understanding of how unequal and unfair our country is to those with darker skin color despite how racially mixed Brazil is. We need to understand how skin color is the main pillar of Brazil’s inequalities, hindering Black people from good education, high-paying jobs, health services, and overall life quality.

A brief introduction

It is important to get some background information and concepts before going deeper into the statistics that denounce racial inequality in Brazil. The Black population in Brazil descends mostly from slaves brought by Portugal, our colonizers, in the 16th century due to the lack of manpower in the country at the time. During the colonial era, the slaves were humiliated, segregated, and excluded from society. The slavery established in Brazil engrained the popular belief that Whites, who came from Europe and were considered civilized, were destined to be leaders and produce intellectual work. On the other hand, Black people were seen as inferior to White people, and thus, were submissive and responsible for manual labor.

Now, the descendants of those slaves compose over 54% of the Brazilian population. Nonetheless, Gilberto Freyre, a famous Brazilian author, in his work “Casa Grande & Senzala” defended the existence of a racial democracy in Brazil (“Porfírio”). He believed that, because slavery was also accompanied by miscegenation between White and Black people, which mixed cultures and created a variety of skin tones in the country, it is questionable that we live in a racist society since, by law, we all have equal rights. Sociology and history professor Paulo Cruz defends that there is no racial problem in Brazil, but an economic one. He asserts Brazil is just a perverse country to those who are poor and good to those who are rich, and thus, it is an issue that equally impacts White and Black people (“Jovem”).

Contrary to what Freire and Cruz put forth, I believe racial inequality is a reality in Brazil, one that impacts our education, our living conditions, and our job prospects.


The racial inequality in Brazil is greatly sustained by the inequity in obtaining adequate education between White and Black people. Access to high-quality education is a constitutional right for all Brazilian citizens. However, when we look at the statistics on primary public education, we see that education has not been a viable way to diminish the socioeconomic inequality between Black and White people in Brazil. A report by the Basic Education Evaluation System (SAEB) shows that, in the freshman year of high school, the percentage of White students who had properly learned Portuguese and Mathematics doubled that of the Black population (Observatorio). Furthermore, research by the Brazilian Institute Of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) shows that 30% of Black teenagers did not complete middle school, and only around 57.2% concluded their primary education, while 71% of White people in the same age range did (“O combat”).

An even more worrisome fact is that Brazilian universities admit most students from the select 12% of the population who receive private education, a predominantly white and wealthy group when around 51% of the population is Black. This 12% receives have access to preparation for Entrance Exams, better professors, and general schooling conditions (“Brazil”). As a consequence, admittance to renowned public universities, which are tuition-free, becomes a privilege for the white elites. Furthermore, the underrepresentation of Black people in prestigious institutions in Brazil than in the United States or South Africa, countries which formally enforced segregation through policies like the Jim Crow Laws and the Apartheid respectively (“Skin”). One could argue that recently implementing affirmative action in public universities will be good enough to diminish this problem, but I will tell you that, while they help, the issue is way deeper and it is not possible to cure almost 400 years of slavery and negligence with a decade of racial quotas.

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If you have never experienced racism or any kind of discrimination, I understand much of what I am saying might seem abstract. But the consequences of this racial inequality in our country are found closer than you guys might imagine. I know many here came from excellent private or international schools in Brazil, so think back to your high school and try to estimate what was the percentage of Black people in your graduating class. I, too, was fortunate enough to have gone to a private school, and there, only 15% of my class was not White. I will bring an even more explicit example: there are around 45 Brazilians here in Notre Dame, a world-renowned University as you guys know. But out of all of the 45, only one is Black, and that is me. That is because the way we live, our future jobs, and our socioeconomic status are largely dependent on the level and quality of education we get. This unevenness in obtaining proper education between white and Black people is important proof of racial inequality in Brazil.

Job Market

The racial inequality in Brazil does not express itself only through the educational system, it is also very noticeable when it comes to the job market. Black people comprise around 74% of the total unemployed population and their insertion in the job market occurs mostly in precarious and vulnerable situations. That means they have reduced access to working and welfare rights. Almost half of the Black population has to resort to informal employment to obtain an income source, while only one-third of the White population occupy these careers with no job security (“Dinâmica”). My father, for example, has four siblings, all of whom are black. Out of those, three are unemployed, while one works informally and, consequently, has a very fluctuant income. While my father has a stable job, it is a daily reminder to me of how rare that is for people of my color.

The wage differences between White and Black people are also part of this inequality. Black people in our country receive, on average, 36.11% less than White people. In Salvador, the city where I lived and that has the largest Black population in the world outside of Africa, the number is even more alerting, reaching 40.14% (“Soraia”). A widely spoken myth is that Black people have lower wages and are relegated to jobs with poor working conditions solely because they have less schooling. Research by the Intersyndical Department Of Statistics And Socioeconomic Studies (DIEESE) denounces that the wage gap between Blacks and Whites increases as education level increases. In the industry, the difference is of about 18.4% for people without primary education, while it reached 40.1% among those with a college degree. A similar statistic is seen in the commercial sector, where the salary difference is 19.7% for those who did not go to college, reaching 39.1% for those who obtained a higher education (“Soraia”).

Black people in Brazil not only receive lower salaries, are relegated to informal working conditions, and compose most of the unemployed population, but they are also victims of racism in the job selection process and of verbal racism in the workplace. With a total of 205 cases in 2018, racial discrimination reports have increased by 30% in the past four years (“Costa”). It is still necessary to take these numbers with a grain of salt because formal reports are normally only filed in extreme cases because of the workers’ fear of receiving retaliation or of being fired. Who doesn’t remember Aranha’s case, where Gremio’s supporters imitated a monkey and screamed racial slurs toward Santos’ goalkeeper in a game involving two of Brazil’s biggest soccer clubs? Or Yasmim Stevam’s case, where a young Black woman went on national television and related being denied jobs because of the “excessive volume” of her hair? Or Helio Ribeiro’s case, when Helio, a Black man, was working with a drilling machine on a house’s terrace and was killed by policemen who “thought he was a dealer” and later apologized saying they “thought he had a gun”. All these are famous cases, but they are common in Brazil. It is hard to believe that Black people don’t demand respect or that they just are naturally less prone to occupy higher positions. The Brazilian job market is a reflection of the racial inequality that has been established in our society.


In addition to the discrimination faced by Black people in the job market, there is also racial inequality when it comes to criminality and the penitentiary system in Brazil. Studies show that while the main cause of death among Black people is homicides, car accidents are what mainly victimize White people in Brazil. Proportionally, Black people died 146.5% more than White people between 2002 and 2012. In 2012, specifically, 77% of the 56 thousand homicides that occurred in the country were against Black people (“Você”). A factor that contributes to these numbers is police brutality, which is four times more likely to be inflicted upon a Black person than a White one (“Observatorio”).

There is also visible discrimination in the law application system. The judiciary system in Brazil is known to turn a blind eye to punishing severe crimes that have a significant impact on our society like economic, ecological, and political scandals. However, this same system is particularly effective to execute the law in minor cases that cause less social damage like petty theft or drug possession. You might be asking why that is so. The answer is that the first is predominantly committed by a white, financially privileged elite, while the latter is normally practiced by Black, poor marginalized populations, who don’t have any power in the political system or among mass communication outlets (“ANDRADE”). Evidence of this inequality in the criminal system is in the fact that Black people are nearly half of the country’s inhabitants, but they represent almost 70% of the overall prison population.

It is important to notice that subtleties in other important institutions in our society like the press also corroborate the discrimination of dark-skinned people in Brazil when it comes to criminality. We don’t need to read many newspapers back home to notice that when a Black juvenile breaks the law, he will be described in the journal headline as a “criminal”, while white offenders are called “middle-class teenagers”. That is not the only euphemism that is constantly heard. We know that back home, Black people caught with marijuana are “dealers”, while White people are said just to be under “chemical dependency”. Black people “use drugs”, while White people are “caught with illegal substances”. This helps to create stereotypes and beliefs in the collective imagination pointing to the idea that Black people are responsible for all the crimes in the country.

As a result, the selective mass incarceration and genocide of Black people are being naturalized. (“CARVALHO”). The aftermath of this discriminatory system are cases like those of Cleidenilson Pereira, a Black man who was tied to a lamppost and beaten to death after being accused of robbery in São Luís, and, more recently, of the musician Evaldo Rosa, whose car was shot at 257 times by the police after being mistaken with a drug dealer. Nobody likes to admit fear, but I, as a young Black man, can affirm without hesitance that I don’t feel safe walking the streets of my own country. It is hard to conceive that cases like the ones of Cleidenilson and Evaldo happen every day. It is even harder to accept that almost half of the country’s population fears the possibility of not coming back home alive every time they leave for their workplace, to the supermarket, or even to school. The shockingly uneven crime statistics and the discriminatory character of law application in Brazil prove even further the existence of racial inequality in the country.


I have tried to give you guys a brief overview of how racial inequality is very much alive in our country. The problem is structural, and as such, it impacts Black people’s access to proper education, high-paying jobs, and even safe living conditions. Critical measures, which I will not discuss at this moment for the sake of keeping my speech concise, need to be taken by the government to solve this problem. However, it is important to understand that all of us can take steps to combat the issue, like understanding that racial jokes, slurs, and stereotypes that are made on a daily basis among friends might seem small but are also behind racial inequality in Brazil. Most importantly, it is fundamental to acknowledge it exists.

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