The darker side of mestizaje

Those Brazilian scholars and their acolytes, who defend against any hint that racial inequality in Brazil might be an aspect of the racial state by saying that at least they do not classify races by hypo-descent as we truly unfair Americans do, really miss the point.

There really are not only differences in ways of classification but also whole other racial orders, such as the idea of “Latinity” which has a few vertientes. That is the really interesting point. And when “Spanish” is a race (as it was for Franco) that you can join by becoming a practicing Spaniard (sort of like a practicing Catholic), and that race is inclusive of various colors and origins, it becomes difficult to perceive other kinds of hierarchies.

An easier point to understand, at least for me, is that the Brazil/U.S. contrast is spurious and it is so for reasons I have not heard anyone else articulate: both countries recommend assimilation. In Brazil you can join mulatice or some other form of whiteness or non Blackness. In the United States you can integrate, which does not change your classification but does assimilate you.

My theory is that races are classified differently in different places, and racial meaning is differently formed; yet there is still a world system built around race that is one system, although complex and sometimes contradictory.

Axé.

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2 Comments

Filed under News, Questions, What Is A Scholar?

2 responses to “The darker side of mestizaje

  1. I recall a Brazilian ESL student, years back, telling me a proverb that she said covered race and class in Brazil (and no doubt other parts as well), “money makes the skin whiter.”

    Julie Kristeva’s Strangers to Ourselves (I think) addresses identity and cultural assimilation and might have some relevance here.

    • Z

      Brazil, yes, they do say that. One of the standard lines there is that inequality is based on class and not race. Kristeva, I will look!

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