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Race and Multiraciality in Brazil and the United States

Converging Paths?

G. Reginald Daniel

Publication Year: 2007

Although both Brazil and the United States inherited European norms that accorded whites privileged status relative to all other racial groups, the development of their societies followed different trajectories in defining white/black relations. In Brazil pervasive miscegenation and the lack of formal legal barriers to racial equality gave the appearance of its being a “racial democracy,” with a ternary system of classifying people into whites (brancos), multiracial individuals (pardos), and blacks (pretos) supporting the idea that social inequality was primarily associated with differences in class and culture rather than race. In the United States, by contrast, a binary system distinguishing blacks from whites by reference to the “one-drop rule” of African descent produced a more rigid racial hierarchy in which both legal and informal barriers operated to create socioeconomic disadvantages for blacks. But in recent decades, Reginald Daniel argues in this comparative study, changes have taken place in both countries that have put them on “converging paths.” Brazil’s black consciousness movement stresses the binary division between brancos and negros to heighten awareness of and mobilize opposition to the real racial discrimination that exists in Brazil, while the multiracial identity movement in the U.S. works to help develop a more fluid sense of racial dynamics that was long felt to be the achievement of Brazil’s ternary system. Against the historical background of race relations in Brazil and the U.S. that he traces in Part I of the book, including a review of earlier challenges to their respective racial orders, Daniel focuses in Part II on analyzing the new racial project on which each country has embarked, with attention to all the political possibilities and dangers they involve.

Published by: Penn State University Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-xiv

On December 2, 1955, my first-grade teacher began class by saying, “Yesterday, in Montgomery, Alabama, a colored women, Mrs. Rosa Parks, was arrested for refusing to let a white passenger have her seat on the bus. It’s time we colored people stood up for our rights!” ...

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pp. xv-xvi

Neither time nor space allow me to acknowledge the support I received from hundreds of individuals who helped bring this book to fruition. Maria P.P. Root, Paul R. Spickard, Teresa K. Williams-Leon, Ludwig (Larry) and Francis Lauherhass, Nina Moss, the Huber family (Dona Maria, Valburga, and Teresa), ...

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pp. 1-6

Since Carl Degler published his pivotal comparative historical research on race relations in Brazil and the United States (Neither Black nor White, 1971), several scholars have compared the gradual demise of Brazil’s ideology of racial democracy and the dismantling of Jim Crow segregation in the United States.1 ...

Part I. The Historical Foundation

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1 Eurocentrism: Racial Formation and the Master Racial Project

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pp. 9-26

Race is a modern concept. It was born in the late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century colonial expansion of the Western European nation-states—specifically Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, and England. Expansion, conquest, exploitation, and enslavement had characterized the previous several thousand years ...

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2 The Brazilian Path: The Ternary Racial Project

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pp. 27-52

The Brazilian racial order, like other racial orders in the Americas, originated in the Eurocentric paradigm. Consequently, blackness and whiteness represent the negative and positive designations, respectively, in a dichotomous hierarchy premised on the “law of the excluded middle” and grounded in African and European racial and cultural differences. ...

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3 The Brazilian Path Less Traveled: Contesting the Ternary Racial Project

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pp. 53-84

Multiracial individuals in Brazil have historically sought to maximize whatever social rewards accompany their partial European ancestry, typically refraining from speaking out on questions of racial inequality. Most of the Free Colored political elite avoided taking a public stand against slavery before the abolition campaign ...

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4 The U.S. Path: The Binary Racial Project

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pp. 85-118

The differences between racial formation in “Anglo” North America, that is, the U.S. North and Upper South, and racial formation in Brazil and other areas of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, can be attributed to different trajectories of colonization. North Carolina and further northward—particularly New England ...

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5 The U.S. Path Less Traveled: Contesting the Binary Racial Project

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pp. 119-138

In the United States, multiracial individuals of African American and European American ancestry for the most part have internalized the one-drop rule and identified themselves as black. Resistance to rules of hypodescent, however, has challenged both legal and commonsense constructions of blackness. ...

Part II. Converging Paths

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6 A New U.S. Racial Order: The Demise of Jim Crow Segregation

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pp. 141-174

From the end of Reconstruction through the first half of the twentieth century, the U.S. social order was rife with tension generated by conflict between the American and racial creeds. Supporters of the former envisioned the full integration of all individuals as equals into the mainstream of society. ...

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7 A New Brazilian Racial Order: A Decline in the Racial Democracy Ideology

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pp. 175-200

The Brazilian elite appropriated racist theory from Europe and the United States to formulate their solution to the “Negro problem.” However, they abandoned two of its principal tenets: the belief in absolute racial differences and the degeneracy of multiracial individuals. By rejecting the existence of intrinsic racial differences, ...

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8 The U.S. Convergence: Toward the Brazilian Path

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pp. 201-236

African Americans have been vocal in their opposition to a multiracial identity. Many fear this identity will undermine their integrity and solidarity, as have “passing” and the formation of blue-vein societies. Those multiracial identity projects were not only products of the Eurocentrism in the larger society ...

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9 The Brazilian Convergence: Toward the U.S. Path

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pp. 237-258

On May 11, 1988, two days before the official celebration of the centennial of the abolition of Brazilian slavery, black movement activists organized a public protest several thousand strong, who marched through downtown Rio de Janeiro chanting the slogans “Cem anos sem abolição” (One hundred years without abolition!) ...

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Epilogue: The U.S. and Brazilian Racial Orders: Changing Points of Reference

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pp. 259-298

U.S. race relations are converging with a path traditionally typified by Brazil and other parts of Latin America. This “Latin Americanization” is evident in the shift away from a binary racial project (buttressed by the one-drop rule) and a move in the direction of a ternary racial project that recognizes ...


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pp. 299-334


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pp. 335-365

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271052908
E-ISBN-10: 0271052902
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271032887
Print-ISBN-10: 027103288X

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 1 chart/graph,
Publication Year: 2007