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lasaforum spring 2013 : volume xliv : issue 2


Affirmative Action in Brazil

by Edward Telles | Princeton University |

and Marcelo Paixão | Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Princeton University |

The sudden announcement in 2001 of the private secondary schools that Brazil’s Educacionais Anisio Teixeira (INEP), 49 of
affirmative action programs in Brazil would privileged classes attend. On the other 95 federal and state universities had quota
have been surprising to just about anyone hand, most Brazilians attend the poorly systems (unfortunately such information is
at that time. The very idea of affirmative resourced public schools, and those who not collected for universities that use the
action, which largely sought to increase the graduate and go on to college point system). In terms of the number of
number of nonwhite students at Brazilian predominately go to private universities, students affected, 45 thousand students
universities, was widely considered as which account for 70 percent of higher were beneficiaries of affirmative action in
anathema to Brazilians’ long-established education students in Brazil (Paixão and 2010, comprising 11 percent of all students
idea of their country as a racial democracy. Carvano 2008). Thus, attendance at public in public higher education (LAESER 2012).
Although significant race-based policy secondary schools is an indicator of low However, a 2012 law approved by the
initiatives had been taken in a few socioeconomic status in Brazil and has National Congress (Quota Law) requires
municipalities, these were the first become an important class-based criterion that by 2016 all federal higher education
implemented on a large scale and at the in Brazil’s new affirmative action policies in institutions implement quotas on the basis
federal level. Implementation of affirmative public universities. of attendance at public high school; family
action was seen as a top-down policy, income; or being indigenous, black, or
although it was brought on by pressure Quota systems have become the default brown. We project that after four years of
from the black movement and Brazil’s affirmative action program, especially implementation the number of quota
international commitments, particularly at because they fit well with the Brazilian students in Brazilian higher education will
the U.N. Conference Against Racism in system of university admissions, which tend increase by roughly three times its current
2001 (Telles 2004). Since then, affirmative to be based entirely on an entrance exam. amount (calculation by Marcelo Paixão
action has progressively expanded to many Quota-based programs guarantee a certain using data from LAESER 2012 and the
public universities, and federal law now percentage of university admission slots to 2010 Census of Higher Education).
requires it at all federal universities. students on the basis of race and/or class.
Moreover, affirmative action has A few universities like the State University
engendered much discussion about race of Campinas and Federal University of Class- versus Race-Based Policies
and racism, including lively debate about Minas Gerais have begun to use point
affirmative action, whereas public systems instead, which give additional Although there is some opposition to
discussion of race and racism was rare “points” to the applications of those from quotas or affirmative action of any kind,
prior to 2001 (Telles 2004). disadvantaged class, schooling, or race class criteria have become more acceptable
backgrounds. Unlike the quota system, the than race for redressing Brazil’s enormous
The progressive nature of university point system does not guarantee a number social and racial inequalities. Data from
councils has made universities especially of beneficiaries. the 2010 INEP show that class quotas have
fertile grounds for affirmative action, and become more common than race quotas,
Brazil’s most competitive universities tend Affirmative action grew from its even though the debate has been almost
to be public. As a result, the vast majority implementation at the State University of entirely about race quotas. The most
of affirmative action programs are located Rio de Janeiro in 2002 and spread to a common class criterion is attendance in
in public universities. Moreover, the large number of higher education public secondary schools, which accounts
general expansion of university slots in institutions. Today, a majority of Brazil’s for fully 74 percent of all quota students.
Brazilian universities has prevented federal and state universities, which are A few universities use a combination of
affirmative action from being a zero-sum attended by about 80 percent of Brazilian class and race quotas, and as of 2012,
policy, further increasing its popularity. students in public higher education, have when the University of Brasília began to
some kind of quota system, while less than also use class-based criteria, none
Paradoxically, public universities, which are one-third of the remaining institutions exclusively use race quotas.
completely free of charge, tend to be (municipal universities, isolated public
superior to private universities, so that the college-level courses, and technical schools) Until recently, opposition to affirmative
students who are enrolled in public do. According to data compiled in 2010 by action was especially strong because of the
universities disproportionately come from the Instituto de Estudos e Pesquisas use of race/ethnic criteria. This largely

reflects the resistance of Brazilian society to issue of racial ambiguity, which was average education of Brazilians or less,
recognizing racism’s role in creating originally seen as an impediment to while improving access to higher-status
educational disadvantages and thus affirmative action policies in Brazil, comes jobs for negros, if the country is to
adopting race-based policies to redress up occasionally, as might be expected experience significant reductions in racial
them. (Francis and Tannari-Pianto 2012), but not inequality. A disproportionate number of
as often as many opponents would have informal-sector workers are Afro-
expected. At the extreme, a handful of descendants. Minimum-wage laws directly
Public and Legal Support universities have created commissions to help those in the formal sector and
decide if candidates could use racial quotas. indirectly those in the informal sector,
Although the issue of racial quotas where blacks predominate. Nevertheless,
continues to be very polemical in Brazil, The emergence of a racial awareness in there has been very little affirmative action
most Brazilians actually support them. The Brazil, largely around the quotas debate, in the labor market. Governments have
most recent poll in 2008 produced by has also led to changes in racial identity in been very timid in labor market affirmative
Instituto Datafolha showed that 44 percent Brazilian society. Certainly, it could have action. A few large enterprises have
of the population strongly agreed and been expected that university applicants, voluntarily adopted affirmative action, but
another 18 percent agreed in part that especially those who had previously these scattered initiatives appear to have
quotas for blacks and browns (negros) are identified as white but who have some gained little traction.
fundamental to improve the access of all African or indigenous ancestry, might begin
persons to education. However, most to identify as nonwhite to take advantage
opposition is from the middle class and of the racial quotas. White, just like any Final Comments
sectors like the media, especially the racial category, never required that it be
principal newspapers and news magazines. ancestrally pure as in the United States. The unexpected implementation of racial
Indeed, a rigorous study of applicants at quotas occurred despite a near absence of
At the beginning of affirmative action, the University of Brasília revealed discussion about them, catching policy
many persons alleged that affirmative systematic reclassification toward nonwhite analysts and public opinion off guard.
action and quotas were unconstitutional. with the quota system (Francis and However, without their sudden imposition,
However, in 2012, the 11-member Brazilian Tannuri-Pianto 2012). More surprising is serious discussion about race in Brazilian
Supreme Court unanimously upheld the that there has been a general tendency society and policies to redress racism
constitutionality of both class- and toward identity as nonwhite, as Guimarães probably would never have occurred.
race-based quotas. Article 3 states that the (2010) has documented and as reflected in Regardless of the design or potential
Federal Republic of Brazil “fundamentally” the changing racial composition of Brazil benefits of these policies, their
seeks to create a free, just, and undivided (LAESER 2012). implementation has projected the issue of
society; eradicate poverty and race and racism to a level never before seen
marginalization; reduce social and regional in modern Brazilian history. In particular,
inequalities; and provide special incentives Affirmative Action in the Labor Market it broke with several decades of a strongly
to protect women in the labor market. The held racial democracy ideology. Although
article goes as far as suggesting the use of Though important for many symbolic and there is much discussion about the
affirmative action for women and the material reasons, affirmative action in the appropriate policy solutions, Brazilians
physically disabled. university affects a small proportion of the now largely agree that racism exists and
black population. So the issue of what to that racial inequality is high, thus arguing
do in the general labor market is very that something must be done to alleviate
Racial Classification and Quotas important. Since most of the Brazilian these problems.
population and the vast majority of the
Brazil is known to have much more racial negro population are in working-class jobs, Large-scale reductions in racial inequality
ambiguity than the United States, where ideally Brazil should seek to expand are possible in Brazil, but this will be a long
there were clear rules about who was black employment in sectors where there are process, and the reductions are likely to
and intermarriage was forbidden. The plentiful jobs that require the nine years of materialize only if Brazil makes serious

lasaforum spring 2013 : volume xliv : issue 2


Educación y equidad de género

por María del Carmen Feijoó | IIPE-UNESCO Buenos Aires

policy attempts to include its large Afro- La situación educativa en América Latina se extendió desde fines del siglo XIX hasta
descendant population at all levels of desde la perspectiva de la equidad de la fecha.
society. This will require utilizing not only género ya no responde a la caracterización
affirmative action but other policy de la exclusión lisa y llana de las mujeres Existe abundante información estadística al
measures, whether universal, race-based, or del acceso a la educación. Pero tampoco respecto. SITEAL (2010) muestra la tasa
both, that extend beyond the university. puede situarse en el marco de un neta de escolarización primaria para varios
triunfalismo bobo que desconozca la países en 2011 y las diferencias en la
persistencia de patrones discriminatorios cobertura de los indicadores. Veamos
References que afectan a veces a las mujeres y a veces a algunos: para el nivel primario, por sexo,
los hombres en contextos específicos Panamá, alcanza al 97.7 para hombres y
Francis, Andrew, and Maria Tannuri-Pianto
determinados, entre otros, por la etnicidad, mujeres; Guatemala, el 91.9 para hombres
2012. “Endogenous Race in Brazil: Affirmative la condición rural o urbana, y la pobreza. y 91.2 para mujeres y Argentina, 95.14
Action and the Construction of Racial Identity También, deben tenerse en cuenta los para hombres y 94.8 para mujeres. Los
among Young Adults.” Economic efectos encadenados de estas datos regionales agregados provenientes de
Development and Cultural Change.
discriminaciones en el desarrollo de los CEPALSTAT <
Guimarães, Antonio Sergio ciclos de vida, durante los cuales estas cepalstat/WEB_CEPALSTAT/Portada.asp >
desigualdades se mantienen y, en la muestran, para el nivel primario, una razón
2010. “Colour and Race in Brazil: From mayoría de los casos, se profundizan. de 0.968 (favoreciendo a los hombres);
Whitening to the Search for Afro-Descent.”
Paper presented at the meeting of the para la secundaria, de 1.078 (favoreciendo
International Sociological Association, Los compromisos establecidos por los a las mujeres) y para el nivel terciario de
Goteborg, Sweden, 2010. gobiernos alrededor de acuerdos 1.276 favoreciendo todavía en mayor
internacionales como el programa de proporción a las mujeres. Estos datos
LAESER (Laboratório de Análises Econômicas, Educación Para Todos de UNICEF, los pueden implicar importantes ventajas
Históricas, Sociais e Estatística das Relações Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio de la relativas de las mujeres o puntos de partida
ONU (ODMs) y las Metas 2020 de la más desfavorable para los varones (menor
2012. “Estado da arte das ações afirmativas no Organización de Estados Iberoamericanos inscripción) y las razones de estas
Brasil, partes 1 e 2.” Tempo em Curso 4 (7 e (OEI) generaron contextos adecuados para diferencias deben ahondarse con estudios
8), <>. avanzar en la expansión de la educación específicos caso por caso. En todo caso, el
Paixão, Marcelo, and Luiz M. Carvano desde una perspectiva de derechos e abordaje cuantitativo de la cobertura no da
igualdad de género. De ellos, el cuenta de las demandas crecientes que se
2008. Relatório anual das desigualdades raciais compromiso más importante es el que hacen a los sistemas, que se centran en el
no Brasil, 2007–2008. Rio de Janeiro:
surge de los ODMs, que en su Objetivo objetivo de alcanzar cobertura junto con
Tercero, “Promover la igualdad de género y calidad. Deben formar parte de la cuestión
Telles, Edward el empoderamiento de la mujer” incluyen de la calidad, todos los temas de la
dos metas obligatorias para los Estados, la equidad, principalmente la de género. Es
2004. Race in Another America: The Significance
3ª “Eliminar las desigualdades entre los en esta dimensión en que hay que tener
of Skin Color in Brazil. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press.  géneros en la enseñanza primaria y sintonía fina para explorar cómo, pese a
secundaria preferiblemente para el año que la información estadística a nivel
2005 y en todos los niveles de la enseñanza agregado favorezca —en dos de los tres
antes de finales de 2015” y la 3.1 “Relación niveles a las mujeres— la discriminación se
entre niños y niñas en la enseñanza sostiene a nivel del curriculum, de las
primaria, secundaria y superior”. Estos prácticas escolares y, más avanzado el nivel,
compromisos permitieron concretar en las orientaciones que las chicas toman
políticas para satisfacer las persistentes en el marco de las ofertas de especialización
demandas de los pueblos de la región de los sistemas educativos. Adicionalmente,
dirigidas a la expansión de la educación, la discriminación también se reproduce en
agenda que —con variaciones por países— la forma en que las prácticas no visibles del