Friday, December 31, 2010

Cotas Racias

Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations, also know as Itamaraty, has promulgated a very important and significant plan to recruit Afro-descendants as diplomatic personnel. Some Brazilians may, perhaps, find this policy a bit controversial, but the reality is that social division in Brazil is high. Social exclusion is a fact of life in Brazil that many have learned to live with. The prevailing cultural attitude is essentially, “There it is, what can we do about it?” Within this context, therefore, the Itamaraty plan is necessary and welcome––and it may well be a big step toward a more modern, just, and integrated Brazil.

If Itamaraty is seriously going to promote social inclusion, however, starting with Afro-descendants, then the selection process must be overseen by an independent panel. Also, it will in some cases be difficult to identify Afro-descendants. Because racial discrimination is based on appearances as well as social status, rather than on papers or claims for the sake of solidarity, the best way of proceeding might be simply to select those with natural African features.

In this article published by OGlobo, a leading anthropologist decries this policy as “é escandaloso.... We are all part of the human race with equal conditions.” Let me tell you that in Brazil this statement is a joke. In Brazil, discrimination and social exclusion are facts of life. Brazil is not a cohesive society; the conditions are not equal. I applaud the steps that Itamaraty is taking to close the gap between whites and blacks among the diplomatic corps. However, I hope the implementation of the new plan is well structured and based on sound policies. I hope the effort is serious, that it is not just a cynical way for Itamarary to create a more positive image for itself. If that is the case, then this plan would, in the end, amount to a serious set back for efforts to promote social inclusion in Brazil. So please Itamaraty, don’t screw it up!!

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