Foreign Affairs / Nathan Davies

Diversity: The One Thing Brazilians Have in Common

Brazilians are a spectacularly diverse race of people, so one might assume that they are not easily fazed by foreign customs or traditions. However, one facet of foreign life can completely throw the most multicultural Brazilian – the ‘ethnicity’ box on an application form.

The Brazilian ancestry is a blend of indigenous Indian,colonial European and slave-trade African, which inevitably leads to difficulties categorizing individual Brazilians into ethnic groups. This collision of race and culture has led to a society in which diversity is celebrated rather than the culture of segregation and mistrust the multicultural US experiences.

Brazilian author Gilberto Freyre has succinctlysummarized the benefits this has brought to the country. “Fraternal spirit is stronger among Brazilians than racial prejudice, colour,class or religion.”It would be foolish to think, of course, that Brazil is a racial utopia. Darker-skinned citizens are underrepresented in positions of power and authority – and their lighter-skinned compatriots make up themajority of the elite. Yet there is barely a country in the world that does nothave a marginalised minority or two, and a 2010 Racial Equality Act has takensteps in the right direction to remedying this.

The real benefits of such a mixed-race race of people lie in its culture. The most obvious example of this is samba, the Brazilian musical style. Drawn from indigenous andAfrican musical styles, it spans racial and cultural divides and has become a symbol of national unity. Consider the difference from the polarized US music scene, where hip-hop and R & B is considered ‘black’ music and country and rock music is considered ‘white’ – despite their shared roots.

Football also bridges both class and race, being far and away the most popular sport. Teams comprising darker and lighter-skinned player have been around for over 70 years – no players had to endure the monkey chants or bananas their European colleagues faced. Brazil, the original melting pot, is an example to the worldand especially those who rail against immigration, that cultures can coexist and come together with spectacular results.

Nathan Davies   23.02.12

Picture source:  http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/your-brazil-photos/#/festival-dresses-bahia_28594_600x450.jpg
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