How migration to and from the U.S. is transforming notions of race in Brazil.
I still remember my first trip to Brazil—I was amazed by the diversity of physical features I saw among the population, a continuous range of skin tones between what Americans think of as “white” and “black.” Everyone seemed to get along well; residential segregation levels were low and interracial couples, families and friend groups appeared to be the norm. It would have been easy to believe that Brazil was a racial paradise compared to the United States. However, as I learned Portuguese and spent more time in the country, I came to realize that Brazil was a country of racial contradictions.
Despite having seemingly more “cordial” interpersonal relations, Brazil has struggled with rampant social inequality, especially between lighter and darker Brazilians. While Brazilians espoused the beauty of its multiracial population, I was perplexed every time I passed stands full of Brazilian magazines and saw a sea of fair-skinned faces with blonde hair and blue eyes upheld as the ideal image of beauty. As a black American, I began to notice commonalities between the pervasiveness of structural racism in Brazil and the U.S. while being keenly aware of the different racial ideologies that characterized each nation’s history.