In recent years, the Brazilian states of Rio de Janeiro, So Paulo, and Mato Grasso du Sol have implemented race-conscious affirmative action programs in higher education. These states established admissions quotas in public universities for Afro-Brazilians or afrodescendentes. As a result, determining who is "Black'' has become a complex yet important undertaking in Brazil. Scholars and the general public alike have claimed that the determination of Blackness in Brazil is different than in the United States; determining Blackness in the United States is allegedly a simpler task than in Brazil. In Brazil it is widely acknowledged that most Brazilians are descendants of Africans in light of the pervasive miscegenation that occurred during and after the Portuguese and Brazilian enslavement of Africans. As a result, Brazilians ubiquitously profess their African ancestry. Yet, a highly stratified racial classification system exists in Brazil whereby the guiding principle for determining race is one's physical appearance—hair texture, skin color, nose size, eye shape, for example. However, it is commonly assumed that the rule of hypodescent-the presence of one African ancestor defines an individual as Black-determines an individual's "Blackness" in the United States. Accordingly, ancestry allegedly determines Blackness in the United States dissimilarly to Brazil, where one's physical appearance is determinative. Contrary to the proposition that race, and specifically Blackness, is fundamentally different in Brazil and the United States, Professor Greene contends that one's physical appearance is the primary determinant of Blackness in both American nations. Indeed, one's ancestry is necessarily implicated in determining race based on “physical appearance," as this method of classifying race is grounded in socially mediated presumptions concerning how an individual's physical appearance denotes his or her genetic makeup. Thus, in this Article, Professor Greene mitigates the void in Brazil/U.S. comparative scholarship discussing race-conscious affirmative action by delineating the universality of race, racial hierarchy, and racial ideology in Brazil and the United States.
D. W. Greene,
Determining the (In)Determinable: Race in Brazil and the United States,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol14/iss2/1