INTRODUCTION:

U.S. HISTORY COMPARED TO BRAZILIAN HISTORY

Brazil is very interesting to me precisely because there are so many parallels between Brazilian and American politics and culture. They are both large, diverse countries with a history of slavery and violence, a great deal of social inequality, political decentralization and incompetence, and values systems overly concerned with sex (the United States being too puritanical and Brazil being too exhibitionist).

The two nations provide a constant flow of interesting parallels that further the understanding of both nations. The great many similarities between the histories of the United States and Brazil is primarily the result of the great importance and impact of the institution of slavery on the two nations. There are differences, of course, between the two nations, but many of these are surface differences, superficially hiding the overwhelming impact of slavery. One cannot fully understand either country without understanding the overwhelming impact of slavery and racism on the two nations histories, institutions, and values.

The surface differences between the United States and Brazil are primarily due to two factors that differed between the United States and Brazil. First, the United States was settled by whole families. Both men and women came to settle in North America. In Brazil it was primarily men who settled the country. This meant that there would be a great deal of interracial mixture in Brazil. And this would result in a much freer sexual atmosphere in Brazil than in the United States. And it meant a biracial system of racism in the United States and a multiracial system of racism in Brazil. Despite the surface differences, racism as a very serious problem predominates in both countries.

Another effect of Brazil not be settled by families was the stress on large landholders along with the use of slaves. This has contributed to the much greater socioeconomic inequality in Brazil compared to the Untied States.

Second, the United States was characterized by two very different economies that were also geographically separated between the North and the South. The existence of a capitalist North did much to provide a source of protest against slavery in the United States. Historically, there was much less resistance to slavery in Brazil because the entire country was more dependent on slavery. Brazil was the last country in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery (1888). A multiracial system of racism on the surface has a little more tolerant attitude toward racial differences, but on the other hand, the lack of current protest against racism in Brazil is also due to the multiracial system where there is no clear distinction between black and white in Brazil. The recognition of different racial groupings beside black and white in Brazil, divides the anti-racism constituency in that country and makes it harder to support protests against racism.

Like the United States, one of the curses of racism in Brazil was a decentralized government. The 1891 Constitution formed a federation with radical decentralization.

Of course, a country as big as Brazil would have geographical divisions even if most of the country was dominated by slavery. These were primarily between the richer provinces (Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais) and the poorer provinces and regions of Brazil. The regional disparities were so large that even though Brazil did not technically have a civil war like that of the United States, the number of deaths in the numerous regional rebellions was substantial (30,000 dead in the revolt in Belem alone). It is this regional division that explains much of the politics of Brazil.

The liberals of Brazil, like their counterparts in the United States, have no real intention of confronting the racial problem of their country. They refuse to face the real sources of racism, within the people of Brazil itself, and instead have various scape goats to blame for why racism continues. One of these sources of Brazil is condemning racism as an instrument used by foreign countries in their attempt to dominate Brazil's economy. The end result is that racism goes on and on, unaddressed by the very people who proclaim themselves our anti-racists heroes.

 

 

Return to Main Page Table of Contents

Return to Home Page