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Lucas Siqueira - White, black, mixed race, or just 'swarthy'? - How Brazil's 'Race Tribunals' decide what 'race' you belong to

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Lucas Siqueira - White, black, mixed race, or just 'swarthy'? - How Brazil's 'Race Tribunals' decide what 'race' you belong to

Post by Tony Bennett on 17.10.16 21:10

For Affirmative Action, Brazil Sets Up Controversial Boards To Determine Race

September 29, 20164:34 AM ET 

Heard on Morning Edition 

Lulu Garcia-Navarro  

Lucas Siqueira identified himself as mixed race on his application for a job at Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government decided he wasn't, and his case is still on hold. As part of the affirmative action program in Brazil, state governments have now set up boards to racially classify job applicants.

Lucas Siqueira - White, Black, Mixed Race - or just 'Swarthy'? 

When the test scores came out, Lucas Siqueira, 27, was really excited. His high mark on the Foreign Service exam earned him a coveted position at Brazil's highly competitive Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

"They hire 30 diplomats a year and thousands of people sign up," he says in fluent English from his home in Brasilia, the capital. 

It was, he says, a great day. 

Siqueira considers himself to be mixed race, known in Brazil as pardo, or brown. 

"I consider myself to be a very typical Brazilian and I've always been very proud of it. In my dad's family, my grandfather is black, my grandmother has Indian and white roots. And on my mother's side they are mostly white, mostly Portuguese," he said. 

How he defines himself matters because he was required to self-identify on his application. In 2014, the government introduced a quota system for federal jobs. The affirmative action regulations require that 20 percent of all government positions be filled by people of color — either black or mixed race. 

The problem came once the announcement of the appointments was made public. 

People started investigating the background of who had gotten the slots. They got into Siqueira's Instagram, his Facebook feed and they sent his personal photos to the government. 

"A lot of people sent pictures saying, 'Oh, this dude is white, he's a fraud,'" Siqueira says. 

Job offer put on hold 

People basically said he was gaming the system, lying about who and what he is to get one of the jobs. The backlash shocked him. He said he hadn't even considered the quota system. He just put down what he considered himself to be. 

But the controversy wouldn't go away. The government was getting so much flack that it put Siqueira's offer on hold. 

And then the government went a step further. 

In response to the outcry, it set up a kind of race committee to review his case, and a few others. 

He was asked to present himself to a panel of seven diplomats in a room who would decide if he was really Afro-Brazilian, as he claimed. 

They asked him a bunch of questions such as, "Since when do you consider yourself to be a person of this color?" 

And then it was over. 

What they decided was that he was not pardo, or mixed race. No explanation. No discussion. So he decided to sue. 

And that's when this story gets even more complicated. Because in order to "prove" that he was Afro-Brazilian, his lawyers needed to find some criteria. He went to seven dermatologists who used something called the Fitzpatrick scale that grades skin tone from one to seven, or whitest to darkest.  

The last doctor even had a special machine. "Apparently on my face I'm a Type 4. Which would be like Jennifer Lopez or Dev Patel, Frida Pinto or John Stamos. On my limbs I would be Type 5, which is Halle Berry, Will Smith, Beyonce and Tiger Woods," he said. 

Like most people he has different skin tones on different parts of his body. But in none of these tests did he come out as lighter skinned. 

He says the whole thing struck him as completely bizarre because identity, he says, is made up of more than just physical characteristics. 

But this wasn't just an isolated incident. 

Mandatory for all government jobs 

A few weeks ago, these race tribunals were made mandatory for all government jobs. In one state, they even issued guidelines about how to measure lip size, hair texture and nose width, something that for some has uncomfortable echoes of racist philosophies in the 19th century. 

"It is something terrible. I believe this kind of strategy can weaken the support of society for affirmative action policies," says Amílcar Pereira, an associate professor at the School of Education in the Federal University of Rio, who studies race relations. "These policies have huge support ... the majority of Brazilian society supports affirmative action." 

"But this kind of commission can jeopardize the support because it's so controversial. It's unacceptable to come back to the 19th century, to determine who is black and who is not," he says. 

But the race commissions have a lot of support from the black community. 

Leizer Vaz is coordinator of NGO Educafro, which works to open up access to education for black Brazilians. He, like most black activists here, supports the commissions. The reason is simple — history. 

"We are very far from the equality," he says from his home in Sao Paulo. 

Brazil was the last place to give up slavery in the Americas, abolishing it in 1888. The country imported more enslaved Africans than any other — some 5 million. 

Wide disparities 

The legacy of the period can still be felt today. Even though the majority of the population is of African descent, only 5 percent of Afro-Brazilians were in higher education as recently as 10 years ago. Because of affirmative action, that number is now 15 percent. Vaz says these are hard won gains, but there is a long way to go.
"Only 5 percent of executives are black in Brazil, politicians, diplomats, all things, so the black people don't access the space of power in my country. This is the real issue we have," he says. 

In the U.S., race is still largely determined by parentage because of the history of the "one drop rule," where white institutions historically deemed a person black if they had even one drop of black blood. 

In Brazil, he says, the criteria is different. Skin tone matters more than race, because so much of the population is mixed. 

"Who is more affected by racism? Who has the chance to be more affected by (discrimination) in this country?" he says. 

He says the commissions are good because they act as a deterrent for those who want to take precious government jobs away from marginalized groups. 

"In my opinion the value of the commission is to (keep out) white people who intend to make a fraud," he adds. 

He acknowledges that determining this will be messy in a country where 45 percent of the population considers themselves mixed race. 

But ultimately, he says, Brazil is trying to right a historic wrong. 

"It's controversial, but the general result is good. Because we are giving a chance for poor black people to access the space of power that we never had this in Brazil," he said. 

Lucas Siqueira, who is still waiting for his case to be resolved, says he understands that there is racism in Brazil, but he doesn't think it is the government's job to determine what someone is. 

"I think we are going down a very dangerous path if we want to institutionalize these kinds of racial tribunals," Siqueira says. 

He says he sits in the middle: not white, not black, and now, not embraced by either side.

____________________

                            "Maddie's Jammies. Where is Maddie?" - Amelie, May 2007 -  "Maddie's Jammies. Where is Maddie?"


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Re: Lucas Siqueira - White, black, mixed race, or just 'swarthy'? - How Brazil's 'Race Tribunals' decide what 'race' you belong to

Post by sar on 17.10.16 23:26

On first reading this makes me think of historic witch trials where if you drowned you must have been a witch 'cause you were bad and God was punishing you, if you lived you were using sorcery to stay alive and had to be burnt at the stake / stoned!!!

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Re: Lucas Siqueira - White, black, mixed race, or just 'swarthy'? - How Brazil's 'Race Tribunals' decide what 'race' you belong to

Post by plebgate on 18.10.16 10:14

The whole world has gone bonkers.  What happened to Meritocracy. 

Teflon Terri seems to favour Meritocracy, we shall see.

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Re: Lucas Siqueira - White, black, mixed race, or just 'swarthy'? - How Brazil's 'Race Tribunals' decide what 'race' you belong to

Post by Nanatoo on 18.10.16 10:31

When my mother's country was invaded/occupied by the Nazis she and her sisters & brother were 'racially profiled'
'Luckily' for them they were all deemed pure Aryan.
That meant my mum & her sisters were ripe for the 'Baby Farms'. THANK GOD they avoided that, eh!
They were the lucky ones. One of my mum's friends wasn't so lucky. She Hated men to her dying day. Bless her.

ANYONE who thinks 'racial profiling' is in any way a 'good idea' wants locking up.
It's pure Nazism.

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Re: Lucas Siqueira - White, black, mixed race, or just 'swarthy'? - How Brazil's 'Race Tribunals' decide what 'race' you belong to

Post by Tony Bennett on 18.10.16 11:40

Nanatoo wrote:When my mother's country was invaded/occupied by the Nazis she and her sisters & brother were 'racially profiled'
'Luckily' for them they were all deemed pure Aryan.

That meant my mum & her sisters were ripe for the 'Baby Farms'. THANK GOD they avoided that, eh!
They were the lucky ones. One of my mum's friends wasn't so lucky. She Hated men to her dying day. Bless her.

ANYONE who thinks 'racial profiling' is in any way a 'good idea' wants locking up.
It's pure Nazism.
Amen to that!

In addition to that, having to state your 'ethnic origin' on a plethora of official forms is equally distasteful and wrong. Or your religion, for that matter.

In Holland, in the 1920s and 1930s, they thought it was a good idea to record people's religion. So Jews, of course, declared that they were Jews.

When the Nazis walked in to Holland without serious opposition in 1940, one of the first things they did was to visit every local authority and get the registers, which helpfully told them the names and addresses of every Jew in the country. And we all know what happened after that.

My trust in the Bible's account in Genesis Chapter 1 of our origins underpins my certainly that all humans are part of one human race, and, further, that we do not originate from the animal world.

God created man in His own image and first created Adam 'from the dust of the earth' and then formed Eve. In those two humans He placed an astonishingly complex DNA code that even today we are still unraveling. Ever since then, the genetic code of their descendants has been constantly 're-shuffled', if we take as an analogy a large deck of cards for our DNA codes. We do not evolve, i.e. we do not gain extra DNA, our genes are always some kind of re-combination of genes from the original gene 'packs' given to Adam and Eve.

To take skin colour as an example. The chemical melanin codes for skin colour. If Adam and Eve were both born with, say, light-to-mid-brown skin, as is most likely, then within two generations, their offspring - grandchildren - could have ended up, by a recombination of the genes that code for melanin, any colour from pink (= 'white') to very dark brown (= 'black').

So we are all one race - all descendants of Adam and Eve - and for that matter, all descendants of Noah. And that is one of the ways in which Charles Darwin went horribly wrong - he spoke of 'advanced' and 'savage' races and said that some humans were 'nearer to the apes' than 'civilised', Western man (!) 

It is sometimes claimed that our DNA is '99%' or '98%' the same as 'our nearest relative', the chimpanzee. That is wholly misleading in numerous ways. Firstly, once the DNA of each is properly sequenced, the similarity of the DNA drops to just 80% to 85%, Secondly, human beings have over 300 unique design features that separate is from chimpanzees and any of the apes and could not possible have 'evolved'. All that can be said is that God, in designing each creature, used some similar design features e.g. both humans and chimpanzees have a head, eyes, ears, nose and mouth, a trunk, two legs and two (sort of) arms.

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                            "Maddie's Jammies. Where is Maddie?" - Amelie, May 2007 -  "Maddie's Jammies. Where is Maddie?"


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