Brazil’s affirmative action laws have created a war over who is blacker

Coletivo Negrada conducts protests to demand that black quotas not be filled with applicants who have too much white ancestry.

In 2012, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first openly Marxist president, enacted a strict class and racial quota system for admissions into public Universities. Half of all spots had to be filled using a complicated system of economic and racial factors. Among other things, a certain number of spots at each University were reserved for black students.

This immediately created a war on college campuses with black activist groups arguing that students with too much white ancestry were being counted as black. A group called Coletivo Negrada has even invaded classrooms to stage protests.

Tensions at the Federal University of Pelotas [UFPel] led to the creation of an eleven member racial verification committee in 2016. Some members of the committee are University staff and some are local black activists. This committee got 24 medical students expelled from UFPel late last year for not having enough African ancestry. Several of the students appealed in court and were granted the right to return to school last February.

Fernando, who is mixed race, says the verification committee asked him how involved he was in the black activist movement before deciding he was not black enough. Fernando is one of the medical students who won his spot back in court. UFPel is not only appealing the court’s decision, the UFPel verification committee is currently reviewing over one thousand students were admitted to fill a racial quota.

In 2014 Rousseff passed a law setting aside 20% of all public jobs for members of disadvantaged races. The government relied on job applicants to self-report their racial status. However, this also led to accusations that people were getting the quota positions who were not black enough.

So in 2016, the Federal government ordered all agencies to have a “verification committee.” The Federal government issued no standardized guidelines.

A checklist used by the Department of Education in Para, Brazil’s blackest state, was leaked to the press. The verification committees were instructed to awarded points to applicants based on hair type, nose shape, the thickness of their lips, how purple their gums are, how much their lower jaw protrudes, etc.

In 2016, Dilma Rousseff was impeached and centrist Michel Temer assumed the presidency. Public support for Marxism and affirmative action are falling. Jair Bolsonaro, who promises to repeal all affirmative action laws, is rising in the polls for the 2018 election.