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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Statute of Racial Equality in Brazil completes five years of existence on Monday, July 20th but still struggles to implement laws that will reduce the enormous inequalities between whites and blacks in the country. In its 65 articles, the statute attempts to create more balanced opportunities for blacks in areas such as employment, sports, culture, education, housing and communication.

Rio residents participate in 2014 in the second annual International March against Genocide of the Black Population, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Rio residents participate in the second annual International March against Genocide of the Black Population in 2014, photo by Rene Silva/Jornal Voz da Comunidade.

For the Brazilian government the statute is a large step forward in obtaining equal rights for all in the country, while for others, rights for blacks still have a long way to go.

“The statute represents today for Brazil an organized victory, demanded by social movements, especially the black movement…. We can today say that in addition to the Federal Constitution, we have a national law which guarantees rights for Brazil’s black population,” said Nilma Gomes Secretary for the Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR) linked to Brazil’s Executive Office in an interview to Agencia Brasil.

According to Gomes the main advances seen since 2010 have been the implementation of quotas for blacks in public service jobs and health policies aimed at the black population.

For the majority of the population, the notion that in Brazil there is no discrimination due to skin color has long been put aside. For Gomes, racism in Brazil is a phenomenon which is consolidated through its own denial. “The more we deny the existence of racism in Brazil, the more racism spreads,” says the SEPPIR executive.

The same can be said for foreigners. For many who came to Brazil expecting a more racially equal society, reality was a big surprise. Ky Adderley, founder of an educational consultancy group, is an American who has been living in Brazil for the past four years. He says he was expecting an entirely different picture. “The personal racism I experience here is worse than anywhere I have lived or traveled,” he told The Rio Times.

Nilma Gomes is Secretary   for the Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Nilma Gomes is Secretary for the Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR), photo by Marcelo Casal/Agencia Brasil.

According to the National Household Sample Survey (PNAD) for 2013 blacks compose more than half of Brazil’s population (52.9 percent) but make up less than a third of those going to graduate schools, and are less than a fourth of those elected to the Chamber of Deputies.

“After living here in this country for four years and visiting for about a decade, and I have a better understanding the state of blacks in Brazil,” says Adderley. “Here we have nation state whose governing body isn’t representative of its majority demographics.”

But Adderley says that black Brazilians are slowly becoming more aware of their rights and are starting to demand changes.

“Black Brazilians have been coming into an era of black conscious reminiscent of the type that existed in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. This awareness I believe will lead to black Brazilians making quicker progress [for their rights].”

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