The brown question – a replica

Image: Steve Johnson


The use of the term “pardo” is historically complex and inconsistent, not always presupposing miscegenation

Wanderson Chaves, in the article “The brown question – an answer”, published on the website the earth is round, raises comments regarding my last article, published on the same website. Having read your response, for which I am very grateful as an author and beginning researcher, I would like to make my own comments in light of it here.

Unlike activist and researcher Beatriz Bueno (who, I admit, I didn't even know before reading the response), I have no interest in theorizing parditude merely and strictly as miscegenation. As I have already discussed, the use of the term “pardo” is historically complex and inconsistent, not always presupposing miscegenation.

I understand that the liminality of parditude, therefore, concerns more its conceptual, epistemological dimension, than any supposed readily identifiable genetic composition. Therefore, I have no intention of “reintroducing miscegenation as a topic in the anti-racist struggle” (which, at least to my knowledge, it has never left) or “disputing the meanings of blackness”.

When it comes to The Brazilian people (who, together with the aforementioned Beatriz Bueno, seems to me to be the real target of the answer), in fact, I consider the concept of “nobody” useful due to its non-essentialist character. It brings with it a certain vertigo, an uncertainty, which well expresses the unstable conceptual status of parditude (if this were not the case, after all, let's face it there would be no debate at all). In this sense, it resembles the interesting reinterpretation of the concept of nepantla (a word of Nahuatl origin to designate a Mesoamerican philosophical concept that can be roughly translated as “liminality”) within the scope of Mexican and chicanos.[I]

I recognize, however, the limitations and vicissitudes of riverside theory. His treatment of the phenomenon of miscegenation is too romantic, with the famous mention of Brazil as “a new Rome, washed in Indian blood and black blood”. Like other classic authors of Brazilian sociology, there are moments when he seems to flirt with miscegenation as a socially pacifying mechanism, which was never the case. But even Darcy Ribeiro recognizes the suffering and conflicting nature of the ethnogenesis described in his book, before which, however, he chooses to assume a stance of Nietzschean affirmation that I consider preferable to the ethnomasochism that conceives of the Brazilian people as the shameful fruit of a terrible “original sin.” ” (a “moral opprobrium”, as Wanderson Chaves describes the way some see miscegenation).

I do not share Ribeireira's intention of morally opposing Brazilian/Latin American miscegenationist mixophilia to Anglo-American segregationist mixophobia (it is worth highlighting, despite this, that Darcy Ribeiro does not fail to carry out a critical and sincere exercise of weighing Brazilian assimilationist racism against the that takes place in the United States, and does not believe in Freyre’s fanciful “racial democracy”[II]).

When I talk about the differences between Brazil and the United States, I treat them just as what they are: differences. Personal preferences and value judgments are beside the point, but recognizing these differences is very important not only in the name of accuracy, but also because Brazil needs to be thought of on its own, and the United States has the inelegant habit of guiding, actively or passively, debates that do not concern them.

The Brazilian case is not the only one, nor the worst. Just look at Japan. A few years ago, Western commentators expressed some confusion and frustration about the movement's meager influence. Black Lives Matter in the country, where the black population is statistically insignificant and is concentrated mainly in Okinawa, in the form of African-American recruits in the many and controversial military bases imposed on the small island after the Second World War.[III] In the Japanese case, the cultural insensitivity of the commentators is in extremely bad taste, taking on clear neoconservative and even, I dare say, downright neocolonial contours.

Wanderson Chaves even mentions a very pertinent issue that was not explicitly addressed in my original text: heteroidentification and racial quotas. In this context, the nature of parditude is a particularly delicate debate with major implications, and this occurs for the same reasons as the erasure of (dis)acculturated indigenous populations, which I have already discussed. In fact, affirmative policies (as well as some other social policies) need to be, almost by definition, applied on an exceptional basis.

Racial quotas would make little sense in a country where the majority of the population would be eligible for them, as would land demarcations in a country with an indigenous majority. This is not a prescription, but a diagnosis. Of course, social minorities do not necessarily correspond to numerical minorities, but, for the purposes of the State and Capital, it is very convenient that they do. Even if to do so they need to transform brownness into a confusing statistical artifact, at the expense of the rights of people clearly belonging to the PPI (Black, Brown and Indigenous) portion of the population, as in the many “isolated cases” that have been occurring in our public universities.

This dynamic is even clearer in the case of the disabled/neurodivergent population. One of the first changes to the PL 2639 / 2021, which aims to establish the National Policy for the Protection of the Rights of People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), was to suppress the equation of ADHD with a disability for all legal purposes.[IV] After all, ADHD diagnoses are much more common than those of other disorders. For a system that results in mass exploitation and debilitation, neurodiversity needs to be recognized enough to create and maintain a reserve proletarian contingent, but not to the point of resulting in the achievement of rights and improvements in the quality of life of these people, as this would be costly.[IN] Identity policing generally operates according to this logic, calling into question the efficiency of affirmative policies and historical reparation initiatives within the limits of contemporary institutional arrangements.

Finally, I vehemently agree that, under ideal conditions, miscegenation should become a “non-issue”, emptied of any political-moral content, restricted to the sphere of each person's individual choices. Unfortunately, I also agree that this has not been the case throughout history, and I fear that, strictly speaking, this is a very difficult objective to achieve, given that raciality is a social and collective phenomenon par excellence.

This does not mean, however, that all we are left with is cynicism and resignation. Even though certain aspirations are very difficult, sometimes even impossible, to be fully achieved, they are still important elements of a moral and political horizon that we cannot give up.

*Eberval Gadelha Figueiredo Jr. holds a degree in Law from USP.


[I] About these contemporary rescues of the concept of nepantla, see, for example: EUFRACIO, G. (2022). I live in Nepantla; I live in the Borderlands. Texas Education Review, 10 (2), 50-65.; DAVALOS, KM Spiritual Mestizaje: Religion, Gender, Race and Nation in Contemporary Chicana Narrative., Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 82 (3), 99–902.; and KEATING, A. (2006). From Borderlands and New Mestizas to Nepantlas and Nepantleras: Anzaldúan Theories for Social Change. Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, 4, 3.

[II] This discussion can be found in: RIBEIRO, D. The Brazilian People: the formation and meaning of Brazil, 235-236. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1995.

[III] Regarding Western comments, see, for example: VAN DER LIST, B. Vice News: Why the Black Lives Matter Movement Fell Flat in Japan. 2021. Available at: Regarding the situation in Okinawa, see, for example: MITCHELL, J. The Intercept: NCIS Case Files Reveal Undisclosed US Military Sex Crimes in Okinawa. 2021. Available at:; and JOHNSON, A. Night in the American Village: Women in the Shadow of the US Military Bases in Okinawa. New York: The New Press, 2019.

[IV] The exclusion of the proposal to equate people with ADHD with people with disabilities for all legal purposes was briefly commented by the leader of the Parliamentary Block for Neurodiversity in the Legislative Assembly of Paraná, deputy Alisson Wandscheer:

[V] Regarding the aforementioned phenomenon, inserted in the broader context of a “Marxist theory of neurodiversity” see: CHAPMAN, R. Empire of Normality: Neurodiversity and Capitalism.  London: Pluto Press, 2023.

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