Is Brazil brown?

Image: Alfredo Jaar


The racial straitjacket created by IBGE

Márcio Pochmann doesn't like white? Recent appearances could point in this direction, beyond strange, since the economist mentioned is white, translucent, like so many people from Rio Grande do Sul from regions of European immigration. His family is from Venâncio Aires, where he was born, a region with colonial-German roots. My question would therefore be a mere rhetorical paradox, if we remain on the surface of the facts materialized by the present action of the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), under the presidency of Márcio Pochmann, Lulista black cape, failed PT candidate in 2012, 2016, 2018.

On the occasion of the enthronement of the card-carrying PT member, by President Lula da Silva, there were, here and there, complaints about predictable stumbles of exemption, due to his direction of this important state body, which should be above all personal and social feelings and moods. groups and, above all, political-ideological manipulations.

The criticisms and fears due to a presidency of Márcio Pochmann of the IBGE were proposed as right-wing, since they were presented mainly by right-wing journalists and academics, and, thus, dismissed without discussion. In fact, the vast majority of our left refuses to listen, does not speak, does not see everything that comes from Brasília, since the great danger to be combated, they propose, would continue to be the Chupacabras. Even if, in general, everything essential continues, in the current administration, as in the previous one, in a more civilized way.

Nobility obliges

Well over two thousand years ago, Julius Caesar would have sent his unwanted wife away due to unfounded gossip, merging the famous phrase, “Caesar's wife is not enough to be honest, she must also appear honest”. A sexist aphorism not entirely relevant to the issue I address, since, as we will see, the president of the IBGE lacked the modesty of obligation, in form and content.

But let's get down to business. On Friday, December 22nd, Márcio Pochmann presented data relating to the so-called racial composition of Brazil, collected by IBGE, literally celebrating a proposed decline, in relation to 2010, of Brazilians who declare themselves white [43,5%], with a consequent increase in self-proclaimed browns [45,3%] and blacks [10,2%]. Today, as is already common in identity circles, the Geni of the moment is the white Brazilian population, intentionally confusing the rich and the poor, the exploited and the exploiters.

The festive nature of the statement could not have been clearer. It was made, according to Folha de S. Paul, on December 23, 2023, “at the headquarters of the Afro bloc Olodum, in Salvador, capital of the state with the largest black population in the country”. The president of Fundação Palmares was also present at the event.

My son is Talian thank you to Dio

Imagine, dear readers, the barrage that would be raised by black identitarianism if the presentation had been made, celebrating the importance of the so-called white population, in Antônio Prado, the city with the strongest Italic roots in Brazil, with the presence of Venetian identitarians stirring up the shameful racist slogan “Mi son talian gràssie a Dio”. Whoever held this celebration would be accused of being a white supremacist, possibly with good reason. [1999, CARBONI, Florence & MAESTRI, 1999.]

Therefore, it would not just be the fact that the president of IBGE did not like white people. Which, as we have seen, is not the case. But the bending of the institution, under his direction, in favor of black identitarianism, a political-ideological initiative, imperialism and big capital, in the search for the construction of a Brazil with a social and political movement even more deranged than the current one. An orientation today strongly embraced by the Lulista administration.

An immensely successful initiative, advanced through the proposal of “racialization” of our population, that is, the denial of class identities in favor of, in this case, artificial racial identities. Through the proposal of racial struggle instead of social confrontation. Militantism that only requires focused policies, at little or no cost to the State, in favor of small sectors of privileged people. Abandoning the large exploited population to its fate.

I am my program, I am my fight

This, while the large mass of the marginalized population, where the black community is over-represented, in relation to its demographic size, continues to watch, on the beach, the party held on the decks of ships that pass along the coast, since the aforementioned Discovery. They are asking for some reserved quotas in universities, some captive public jobs, while being silent about glaring social realities, such as the more than ten million young people “between 15 and 29 years old who do not study or work”. (Extra class, 11/12/2023.) Black people, mostly!

It is worth saying that the IBGE identity celebration was announced with enormous prominence, by Folha de S. Paul, as proposed, always at the forefront of defending black identity, within the political-ideological bias of the Yankee Democratic Party. A political-ideological media intoxication that has been repeated, with ample space, edition after edition, for years. Not to mention the action, in the same sense, of Globo. Estadão, from CNN, large multinationals and so on.

IBGE's political-ideological identity and pro-PTist flexion is not something of the current Lulista administration. It just tends to be more shameless, with the growing liberal bias of the fifth PT administration, which doesn't even make a farcical gesture to workers and employees as in the past. The abandonment of past populist demagoguery is today replaced, just as in the USA by the Democratic Party, by identity politics, carnivalized at the presidential inauguration, in the now famous “climbing the ramp”.

black nation

The past performance IBGE's black identity campaign seeks above all to bury some unavoidable truths that are painful to the proposals for the racialization of Brazilian society. On the one hand, the menu of three large racial blocks, between which those registered are forced to choose – white, brown, black – is barely functional for scientific evaluations. And, on the other, the result that has been achieved, always, belies the rustic identity agitation of Brazil as the largest black nation outside Africa and the second largest in the world. And that Brazil is a majority black country. Another identity nonsense applauded by the mainstream media, by current state bodies, by the Academy and, commonly, by the vast majority of the Brazilian leftist proposal.

First, defining oneself as “brown” says little that is precise. Huge factions of the population that consider themselves brown are confused, depending on the greater or lesser intensity of brown skin, with the white or black population, especially in the case of a more or less positive or negative socioeconomic position. And pardo does not describe the same phenomenon throughout Brazil.

And, above all, pardo can express an enormous and historically very rich mix of miscegenation, important for a better understanding of the formation of our nationality. Pardos may descend from the mixing of whites and Indians – extremely strong in northern states; of whites, Indians and blacks; of blacks and Indians and so on. The IBGE classification only serves to describe those who do not feel white as chalk or strongly black!

No headdressa

And, to complicate all of this, an important portion of the brown population is made up of descendants of native peoples not mixed with whites and blacks, but already fully acculturated, some already unaware of their roots. This population does not have its origin recognized and is thrown into the limbo of the so-called “brown” population. As things go, to be believed as a descendant of native populations, you have to wear a headdress on your head! Brazil certainly has a much larger population with indigenous roots than what is recognized as Indian!

Above all, the self-definition of the population, even in the context of the racial straitjacket created by IBGE, provides real data, although very general, about the ethnic composition of Brazil. And in this measurement, which is only relatively democratic, the black population, which recognizes itself as such – that is, with a strong Afro-ancestry – is just over ten percent, distributed irregularly throughout Brazil. However, it is credible that, due to racist stigma, there is an underreporting of the black population.

A fact that also points to a strong interracial historical impulse in Brazil. In other words, if anti-black racism is a very strong cultural determination in Brazil, there exists alongside and against it, a strong anti-racist culture, which has allowed, in the past and present, contacts and systematic exchanges between whites, blacks , foreigners etc. which would result in an increase in the so-called “brown” population.

There is, therefore, no scientific basis for the ideological proposal of Brazil's identitarianism having the largest black population outside of Africa and the second largest on the planet. And that Brazil is majority black. Arbitrarily adding blacks and browns, of all skin types, that is, all shiny non-whites, to define them as black, is a racialist operation rejected by the vast majority of the Brazilian population, due to its opportunistic falsehood.

Those below, always below

Two days before the IBGE event, the Folha de S. Paulo reported, in a government sense, that the minimum wage from May 1, 2024, will be 1.412,00 reais. To the delight of small, medium and large capital, the wage slavery of a huge portion of Brazilian workers remains unchanged. The said increase embedded in this Lilliputian value is part of the Lulista salary revaluation program and will be lower than predicted a few months ago.

The same Lula da Silva who keeps millions of workers tied to a crippling minimum wage, celebrated, a few weeks ago, with the bosses, that, in 2024, many holidays will fall on weekends, guaranteeing more work and less partying for the black, brown and white slaves. Imagine if Jair Bolsonaro had said the same! [Zero hour, 11/11/2023.]

Two statistical considerations, to conclude. As proposed, black workers, proportionally, are over-represented among those who earn one and, often, less than the minimum wage. However, quantitatively, there is a much higher number of white workers forced to live on the same excruciating wages. From a racial perspective, quantitatively, there are more exploited white workers than black ones in Brazil.

I don’t know if these miserable white men and women are also part of the currently so-much-maligned “whiteness”, accused by black identitarianism as being responsible for all of Brazil’s ills. Accusations that they launch, radical, while obediently creating a smokescreen about the responsibility of large national and international owners for the oppression in Brazil, of blacks, browns and whites, it's easy to say.

It would be a coherent and consistent choice with the location of the previous announcement by IBGE, if, on the 1st of May, after Lula da Silva drops the gavel, the public institution and its president celebrate the value of the new minimum wage in the Vila Formosa Cemetery. Apparently, it is the second largest in the world.

* Mario Maestri is a historian. Author, among other books, of Sons of Ham, sons of the dog. The enslaved worker in Brazilian historiography (FCM Editora).


CARBONI, Florence. & MAESTRI, Mário. Mi son talian, graze Dio! Globalization, nationality, ethnic identity and linguistic irredentism in the Italian Colonial Region of Rio Grande do Sul. Passo Fundo: EdUPF, 1999.

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