DEMOCRACY: The Puzzling Whiteness of Brazilian Politicans


Brazil does have some of the characteristics of a "racial democracy." But why are the city councils of major cities generally so much lighter-skinned than their constituents? Thad Dunning describes some experiments to find out why.

Is Brazil really a racial democracy? The idea of racial democracy, originally put forth by the Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre in the 1930s, holds that racial discrimination is much more moderate in Brazil than in countries like the United States, due in part to widespread racial mixing. If Brazil is truly a racial democracy, however, why are the city council members in both Salvador and Rio de Janeiro significantly whiter than their electorates? Thad Dunning, an associate professor of Political Science at Yale University, designed a study to discover the reason for this lack of descriptive democracy.

Jean Spencer
Publication date: 
August 16, 2012
Publication type: 
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies Article