Over at PBS, there’s a documentary focusing on Brazil’s take on the affirmative action issue which they started to enforce a few years back. It’s done quite well since they follow students of different socioeconomic backgrounds and races, which reflect on each other in what seems to be a neverending cycle. Affirmative action has been used in the US for the last 40 years and it still stirs up controversy.
Due to an unjust division in the minds of those in power, minority races (although perhaps not the case in Brazil where some reports say 54% are black) are given less opportunities in the realms of education and business therefore the government has to enter the picture and force laws onto institutions, in order to make a more just society. It’s all quite mind-boggling because those in government are the same (kinds of) people who protect the status quo and hobnob with the business elite yet they are the ones putting their signature on affirmative action laws. The question then becomes, how can a society that is so mixed, decide who is black and who isn’t?
Both sides of the equation make a bit of sense but neither side is right, in my opinion (but perhaps that’s because I am after the ideal – a just society). There shouldn’t need to be a law that makes people do what they should be doing in the first place, but to believe that, you’d have to agree that the only race is the human one. The fact that there is a law makes plenty of room to take advantage of the system and get benefits where merit has yet to be shown. Then again, how can merit always be shown if certain parts of society don’t have equal rights and opportunities? Having to define yourself by your color or race means there’s a possibility for more segregation, not unification. Although for those whose minds can be changed, seeing someone of another race doing the same tasks as you and doing them just as well may lead to a shift in how they see the world.
Here’s a suggestion, how about a quota based on economic status and not race? Sure they are intertwined as I previously mentioned but crime is more an indication of poverty and a lack of education than of anything else. Anyways, here’s the documentary, called ‘Brazil in Black and White’, for you to decide.
Economist (with 40 comments)