university of são paulo approves race-based admission quotas after years of black struggle

July 7, 2017

In the midst of Brazil’s political and societal unrest, comes some settling news from the University of São Paulo’s admissions board:

After a six hour session taking place last Tuesday, the University council has decided (with 89 votes in favor) to reserve approximately 1/2 of its vacancies to public school applicants- and more specifically 37.2% of those vacancies for “self-declared” students of color. This newfound focus on those students black, brown, and indigenous speaks volumes of the current shifting of tides taking place not only in Brazil’s educational realm, but in their overarching race-relations as well.

This recognition is a long time coming; as opposed to the United States- who first began experimenting with the notion of Affirmative Action in the 1970’s- Brazil didn’t begin approaching the concept until 2001, seemingly competing with its national identity of “racial democracy”. Like the U.S. however, the claims of the system rarely meet those on the ground, and however “racially democratic” political leaders strived to be, the residue of slavery and perpetual stratification are still widely felt within Brazil’s communities of color.

With USP’s latest vote, those silenced communities are granted a win; solidifying a voice within the educational system- and in a sense beginning to collect reparations… which are long due. If this plan fulfills its potential, studies predict by 2021 the racially inclusive quota will issue a 50% reservation of vacancies for public school students, and its influence is already being felt as the number of public school applicants already begins to increase (rising from 36% in 2016).

Recognition is the first step to reconciliation, and as the educational playing field begins to level, the racial barrier to opportunity weakens- baby steps, but steps nonetheless.



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