This article analyzes anecdotes, jokes, standards of beauty, color categories, and media representations of “mixed-race” individuals to assess the junctions and disjunctions of whiteness and blackness in Brazil. While the multiple and contradictory meanings of “racial” mixture stimulates a preference for whiteness, thus reducing the access to power by those deemed black, it simultaneously fuels a rejection for “pure” forms of whiteness as witnessed in the country's celebration of morenidade (brownness). Not all forms of miscegenation are valued in Brazil's myth of racial democracy, and some “types of mixture” are clearly preferred in detriment of others. I argue that anti-black racism in Brazil is expressed not only against dark-skinned individuals, but it also operates in the devaluing of physical traits “deemed black” even in those who have lighter skin complexion, thus creating “degrees of whiteness.” One's “measure of whiteness,” therefore, is not defined only by skin color, but requires a much wider economy of signs where, together with other bodily features, hair texture is almost as important as epidermal tone. In any given context, the definition of whiteness is also, necessarily, shaped by the contours of gender and class affiliation.
Skip Nav Destination
Patricia de Santana Pinho; White but Not Quite: Tones and Overtones of Whiteness in Brazil. Small Axe 1 July 2009; 13 (2): 39–56. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-3697250
Download citation file: