|god is watching you, white people|
some people take the wind up to lent a little more seriously and celebrate it by indulging all of their senses, just to get indulgence out of the way before they start the annual purge of all things enjoyable. and no country is more associated with this custom than brazil, with their [in]famous carnival. it's an orgiastic fest of music, food and partying in the streets that draws millions of brazilians and almost as many hedonistic tourists [who probably aren't going to observe lent afterward] and is one of the things that has helped establish brazil's reputation as a party capital of the world. [side note :: one of the principal foods consumed is meat in all its myriad forms, since many catholics traditionally gave up eating meat for lent. in fact, this is what gave the carnival its name: it's derived from the latin word for meat "carne".]
the history of the slave trade in brazil may seem odd to someone used to viewing the practice through the lens of the american experience. it's estimated that four million slaves were brought to brazil up until the country abolished slavery in 1888 [the last country in the americas to do so]. that's roughly ten times the number brought into the u.s. as a result, the black/ african influence on national culture has been marked: catholicism in bahia province is heavily influenced by the african traditions, especially those of the yoruba tribe from west africa.
|rio de janeiro|
for one thing, it's a great deal safer being white in brazil. whites are able to afford better security and are also able to exert more influence on politicians to keep their affluent neighbourhoods safe. brazil is a frighteningly violent country, with a murder rate almost four times that of the united states, a country with 60% greater population. most disturbingly, the brazilian police force kills at a rate of about five people per day [overwhelmingly black]. the united states has been heavily criticized for the number of people killed by police in recent years, which is about four hundred, or one fifth the number murdered by police in brazil. in the last decade, the number of blacks murdered has increased by about 40%. the number of whites murdered has decreased by 24%.
|not black. also not white.|
|definitely beautiful, definitely white|
there are some signs of improvement in brazil where the racial divide is concerned. while black brazilians earn only about 60% as much as their white countrymen, that's actually better than the 50.5% they earned fifteen years ago. government efforts at affirmative action have increased the number of blacks at universities, which they hope will lead to a greater presence in higher-paying and more influential jobs. [in a country where afro-brazilians form a majority, there is only one black cabinet minister in the government. also, while racial abuse is a crime in brazil, it's relatively rare to see prosecutions within the massively white legal system.] affirmative action, however, has met with steady and vocal resistance, not only among whites, but among those who feel that dividing brazil's patchwork of races into groups who are then judged to be more or less deserving is in itself racist. [side note :: as often happens, universities were the bulwark for affirmative action reforms. the policies have been strongly suggested by the government rather than enforced, and early studies have indicated that its beneficiaries have performed as well or better than the whites that they displaced. the theory is that blacks who end up attending universities are people who actually want to do so, whereas for many whites, it was simply considered a normal step after private school for someone from a wealthy background, and therefore was not taken as seriously.]
since today is ash wednesday, the carnival is over in all parts of the brazil and the observance of lent has started. here's hoping that some people are choosing to give up their conservative views on race, for forty days and beyond.