More People In Brazil Identify As Black Now, And The Reason Is Fascinating

It's not because of the birthrate.

A new study reveals more Brazilians identify as Black or multiracial today than 10 years ago. While demographic shifts like this usually sound like they would be the result of birth rates and migration, it's actually a reflection of something else.

The Brazilian Geographical and Statistics Institute reports that in their National Household Survey last year, 53 percent of Brazilians said they are Black or multiracial, up from 47.9 percent 10 years ago. Sociologists have been attributing this to shift in attitudes toward race in Brazil and increased education about the country's history.

Brazil has a huge Afro-Brazilian population, descendants of the four million slaves brought to Brazil before the practice was abolished in 1888. Brazil, along with many other Latin American countries, has crafted narratives that overlook people of African descent, both culturally and demographically. Though most people have some African, native, and/or European heritage, there's a history of emphasizing the latter, in that everyone is mixed but not black. Plenty of surveys have shown Brazilians in particular tend to claim a kaleidoscope of racial identities that translate to mixed, but stop short of acknowledging blackness.

According to El País, Katia Regis, an Afro-Brazilian studies coordinator, said, "The black population has more access to effective knowledge about African and Afro-Brazilian history to realize that being black is a positive thing." 

People have grown to appreciate the huge contributions African culture has made in Brazil, and they reflect that in how they identify. Samba, capoeira, and many Brazilian dishes have obvious African origins, and some of the most famous Brazilians in the world like Pelé and the bossa nova musician Gilberto Gil are Black.

Afro-Brazilians still face discrimination and their murder and poverty rates are significantly higher than white Brazilians, but this growing appreciation for blackness in Brazil indicates a rapid shift that many activists hope will transcend what people check on surveys.