Power

Black lawmakers ‘go white’ after being elected

Dozens of Brazilian lawmakers self-declared as black before getting elected, which grants them some benefits when financing their campaigns, only to change their status after taking office

black Current and Former House Speakers Arthur Lira (standing) and Rodrigo Maia both self-declared mixed-race in 2018. Mr. Maia attributed it to a mistake in his application. Photo: Pedro Ladeira/Folhapress
Current and Former House Speakers Arthur Lira (standing) and Rodrigo Maia both self-declared mixed-race in 2018. Mr. Maia attributed it to a mistake in his application. Photo: Pedro Ladeira/Folhapress

The “race” segment of the Brazilian census is based on self-assigned skin color rather than ethnicity. Since the 1940 census, the rate of Brazilians self-declaring as black or mixed-race has grown in each new populational survey. 

Experts believe that it is not the proportion of black Brazilians that has changed, but the number of those self-identifying as black due to recent surges in Afro-Brazilian educational and cultural movements.

But some Brazilian lawmakers are taking that to an undesirable extreme. Of the 124 lawmakers elected in 2018 who identified as being black or mixed-race, 43 changed their self-assignment to...

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