Numbers of the week: Black Consciousness Day

. Nov 20, 2020
In this week's special edition, we're looking at racial issues around the country as Brazil observes Black Consciousness Day.

This is Brazil by the Numbers, a weekly digest of the most interesting figures tucked inside the latest news about Brazil. A selection of numbers that help explain what is going on in Brazil. In this week’s special edition, we’re looking at racial issues around the country as Brazil observes Black Consciousness Day.

Send any suggestions to

November 20: Black Consciousness Day

Brazil celebrates Black Consciousness Day on November 20, the generally agreed date of death of Zumbi dos Palmares, a 17th-century slave-resistance leader and national icon who led the Quilombo dos Palmares, a community of runaway slaves in northeastern Brazil. Immortalized in Brasília’s National Pantheon, Zumbi symbolizes the anti-slavery struggle in Brazil.

The date was included in the national school calendar in 2003, but only in 2011 was a law issued to officially institute Black Consciousness Day nationwide. Though not a national holiday — observed in only a small number of states — the date is seen as a day of reflection on the anti-racism struggle in Brazil, and a celebration of the life of Zumbi dos Palmares.

black zumbi
Zumbi dos Palmares statue, in Salvador. Photo: Jefferson Peixoto/Secom

2 categories in 1

“Black” in Brazil can be a confusing term. For census purposes, race is self-defined and falls into one of five categories: white, black, pardo (multiracial), Asian, and indigenous. The term “negro,” however, is commonly used in Brazil as an umbrella term to refer to black and multiracial people. And despite its racist overtones in the English language, “negro” is a widely acceptable term in Brazil, used by the black community. For instance, Black Consciousness Day is “Dia da Consciência Negra,” encompassing the struggles of multiracial groups as one. Today, over half of the Brazilian population identifies as “negro,” i.e., either black or multiracial. 

30 percent of black and multiracial mayors

Of the more than 5,400 mayoral candidates elected last Sunday, approximately 1,700 of them declare themselves as black or multiracial. The rate slightly increased from the 2016 elections, when it sat at 29.2 percent, but underrepresentation remains a problem. As mentioned above, census data shows 56.2 percent of the population identifies as black or multiracial — as opposed to 42.7 percent who identify as white.

1st virtual museum about a black Brazilian artist

Itamar Assumpção was a black Brazilian singer, songwriter, writer, actor, producer, and artist who died in 2003. In his honor, a virtual museum was opened to celebrate his life’s work. This will be the first virtual museum in Brazil to honor a black artist. Itamar Assumpção is considered as being of the biggest names in the popular Brazilian music scene and the Vanguarda Paulista movement of the early 1980s. His daughter, Anelis Assumpção, is the general director of the project.

54 percent of multiracial women perform unpaid work

A survey carried out by consultancy firm Indique Uma Preta and Box1824 shows that 54 percent of black women perform some form of unpaid work. Of these total, 39 percent were looking for a job.

In addition, only 8 percent of those working in the formal market hold manager, director, or partner positions. The number of presidents or vice-presidents were so low that, in the survey, the rounded percentage was 0 percent, according to Malu Rodrigues, cultural researcher and content strategist at Box1824, in an interview with the Geledés Institute.

69 percent in inadequate housing are black or multiracial

In 2019, according to the Synthesis of Social Indicators study, released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), 45.2 million people lived in households with at least one of five major inadequacies: shared bathrooms with other households, external walls made of non-durable materials, excessive densification of residents, excessive burden with rent, and absence of land deeds. Of this population, 13.5 million were white and 31.3 million were black or multiracial.

40 percent of São Paulo is black or multiracial

In 2019, the black or multiracial population corresponded to 40.4 percent of the population of the state of São Paulo. Among the 25.7 million economically active individuals in the state, 10.3 million are black or multiracial. 

With the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, the multiracial community in São Paulo was harder hit by job losses. Roughly 1.4 million non-white individuals became unemployed during the crisis, compared to 949,000 white people.

Sentences 3 to 7 times harsher

Multiracial groups suffer three to seven times more punishment than whites, according to a survey by the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar). The study was carried out over three years and analyzed quantitative data on arrests and police lethality by ethnicity.

According to the researcher, Jacqueline Sinhoretto, in an interview with news website G1, the proportion of multiracial people in prison is up to four times higher than white people, considering the size of the overall population. 

“Black people are the most frequent target of lethal use of force. Depending on the year and the district, the mathematical chance of a black person being killed by the police is three to seven times greater than the chance of a white person receiving the same treatment,” explained the researcher.[/restricted]

Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

Our content is protected by copyright. Want to republish The Brazilian Report? Email us at