Reconciling Brazilian Historiography*
Gail D. Triner Rutgers University
A large body of research addresses the racial identity of Brazilians of African descent and the effects of race on their material circumstances. The demographic importance of Afro-Brazilians clearly justifies a significant body of work. Despite huge methodological inconsistencies – which themselves reflect ideology  – the percentage of Brazilians who identify themselves as black or mulatto (i.e., claiming African heritage), has ranged from 47% in 1991 to 56% in 1890. The systematic deprivation of material circumstance and opportunity that the Afro-Brazilian population has suffered is also well documented. The causes of this deprivation fully deserve the debate they have received. Further, logic dictates the expectation that the depth, scope and legacy of the slave experience would inform current reality for its heirs. Prior to abolition in 1888, non-whites had racial identity as black Africans and ethnic identity determined by their specific place of birth. Brazilians ascribed different characters and abilities to slaves from different African origins (Mina, Yoruba, Ibo, etc.) and Brazilian born crioulos. With the end of slavery, specific African roots lost their original context and negotiating position within the emerging Brazilian nation became important. Understanding that legacy is compelling.
Similarly, but less voluminously, the historiography of immigrating peoples from the late nineteenth century reveals that Brazilians deeply considered the "racial characteristics" of newly arriving peoples. Immigration occurred most intensely from 1880 to 1930. As the abolition of slavery approached, Brazil became a more attractive location for emigrating peoples. After 1930, the Depression and later repressive political regimes made Brazil a less enticing destination. (Under some specific circumstances, which are discussed below, Brazil remained an attractive destination.) Nevertheless, between 1881 and 1942, 4.2 million people migrated to Brazil; they accounted for a minimum of 15% of the total population increase during the period. The majority of immigrants were from southern European countries. In the state of São Paulo, the center of immigration, 46% of entering peoples between 1886 and 1934 came from Italy. The next largest national groups were Spaniards and Portuguese. Immigrants from Southern Europe faced some degree of ethnic bias, which was phrased in racial terms. However, the problems of most European immigrants in acquiring a Brazilian identity may have been comparatively minor. Although their racial acculturation remains surprisingly unstudied, Southern Europeans appear to have eventually been accepted as Brazilian and white.  Smaller immigrant groups, from perhaps surprising geographic and cultural origins, offered greater challenge to racial definition and acceptance in Brazil.
The historiographies of race with respect to immigrants and Afro-Brazilians overlap very little. In this paper, I contend that the separate treatment for these two groups has constrained our understanding of race in Brazil. In order to make this argument, I offer brief overviews of the race historiographies with respect to Afro-Brazilians and immigrants. In doing so, the intersections in these bodies of research become obvious. Considering race historiography in the aggregate crystallizes the process by which Brazilians have defined white. At the same time, it also reveals important lacunae in our understanding of the concept of not-white in Brazil.
This historiographic analysis has clear boundaries. First, it covers a very large field of conceptual ground, and cannot do full justice to any of it. My goal is to identify the important trajectories of research on racial ideology to distill their major findings. This approach is selective and it sacrifices much of the nuance and subtlety that enrich the literature. Secondly, the paper concerns itself with the period from the late nineteenth century. Ideologies about race from the late nineteenth century, with regard to both Afro-Brazilians and immigrants, emerged, at least partially, in reaction to the abolition of slavery in 1888. From this fundamental shift, the public debate took on tones that differed from previous concerns about race ideology. Racial thinking in the twentieth century emerged from these sets of debates.
The paper also intentionally keeps indistinct the boundaries between "race" and "ethnicity." During the period of much of the formative thinking about race, Brazilians did not make the distinction. "The discourse about ethnicity and its relation to national identity, often packaged in racial language, has been a constant throughout Brazilian history. …[T]he mixing of conceptual categories that included nationality, ethnic or tribal affiliation or place of residence was often described with the word 'race'". Stepan finds that "one of the appeals of neo-Lamarkism [prevailing in the late nineteenth-century formative Brazilian thinking about race] was precisely that a blurring of the distinction between nature and nurture kept a place for purposive social action and moral choice.  The acceptance of such thinking supported the purposeful construction of a desired racial identity in conjunction with nationality. Further, as one race theorist with deep experience in Brazil suggests, the concept of ethnicity adjusts terminology, but serves the same purposes of identifying similarly hierarchicalized categories for the same peoples that the concept of race had previously justified.  Brazilians did not view either concept as fixed or atemporal. When Brazilians have considered "race" to be important, the full range of topics with respect to phenotype and culture have combined to shape ideology. If one is to investigate Brazilian thinking about the categorizing of Brazilian society, this conceptual treatment seems a reasonable approach.
Race and Afro-Brazilians
Traditional Brazilian race historiography with respect to Afro-Brazilians revolves around two findings. The first is the widely disseminated belief that Brazil is a racial "paradise" or, more recently, "democracy." The second characterization is that Brazilian society is "multi-racial," in contrast to the "bi-racial" society of the United States. Despite impressive popular resilience, neither finding has survived scholarly or political examination.
The notion of a Brazilian racial "democracy" received international scholarly legitimacy largely in response to Gilberto Freyre's classic study The Masters and the Slaves.  Paradoxically, however, policy-makers and landowners in the middle of the nineteenth century first proclaimed Brazil's "racial paradise." Concerned about both the eventual demise of slavery and the quality of their workforce, elite Brazilians turned their attention and aspirations to attracting white European contract workers. The image of a racial paradise, in which different racof peoples lived together in harmony and intermixing at will, represented an alternative formulation to re-interpret Brazilian social reality.  Especially from the 1860s, in contrast to the upheaval of the Civil War in the United States and violent Reconstruction, this typification of Brazilian race relations found a degree of legitimacy. An early concrete expression that Brazilian landowners preferred European workers to African was in 1847, when the "Vergueiro colonization plan" attempted to bring northern European colonists to settle land.  Then, and through the remaining forty-one years of the slave regime, recruiting agents found that few potential European immigrants would consider Brazil as a destination because of the negative association with coerced labor. Until Brazilian law formally eliminated slavery, the alternative characterization did not persuade many potential immigrants. With abolition, European migration increased exponentially.
Even more than simply replacing slave labor, many elite Brazilians saw migration as means of pushing back the frontier, expanding agricultural production, modernizing the labor force, and whitening the population.  With these goals in mind, the federal government, various state governments and private land developers actively recruited immigrants from impoverished areas of Europe and from the United States.  Brazilians adapted prevailing concepts of scientific racism selectively to accommodate their dual goals of settling a vast territory and constructing a modern nation:
Among us [Brazilians] scientific racism, to the contrary of European experience, was not used to legitimize projects of imperialism. Its presumptions were fully assumed; but these instruments were used to try to construct the nation of the future, which would arise through the conscious action within the racial laboratory that was the present country … There was an extraordinary consensus with respect to the incapacity of the national worker. 
Brazilians promoting migration wanted white migrants.
Apparently, it came as a surprise that the North Americans most receptive to the enticements of migrating to Brazil's racial paradise and potentially unlimited riches would be North Americans of African descent.  Immigration of black people wasnot on the agenda of those in positions to influence policy or debate. Policy makers and the diplomatic corps immediately mobilized to exclude black immigrants, regardless of nationality, without jeopardizing the idealization of racial democracy or the precepts of international laws and treaties.  The Brazilian government brought diplomatic pressure to bear on the US government, denied visas to black North Americans, and in 1921 immigration law was amended.  Authors have proposed a number of hypotheses to explain the quick and negative reaction of Brazilians at official levels. These include the belief that immigrating Afro-North Americans would frustrate whitening, the belief that white people's labor was superior to that of black people, white fears of the black man, and the desire to deny entry to emerging pan-African ideologies and activism. 
Gilberto Freyre promoted a scholarly extension of the racial paradise image from the 1940s. His hypotheses had their foundation in highly selective interpretations of colonial history. Freyre depicted widespread miscegenation as the result of benign, voluntary and racially "productive" personal relationships.  Favorable perceptions of patriarchal oligarchic family structure, a body of law protecting slaves, racial categorization along ascriptive rather than solely hereditary principles, and a lack of post-abolition law to discriminate against Afro-Brazilians  connected the colonial era with the twentieth century. Freyre's personal history within the elite of the oligarchic patriarchal society of Pernambuco, one of the most traditional social milieus of Brazil, and his university education in the United States determined his perspective on race relations in Brazil. Freyre received academic training and intellectual mentorship from influential anthropological pioneers in thinking about race at Columbia University, Frank Tannenbaum  and Franz Boas. Their perspective, combined with Freyre's personal experience of blatant and legally-sanctioned discrimination in the southern states (including as an undergraduate student in Texas), shaped his concepts.  The aspects of Brazilian slavery and resulting race relations that Freyre concluded had contributed to a peaceful outcome in the twentieth century were the heart of his comparisons between the United States and Brazil. The idyllic social relations that Freyre hypothesized retained a racial hierarchy with the white man at its apex and allowed for racial engineering through miscegenation. Freyre's explanations simultaneously idealized a unique Brazilian racial mix and its white "core."
Within Brazil, Freyre's interpretations often took a harsher edge than internationally available historiography portrays. Other Brazilians often did not accept the interpretation that the benign history that Freyre portrayed resulted in a racial "paradise." Accepted ideologies of scientific racism promoted the belief that the white race was superior to the black.  This interpretation of scientific racism coincided nicely with positivist ideology that emphasized the benefits of hierarchically ordered society. A less complacent interpretation than Freyre's supported the imposition of a social organization characterized by dominant and subordinate peoples, categorized by race (implicitly, skin color).  Nevertheless, competing interpretations of Brazilian racial composition concurred on one important point. The actual and desired direction of dynamic racial change was towards "whitening." Whitening would be achieved both by the genetic superiority of the white race and the encouragement of white immigration. 
In the second half of the twentieth century, the racial "paradise" or "democracy" faced muted challenge within the scholarly community. The sociological and historical analyses originating with the "São Paulo school" refuted prior benign interpretations of race relations. However, in the intellectual and political climate of the times, race often took a strangely secondary position in explaining the "cumulative disadvantages" suffered by the Afro-Brazilian population. The heritage of slavery and the ordering of class relations, based on inequitable production systems, offered compelling explanations for the disadvantages and discrimination that Brazilians of dark skin suffered.  While emphasizing inequities, these currents minimized the concept ofrace as an independent explanatory factor in social relations, "depriving racial dynamics of their own autonomous significance." Much of the strength of the conviction behind this idea had been its emergence out of Marxist traditions of historical analysis that held sway in Brazil during the mid-twentieth century. The major proponents of ideologies conflating the concept of race with questions of class structure, Florestan Fernandes and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, were also intellectual leaders in developing structuralist/dependency theory.  Their ideas about the role of race in social relations were an early and important application of structuralism to Brazilian history.  On a slightly different tack, giving "race" more of an active role in social formation, Hasenbalg found racially-defined prejudice changing form in the post-abolition period in order to skew economic competition among individuals in favor of the dominant white population. 
The terms and precepts of analysis have changed in recent years. Attention to individual agency, growing perception of racial dynamics independent of social class and political democratization  have refocused the consideration of race and the Afro-Brazilian.These issues have replaced Marxist emphasis on class relations. Recent research documents systematic social, cultural, political and economic, thougnot legal, discrimination.  Empirical research has further refuted the existence of a racial democracy with respect to material circumstance. A wide body of research finds systemic differences in material well-being between races that remain after accounting for other explanatory variables.  Continuing racial inequality of material circumstance, after sustained periods of economic growth, has helped in discounting earlier Marxist arguments that economic advancement and class struggle would diminish racial discrimination.  Notwithstanding the revisionist research, its popular and scholarly internalization occurs only slowly.
The second, and related, widely disseminated belief about the social circumstances of race is that Brazil is a multi-racial society, as contrasted with the bi-racialism of the United States. Categorization based on a combination of phenotype and social attainment along a continuum characterizes multi-racialism. The concept juxtaposes the idealization of a fixed black/white dichotomy prevalent in the United States.  According to this theoretical construct, any individual's place within the multi-racial Brazil reflects both physical characteristics (primarily skin color) and social standing. Skidmore roots the multi-racial concept in the complex racial classification arising from colonial social relations and entrenched by the nineteenth century. Degler's classic in comparative race relations, Neither Black Nor White, relies heavily on anecdotal history and his personal perceptions of behavior to illustrate this thesis.  One very strong finding of those applying multi-racialist constructs to Brazil has been the ascriptive nature of racial categorization. The terms by which individuals identify themselves (and are identified by others) imply "lighter" skin color as they achieve social and economic success.  "Multi-racialism" results in an infinitely divisible continuum of racial categories. In the 1980 national census, the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatísticas (the federal statistics bureau) identified 136 terms used within Brazil to identify racial and/or color categories! 
Promoting belief in the multi-racialism of Brazil has had interesting ideological implications since the late nineteenth century. Multi-racial concepts support the belief that the Brazilian society can undertake the process of whitening – Degler's famous invocation of "the mulatto escape hatch."  In less evocative terms during the 1870s and 1880s, abolitionists originally expressed their confidence in the whitening ideal. Joaquim Nabuco's (and others') abolitionism of the 1880s strongly depended upon the argument that slavery inhibited whitening because it deterred European migration.  The 1920s and 1930s saw a consolidation of the whitening ideal, with the advent of "integralism" (a Brazilian adaptation of fascism) and nationalism. The categories of mulatto, between black and white in a racial hierarchy, implied a dynamism to racial construction that would allow the Brazilian population to become more white with time and thereby join the club of civilized nations. Dichotomized racial schematization would not allow for a population to become white. The implicit dynamism of multi-racial categorization allowed Brazilians to reconcile the current racial status of their population with the underlying acceptance of the superiority of the "white races," derived from scientific racism. 
Without sacrificing the precepts of multi-racial categorization and scientific racism, ideology has not been monolithic on this score. An alternative strand of ideology defined the thoroughly miscegenized Brazilian population to have emerged as a uniquerace. In this expression of Brazilian exceptionalism, this race (defined by national origin) resulting from the European, African and indigenous population was uniquely strong and suited to the rigors of exploiting Brazil's potential natural riches.  Sílvio Romero and Capistrano de Abreu emphasized this perspective in early cultural studies from the 1880s. Three decades later, as the first Brazilian experiments with republican government strove to consolidate its political and national identity, unique racial identity gained new adherents. Euclides da Cunha, in the classic Os Sertões, (Rebellion in the Backlands),$$ struggled to reconcile his appreciation for this "race" of peoples uniquely suited to their circumstances with his acceptance of white superiority.  Even in these contexts, racial sub-categorization, still based on color, served to maintain social hierarchies. The competing tensions between portraying Brazil as "white" (or whitening), as compared to a racially "unique" nation, are deeply entrenched in the racial ideology debates.
The arena of political activism has offered the strongest challenges to the stubborn image of racial democracy in a multi-racial society. Within Brazil, the credibility of multi-racialism was strongest among intellectual and political elites. "Black activist" movements have had sporadic, and often not successful, histories in Brazil. However, when they have formed, their philosophies and strategies have emphasized their inherent disadvantage within a racially dichotomized society. At least in São Paulo, social groups and community organizations also have a long history of formation around dichotomized racial categorization, frequently fomenting subsequent political organization.  The most successful early effort, the Frente Negra Brasileira of São Paulo, was active only in the 1930s.  One of the justifications for prohibiting the immigration of North Americans of African descent during the 1920s was precisely to prohibit the introduction of pan-Africanist political elements. 
Some analysts have credited atomization for the absence of a sustained political movement for racial equality.  The opportunities to individuals and groups implicit in the promise of whitening have reinforced the concerted action of political elites to diminish the effectiveness of political activism for racial equality.  From a somewhat more pragmatic perspective, one author has attributed the general level of poverty and the difficulties of daily subsistence as important factors dampening the potential of political activism among Afro-Brazilians, at least in the early twentieth century. 
In the late twentieth century, activist groups have again moved away from multi-racial thought, and have seized upon the strategy of defining "race" dichotomously in efforts to build critical mass and political consciousness  for successful movements of racial equality and/or power.  One race theorist, returning to the theme of race and class, finds
social hierarchicalization in which race, status and class are intimately inter-related ... In Brazil this system of hierarchicalization, full of gradations of prestige, in which social class (occupation and income), family origin, color, formal education weigh heavily, still support a dichotomy expressed in such pairs as refined/riff-raff [gente fina/ralé] and elite/common [elite/povo], but whose foundation is the racial dichotomy ‘black/white' … 
This conceptualization negates the possibility of other groups, such as Italian immigrants in the early twentieth century, being considered a "race," "because of the possibility of integration into national society … transforms these into ethnic groups, and the other into a race."  According to this formulation, color defines race and results in a dichotomous divide of the population. For European immigrants, national origin did seem to transform into ethnic identities that allowed for eventual assimilation.  As I will discuss below, Brazilian experience still leaves room to question the black/white dichotomy as the only racial divide within Brazil.
Even so, a skeptical analyst has much ground to question the depth of Brazilian "multi-racial" social organization when considering the population of African descent. Underlying its rhetoric and despite the multiplicity oterms, an implicit contrast against an idealized "white" population remains. The term whitening itself crystallizes this essentialism. Beyond the strategies of political activism, recent scholarship has also questioned the legitimacy of the multi-racial categorization.  Skidmore, one of the major explicators of Brazilian multi-racialism,  has recently questioned the differing interpretations of racial categorization in the two countries. Skidmore offers asymmetrical reasoning for his reconsideration. Within Brazil, empirical evidence reveals that "mulattoes" experience material circumstances quite similar to the "black" population, rather than truly between black and white. This finding holds with respect to income levels, occupational opportunity and educational attainment. Increasingly dichotomized thinking and political strategies combine with recognition of an underlying white idealization to mitigate concepts of multi-racialism.  In the United States, Skidmore applies different reasoning. He views multi-racialism, particularly within Hispanic groups, as generating a need to reassess bi-racial categorizations.  However, within Brazil, the questions of multiple races, outside of the traditional white and black, do not enter Skidmore's consideration. 
Race and Immigrants
One aspect of race, as applied to Brazilians of African descent, is outstandingly notable for its absence. With the exception of occasional references to the indigenous population of Brazil, one can consider this historiography deeply and widely without encountering considerations of other peoples within Brazil who have had their "racial characteristics" subjected to harsh debate. If the literature on race and Afro-Brazilians does not incorporate other groups defined as non-white, the historiography on race and immigrants constantly considers the circumstances of the Afro-Brazilian and their effects on the immigrant.
Analysis of race and ethnicity through the cumulative experience of immigrants is only now beginning.  Whoever each group might have been – Italian, Iberian, German, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Jewish – in the Brazilian context, each was identified as a "race".  This historiography reveals an inseparability of physiognomy and cultural characteristics. Characterization by skin color and other physical characteristics, preferences of family structure, propensities for manual labor, crime, and docility were explicit considerations in the debates about whether any given group was a race that would be desirable to incorporate into Brazil.
The clearest indication that Brazilians saw immigrating peoples as members of distinct races also reveals the limit of the interpretation that Brazilian law did not incorporate legal discrimination – important to racial democracy. In 1890, a newly-enacted immigration law specifically prohibited the immigration of African and Asian peoples.  The legal constraints against Asian migration were amended in 1909 to exclude the Japanese from the definition of "Asian." Hence, the Japanese became neither black nor white … nor yellow.  In 1921, another amendment denied entrance to "individuals of the races of black color".  In 1923, immigration law stipulated that "entrance of colonists of the black race into Brazil, as well as the yellow, will be permitted to the extent of 5% of individuals from [the given] origin already in the country".  As late as 1945, Brazilian law continued to reserve the right to determine the racial composition of immigrants. 
Public debates about immigrants followed a set structure. For all immigrant groups, debates consistently juxtaposed race and labor. The over-supply of "races" competed with the under-supply of labor. In general, these debates were characterized as "nativist" in opposition to "developmentalist." Participants compared the strengths and weaknesses of a given race against "national labor" (commonly accepted code for unskilled mulatto and black labor). Further complicating the issue, "development" was a concept that had no consensus interpretation. Those seeing industrialization as the key to modernity and wealth stood in contrast to those wishing to narrowly exploit Brazil's comparative wealth in natural resources and agriculture. Different skills and cultures underpinned the labor necessary in these sectors.
Consensus opinions of either racial desirability or suitability of labor were rare. Interpretation of perceived racial characteristics and the suitability of labor varied. For example, in the middle of the nineteenth century (prior to the abolition of slavery), debates on the efforts to promote Chinese contract labor offer the most explicit integration of immigrants, Afro-Brazilians, whitening and labor. Studies specific to the region of São Paulo acutely identify attempts to displace "national labor" with Chinese workers. These studies convincingly situate the labor debates in their racial context. Their presumed racial inferiority could lead to a conclusion that the Chinese would be one of the few races willing to enter Brazil as contract labor under conditions duplicating slavery. Alternatively, their "inferiority" might only introduce into Brazil a race of people that was "lazy, criminal, prone to suicide, and incapable of acculturation".  "Both supporters and opponents of Chinese immigration, notably the latter, often used racially-termed arguments to advance their cause."  In fact, they often used the same arguments with respect to race to support diametrically opposed conclusions.
As another example seven decades later, in the 1930s and 1940s, European Jewish refugees might bring capital and financial experience in crucial support of industrialization; or they might not contribute to the agricultural labor force and know-how that was crucial to the Brazilian economy.  Japanese immigrants might be diligent and hardworking; or they might be "ugly" and refuse to stay on plantations (until they became Japanese-owned).  Again in 1934, Japanese immigrants found the debates about their entry based on the contradiction between the "economic reasons" to include them in Brazilian society and the "racial reasons" for exclusion. 
Different immigrant groups developed identifications with specific labor niches.  In the late nineteenth century, a few Chinese and, continuing for much longer, millions of southern European peasants found their way to plantations and colonies both to replace and expand labor under conditions simulating slavery.  The challenges of labor unrest and violence that the workers brought along with their skills and work habits  diminished, but did not eliminate, the preference for white European workers in factories as well as plantations. Middle Eastern immigrants were assumed to have "cornered" the profession of itinerant merchant.  Prior to the advent of the mascate (peddler), market transactions for low-value, domestic goods fell within the domain of slave and free women.  The transition to free labor entailed the expansion of markets to meet the sustenance needs of the population. The Arab  mascate both expanded access to markets and competed with an earlier role for Brazilian slave and free women. By the 1930s, the association between Japanese immigrants and large-scale agro-industry began when Japanese emigration companies (labor recruiters) acquired land and formed their own agricultural colonies in order to enhance the stability of Japanese workers. 
In each of these cases, immigrant labor became identified with a crucial nexus of the expanding post-abolition economy. Further, immigrant labor either filled roles that had either previously been held by non-white Brazilian labor, or low-skilled, low-wage, low-prestige functions that otherwise would have fallen to non-white Brazilian labor. Creating racial hierarchies became a way of reinforcing labor hierarchies that was consistent with pre-abolition labor and social systems. From this perspective, attention to the relation between race and labor yields valuable insights.  In the immigration historiography, the prevailing conclusion has emerged that, rather than negating race, labor systems and racial categorization were mutually reinforcing. 
However, the process of creating racial identity required a great deal from those who acquired new identities. All immigrants, and their subsequent generations, faced the tension between becoming Brazilian and retaining original ethnic or national identity.  This tension has been expressed in a variety of forms. Social clubs, schools and specialized commercial sectors associated with specific immigrant groups remained strong.  For the Japanese descended population, the years around World War II severely tested and divided their loyalties as "Japanese" and as "Brazilians."  Perhaps most tellingly, second and third generation Japanese-descended Brazilians tried to "return" to Japan in the 1980s (years of extreme political and economic instability in Brazil), only to find that, in Japan, they were "Brazilian." In Brazil, the physical and cultural separability of the Japanese descended population had left them "Japanese."  In Japan, they were stereotyped as unskilled, uncultured, undesirable; and Japanese Brazilians found themselves consigned to menial jobs.
Insights on the racial and cultural means through which outsiders became "Brazilian" have a notable asymmetry. Consideration of the effect of immigrant "races" on "Brazilian" identity is missing from this work. This is the realm in which the intransitive nature of thinking about race becomes apparent when applied to the African-descended population and to other immigrant groups. It is also the realm in which race and nation intersect.
One mainstay of public debate about each entering race was the extent to which it would contribute to the whitening of the population. Faced with a thoroughly miscegenized population, the core of elite thought about race and nation often appeared to be: How white was Brazil; and how could Brazil become more white? Hence, each new group's contribution to that process was crucial to determining their desirability. Would Chinese workers serve a short-term (and returnable) expedient to hold Brazilians over until a free white labor force was in place?  If the Japanese were neither black nor white, could they at least also be not-yellow?
The most problematic races for Brazilians to decide upon were those that did not correspond strictly to a national identification: Central European Jews and Middle Easterners. These peoples also most seriously challenged the Brazilian concept of "white." Balancing the government's diplomatic desire to enhance its international standing with the United States, Britain and the Vatican by admitting European Jewish refugees from 1937 to 1940 was the question of whether these particular dispossessed Europeans were white. The question clearly arose from fascist and anti-Semitic ideology that found sympathy among some Brazilians.  The issue was complicated; it separated geography from race and culture with respect to Brazil's most idealized race.  The same question arose, at nearly the same time, with respect to immigrants from the Middle East,  who many found racially "desirable." Here, religion again complicated the question: were Assyrians (and other Christians from the Middle East) racially different from other Middle Easterners by virtue of their religious and cultural ties with Europeans? Or, did the Islamic Middle East share a racial connection with Brazilians through their common Moorish Iberian background, as such ideologists as Téofilo Braga, Gilberto Freyre and Plínio Salgado asserted?  For all groups, labor roles were an important component of these debates. In the Brazilian mind, these peoples were merchants and financiers; their stereotypes did not associate them with agricultural or industrial production. Commercial and mercantile sectors had long negative association with foreign economic dominance, and contributing dubious value to the Brazilian economy since the colonial era.  After considering these factors, prevailing opinion emerged that, while not black, all of these peoples were also not white. They found themselves to be their own indistinct races. Because Central European Jewish refugees and "almost-European" Arabs presented the most difficult challenges to defining "white," their entry was the most ideologically troublesome.
Brazilians needed to distinguish "European" from "white," as the Jewish, Arab and Japanese immigrations demonstrated. At the risk of stating the obvious, the goal of whitening was precisely to create a Brazilian national identity that was fully white. The association between white and Brazilian ante-dated the abolition of slavery. But with abolition, white Brazilians faced both the intellectual and political problem of categorizing newly-freed population who had claims to "Brazilian-ness"  and the tangible problems of populating, settling and exploiting a vast territory. Throughout and after the slave experience, Brazilians of African descent commonly were referred to interchangeably as "Africans" (regardless of birthplace) or "blacks."  In addition to its dichotomous categorization, this terminology connotes the retention of "African-ness" and the denial of "Brazilian-ness." Extensions of the same efforts to construct a white Brazil turned concerns about each entering immigrant group into debates about "race." Immigration practices – with increasingly race-specific laws and subsidy programs – were the most active measures towards constructing a white Brazil.
By considering the race historiography in the aggregate, it has been possible to enhance our understanding of what it means to be white in Brazil. "White" has had a very stylized definition throughout Brazilian history; and at each challenge, it became more narrowly circumscribed.  However, the question of what it has meant to be non-white in Brazil is more problematic, when viewed from this over-arching perspective. As new peoples have entered Brazil, the category of non-white has expanded. We do not know what it has meant for Afro-Brazilians as the definition of non-white expanded. Research does not inform such questions as whether expanded definitions of non-white have contributed to consolidating the definition of "black" or "Afro-Brazilian." Neither has rigorous research informed the question of racial hierarchicalization within groups of non-white.
The widely accepted depictions of a racial democracy within a multi-racial society have been representations of an elite group. However, even considering a fuller range of representations, the understanding of social reality for Brazilians of African descent has been informed only in reference to a portion of Brazilian society. In this scholarship, the United States (in a highly stylized understanding) has provided either an explicit comparison or an implicit frame of reference. One scholar goes so far in negating the concept of a Brazilian racial democracy as to dismiss it as a product of North American activism.  This line of reasoning suggests that promoting the idea of a Brazilian racial democracy was a "convenient myth"  to emphasize the injustices of Jim Crow legislation within the United States. Certainly such a suggestion helps to understand the persistence of these beliefs about Brazilian reality among activists in the United States in the face of strong countervailing personal evidence. 
Such an extreme position is not necessary to appreciate the influence of the US experience on Brazil. In fact, much recommends the comparison. The United States has been the richest and politically most powerful country in the Western Hemisphere; and in some ways it served as a model to which Brazilians compared themselves. The United States and Brazil shared many important circumstances: histories of slavery and frontier settlement, and contentious negotiations of racial identity. From the 1910s, as some Brazilians began to look away from Europe and towards the UniStates, an interesting consciousness of racial uniqueness (often expressed in nationalistic terms) emerged simultaneously with an "American context".
The origin of the focus that contrasts the US and Brazilian experiences has multiple sources. Scholars from the United States have authored many of the prominent works on race and Afro-Brazilians. The research of such writers as Harris, Degler, Skidmore and Andrews receive wide distribution in Brazil, and they have been formative in understanding the Brazilian experience. Prominent Brazilian scholars – notably Freyre, Hasenbalg, Fernandes and Cardoso – shaped much of their work in reference to their experiences in the United States. Explicit in Freyre's findings were comparisons with the United States of the 1930s. Much of the subsequent research has been in reaction to – and against – Freyre's early formulations. Further, while this essay has implied that racial categorization of peoples of African descent has been less differentiated than usually recognized, it does not challenge that differences in the criteria of categorization persist.  While the mainstream historiography has produced innovative and useful insight, it has been informed by a frame of reference that has not considered the full range of racial ideology within the Brazilian experience.
The comparison with the United States limits the consideration of race within a fully Brazilian context. In the traditional scholarship, such institutional issues as the structure of language, differences of legal structure, combined with political convenience, suggest fluidity within the understanding of "race." Questioning racial democracy and multi-racialism from an endogenous perspective – by incorporating all groups in the Brazilian population relative to each other, rather than using the United States as the measure of comparison – can alter this conclusion in interesting ways. Racial fluidity of Afro-Brazilians seems to become rather more brittle. An endogenized analysis reveals that, within the precepts of race and national identity, other groups shared some of the categorizing experiences of Afro-Brazilians. A systematically developed research agenda that pursued a more fully endogenized analysis of race could illuminate a wide range of issues that are important to understanding Brazil and to understanding the treatments to which the concept of race has been put more generally. Racial aspects of Brazilian national identity would benefit from this analytic adjustment. The historical, ideological and political trajectories of the position of the Afro-Brazilian can gain clarity with this approach. The seeming disparity between political activism and elite ideology may be resolved. Further, changing the terms of reference in the consideration of multi-racialism may give that debate new light. The deeply entrenched tension in Brazilian racial identity between white-ness and unique-ness could be significantly challenged by fully including the experiences of all Brazilians.
In the final analysis, if we take seriously the idea that racial and national identity are causally inter-related, then the logic dictates the study of "racial" groups in Brazil relative to each other, as well as relative to analogous groups outside of Brazil. Beyond the implications for our understanding of Brazil, such a re-oriented perspective can help to understand the mechanisms by which racial identity and definition change over time. Perhaps we could begin to delineate how the generations subsequent to the Mina, Yoruba, crioulo in Brazil became "Afro-Brazilian."
* I am pleased to recognize the benefits to this essay of the careful reading and prescient suggestions of Jeffrey Lesser and to thank the participants of the "The Black Atlantic: Race, Class and Gender" at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis for their comments. All errors of fact and logic remain mine.
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