Brazil college divides country

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BRASILIA, BRAZIL—Unipalmares University, a school named after a 17th century rebel slave leader, finds itself at the front over a controversy concerning Brazil’s racial identity. The university was founded in 2003 as a private college in the run-down Sao Paulo district of Luz.

What makes this college unique is that it reserves half of its spots for black students, which reflects the country’s demographics: roughly half of the country’s 183 million people have African slaves as ancestors. Jose Vicente, the university’s rector, states that the aim of Unipalmares is to provide the opportunity of higher education to underprivileged Brazilians in general, although there is a particular emphasis on those with black descent.

“It has become a reference point as a place where minorities can have the opportunity for access to higher education, taking into account that this access is still very limited in this country.” He stated. “A large part of the public, if they didn’t have this opportunity, would find it difficult to study elsewhere.”

Brazil has the highest numbers of blacks in the country in the world, excepting Africa, although people in this racial category remain socially disadvantaged. The UN Development Program reported a large economic gap between the black and white population in 2012, although racial mixing has been a common practice through Brazil’s history.

Many Brazilian citizens identify neither as black nor white, and see this college as a threat to Brazil’s very nature.

 

By: Julia Roake

Source: BBC

Image: BBC

09 April 2013

01:00pm PDT

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