Racism colombia - brazil

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What is in a name? Terminology and classification

Questions of racial terminology and classification play a key role in Afro-Latin
studies. Early studies made much of the fact that there were many racial and color
terms used by Brazilians (who were the subject of many of these studies on black
people in Latin America) and that they used them in contextually shifting ways,
which betrayed alack of consensus about racial identity. Historical work also showed
the use of shifting and multiple racial terminologies in, for example, Cuba (Martinez-
Alier,1989) as well as New Spain (Seed, 1982). Torres-Saillant (2000) argues that, in
the Dominican Republic, compared to the USA, blackness has historically not been
very salient in defining identity and racial that terminologies aremultiple and
shifting. This has underwritten ideas about Latin America being different from the
USA and a society in which class was more important than race. Since then, practices
of naming and classifying have changed and seemingly clearer, more inclusive
categories are in use. Has racial ambiguity declined?
When I started my research career in the early 1980s, it was common to refer
to ‘blackpopulations’, or simply ‘blacks’. In Latin America, the word negros,
whether in Spanish or Portuguese, carried, and to some extent still carries, enough
negative valence to make it uncomfortable to use in some circumstances. The leader
of a Colombian organization called Cimarro´n (subtitled The National Movement for
the Human Rights of Black Communities in Colombia), Juan de Dios Mosquera,told
me that negro should be used as an adjective rather than a noun, as the latter implied
that blackness was the main or even sole important attribute of a person. Inspired
by him, I began to use the term gente negra (black people) when writing in
Spanish (Wade, 1997a). Despite protests from grammatical purists that this was a
neologism – and possibly even an import from a US or UK context –it took on in
some quarters of the Colombian academy (Barbary & Urrea, 2004; Camacho &
Restrepo, 1999).
Meanwhile, it was also fairly common to refer to Afro-Cubans and Afro-Brazilians
and, by the 1990s in Colombia, the term Afro-Colombian had begun to acquire
currency, at least in academic circles and especially among those who wanted to
highlight the role of historical Africanconnections in shaping New World black
cultures. ‘Afro-Latins’ and ‘Afro-Latin Americans’ were obvious extensions of this
usage (Minority Rights Group,1995); occasionally one finds ‘Afro-Latinos’ used to
include black Latinos living in the USA (Dzidzienyo & Oboler, 2005). These usages
do not necessarily focus on African connections, but rather link to the US style of
hyphenated identities (ifsomewhat belatedly, as ‘Afro-American’ has long since been
displaced by ‘African American’). More recently still, the term Afro-descendant has
become popular, especially in the internationalist circles of such bodies as the Inter-
American Development Bank or the United Nations, where increasing attention is
being paid to Afro-Latins (Sanchez & Bryan, 2003; Santos Roland, 2002; Zoninsein,2001), but also in many Latin American countries (Mosquera et al., 2002; Safa, 2005,
p. 312). Again, this obeys a US logic of putting everyone who has some African
descent – although perhaps not just ‘one drop’ – in the same ethnic–racial category,
but now with a transnational reach that includes all those considered to be part of a
global African diaspora. The term also responds to a growinginterest, especially
among black social movements, with an African cultural heritage.
The Colombian state, for one, has joined in with this expansive trend, moving
from estimates of the Afro-Colombian population as 6 per cent, then 16 per cent and
now 26 per cent of the national population (Wade, 2002b, p. 6). Nobles argues that,
over the 20th century, the way Brazilian census data are...