Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Affirmative action and past wrongs

Recognition of past wrongs can take many forms. As posted yesterday, there's the package of compensation, exhumation, and verdict-reversals that comprise Spain's proposed Ley de Memoria Histórica. There're international criminal justice and truth commissions, too. There's the establishment of monuments, lasting reminders that boost public awareness.
And there's affirmative action.
In an EbonyJet.com article entitled "The New Brazil: coming to grips with race - finally," Judith Morrison (above), Regional Director for South America and Caribbean for the Inter-American Foundation, writes that "Brazil has analyzed the experiences of the US, Malaysia and South Africa and has opted to implement affirmative action programs throughout the country." Matilde Ribeiro (below), Secretary for the Promotion of Racial Equality, heads a new, Cabinet-level, government agency. Individual states are considering affirmative action in social programs, and universities have worked to diversify student bodies. "The prestigious Brazilian Foreign Service known as Itamaraty," Morrison writes, "has a quota system to set aside spaces for Afro-Brazilians to study diplomacy." Morrison concludes:

Brazil had long been seen as the model of a unique brand of racial harmony (insidiously called racial democracy) that hid underlying state policies of racial discrimination. Brazil is finally beginning to come to terms with its long history of racism and exclusion through innovative policies and national attention to racial disparities -- it is worthwhile for all of us to study this interesting example.

(Heartfelt thanks to Nekesha Batty for the head's up on this article.)

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