Incorporating the myth of racial democracy and the myth of racial equality within the criminal justice systems of Brazil and the United States

Access full-text files




Linhares, Fernando E.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Race does matter but to what extent? It depends on the vested interests of the governing body. In Brazil, a theory of racial democracy was advanced to accommodate competing interests. In the United States, a theory of racial equality as a supplement to the "self-made man" concept was incorporated to address opposing concerns. This thesis examines the racial formation in Brazil and the United States and how the respective criminal justice systems were formed and are impacted by racial considerations. After a discussion of racial formation in both countries, its relevancy to existing criminal justice institutions is offered. It is submitted that generally, race formation led to criminology that had a reliance on anthropology in Brazil, while it was founded on a sociological perspective in the United States. The Brazilian perspective presupposes a continuum of racial designations contributing to democratic governance which values "whitening" as a unifying factor while the United States perspective presupposes all races are equal within democratic governance which values individual achievement as the unifying factor. These presuppositions have emerged as national myths under the nomenclature of Racial Democracy and Racial Equality or the "self-made man". These myths have also been exposed by social scientists from both an anthropological and sociological perspective. Far from being realized, the pursuit of these myths, or desired cultural norms of "whitening" and individual achievement, continue to influence race relations in both countries. Nevertheless, the implementation of affirmative action policies has emerged to address the shortcomings in each theory. Ironically, what started as two diametrically opposing views of racial designation has integrated somewhat under the significant influence associated with cultural globalization, transparency, democratization and advanced social science methodology.


LCSH Subject Headings