Visible effects of affirmative action: An analysis of print media in Brazil

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2014-04

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Wang, Julia

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Abstract

In 2004, University of Brasília was the first federal university to enact racial quotas into their admissions policy. This was a significant and progressive move by Brazil, after it had labeled itself a racial democracy for over forty years. This study focuses on investigating the sources of change and social effects resulting from the enactment of racial policies through the analysis of models’ skin tone in advertisements of Brazilian print media. Advertisements serve as a measure of the Brazilian public’s attitudes regarding the inclusion of Afro-Brazilians. Key questions of analysis include: Are policy changes the result of attitude changes? Or are attitude changes the result of policy changes? Is change due to a direct causal impact of the affirmative action policies or is the enactment of race-conscious policies and the change in models’ skin tones the result of a shift in attitudes to begin with? Advertisements from 1998 to 2010 in three widely read Brazilian magazines are evaluated to see whether there is a relationship between the affirmative action policies enacted in Brazil in 2004 and the acceptance of racial inclusion (seen through the complexion of Brazilians represented in the media). Results show an increase in the representation of non-White Brazilians from 1998-2006. Following 2006 and the enactment of affirmative action policies, there is a decline in non-White representation, suggesting a public backlash against racial inclusion. These findings suggest that before 2004-2006, elite actions from social movements and the Executive produced a shift in public’s attitudes and, after 2006, public attitudes affected policy change. These two entities did not exhibit a mutually reinforcing relationship, but at least in the short term, a negative relationship.

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