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Racial Whitening or "Whitening" is an ideology that was widely accepted in Brazil between 1889 and 1914, as the solution to the "Negro problem."[1] Supporters of the Whitening ideology believed that the Negro race would advance culturally and genetically, or even disappear totally, within several generations of mixed breeding between whites and blacks. This ideology gained its support from two scientific racism beliefs that were prominent during this time. One being Social Darwinism, which applied Darwin's theory of natural selection to a society or race, and the other being Aryanism, the belief that the "white" Aryan race was superior to all other cultures. By combining these two ideas, the white elites of the time believed that because "white" blood was superior it would inevitably "whiten" the inferior races' blood.

Use of the whitening ideology

The actual use of the Whitening ideology seems to be peculiar to Brazil, and was not seen in Europe or the United States.[1] Many Europeans believed that the mixing of races would produce degenerate offspring and they feared mixing could become a threat to the white race. In America a barrier between blacks and whites was formed by segregation, which forbade the mixing of the two races.

Brazil on the other hand did not have the barrier of segregation, and the Portuguese were more accepting of miscegenation. Also Brazil was already a multicultural society that already had a mixed-class. When scientific racist beliefs and ideas became more prominent in the 1850s, Brazil's society felt they needed to find their place in the social order and to do this they needed to solve their problem with the supposedly inferior races. Because they already were a multicultural society the Whitening ideology was a perfect solution. Most Brazilians thought this approach was a far better one than what the United States had done. A Brazilian statesman compared the United States and Brazil by saying,

Now comes the necessity to devise some method of dealing with it [the Negro problem]. You of the United States are keeping the blacks as an entirely separate element, and you are not treating them in a way that fosters their self-respect. They will remain a menacing element in your civilization, permanent, and perhaps even after a while a growing element. With us the question tends to disappear, because the blacks themselves tend to disappear and become absorbed...[1]

Result of Brazil's whitening

Around the late 1920s scientific racism gave way to environmentalist social philosophy,[1] and by the 1950s the Whitening ideology ended. The Whitening Ideology more than likely ended because scientific racism was, by this time, scientifically disproven. Therefore the resulting ethnicity of a child born from a mixed couple could not be predetermined.

Today, mixed black and black brazilians compromise the majority of that nation's population. [2]

Significant people who have made reference to whitening in Brazil

  • Joao Batista de Lacerda: Director of the Museu Nacional, wrote a paper named "Half-Breeds of Brazil" in it he describes the differences in the different races. He also predicted that by the third generation of mixed breeding there are predominantly white characteristics.
  • Theodore Roosevelt: After visiting Brazil in 1913 he wrote an article in Outlook magazine. In his article he talks about how the Brazilian Negro is disappearing.
  • Thomas Skidmore: Wrote the book Black into White which covers many of the aspects dealing with Whitening. Also gives his own theories and insights.


Template:One source

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Skidmore, Thomas. Black Into White Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought, Oxford University Press. NY, 1974.
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