Racial Inequality definition/detailed description

Racial inequality is the difference in life opportunities and conditions that occur as a result of a person’s ethnicity. Blacks, Indians and mestizos – are examples of groups that face challenges arising from historical processes of segregation. Racial Inequality definition

Despite having its origin in the word “race”, this is a term that was used to differentiate humans until the mid-twentieth century, but it fell out of favor with the scientific proof that there are no subgroups of humans, that is, there is only one human race .

When it comes to racial inequality, therefore, it is the inequality that exists between ethnic groups . Racial inequality is the result of historical, cultural and political processes, based on the belief in the superiority of some “races”. In Brazil, slavery is the episode whose consequences are more explicit in relation to racial inequality.

Different conditions of access to education, health, security and housing, for example, are barriers faced by blacks and other ethnic minorities around the world and especially in countries where segregation policies were more severe.

Racial inequality in Brazil

Brazil is one of the most unequal countries in the world and skin color is a structuring element of the difference between groups. Racial inequality is reflected in the different education, income and employment conditions of this population. Racial Inequality definition

Although blacks make up about 54% of the population, socioeconomic indices are not proportional across the entire population. The IBGE’s National Household Sample Survey (PNAD) shows this disparity between several aspects.


In 2017, the rate of whites with complete higher education was 22.9%, while that of blacks was 9.3%. Illiteracy, in 2016, was higher among blacks and browns, who had 9.9% of the population unable to read. In that same year, the rate of illiterate whites was 4.2%.

The rate of out-of-school youth between 15 and 17 years old is higher among blacks and browns than among whites. While 7.2% of whites do not attend school in this age group, 10.2% and 11.6% of browns and blacks, respectively, are not in school.


This research showed that, in 2017, the monthly income of blacks and browns varied between R$1,570 and R$1,606, while the average for whites was R$2,814. Blacks and browns also represent the poorest. The researchers isolated the poorest 10% of the country and found that of these, 75% were black or mixed race.


Unemployment or informal employment rates are also unfavorable for this portion of the population. In the first quarter of 2018, there were 14.6% of blacks unemployed, a rate higher than the 11.9%, which was the average of general unemployment in that period. Racial Inequality definition


Blacks are also at the top of homicide statistics in Brazil. According to a survey by the Brazilian Public Security Forum, they represent 71% of victims of these crimes and there are signs of aggravation: the number of blacks killed between 2005 and 2015 increased by 18%, while among the black population, this rate dropped by 12%.

violence against women

Violence against women also deserves a racial analysis. In Brazil, on average, 64% of murdered women are black and statistics show no progress. According to the 2015 Violence Map, between 2003 and 2013, the homicide of black women went from 1,864 to 2,875, while in the same period the homicide of white women dropped from 1,747 to 1,576.

Why does racial inequality still exist?

As the history of Brazil is much more marked by the existence of this regime, the consequences have not yet been properly corrected. Policies that try to reverse historical injustices are called affirmative policies, and one of the most famous of these actions in Brazil is racial quotas.

Quotas are reservations for places at public universities for blacks, browns and indigenous people. It is not just in Brazil that there are racial quotas, this policy model was first implemented in the United States in the 1960s.

The purpose of the quotas is to provide the black and indigenous population with access to education and considers the lower number of people from these ethnic groups who attend higher education in relation to whites. The objective of affirmative policies is to exist until social justice is achieved and there is no distinction of access to opportunities based on origin.

But in addition to the actions of the State in order to correct the social injustices committed over the centuries, a deep awareness of the population is also necessary, as the consequences of this regime are rooted in society. Social marks regarding the inferiority of black people still permeate the work, political, cultural and social relationships. Racial Inequality definition

Racial inequality in other countries

Racial inequality is present all over the world and is a reflection of segregation policies implemented in the past. Two examples of countries where the black population still has different living conditions compared to whites are the United States and South Africa.

United States

During the 17th century, the United States was a slave country. In other words, just as in Brazil, blacks were considered commodities and did not have the same rights as whites. After the end of the Civil War, slavery was abolished, but segregationist policies were imposed on blacks.

This means that blacks were not allowed to attend the same schools, walk in places considered exclusively for whites, or even sit in white spaces on public transport.

Segregation laws were only repealed from the 1950s onwards, motivated by civil society movements for equality.

Despite the end of the segregation regime, racial inequality is still a reflection of that period in the United States. According to the Urban Institute, the patrimony of blacks is on average six times smaller than that of whites. And according to a Pew Research survey , the average of blacks entering university and completing higher education is 21%, while that rate among whites is 34%. Racial Inequality definition

South Africa

In South Africa, between 1948 and 1994, there was a policy of racial segregation called Apartheid . The state drafted several laws that aimed to separate the white population from the black population. Apartheid laws , among other measures, prohibited blacks from going to the same places as whites and condemned sexual relations or marriage between different “races”.

The consequences of this institutionalized policy of racial segregation are still felt by the population today. Blacks in the country face more difficulties in accessing the job market and education and are the majority of the population that lives on the poverty line in the country.

International day against racial discrimination

On March 21, 1960, the police of the Apartheid regime clashed with blacks who were holding a peaceful demonstration, leaving 69 dead and 186 injured. The protesters were against the Pass Law, which forced the black population to carry a card that described the places they could attend.

After this event, the United Nations Organization designated March 21 as the International Day for the Fight against Racial Discrimination.

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