Comparing the United States and Brazil

Ethnic Conflict: Comparing the United States and Brazil
Ethnic Conflict: Comparing the United States and Brazil
In the 19
century, slave trade was conventional in the American continents. The United
States and other developing nations such Brazil have a similar history with the slave trade. The
abolishment processes in these two countries were through the development of anti-slavery laws
that aimed at denying dominant whites the rights to own slaves. In the United States, the 13
Amendment was a pivotal point for the abolishment of human trafficking. A section of the
American politician known as anti-slavery Republican Party sought to counter the expansion of
slave trade and not suppress it entirely. As a result, the effectiveness of the American efforts to
abolish slave business remains questionable. The scope of the regulations made may have played
a significant part in promoting ethnic divisions in the US. Regarding Brazil, colonists in 1530
established sugar cane plantations and mills (Hébrard, 2013). Notably, in 1570 the colonists
started to transfer African captives to work for them in the farms until 1850 with over five
million Africans shipped to Brazil to work and live as slaves in the farmlands, in Brazilian cities
and mines (Hébrard, 2013). As such, activists such as Nabuco and Freyre led the fight against
enslavement with the establishment of Brazilian Anti-slavery Society. Similar to the U.S., the
effectiveness of the laws used to control slave trade in Brazil is questionable. Thus, this essay
aims at comparing the manner in which U.S. and Brazil handled the transition of former slaves to
free citizens. The primary objective is to determine the reasons ethnic conflict reduced in one
country than the other. Notably, this paper will use historical intuitionalism and cultural theories
to compare the two countries. However, the exploration is limited to the explanation of
significant differences that exist between US and Brazil in handling the transition from slavery to
citizenship and the recent appearance of ethnic conflict in the two countries.
Historical institutionalism theory is based on the assumptions that institutional rules,
constraints, and the response to them over a long time help to guide political actors (Orfeo, Tulia,
& Adam, 2016). Therefore, this hypothesis points to the impact of the laws that were made to
abolish slave trade in the modern policy-making process in the U.S. and Brazil. Consequently, it
will facilitate a critical exploration of Slavery concerning segregation laws and civil rights
movements and laws. Based on this assumption, the institutional requirements used to control
slave trade played a more significant role in the development of the current social divisions
between the blacks and whites in the modern U.S. society (Orfeo, Tulia, & Adam, 2016).
Cultural theory is based on various attempts to conceptualize and have a better
comprehension of the dynamics of culture. Mainly, it proposes that individuals tend to identify
danger and react to the risk in diverse ways that tend to motivate the establishment of various
social schemes that can be examined as ‘grid’ and ‘group’ to demonstrate unity and the amount
of authority exerted unto them from above (Rusell, Suze, & Bram, 2017). Precisely, it is limited
towards the relationship between culture and society, specifically the split between high and low
cultures. In this regard, cultural theory will help to demonstrate the engagement with concepts
that are often concealed by cultural differences between the whites and blacks in the U.S. and
Brazil and their impact on the abolishment of slavery. Thus, it will help to prove that differences
in cultural superiority develop ethnic conflicts.
Historical institutionalism and the cultural theory help to develop a sufficient basis for the
exploration of African-American cultural trauma. The strain opens an exciting new perspective
on black American identity. Even after the establishment of laws to abolish slave trade, there
exist some significant gaps between the whites and blacks. The dream of gaining cultural
integration and full citizenship was cut short by the nature of laws developed in the 1800s
(Washington, 2002). The result was an emergence of the meaning of slavery; hence, developed a
site for identity conflict. The newly expanded and resourceful ranks of the civilized blacks have
helped to articulate the identity conflict.
Comparative Analysis
Slave trade succeeded in promoting racial segregation and oppression of the blacks. As a
result, American civil rights movement led the protest against racial segregation and
discrimination, especially in the Southern parts of the federation. The efforts by the blacks to
resist racial oppression formed the basis for the development of civil rights, which saw some
African-American leaders channel their activism and develop activation movements. For
instance, some movements such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People (NAACP) used the legal system to fight against racial segregation in 1909 (Avidit,
Matthew, & Maya, 2016). Despite such efforts, racial separations continued to exist. For
example, after the great migration between 1910 and 1920, the Blacks continued to face
exclusion and discrimination in employment and segregation in schools. Other forms of isolation
during this period included separation in public accommodation facilities. However, the case was
extreme to the south.
Racial segregation in the Northern America was not as tremendous as in the Southern
part. For instance, anti-racial laws protected the Northern black men from extreme racial
exclusions; hence, they faced fewer barriers to voting. As their number increased, their vote
became a significant factor in elections (Daron & James, 2008). However, the American
leadership never allowed complete freedom and enjoyment of rights among the blacks. The
efforts by President Franklin Roosevelt provided the best support to the African Americans.
However, the legislation and policies that he developed allowed the existence of a considerable
extent of discrimination. Therefore, the government significantly failed in establishing an
adequate support to the blacks.
In the southern region, things were entirely different. People were more conservatives
with unique attitude towards race motivated by distinctive racial past. The economic and political
importance of slave trade was very significant. Even after its abolishment, extreme ethnic
divisions were evident in the institutional and cultural features of the era that followed, and
extended to shaping racial order of the south and the manner in which the southerners think
about race, politics, and policies even in the modern world (Kerri, 2014). Today, the southerners
are still conservatives who consider the blacks as inferiors. Mainly, this orientation of attitude
may be linked to the experience that their ancestors had with the slaves. Passage of the extreme
stances over generations has made it possible to have racial divisions in a democratic nation.
In the nineteenth century, the wealthiest people in Brazil were slave traders due to the
activity’s economic importance. For instance, slaves were involved in sugar cane and mining
activities, which were the backbone of Brazil. Just like in the southern American, Brazilian
masters were reluctant in allowing freedom to slaves (Kerri, 2014). As a result, they were more
conservative, and continued with this business activity (Douglas, 2011). The Blacks started the
revolt against the whites with the aim of fighting for their freedom and rights that would protect
them from racial segregation. They used diverse approaches to combat involuntary enslavement.
For example, runaway slaves came up with quilombos, which had distinct objectives of self-rule
and self-sufficiency. They damaged their masters’ equipment to sabotage them. Also, they tried
to seize power through their groupings
In the late 1800s, reformist activities in Brazil started to incite at institutions of higher
learning. Journalists, young lawyers and students began to mobilize citizens to liberate slaves in
the country (Park, 2013 ). Notably, Joaquim Nabuco started the fight against enslavement in
Brazil, motivating the establishment of the Brazilian Anti-Slavery Society (Park, 2013 ). Nabuco
stated that “there is neither freedom nor independence in a land with one million five hundred
thousand slaves (Park, 2013). The fight to end slavery went on under his leadership, and lastly
on 13
May 1888, the Golden Law was enacted by the imperial family, formally abolishing
enslavement and allowing slaves to be assimilated as Brazilians (Park, 2013 ). For the better part
of the 20
century, Brazil was taken as a post-racial country, mulato being taken as the national
ideology. Gilberto Freyre championed the idea, which meant slave and master had a symbiotic
relationship due to the mixing of races to produce a stronger Brazil (Park, 2013 ).
Despite the officially ended slave trade in Brazil, racial segregation and gaps are very
evident. The whites tend to discourage a healthy form of interaction between the natives and
blacks (Kerri, 2014). For example, the level of earning in Blacks is significantly lower than that
of the whites. In other institutions such as schools and prisons, the gap between the whites and
blacks is very evident. The Brazilian society seems to have carried that ancient culture down to
the modern era.
From the comparative analysis above, it is evident that racial segregation is still present
to this day in the American and Brazilian societies. The two countries have a shared history of
slavery. The whites were willing to retain slaves due to economic activities they promoted. They
were sources of cheap labor; hence, had a positive impact on the level of revenue generated.
Thus, this was the primary reason ethnic conflict was settled successfully in some areas. In
regions where the whites experienced significant benefits from the slave trade, they were
reluctant to promote equality or even grant freedom to the slaves. In the modern world, political
and economic differences exist between the blacks and whites. The effect is a direct result of the
impact institutional rules, constraints, and the response to slavery. According to historical
institutionalism theory, the nature of institutional practices in the past played a significant role in
shaping the current attitudes. Political leadership in the U.S. never provided a comprehensive
support to the abolishment of racial discrimination. As a result, the effect has been carried down
through different generations and is evident in the modern American society. For instance, in
August 2014, there were protests in Ferguson, Missouri when an unarmed black teenager was
shot dead by a white police officer, leading to the establishment of the Black Lives Matter
movement, which gained support in places such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Baltimore
((Baptiste, 2017). From the cultural theory point of view, division between the superior whites
and inferior blacks has existed in the American culture since the time of slave trade. The whites
who live in the Southern part of the U.S, which heavily relied on slavery, are currently more
conservative, racially hostile, and less responsive to policies that promote progress of the blacks.
Notably, this behavior has persisted throughout the history of the U.S., and they are a direct
product of slaveholding history of the modern society. In Brazil, quilombos that were founded by
escaped slaves live in the remote parts of the county, holding to the traditional African schemes
of community elders to promote racial equality. Their efforts have seen more than 3,500
communities being provided with land and other social aids such as electricity.
Avidit, A., Matthew, B., & Maya, S. (2016). Deep Roots: The Political Legacy of Southern
Slavery. Harvard University: Cambridge.
Daron, A., & James, A. R. (2008). The Persistence and Change of Institutions in the Americas.
Southern Economic Journal, 282-299.
Douglas, S. M. (2011). The Past & Future of American Civil Rights. American Academy of Arts
& Sciences, 34-54.
Kerri, L. H. (2014). Segregation in United States Healthcare: From Reconstruction to Deluxe Jim
Crow. Honors Theses and Capstones, 1-52.
Orfeo, F., Tulia, G. F., & Adam, S. (2016). The Oxford Handbook of Historical Institutionalism.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Washington, R. (2002). Review of Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African
American Identity, by Ron Eyerman. American Journal of Sociology, 689-691.

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