How the University of Brasilia Determines Who Is Black

The University of Brasilia in the capital city of Brazil is one of that country’s elite institutions of higher learning. In the past, Afro-Brazilians made up about 2 percent of the student body despite the fact that 50 percent of the country’s population has African heritage.

Now the government of Brazil is reserving 20 percent of all spaces in the incoming class for Afro-Brazilians. The tricky part is determining who will qualify for admission under the quota system. In a multiracial society where there has been a great deal of race mixing, determining who is, and who is not, black is being left to a special admissions committee. All applicants will be required to submit photographs with their applications. The committee will look over the photographs taking particular note of skin tone, lip thickness, and hair texture before making its decision.

The television show Wide Angle will examine the university admissions process and overall race relations in Brazil in a documentary premiering this week on the Public Broadcasting Network.