Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Student Exchange



On Monday we visited Professor Flavia’s human rights class. This class was filled with teachers, professors, activists, organizers, lawyers, and law students. The students were eager to ask questions and learn more about the unfortunate growing movement against affirmative action in the U.S. One student was going to be participating in a debate defending affirmative action and asked for help preparing her arguments. After 40 years of defending these programs we were more than happy to share our views on the subject. In listening to the students ask their questions about the status of affirmative action in the U.S. and the problems that Brazil is currently facing. I realized how important it is to share with them the reality in the U.S. This was especially important when the question of the presidential race and Obama came up. In Brazil, Obama’s candidacy is being deployed in support of the myth of racial democracy. Some argue that Obama is “beyond race.” His race, they argue, does not make him a winning candidate – it is simply his charisma or his leadership, they argue. However, many people we have visited have voiced that Obama gives them hope. His success this far symbolizes possibility for the rest of the world. This is unarguable because he is Black man.
Discussing these issues in Professor Flavia’s class was fruitful for all of us. For example, although there appeared to be great diversity in the room, one of the Black students was quick to point out that all the Black students in the room were from Africa. It was glaring that there were no Afro-Brazilian students in this class. The absence of any Afro-Brazilian students in this class, in a country where almost half the population is Afro-Brazilian, is simply unacceptable. This only further illustrates the need for continued affirmative action programs and speaks to the importance of continuing dialogues between the US and Brazil.

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