Philanthropy, yes, but philanthropy for racial equity…?

Selma Moreira and Fernanda Lopes

Despite a large Black population, Brazil has struggled to mount an effective response to racial inequality

Fundo Baobá launched a collection of black dolls with Estrela to educate children about respect and diversity.

The relationship between philanthropy and the black population is long-standing, the best expression of it being the Black Sisterhoods. Dating back to the colonial era, these institutions allowed blacks to assume and define forms of social engagement, and to pay expenses with some dignity for things such as funerals. They represented resistance and solidarity against the hostility of the colonial mentality. Today, out of the 207.8 million people in Brazil, 55.8 per cent describe themselves as brown, 9.3 per cent as black, and 43.1 per cent as white. Black and brown people form the Afro-Brazilian group or black population. However, despite these figures and the efforts of institutions like the Black Sisterhoods, philanthropy in Brazil has been slow to take up the cause of promoting racial equity.

The historic inequality of opportunities and income over the years has created an economic divide separating black and Indigenous Peoples from others. All social indicators – of education, living conditions, political engagement, jobs and income – reflect the inequality of Brazilian society and the role played in it by structural racism. Until recently, the philanthropic efforts of non-black civil society organisations were limited to offering assistance, while preserving the social standing of the beneficiaries. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the relationship of mainstream philanthropy and the black population coexisted alongside structural racism. It was not until the early 1990s that organisations supporting black Brazilian women established partnerships with international philanthropic foundations promoting gender equality, funding efforts focused on the recognition and assurance of women’s human rights.

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