Race, Gender, and Social Class Discrimination in Intersection with Political Identification in Rio de Janeiro


This article discusses the prejudices and discrimination against afro-descendants, women, LGBTQ persons, the homeless, immigrants, and young adults, considering class, religion, and political differences within the population of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. These types of discrimination are analyzed through the intersectionality approach using a concept named discrimination relational matrix of analysis”. In a two-phase design of a representative sample 759 urban inhabitants answered a questionnaire asking for their perceptions, attitudes, practices, and intergroup relationships on racism, patriarchalism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and self-identification within different social classes, religions, and political-ideological identifications; correlations and a statistical model of Principal Component Analysis was applied to explore the main factors of discrimination. Analysis results show how explicit and several kinds of masked discrimination are connected, spread, normalized and popularized through apparently liberal and democratic speeches, and ambiguous attitudes and practices according to different interests between ingroups and outgroups in an environment of competition for resources and historic cultural settings of conservatism, patriarchalism and social classes prejudices, attached mainly to poverty and low educational levels. They also highlight a recent global context impacted by the increase in hate speech and extremism of right-wing political activism of small groups. The main discriminatory discourses and practices in Rio de Janeiro are openly uncivilized, sexist, racist, and xenophobic, and discriminate against the lower social classes and other vulnerable groups via a multidirectional anti-equality and anti-democratic mainstream, and its radicalization is popularized by a core leader far right group and is disseminated to and appropriated by distinct groups based on resources competition.

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Gomes, C. (2022) Race, Gender, and Social Class Discrimination in Intersection with Political Identification in Rio de Janeiro. Sociology Mind, 12, 157-174. doi: 10.4236/sm.2022.124011.

1. Introduction

This article has the objective of analyzing and correlating diverse statements of prejudices in perceptions, attitudes, and practices of the population of the city of Rio de Janeiro involving race, gender, immigration, social class, religious and political identification, and other types of discriminations, classifying them in ranges, and analyzing the correlations among them, as well as the principal components/statements that set prejudice-groups, in order to understand how they are combined and how relevant or influential they are. Considering the Brazilian academic consensus on the myth of racial democracy as the main characteristic of racism in Brazil, some categories were built into scales and concepts—explicit racism, non-adherence to affirmative measures and racism denegation (based upon the denial of racial inequalities)—and according to possible explanatory concepts such as intimacy, intergroup relationships, ethnocentrism, resources competition, etc.

Each type of discrimination has a conceptual approach. For example, gender discrimination and patriarchalism are represented as misogyny and homophobia, supporting female domestic roles, and tolerating hate and aggression against women and LGBTQ people. Social classes are represented by differences in the level of education and work conditions, as well as other subjective/relational questions. Moreover, prejudices against immigrants and the homeless as disadvantaged social groups, religion, and political identification are identified by self-classification (right-wing, left-wing, or center for example) as well as other subjective positions.

These types of discrimination are analyzed from a comprehensive theoretical and conceptual framework of intersectionality, focusing on the domination processes that interface between different repressive social systems like social class, patriarchy, racial formations, gender, generational and national prejudices (Crenshaw, 1989). This intersectionality approach is defined as a matrix of race, gender, and social class discrimination and democratic values).

1.1. Inequalities, Discrimination and Democracy in Brazil

With the return of democracy, Brazil has implemented various social policies since 2000, covering more than thirty million people, to reduce discrimination on the grounds of poverty, race, gender, age, immigration, social class, religion, and political differences, along with other kinds of discrimination. The reliable results achieved in social inclusion were reversed by a coup d’état led by the elites in 2016 to maintain their privileges, eliminate the rights conquests of most of the population and rebuild the barriers to full citizen inclusion.

In Brazil, the criterion to identify the Black population is the sum of people who define themselves as black or of mixed race. This group represents the majority of the population and is defined by anti-racism movements as the “negro” population. According to anti-racism academics, the word “negro” has a historical meaning since it was used as a differential political identity of the leaders and rebel ex-enslaved Africans who escaped from the plantations system to the free territories of “quilombos”. In 2013, the “negro” population represented 52.9% of the total population (around one hundred million people). Brazil is the country with the second largest number of Black people in the world—the first is Nigeria (Brazil, 2016)—and Rio de Janeiro has 6.8 million inhabitants, three million of whom are afro-descendants, and mostly women (IBGE, 2013). In Brazil, the LGBTQ population is estimated as representing 8.4% of the population, and in Rio de Janeiro 14.3% (IBGE, 2019b); the population classified as poor fell from 11.5 percent in 2001 to 3.8% in 2012, increased to 25.2% in 2018 and to 29.5% in 2021 (IBGE, 2019a; The World Bank, 2022). The homeless were estimated to number 32,000 in 2019 (Natalino, 2020), and foreign immigrants totaled 714,000 in 2015 (Cavalcanti et al., 2015).

Race, sex, and social disparities have characterized Brazilian society, institutions, and macro- and micro-relationships throughout its 521 years of history. Until the beginning of the 20th Century, the Brazilian population was Black people (slaves or descendants of the enslaved1) (Klein & Vinson III, 2007), illiterate, and defined by the elites, intellectuals and in newspapers as “bestializada” (made beasts)—a cause for national shame (Carvalho, 2004).

The attitudes and practices against most of the population are vestiges from the slavery period as an intrinsic part of the formation and development of Brazilian elites and the middle class, despite the false myth of “racial democracy” and the ideal of the “whitening” of society (Fernandes, 1965; Bento, 2002) through European immigration, composed mainly of poor agricultural workers and marginal groups from Italy, Spain, Portugal and—after the Second World War—Germany. Racism is widespread, explicit and/or subtle and, combined with class and gender discrimination, has been normalized in power structures of national, state, and municipal institutions, and micro-social entities, in both individual and familial lives. Prejudices and discriminatory attitudes are denied and hidden behind a mask, by a belief that in Brazil there is a peaceful and even romantic miscegenation process (Alencar, 2013; Amaral, 2011; Brazil, 2013; Brazil, 2016).

Citizenship has been denied for most of the population for centuries. Only since 1930 have majority groups like the poor, women and the illiterate progressively acquired the right to vote directly and elect their own representatives. In 1930, only 5% of Brazilians with the right to vote did vote. This percentage increased to 13% in the 1950s thanks to women’s right to vote, and to 17% before the civil-military coup of 1964. Only after the re-democratization was the vote of the illiterate approved and there was a surge in votes cast to 48% of the population in 1990, and, after 2002, to 56% (Gomes, 2019).

1.2. Explicit and Subtle Racism, Sexism and Social Class Discrimination in Brazil

Santos (2007) observes that “prejudice plays its part in daily aggression against Black people, alternating between silences, whispers, speeches, and shouts…to keep the facade of people as “morally intact, mentally healthy” (‘good’), which would have “authority” to discriminate and have power over the “other.” It is socially acceptable to use the statement “must know your place”—referring to an inferior place for discriminated against groups such as black, youth, women, LGBTQ, the poor and unprivileged others. This inferior place means that “there are others who deserve more than you, there are others who are priority, you are less important.” As a result, up to today, the Afro-Brazilian is the group with the highest disadvantages in land and housing property, work, health, education, security, citizenship, and rights.

Discriminatory attitudes and practices are masked daily in jokes, comments, views, and suspicious attitudes and practices learned from an early age, such as “irony, sarcasm and exasperation, the jokes and the nervous smile, often without being aware of them…or even when we realized that we would be contradictory or racist” (Ribeiro, 2012).

According to McIntosh (1989) in USA these silences are part of an ambiguous game of privileged groups to keep their own power: “… colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferring dominance by making these taboo subjects. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.”

In the last two decades, racism has been outlawed in Brazil, and it is more difficult to detect self-declared explicit racism, since people have been aware of the risks of publicly airing their racial prejudices. In any case, in the same period, the hate speech and practices against Black people, women and feminists, LGBTQ people, the Indigenous, the poor and the homeless, and against the left-wing workers party that was in power and implemented affirmative policies have become progressively more visible and popularized in Brazil (De Pelle & Moreira, 2017). This trend reconciles with increases in the political activism of right-wing and fundamentalist religious extremist groups (Neace, 2016; Sinner, 2015) that have been popularizing hate speech and practices, as well the Nazi (Gertz, 2008) and Fascist ideologies (Maynard, 2014), with political interference in the results of recent elections. A similar process of political changes has been observed in Europe and USA (Krzyżanowski et al., 2021). In Brazil, this process also originated historically, at first from slavery and colonization, then through the abolition that substituted slavery with the “bestialization” of Africans and their descendants, and finally through the eugenic government policies that, among other measures, supported the population whitening through encouraging massive European immigration, since 1870 and, later, after the ascension of the Nazi Party in Germany and after WW2. The descendants of the last generations have established continuities with new-colonialism and new-Nazism, updating racist and supremacist movements aiming to separate the whiter superior south of the country, developed by German settlers from the negro north (Gertz, 2008; Menezes & Martins, 2017). Therefore, in Brazil, racism is related to a so-called “internal xenophobia” and it was progressively incorporated in diverse moments and specific processes of settlement colonization from Europe—firstly, poor and marginalized workers (including labor activists with experience and claims on education, labor rights and unions establishing some mechanisms of class solidarity) and, secondly, with a wave of immigrants as organized groups evading post-war trials in Italy and Germany. Their descendants kept ideological continuities, in the past through building Nazi-Fascist parties—Integralist Party and, currently, encouraging racist and supremacist movements and groups, aiming to separate the whiter-European south of the country from the colonized and inferior north, with its predominantly Black people, Indigenous, and Mixed population.

1.3. Discrimination in Communication Media

In the Brazilian case, the same process explains the setbacks in democracy. Claims were made for the continuity of the supremacy ideas of privileged and elite groups related to skin color, sex, age, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, physical ability, nationality, religion, and the extremist right-wing political identification, as well as the hate speech against the governments that promoted affirmative policies and included the unprivileged groups (in general, most of the population) in the public budget and socioeconomic rights.

It is very common in Brazil to see in the communications media that some population groups criticize social measures and policies, arguing that all have the same opportunities, and that results are based upon individual merit, or that policies are oriented by corruption (Gomes, 2019), which are, in general, accompanied by hate speech that denies the existence of or demerits social beneficiaries by accusing them of corruption, as well as the governments that supported the interest of these groups of poor and afro-descendants. Controversies and conflicts in society raise the argument that race inequality is an imported issue that could create or promote a problem that “does not exist” in Brazilian society, that poor people must work more, that women’s behavior causes their own rapes, and so on. Contradictions and ambiguities are also present, since in a previous survey applied to health personnel in Salvador, 90% of them declared that racism exists and is quite common in Brazil, but 90% said they are not racists. Thus, somehow, the Brazilian population is a racist population without racist individuals. The same group also believes that speaking about racism and conflicts would generate problems which do not exist and that affirmative policies are not necessary and would generate unfair discrimination against white people (Gomes, 2019).

Only after the emergence of the massive movement Black Lives Matters in the United States in 2013, have denunciations regarding aggressions and assassinations of afro-descendants been more visible in the Brazilian communication media, despite the fact the cases in Brazil are more scandalous. The most internationally known example was the murder of the activist and municipal councilor, Marielle Franco, in Rio de Janeiro. She was shot, along with her driver, in her car in downtown Rio in 2017. This case was followed by many other acts symbolically representative of racist, misogynic, homophobic, and political hate practices. A black musician and activist was assassinated in a bar in the city of Salvador by a Bolsonaro supporter, a white man, because the musician was defending the left-wing party and its candidate in the 2018 elections. A Black musician was killed in Rio de Janeiro in 2019 in a hail of bullets because the military police confused his car with that of a criminal. There are several other and increasingly frequent cases of the hate murder of individuals and groups of women and LGBTQ people, Black people, the homeless, Indigenous, immigrants, etc.

2. Materials and Methods

A three-phase stratified survey was designed considering administrative regions, neighborhoods, and housing, and a questionnaire with ninety questions was applied to the selected 759 inhabitants of the city of Rio de Janeiro. The questionnaire was concerned with socio-demographic characteristics, perceptions, attitudes, and discriminatory practices as well as intergroup perceptions and relationships considering race, age, gender, migration, social class, religious and political identification differences regarding.

· Accepting or tolerating attitudes and practices;

· Discriminatory attitudes and practices (violent, regressive, unfriendly, causing trouble, a lack of trust, getting more than is deserved, etc.);

· Ethnocentric attitudes versus diversity in relationships (number of friends with differences), for example;

· Intimacy: tolerance of inter-race or same-gender marriage;

· Positive emotions versus feelings of threat and rejections/explicit racism: admiration or fear of Black people, for example;

· Resources competition: Black people and immigrants are taking employment vacancies from whites and Brazilian citizens, for example;

· Perceptions, attitudes and practices about religion, ethic, civility, politics, and policies.

Seventy items rated on a 4-point Likert-type scale were scored with one as the lowest and four as the highest level of discrimination/tolerance: strongly agree, partially agree, partially disagree, and strongly disagree. Alpha reliabilities were .88. Reliability, content validity, and construct validity were demonstrated, and no undue participant burden was observed. The scale was used to measure levels of racism, sexism, homophobia, social class discrimination and the religious and political identification of the population.

Variables were created by adopting statements about race, age, gender, migration, class and other prejudices and intergroup perceptions and relationships obtained from the references review of scientific articles (Grandi et al., 2013).

Some examples of these statements are:

The survey includes men (49%) and women (51%), 84% are heterosexual and 16% are LGBTQ. They are from 15 to 80 years old (the mean age is 35). Thirty-one percent declare they are black, 39% are mixed race and 30% are white. Twenty-eight percent are Evangelical, 17% are Catholics, 17% have no religion, 13% have Afro-religions, 12% are atheists, and 7% are spiritualists. Fifty-two percent are married, 39% are single, 7% are separated and 3% are widowers. The majority have children (59%)—23% have one child and 26% have two or more children. Seventy-three percent of them are working, 16% are unemployed, 5% are retired and 6% are students, while 61% have a middle education level, 20% have a basic level of education and 19% have a superior education level. Fifty-one percent have received or received benefits from government policies.

Principal Component Analysis (PCA)

PCA was used in this case to reduce the large number of categorical variables that would be classified and grouped through an interpretable linear combination of the data. Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) of (>0.5) was computed to test the sampling adequacy; Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity (Significant at 0.001) was conducted to test whether the correlation between the variables is sufficiently large for factor analysis; correlation matrix was computed to confirm the inter-item correlation. In this analysis, principal component factor analysis was the factor extraction method.

Each linear combination corresponds to a principal component (PCA). The First Principal Component is the linear combination of x-variables that has the maximum variance (among all linear combinations), so it accounts for as much variation in the data as possible. The Second Principal Component is the linear combination of x-variables that accounts for as much of the remaining variation as possible, with the constraint that the correlation between the first and second components is 0 (zero). All subsequent principal components have this same property—they are linear combinations that account for as much of the remaining variation as possible and they are not correlated with the other principal components. To interpret each component, we must compute the correlations between the original data for each variable and each principal component.

Because of standardization, all principal components will have a mean of 0 (zero). The standard deviation is also given for each of the components, and these will be the square root of the eigenvalue. More important for our current purposes, are the correlations between the principal components and the original variables.

Principal Component Analysis was applied to create groups of intersected highest correlated statements for the entire population. The statistical program used was SPSS version 22. The result showed that five new factors with eigenvalues greater than one were successfully constructed. The three new factors accounted for 44.7% of total variance in the dataset and were assigned as the common factors influencing gender, race, and social class discrimination in Rio de Janeiro. This percentage is considered enough in studies on human values and behavior. To analyze the results, the highest coefficients were those over 0.4.

3. Results and Discussion

Descriptive data shows that the majority, more than 60% of the population, disagrees with discriminating against young people regarding new employment or their inclusion in new areas, but ageism is an important discriminator. More than 30% agree that the young should take any treatment to be accepted.

Patriarchal values are very resilient, since 26% believe that women should be more concerned with their husband’s career and their own activities as wives, and 14% agree that women’s attitudes cause them to be attacked and raped. On the other hand, 25% disagree with LGBTQ marriage, and 29% of those disagree that LGBTQ people have the right to demonstrate their feelings publicly, such as by kissing.

3.1. Intergroup Relationships and Threat and Rejection as Subtle and Explicit Discrimination and Civility

Ethnocentrism measured as intergroup friendships does not seem to be most important topic in identifying discrimination, since the vast majority declares to have more than three friends different from them when referring to their skin color (88%), their religion (74%), their political identification (63%) and social class (59%). These data indicated that ethnocentrism does not matter in the sense of race or religion as much as social class and political identification, which seem like more important barriers built for interrelationships.

Using another scale of subtle ethnocentrism suggests that cultural differences between race groups are more openly assumed by the majority, in religious practices (61% agree they are different), in how they educate their children (55%), and in honesty (40%). Positive emotions like admiration for Black people are assumed to be common (53%), while intimacy—rejection of having a child married to a Black person is admitted by only 10% of them, along with rejecting working under a boss who is Black being rejected by only 14%.

Regarding ethic-moral values and the feeling of threat and rejection against poor people and afro-descendants provides the identification of explicit discrimination, 28% consider it’s okay to steal if they or their children are hungry; 26% believe that black people are more involved in drug trafficking than white people; and, regarding behavior, 18% of them usually cross the street when a black person is coming from the opposite direction.

The zero to ten scale of rejection/acceptance of discriminated against groups shows that 5% declare themselves as being uncomfortable having contact with black people, the indigenous and the poor who are beneficiaries of some public policy, 10% are made uncomfortable by slum dwellers (favelados), 19% by immigrants, 20% by street people, 22% by transvestites, 28% by homosexuals, 3 % by feminists, 35% by human rights activists, 46% by politicians, 46% by the police and 50% by activists for conservative values. The values of intolerance are lower for race and social class compared to immigrants and street people (around 20%), followed by higher percentages against LGBTQ and feminists, which reinforces the persistence of patriarchalism as a high conservative value compared to assuming racism and social class discrimination. In addition, reinforcing homophobia, 19% support psychological policies to promote LGBTQ sexual reversion—programs to make people heterosexual (“gay cure”).

The highest level of rejection against politicians, police and political activists indicates a low value to the democratic system, institutions, political and citizenship practices, particularly those oriented to promote equality. This extreme rejection against democratic values and equality can explain why, despite the return of democracy after the new Constitution of 1988, and recent laws and sanctions to prevent different types of discrimination, sexism and homophobia are openly assumed in higher proportions than racism and social class discrimination, with a base of anti-democratic, anti-institutions, anti-civil and politic organizations, and political activism.

Anti-politic and anti-policies speech contrasts with the massive support to labor, students, and anti-racism activism, and to labor and social security rights and policies: 79% believe that affirmative polices to include Black students in the university (quotas) should continue. Only 14% think they should be reduced and 8% support their removal. Ninety-three percent of the population declares to supporting movements against racism, 80% support student movements and 79% support labor organizations. Moreover, 32% consider they are left-wing, 56% declare they are center and 13% are right-wing.

Therefore, the previous conquests of the working class in labor and social security are still predominant and legitimate, as well as the new policies against racism which have a massive adherence, as opposed to the devaluation of democracy, politic and institutions.

3.2. Resources Deprivation and Meritocracy

Relative deprivations are explicitly linked to racism and xenophobia. When asked about resources competition, 23% agree that Black people take jobs from whites. And 52% play the merit card, since they consider that if Black people made more effort, they would have the same level of well-being as white people; in addition to 17% believing that politicians do not have to be concerned about Black people’s rights. The meritocratic ideology and class/work competition is predominant and openly assumed, and related to the ideas of the 14% who agree that people living on the streets should be removed, and the 28% who think that immigrants are taking their employment opportunities.

The meritocratic ideology is not directly decreasing the support the population already gives to labor movements and rights, but it is undermining the value the of democratic, institutional, and human right values, with a sense of insecurity or a lack of protection oriented by a lack of confidence in politics and political activists, as well as in the security forces.

These results indicate that there is no clear consistency in percentages of the position of everyone in the social inequalities matrix and their declared political identification (left-wing, center, right-wing) and their positive perception of labor rights and organizations/manifestations, in opposition to their negative perception and values against civil organization, democracy, and the delegitimization of social policies, political practices and activism. Moreover, different variables of these spheres are not statistically correlated. In the general population, the identification of these relationships depends on how you ask about them and how different ideological groups answer the questions. The PCA would support the analysis setting the most correlated variables in independent groups.

3.3. Correlations among Diverse Types of Discrimination

Considering that different patterns of discriminatory statements are reported according to the positions assumed by the population of Rio de Janeiro, the Principal Component Analysis is estimated to consist of three educational groups: basic, medium and university level, as a proxy of social class.

The level of education is interpreted as a proxy for social class, intersecting with the working position. Those with a basic level of education are likely to be unemployed or retired; those with a medium level of education to be working, and those that are university educated are likely to have a higher proportion of their number employed.

The poor/lower educated display ageism and xenophobia: discrimination against young adults (they should tolerate anything) is likely to be accepted among those with a basic level of education, as well as rejecting immigrants due to the lack of resources or work competition.

Lower-educated people are likely to support to labor unions and students’ movements, which is interpreted as a general adherence to social class. Racism clearly matters when linked to competition for resources and it is clearly intersected with social class, since those who agree with “blacks are occupying positions that are for whites” are likely to be university educated, whereas the basic level educated disagree. Patriarchal values, sexism and homophobia are more common and likely to be observed among people with a basic education who believe that women should support men and care for the home, that women are provocateurs of their rapes, that gay conversion therapy (gay cure) exists, and they are also likely to disagree with LGBTQ marriage and their expressions of love in public, such as kissing, as well as tending to disagree with sex education at school.

Lowly-educated people are likely to agree with racial education at school and they support laws to punish racist practices and speech, as do university-educated people, compared to the medium-educated or low-middle class.

Regarding ethnocentrism and culture, religion is the sphere with the highest correlation index with the level of education: the Umbanda (afro-religion) and all the evangelical religions are more frequently found among people with basic education. Catholics, atheists, and agnostics are likely to have either a basic or university education. The political identification of being right-wing is likely to be among people with basic studies, of being center as having a medium education, and the self-definition as left-wing is more likely among the group who have studied at university.

Lowest educated people declare to have more friends (more than three or more than 6) of a color different to them, social class, religious or political identification while people with a university education have only one or two friends with different identifications or characteristics. University people have a higher number of friends from only one different social class, but it could mean they contact a higher social class, looking to climb the social ladder, since education contributes to the goal of social mobility, as well as an opportunity for establishing interracial relationships and whitening the race into the family. The poor or less educated declare they have a diversity of friends, while rich people have less diversity in their intergroup relationships, and they live more in bubbles, which can be interpreted as a trend to preserve ingroup privileges.

Lower educated people are likely to support labor policies and organizations and to acknowledge being black, but also patriarchalism, conservatism, right wing identification, evangelical and afro-religions, while the group with university education, which is likely to be less conservative and having left-wing identification, is more closed in their ingroup, with a lower number of friends with identification differences. The medium educated is between the two, combining tolerating or supporting racism and this ambiguity is also related to competing for resources and other kinds of discrimination, as well as in intergroup relationships.

There is an association made between the perception of that people with a Black skin are wrongdoers and likely to be bandits or criminals (around 30% agree that Black people are more likely to steal, or traffic and consume drugs). However, in this case, not university but low-educated people are likely to believe that Black people tend to steal and assault, and that they are more involved in drug trafficking., They are also likely to believe that the police have a mission to kill bandits, and that a dead bandit is a good bandit.

3.4. Principal Components Analysis

Principal Components Analysis (PCA) is used to reduce a high number of variables and to group together the most strongly correlated or the farthest from zero in either a positive or negative direction. In this case a correlation value above 0.42 was established. From the original ninety variables, the PCA was run three times to eliminate the variables with the lowest correlation coefficient. This procedure reduced the number of variables analyzed to forty-five without changing the main results.

3.4.1. Gender, Explicit Racism, and Conservatism

The first principal component (PCA1) grouped twenty-five of the forty-five strongly correlated original variables, and grouped five spheres of values, attitudes, and practices with the high scores in the total population (Table 1).

In this most significant subgroup, the highest coefficients are in the gender sphere, including patriarchalism and sexism and homophobia, followed by being against sex education in schools, believing that women must support their husbands’ careers and care for their homes, that women’s attitudes provoke their own rapes, as well as supporting LGBTQ conversion and being against LGBTQ marriage and manifestations of love in public. In the sphere of political conservatism, this group rejects student movements and labor unions and thinks that governments should do more to order society rather than just listen to citizens, as well as agree with law reforms and job protection (flexibilization) and assumes a right-wing political identification, consistently with all other identifications, speeches, attitudes, and practices, showing conscience and a strong adherence to their ingroup interests. The racism sphere includes only expressions of explicit racism, relating black people to crime (assaults, drugs), is uncomfortable with children of interracial marriages, is uncomfortable with having a black manager, thinks that black people have low well-being because they don’t make enough effort, that black people are occupying white jobs, and never feels admiration for a black person. In the sphere of affirmative law and policies this group denies that the police kill more black people; they strongly reject politicians that support black people, education against racism at school, punishment for racist speeches and acts against human rights activists (they only defend bandits), as well as holding prejudices against the young (they should take any job and accept any treatment in order to be accepted) (Table 1).

This suggests that sexism, conservatism, explicit racism, being against affirmative policies, as well as prejudices against the young and human rights are the most strongly correlated factors in the harder and most relevant racist core group in Rio de Janeiro, characterized by clear ingroup speech, attitudes and practices of explicit sexism, homophobia, ageism, and racism, combined with a pro meritocracy and anti-State and anti-policies neoliberal orthodox ideology.

Although this result is only representative of the city of Rio de Janeiro and cannot be generalized to include the whole country, it reconciles with the results found among doctors working in health services in the city of Camaçari, State of Bahia, for whom the First Principal Component (PCA1) included explicit racist statements like: “Jokes about blacks are not racist, but part of Brazilian culture” and “Blacks are more aggressive than whites”. Doctors and other professionals

Table 1. Principal components matrix—statements of discrimination scale of agreement or disagreement.

Source: Data produced in the representative survey of Rio de Janeiro.

with a university degree are more accepting of the fact that racism exists and that racial inequalities are a relevant obstacle to the success of health policies and actions. However, they are mostly resistant to acceptance and are against actions and policies implemented to reduce inequalities, compared to the less educated health personnel in Camacari. This contradiction could be interpreted through the myth of racial democracy that ambiguously uses interbreeding as an automatic equality mechanism while rejecting concrete and efficient equality mechanisms from the State. On this point the neoliberal ideology reconciles with the perpetuation of racism, gender, and other discriminations, deeming public actions and investments to achieve race, gender, and social equality as being “unnecessary”.

This core leading group adopting explicit racism, gender discrimination, anti-policies, anti-State, and right-wing political identification follows the same pattern observed by Krzyżanowski et al. (2021) in Europe during the last two decades. The authors conceptualize racism as one of the key ideologies in the mainstream, renewed with uncivil, exclusionary, and antidemocratic discourse and practices in a global increasing anti-democratic context and a rise of the “anxious politics,” the far-right-wing populism, and uncivil hate speech and political action that normalizes racism as a policy of exclusion. This politic-ideological set of hates against the “others” in disadvantages is reproduced by extremist right-wing groups, as a new seed-model of activism or a new way of protesting the establishment, taking advantage of, and guiding the general population’s dissatisfaction resulting from the global economic and political crisis that affects mostly the poor and Black people. This process also results in what the authors called a “paradox of political participation”, the attraction of even the disadvantaged peoples and groups to a kind of social-class amnesia and, finally, to adopting “anti-liberal and anti-democratic ideas rather than liberal or civil values while explicitly fostering nativist exclusionary ideas and ideologies” (Krzyżanowski et al., 2021: p. 14).

Krzyżanowski et al. (2021) saw uncivil society and extreme hate speech and practices as primarily in “groups which have a self-professed antidemocratic and exclusionary political identification” who act against—rather than for—the benefit of liberal-democratic principles of an open society. This group is the predominant explicitly extreme-racist core leading political force and ideology in Rio de Janeiro’s people’s identification, or the first PCA core ingroup in Rio de Janeiro, instead of the supposed subtle, masked, and defensive racism in the concept of racial democracy.

3.4.2. Subtle Racism Associated with the Perception of Affirmative Policies as Corruption without Gender Issues

The second principal component (PCA2) does not include gender discrimination, but it does include three types of subtle racism related to ethnocentrism—the perceptions that Black and white people are quite different in the education they provide to their children, in religious practices and in honesty. These subtle racist perceptions are closer to the myth of racial democracy, and they also correlate with the idea that social policies always involve corruption, which can also be interpreted either as an excuse, or a subtle way to be against affirmative policies and, in consequence, against equality.

In this ingroup, the myth of racial democracy justifies the subtle and ambiguous racism without being necessarily combined with gender or other prejudices, and it seems to be mainly related to competition for resources, since this group adopts the anti-corruption speech to justify its rejection of social policies, which were made predominant in Brazil during the two last decades, at the same time as the progressive governments invested strongly in inclusive and affirmative policies.

The anti-corruption speech, attitudes, and practices against social and economic investments of the State were promoted by small groups of the judiciary and all the communications media, being popularized, and legitimized as a consensus or a kind of generic ideology “against all that’s there”. And “all that’s there” were the social and inclusive policies implemented during the 26 years of democracy that followed the military dictatorship.

This is not a new agenda in Brazil, since even the monarch Pedro II in 1889 and almost all the Brazilian presidents were accused of corruption by the communications media, the main alleged reason for almost all of them being historically separated from the power by the Congress and the Judiciary before finishing their mandates due to the ability of the media to accuse them without a chance of defending themselves (Gomes, 2019). There is a historical and legitimized perception planted in the collective subconscious that the State, politicians, social policies, and most Brazilians are naturally corrupt.

The self-identification, attitudes and practices declared confirm that 57% of the population of Rio de Janeiro, independent of the level of education, agrees with the idea that social policies always involve corruption.

In the same vein, the majority supports the affirmation that feeling hungry does not justify stealing to feed themselves or to feed the family/children. Crime and violence are also concerns for the vast majority, independent of the level of education. However, the legitimization of vigilante justice, lynching, and agreeing to kill enemies is not generalized and is also not correlated to education, as well as the perception of having suffered any kind of discrimination.

However, these expected conflicts, according to the myth of racial democracy, do not exist in Brazilian society. So, prejudices are explicit in the first core group (PCA1), and under a second plan, another group adopts subtle racism to transfer the responsibility of eliminating racism to “the other”, but not to the State, with excuses like being against corruption (PCA2). This component can be viewed as a measure of how important it is to deconstruct the politic-ideologic mainstream with diverse approaches, considering explicit and masked racism and other hate speeches and practices against all the discriminated groups.

3.4.3. Explicit Racism: Black People Associated to Violence and Crimes without Gender Concerns

Explicit racism and homophobia are combined with and reinforced by the third principal component (PC3) that relates afro descendants to violence, robberies and assaults, and drug trafficking, and this is related also to the concept of meritocracy and competition for resources, as in the affirmation that some black people should make more effort to achieve well-being as white people do, and that they are occupying white people’s jobs. This same group agrees with same sex marriage, confirming that racism does not follow the same route as homophobia and neoliberal thinking of being anti-corruption and anti-State, like in the first core extremist ideological group.

3.4.4. Xenophobia and Rejecting Street Dwellers, Resources Competition

PCA4 includes xenophobia (immigrants compete for employment), prejudices against street dwellers (they should be removed) and, contradictorily, a high perception of injustice (did you suffer injustice?) possibly thinking that supporting discriminated against groups is unfair. This group does not adhere to racism and gender discrimination, but their prejudices are more economically oriented to competition for resources.

Finally, but not less important, PCA5 is characterized by only one statement of agreement with providing equal treatment between Black and white people. As this is the last group in relevance, this statement represents a less important value, compared with the previous four highly discriminatory statements correlated with distinct reasons. This last position can be interpreted as Brazilians place an extremely low value on equity and those who support equality are a minority, compared to those who prefer the persistence of inequalities.

4. Conclusion

For the first core and more important groups, racism is a cultivated prejudice based on ignorance. Colonization is implicit in speeches, attitudes and practices that normalize the once radical perceptions of conservative patriarchal, classist and racist ideology, extending to intolerance against other groups like young adults and new immigrants. This takes place through core groups that incorporate various discursive strategies embedded in wider argumentative frames on the terrible demographic consequences anticipated by the Malthusian hypothesis, which were never fulfilled, as well as the alleged imminent population disaster to come with violence, that justified eugenic approaches in the last century, Comparing and ordering the five groups according to their representativeness, discourses and practices in Rio de Janeiro shows that they are clearly mostly sexist, racist, xenophobic, and discriminate against the low social class and other marginalized groups, normalized in a multidirectional anti-equality and anti-democratic mainstream and its radicalization is popularized from a core leader far right group. Only the last and less relevant group agrees with providing equal treatment and tolerance between Black and white people, which means that supporters of universal equality and ideologically, as well as in practice—without exception—have a high value only for a minor and less relevant core group in Rio de Janeiro, which highly values equality.

Although these discourses and practices have traditionally existed and persisted in Brazil, they have been banalized, normalized and appropriated from a core extreme racist and right-wing group, while defusing its underlying core extreme ideologies, and then they are disseminated to and appropriated by distinct groups, as identified by Krzyżanowski et al. (2021) in Europe.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.


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