What is the difference between black, brown and black

Black and brown are two of the five color and race groups defined by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). This together with whites, yellows and indigenous people.

The term black takes as a reference the ancestry from natives of Africa. Regardless of their territory or social construction, due to the phenotype manifested by their dark colored skin.

By brown , it is understood the person who has ethnic ancestry from more than one group, that is, mestizo. This miscegenation includes:

  • Descendants of blacks and whites
  • Black descendants with indigenous people
  • Descendants of Indians with whites

In addition to all other possible direct or indirect interracial interactions.

The black concept is defined by the Racial Equality Statute as:

The group of people who call themselves black and brown, according to the color or race item used by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), or who adopt similar self-definition .

There are arguments against the classification of blacks and browns in the same group. Some research groups claim that blacks suffer much more discrimination. And, according to the Colorism theory , the darker the color of a person’s skin, the greater the racism suffered in our society.

Black or Black?

The discussion about the most correct term varies according to the construction of different cultures and the use of the language.

However, in Brazil, the idea that both terms are accepted seems to move towards consensus. This is based on the choice and self-identification of individuals or groups.

For IBGE, black is related to the racial issue, while black is exclusively related to skin color.

Origin of the terms black and brown and use in the Brazilian census

The term pardo has its origin along with the history of Brazil, being recorded by Pero Vaz de Caminha in 1500. In his letter to the king of Portugal, he described the Indians as pardos. In its etymology, the word derives from pardus , which means “leopard” in Latin.

The term black was used in the first half of the 19th century to designate Africans, while the term Creole was used for blacks born in Brazil. Subsequently, the term black came to encompass both Africans and their descendants.

Both the terms black and brown were used in the first Brazilian census, carried out in 1872. In the 1890 census, the term brown was replaced by “mestiço”, but it was used again in the 1940 census and remains in use today.

Who is considered black or brown?

According to IPEA researcher Rafael Osório, there are three methods of racial identification:

  • Self-attribution of belonging or self-identification: the subject himself identifies the group to which he considers himself a member;
  • Hetero-attribution of belonging or hetero-identification: another person identifies the group to which the subject belongs;
  • Biological identification: made through genetic analysis.

The IBGE classification system uses both self-identification and hetero-identification methods.


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