Will U.S. follow Brazil’s lead on affirmative action?

Supreme Courts in U.S. and Brazil take action

Latitude News staff By Latitude News staff

A boy eats bread in Morro Santa Marta, one of Brazil’s many “favelas,” or urban slums. (Reuters)

In today’s interconnected world, news doesn’t stop at the border. Every week, Latitude News brings you three stories from around the U.S. that drive that point home.

  • As the U.S. Supreme Court again considers whether affirmative action is constitutional, Brazil has embraced the practice as a way to eradicate race-based social inequality, writes law professor Tanya K. Hernandez for New America Media. Although it was the last country in the Western hemisphere to abandon slavery in 1888, the Brazil government has long claimed the nation to be a “post-racial” country. But that assessment just isn’t borne out by the facts. In Brazil, as in many other countries with a legacy of slavery, discrimination and a lack of opportunity still exist for the darker-skinned. “Brazil’s recent Supreme Court endorsement of race based affirmative action,” Hernandez argues, “was rooted in the perception of the state as having a duty to guarantee the ‘conditions of equality’ for groups that have historically lived on the margins of society, enabling them to fully exercise their human rights and fundamental rights.” If the U.S. wants to uphold its own commitment to social justice, she says, it would do well to follow Brazil’s example.


  •  A report in the Dallas Star-Telegram casts doubt on the official military accounts of an incident that led to Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer receiving the Medal of Honor, the first awarded to a living Marine since the war in Vietnam. The military failed to interview nine Afghan soldiers who participated in a battle against Taliban forces three years ago in the Ganjgal Valley. The Afghans praised Meyer’s bravery but said the military had vastly exaggerated his heroism. They also claimed it was the intervention of American helicopters — and not Meyer — that allowed the allied forces to withdraw safely from the battle. The U.S. military says its account of the action is accurate. Meyer has a new book  coming out, for which he and his co-author were awarded a six-figure advance.


  • President Obama’s amnesty program for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country at a young age isn’t proving very popular with its intended beneficiaries, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times. Those who served in the military or graduated from high school are also eligible to apply for the program, which would allow them to receive a work permit. But only 15 percent of the 1.3 million undocumented immigrants who are eligible have so far taken advantage of the new law. Tampa Bay immigration lawyers interviewed by the newspaper say the low turnout is simply the result of fear. Many undocumented immigrants believe they will be deported if they fill out the paperwork. Others can’t afford the $465 fee. And most are concerned about what will happen if they hand in the forms to the federal government — and then Mitt Romney is elected President.