Brazil’s Supreme Court on April 27 voted unanimously to permit a quota system that would favor Afro-descendants in entering universities, ending an eight-year legal battle.
Brazil has the largest black population in the world outside of Africa, but years of marginalization and exclusion in the 124 years since the country outlawed slavery has kept this population on the sidelines.
The 10-judge court was responding to a 2009 complaint filed by the right-wing Democrats or DEMs party that sought to block a program by the University of Brasilia instated in 2004 that reserved 20 percent of its seats for black students.
“The racial oppression of Brazilian slave society left scars that are reflected by the differentiation of Afro-descendants,” said the Justice. “The injustice of the system is absolutely intolerable. Long live the Afro-descendant nation!”
More than half of Brazil’s population of 191 million people is black. More than 70 percent of Brazil’s 98 public universities have race-based quotas in place. Rio de Janeiro State University was the first one to apply them in 2001.
Justice Joaquim Barbosa, the only Afro-descendant in the court, said that the debated measures taken by the University of Brasilia are aiming to “combat not only the flagrant manifestations of discrimination but also the discrimination that is absolutely ingrained in the society and so much so that people don’t even realize it.”