Dissertation Title:

Silenced by the Myth: Racial Identity Among Brazilian College Students of African Descent


Maristela de Salles Duarte Smith

Date, Time & Place:

September 22, 2015 at 12:00 pm
Studio, Lambert Road campus


This study explores the lived experiences of Brazilian students of African descent (N=8) having to self-categorize racially as they enrolled into institutions of higher education through affirmative action policies. A phenomenological methodology was used for the establishment of eight essential constituents inherent in the experience of being Black: (1) racial socialization influencing sense of Blackness, (2) development of pride, (3) feelings of comfort and joy, (4) experience of race related stress, (5) feelings of unsafety and mistrust resulting from racial prejudice/discrimination, (6) suppression of emotion expression in response to racial bigotry, (7) development of agency in the expression of Blackness and (8) development of confidence in supporting Black consciousness.

Literature reviewed for this study includes: racial identity scholarship and racial/ethnic dynamics in Brazil. This study examined racial identities with different levels of salience for Blackness which have evolved throughout the participant’s development. Experiences of race-related stress were dealt, in many cases, by use of emotion suppression mediated by the use of silence.

Moreover, participants continuously engage their sense of agency to sustain reasonable levels of functioning and confidence toward supporting Blackness at personal and community levels. In the midst of continuous debates about the legitimacy of racial social policies, future Brazilian born psychological research with a race/ethnicity focus may be relevant in meeting the cultural demands of its sociopolitical context.


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  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology, Track O, 2007
  • Chair: Dr. Oksana Yakushko
  • Reader: Dr. Azarm Ghareman
  • External Reader: Dr. Elaine Cavalleiro
  • Keywords: Racial Identity, Ethnicity, Affirmative Action, Racism, African Descent, Brazilian Students, Socio-psychological Adjustment