Today's News, Tomorrow's History: Can Racism be Outlawed?

Posted by Monica Brady-Myerov on January 31, 2017

Today’s News, Tomorrow’s History is an ongoing series with Listenwise. This series connects Facing History’s themes with today’s current events using public radio to guide and facilitate discussions around the social issues of our time. We will take a look at the ways countries have tried to manage racism, especially in Brazil. racism brazil facing history


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People around the world experience racism. In the United States, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race. It’s a civil law, which means companies could face fines if they break it.

Other countries respond to racism in different ways. Like the United States, Brazil had a long history of slavery, and was the last country in the Americas to end slavery. But unlike the United States, Brazil never passed laws making racial segregation legal. They didn’t have laws about racism at all until 1951 when they made it a criminal offense. If Brazilians are caught discriminating on the basis of skin color and are found guilty, they could go to jail. But in reality, no one has because, in Brazil, racism is a crime without punishment.

In Brazil, there are laws in place to make sure everyone is treated with respect and dignity. However, racism has gotten worse with the ability to post anonymous comments on social media, along with the rise of global far-right movements leading some people to feel like they can say anything, no matter how racist.

Listen to this story to hear how, even with laws against it, racism continues.

Join the conversation: What role does the government have in this issue? Whose responsibility is it to hold people accountable? In your opinion, what would be a step toward a solution to racism?

Keep the conversation going with Facing History’s resources:  

  • Explore our lesson on interracial democracy from our resource, The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy, to discuss the social changes that came from laws granting political and civil rights to millions of people who were previously enslaved.  
  • Use our lesson on Resistance to Anti-Miscegenation Laws from our unit, Race & Membership, to help students understand the emergence of, and reaction to, racist laws and policies during the Progressive Era.
  • Use our reading, The Nuremberg Laws, from the newly revised digital edition of our  resource, Holocaust and Human Behavior, to discuss citizenship and how Nazi Germany used discriminatory laws to lay the groundwork for a “racial state.”

Explore more stories about racism and equality from Listenwise:
  • Listen to "Talking about Race" to hear about schools in Baltimore and their efforts to help students talk about race and reduce racial tensions.  
  • Listen to this story, "Comparing Black Lives Matter to the Civil Rights Movement," and the parallels between the race struggles of Martin Luther King, Jr. half a century ago and today.
  • Debate how unconscious attitudes or stereotypes can lead us to draw conclusions about each other that are sometimes opposite of what we consciously think or believe after listening to the story, "Do You Think Everyone has a Bias?"

Listenwise helps teachers use public radio stories in their classrooms. To find more public radio stories and lessons for your middle and high school ELA, social studies, and science classrooms you can sign up for a free Listenwise account!


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Topics: News, Race and Membership, Journalism, Racism, Public Radio, Today's News Tomorrow's History, In the news, Listenwise

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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