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Unanimously, Supreme Court rules in favor of racial quotas in universities

04/27/2012 - 11h31

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FELIPE SELIGMAN
NÁDIA GUERLENDA
FROM BRASÍLIA

Racial quotas in Brazilian universities are constitutional, the Supreme Court decided unanimously yesterday.

In a decision that even surprised members of the black movement, the ten justices spoke in favor of the policy of reservation of positions.

Only Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli did not participate in the debates because he served on the case when he was attorney general of the Union in the Lula government.

For two days, the justices analyzed an lawsuit brought by the DEM against the quota system adopted by UNB (University of Brasilia) in 2004, setting aside 20% of its positions for self-identified blacks and browns. UNB also offers another 20 places per year for Indians, whose selection process is different from college.

Although analyzing a specific case, the result holds for all universities who want to adopt a racial quota system.

The justices followed the vote of the author, Ricardo Lewandowski, and stated that affirmative action policies must comply with criteria to be implemented.

According to the decision, the universities must observe the principles of "proportionality and reasonableness" to establish how many slots will be reserved for quotas. They should also establish deadlines for the quotas, which should last the time needed to correct the social distortions that they are intended to solve.

In the case of UNB, the justices understood that all these points were observed. By creating slots, in 2004, the university determined that its system would be reviewed in 10 years.

During the trial, all the justices understood that the racial quotas are in accordance with the Constitution, because they have the goal to equalize the situation of the Brazilian people that suffer discrimination and don't have the same opportunities of access to education.

"Affirmative action is not the best option. The best is to have a society in which everyone is equally free to be whatever they want. Quotas are a stage in society where this did not happen naturally," said the justice Carmen Lucia.

One black member of the Supreme Court, Justice Joaquim Barbosa, said that racial discrimination in Brazil's cultural, rooted, "the kind that people do not perceive."

Lewandowski said the Supreme Court "upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action for marginalized groups as a whole", which are not limited to racial quotas.

Translated by DAVE WOLIN

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