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Abstract

Folk conceptualizations of racism can be defined as ordinary people's understandings of the sources and persistence of racism. They function as equalization strategies - by denying the legitimacy of racism - and guide beliefs regarding antiracism strategies. I explore folk explanations of racism among black professionals in Brazil and South Africa by drawing on sixty interviews with members of these groups. In Brazil, racism is understood as an historical lingering, a product of ignorance, which will disappear with time and education. In South Africa, racism is viewed as more resilient, as a part of human nature and as a consequence of the competition for resources. These explanations of racism are closely related to the antiracism narratives that are salient in these two contexts: while Brazilian respondents affirm their belief in racial mixture and moral education, South African respondents are more uncertain about the possibilities of weaker racial boundaries in their country, relying on institutional constraints as their main antiracism strategy.

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