I recently did an interview with the Eat Rio blog on my life in Brazil, and my impressions after living here for a little over a year. We touch on many different subjects from food, to music, to race. Here is a taste:
What I see as fundamentally different is the concepts of multiculturalism, and this perhaps colors the race debate in each place. Culturally, Brazilians take all their cultural influences and make everything their own. Food is a great example for how this happens. I love the way that Acarajé from West Africa, Sushi from Japan, Kibbe from the Levant, and Bolinhos de Bacalhau from Portugal can all co-exist and be claimed as distinctly Brazilian foods.
In wealthier northern countries with perhaps newer (and constant) immigration, you can get this kind of diversity, but many of these things are not yet American or French or British. And you can have more of an insider-outsider dynamic even within neighborhoods. In the U.S. especially, there is this expectation to assimilate into the mainstream “American Dream” thing in order to be fully accepted. Some groups are able to achieve this easier than others, and unfortunately race (and now religion) remains a major factor in this ability.