This is a well-written and well-argued book on the centrality of whiteness and middle-class identity in Brazil’s recent turn to the far right. Porto’s thesis is that the white middle-class has been a key protagonist of the conservative revolt that has led the country to a process of profound democratic decay. He shows that the intersection of race and class is central to understanding this process, for which the dominant media have contributed by offering ‘mirrors of whiteness’ that allow whites to legitimate their power while naturalizing inequality and injustice.
In Mirrors of Whiteness, Mauro P. Porto examines the conservative revolt of Brazil’s white middle class, which culminated with the 2018 election of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro. He identifies the rise of a significant status panic among middle-class publics following the relative economic and social ascension of mostly Black and brown low-income laborers. The book highlights the role of the media in disseminating “mirrors of whiteness,” or spheres of representation that allow white Brazilians to legitimate their power while softening or hiding the inequalities and injustices that such power generates. A detailed analysis of representations of domestic workers in the telenovela Cheias de Charme and of news coverage of affirmative action by the magazine Veja demonstrates that they adopted whiteness as an ideological perspective, disseminating resentment among their audiences and fomenting the conservative revolt that took place in Brazil between 2013 and 2018.
Porto compellingly presents the history of Brazil’s white middle class in relation to recent anti-democratic political developments and with an eye towards how Brazilian media has shaped politicized identities of race and class. He convincingly shows how members of the white middle class have supported the rise of the far right due to their fear of losing status and privilege.
Mauro P. Porto is associate professor of communication at Tulane University in New Orleans. He is the author of Media Power and Democratization in Brazil: TV Globo and the Dilemmas of Political Accountability and Televisão e Política no Brasil.