SÃO PAULO—With “jewel-tone eyes,” blond hair and a “smattering of light freckles,” Othello looks nothing like most Brazilians, the majority of whom are black or mixed-race. Yet the “Caucasian” American cashier, described in those terms by the Seattle Sperm Bank and known as Donor 9601, is one of the sperm providers most often requested by wealthy Brazilian women importing the DNA of young U.S. men at unprecedented rates.
Over the past seven years, human semen imports from the U.S. to Brazil have surged some 3,000% as more rich single women and lesbian couples select donors whose online profiles suggest they will yield light-complexioned and preferably blue-eyed children.
Everyone wants a “pretty kid” and for many parents in Brazil, where prejudice often runs deep, that means “the white biotype—light-colored eyes and skin,” said Susy Pommer, a 28-year-old data analyst from São Paulo who decided to get pregnant last year after a breast-cancer scare left her eager to raise a child right away with her partner, Priscilla.
Sperm buyers in Brazil, which is more than 50% black or mixed-race, have an overwhelming preference for white, blue-eyed donors.
The preference for white donors reflects the persistent racism in a country where social class and skin color correlate with glaring accuracy. More than 50% of Brazilians are black or mixed-race, a legacy of Brazil having imported more than 10 times as many African slaves than the U.S.; it was the last Western country to ban slavery, in 1888. The descendants of white colonizers and immigrants—many of whom were lured to Brazil in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the ruling elite explicitly sought to “whiten” the population—control most of the country’s political power and wealth.
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