this paper reflects upon the hypothesis that a dramatic change is taking place in the way brazil thinks about itself at the dawn of the 21st century. with the passage of recent laws on quotas for black people at public universities and the civil service, the notion of a mixed nation made up of "three races" seems to have been challenged, giving way to the idea of a nation divided between blacks and whites. for the first time in our history since the 1920s, the brazilian elite seems to have shattered the foundations of the idea that allowed for the creation of our most radically nationalistic and cosmopolitan culture. the notions of a modernist brazilian character forged by mário and oswald de andrade, paulo prado and sérgio buarque de holanda, gilberto freire and di cavalcanti, tarsila do amaral e anita malfati, is under suspicion. what does this change in our law mean, and how can it affect the structure of our society, based as it is in a set of values which does not emphasize opposition, but rather complementarity, giving precedence to that which unites rather than that which separates?