IN 2001, a law obliging the institutions of higher learning of the State of Rio de Janeiro to reserve 40% of all places for "blacks and browns" was passed by acclamation and without debate. Along the path of the preparations for the III United Nations World Conference against Racism, which was held in Durban in 2001, this policy and other similar ones decreed by the federal government came into being without ample public debate. Ex post facto this debate is now only beginning. The authors analyze the sequence of this radical change in Brazil's racial paradigm through a description of readers' letters published in the newspaper O Globo. These readers, our "natives" lead us to evaluate the difficulties and the consequences that this government policy imposes on the Brazilian population, especially those poorer citizens, who, far from the power elites, will now be obliged to define themselves "racially" in order to be treated unequally in the battle for places in the civil service and public universities.