Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Inspired by black Harvard students, black students at University of Brasília create photographic campaign against racism


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Note from BW of Brazil: For more than a decade now, the system of affirmative action at Brazil’s top universities has provoked more discussion on the existence of racism and privilege in Brazil than perhaps any other time in the nation’s history. The nation’s 350 year experiment with human bondage ended nearly 127 years ago but it didn’t end the huge social and racial inequalities that continue to divide the country into rich and poor, white and black. For millions of white Brazilians (and even some black Brazilians), the misfortunes of the Afro-Brazilian population are their own fault as even in the face of a documented history proving that this group was left to its own resources after abolition with millions of European immigrants given government-sponsored privileges, everyday Brazilians continue to believe that “we’re all equal”.

“Wow, such an exotic beauty you have!” - Spare me! “What do you do to get your hair like that? Can I touch it?” "Do you wash your hair?” "You’re afro-light”

“Wow, such an exotic beauty you have!” – Spare me!
“What do you do to get your hair like that? Can I touch it?”
“Do you wash your hair?” – “You’re afro-light”

Since the first few years if this century, the system of quotas that has given Afro-Brazilians more access to education and employment than ever before in the nation’s history and historic (white) beneficiaries of higher education continue to lash out at descendants of African slaves who they believe are unfairly “stealing” their places. Both blatant and subtle, racism (that everyone denies) is evidenced in the everyday comments that people make when confronted with the presence of persons they believe have no place being in certain areas. And as a debate provoked by black militants at Brazil’s top school (University of São Paulo) recently showed, the college campus is and will continue to be a place where black Brazilians will demand their rightful place in society. In another example, a group of university students in the nation’s capital took the time to document some examples of Brazil’s racism that ‘doesn’t exist’. 

AH, WHITE PEOPLE, GIVE ME A BREAK!

“I say and reaffirm: You don’t suffer racism! How many times have they called you monkey this week?”

“I say and reaffirm: You don’t suffer racism! How many times have they called you monkey this week?”

This photo essay is based and inspired by the photo campaign by black men and women students at the University of the Harvard in the United States (http://itooamharvard.tumblr.com).

“I’m not racist, I have black friends”

“I’m not racist, I have black friends”

The idea was to reproduce the experience at the Universidade de Brasília (UnB or University of Brasília).

“You’re not black! You are a light-skinned moreno!” – My acquaintances

“You’re not black! You are a light-skinned moreno!” – My acquaintances

Some people were invited to participate in the photo shoot, however, the vast majority of people were chosen randomly in places like the University Restaurant, ICC and other busy locations of UnB.

“These quota students, they come here in the Department of Law without knowing how to read or write!”

“These quota students, they come here in the Department of Law without knowing how to read or write!”

First I thank the availability of all the people who somehow contributed to this photo shoot. Thank you, the help of each of you was priceless!

“Only for fucking! Not for marrying!”

“Only for fucking! Not for marrying!”

I would like to give special thanks to the great Leonardo Ortegal for having made his camera, lens and accessories available, for the work to be carried out with the quality it deserves.

“You don’t look black, you don’t have those black features!!!”

“You don’t look black, you don’t have those black features!!!”

Finally, I thank the Abayomi Mandela, a dear fellow companion, for any and all help and support (technical and emotional).

“You’re going to college and you live in the periphery?”

“You’re going to college and you live in the periphery?”

The Tumblr #ahbrancodaumtempo is intended for people who argue even today about the non existence of racism inside and outside of the University.

“For a black woman you’re even pretty.”

“For a black woman you’re even pretty.”

Although in Brazil there are no of laws of a racist nature, in social practice it’s still recurring.

“You’re a pretty black women because you have a thin nose!”

“You’re a pretty black women because you have a thin nose!”

Everyday black students in Brazilian universities suffer hidden discrimination that stereotypes.

“I said morena because if I would have said black you would have been embarrassed.”

“I said morena because if I would have said black you would have been embarrassed.”

Although the vision of those who practicing the acts are “just a joke”, “an observation”, “an attempt to help”; For those who suffer it every day it’s like a wound that still hasn’t healed.

“Where did those green eyes come from?”

“Where did those green eyes come from?”

I hope that the statements expressed in images sensitize, cause reflection and engage in a dialogue in order that we become better people!

“I didn’t know that people like you had a sensibility for architecture.” – My colleagues at work

“I didn’t know that people like you had a sensibility for architecture.” – My colleagues at work

Universidade de Brasília project that debates racism and quotas earns a thousand followers on the web

Courtesy of Reporter News

“What do you do to wash this hair?”

“What do you do to wash this hair?”

Student produced series of photographs for the discipline of visual anthropology. She took photos of blacks on campus citing the most heard racist phrases.

“Racism doesn’t exist, remove this thing from your head!!”

“Racism doesn’t exist, remove this thing from your head!!”

The project of a student at the Universidade de Brasília (UnB) to provoke debate on racism at the university earned at least a thousand followers on the Internet, ten days after its release.

“You don’t even look black.”

“You don’t even look black.”

Called “Ah, branco, dá um tempo” (Oh, white people, give me a break), the site publishes photos taken of black men and women students at UnB, showing racist phrases they most often hear.

“They don’t even study…How do they want quotas?”

“They don’t even study…How do they want quotas?”

Released on the internet on March 19th, the blog has earned nearly a thousand followers as of Sunday night (29), according to the author of the project, Lorena Monique dos Santos.

“Light-skinned moreno is not an evolutionary stage”

“Light-skinned moreno is not an evolutionary stage”

According to the young woman, who is 21 and is currently in the fifth semester of social sciences, the goal of the project is to demonstrate that racism in Brazil is something subtle.

“I don’t agree with quotas, on the real, they are what separate us.”

“I don’t agree with quotas, on the real, they are what separate us.”

“Although racism is racism everywhere, it is expressed in different ways according to each situation.

“You’re not black.”

“You’re not black.”

In Brazil, there’s a thing of cordiality, of the racial democracy that are ways to hide the racist practices and try to make it so that black persons are excluded access to rights and to certain social positions,” she told the G1.

"You’re lucky being black, you don’t even have to study to pass the entrance exam!!”

“You’re lucky being black, you don’t even have to study to pass the entrance exam!!”

“The idea is to demonstrate to non-black people that racism is hidden is in subtle words and acts. Although in some photos we can see that it’s not so subtle way,” she explained.

“You’re a black man with a white soul.”

“You’re a black man with a white soul.”

Until Monday night (30), the site had more than 60 images. Recorded in various parts of the campus of UnB, they show students holding a whiteboard, always with phrases chosen by them.

“Do you use  pó compacto (makeup) or carvão (charcoal/black powder)?”

“Do you use pó compacto (powder makeup) or carvão (charcoal/black powder)?”

Prejudice inside and outside of college

“Why don’t you comb your hair?”

“Why don’t you comb your hair?”

Daniella Leite, a history student at UnB, says that she suffered from a phrase that denied her black condition since childhood, within her family.

“You’re lucky being black, you don’t even have to study to pass the entrance exam!!”

“You’re lucky being black, you don’t even have to study to pass the entrance exam!!”

“I entered through quotas and heard that phrase again. A friend said this to me that when I took the vestibular (entrance exam).

“What’s up brother. Do you have Seda (shampoo/conditioner)?”

“What’s up brother. Do you have Seda (shampoo/conditioner)?”

She thinks that I only opted for quotas because it was be easier,” she said to the G1 website.

"You’re privileged because you’re a quota student.”

“You’re privileged because you’re a quota student.”

Estefany Alves, 23, is geology student at UnB, and also participated in the project.

"My name is not ‘negão’ (big black man); my name is ‘Bernardo’”

“My name is not ‘negão’ (big black man); my name is ‘Bernardo’”

She was photographed on the campus of the institution holding the board with the phrase “você tem sorte em ser negra, nem precisa, estudar para passar no vestibular” (you’re lucky to be black, you don’t even need to study to pass the entrance exam).

"I’m not Ellen Oléria. For you, are all black women the same?”

“I’m not Ellen Oléria. For you, are all black women the same?”

“I chose this phrase because it’s quite commonplace in the middle of the university, especially here at UnB, where the quota system is accepted,” she said.

"I always wanted to know what a black woman’s like in bed.”

“I always wanted to know what a black woman’s like in bed.”

Another project participant is Matheus Henrique Ramos, a math student, who chose a phrase related to his hair. “It’s a recurring question they ask me.

"It must be hard for you to work and study.”

“It must be hard for you to work and study.”

They always associate black power hair to poor hygiene, care, carelessness, not even seeking to know how much work it is to maintain the hair like this. Little do they know how much care must be taken,” he says, believing that people have a “pre-formed concept of cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) outside of the standard imposition, short.”

"I didn’t know that in Law there were people like you.”

“I didn’t know that in Law there were people like you.”

UnB was the first federal university to have racial quotas; quota students such as Estefany Alves, say that they suffer prejudice because of this.

Inspiration from Harvard

"You’re not black, you’re moreninha.”

“You’re not black, you’re moreninha.”

Lorena, the creator of the blog, explains that the blog idea came in 2014 from videos that she saw produced and published on YouTube, and a similar project done by students at Harvard University in the United States, that also debates inclusion and diversity on campus.

"My name isn’t ‘nega’, ‘neguinha’ (or) ‘moreninha’. My name is Ludmila.”

“My name isn’t ‘nega’, ‘neguinha’ (or) ‘moreninha’. My name is Ludmila.”

At the same time, she did a course in visual anthropology and decided to put the project into practice as the final work of the course.

"Hard-haired nega, put some straightening product (in your hair) that will help make it better.”

“Hard-haired nega, put some straightening product (in your hair) that will help make it better.”

The photos were taken in November, during the week of Black Consciousness.

"I’m not racist, I even have black friends.”

“I’m not racist, I even have black friends.”

“I handed out the whiteboard and the brush so that people could write their phrases. To help them made a list with about 20 phrases similar to the Harvard project phrases. Some people used the list of phrases, but the vast majority wrote their own phrases,” she recalls.

"Do you wash your hair?”

“Do you wash your hair?”

Most sentences concern prejudices heard at the university that quota students don’t need to study to pass the entrance exam. There are phrases related to skin color, facial features and hair type of each student.

"Blacks themselves are racist against themselves”

“Blacks themselves are racist against themselves”

“Your features are fine and your skin is not so dark”, “such an exotic beauty that you have,” “such different hair, can I touch it?” are some of the phrases that make up the project.

"You didn’t need quotas, right?”

“You didn’t need quotas, right?”

“Now I’m organizing a video on the mini-doc format to present a discussion on the subject,” says Lorena.

"I’m against quotas and in favor of meritocracy.”

“I’m against quotas and in favor of meritocracy.”

Matheus Henrique Ramos, a student at UnB, also allowed himself to be photographed for the project (Reuters/Lorraine Monique dos Santos)

UnB reduced the racial quota in 2014

"I’m black! I know my presence bothers you.”

“I’m black! I know my presence bothers you.”

The University of Brasília is a pioneer in affirmative action policies in Brazil. The UnB adopted the system of racial quotas in 2003 after a case of discrimination in graduate school gained notoriety.

"I’m black! I know my presence bothers you.”

“I’m black! I know my presence bothers you.”

The first entrance exam with 20% reservation of seats for black students was held in June 2004. At the time it was decided that the system would be re-discussed in 10 years.

"What an interesting color you have!!!”

“What an interesting color you have!!!”

“Discrimination has always existed. The difference is that before the quotas one didn’t talked about it and black people were outside of universities. Today, there is a considerable number of black people in universities and some of these people try to establish a frank and open discussion about it,” said the student.

"I’m not prejudiced, my maid is black and everyone loves her!”

“I’m not prejudiced, my maid is black and everyone loves her!”

In April 2004, the UnB decided to reduce the reservation of vacancies for blacks to 5%. Among the arguments is the fact that the federal quota law, which provides 50% of jobs saved for students coming from the public network, would increase this percentage of 5%.

"I’m not a descendant of slaves; I’m a descendant of human beings that were enslaved.”

“I’m not a descendant of slaves; I’m a descendant of human beings that were enslaved.”

Even with the experience in UnB last more than ten years, Lorena says the debate needs to be further encouraged. “There is still much resistance. Whenever we try to talk about it, the first reaction is to say that black people are ‘vitimistas’ (playing the victim),” she said.

"‘More or less’ is the place you come from, Brazil is ‘good’!”

“‘More or less’ is the place you come from, Brazil is ‘good’!”

She affirms that the impact of her project has been positive, even if there is disagreement as to the format and the chosen name. “Some people agree, others disagree, but we discuss the subject! Silence is something terrifying. Hearing these phrases and to imagining what this is all in the mind is maddening.”

Source: Ah branco, dá um tempoReporter News

4 comments on “Inspired by black Harvard students, black students at University of Brasília create photographic campaign against racism

  1. jim
    April 3, 2015

    YES!

  2. pkayden
    April 5, 2015

    Love all the signs. Also love that so many of the Black women are wearing their natural hair.

  3. SoMoro_Ali
    April 6, 2015

    “I’m not a descendant of slaves; I’m a descendant of human beings that were enslaved.” I liked that one a lot. Great post. Very reflective.

  4. Realist
    July 17, 2016

    This is just amazing. What a lot of changes in a half-generation! There must be more cultural ties with not only North America but also with the English-speaking Caribbean.

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