Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

“I am a woman. I’m from the periphery. But I still have an advantage: I’m white” – The recognition of white privilege and racism


Sou mulher. Suburbana. Mas ainda tô na vantagem - sou branca

Note from BW of Brazil: Sometimes one has to accept the idea that coincidences don’t exist. Sometimes things happen in the universe that demonstrate that things are supposed the happen exactly the way and at the time that they happen. With this in mind, considering today’s text, I find it interesting that in yesterday’s post, we spoke of white privilege and the fact that a real conversation about racism cannot happen without a simultaneous coming to terms with the privileges given to some to the detriment of others. In Brazil, a discourse that spreads the idea that Brazilians “are equal” makes the acknowledgement of the fact that the country has NEVER been a true ‘racial democracy’ even more difficult. After all, admitting that one has privileges based on skin color, hair and phenotype would totally dismantle both ideas. And even though it’s more than likely that many persons who classify themselves or are classified as white know deep down that racial equality is a myth, not many will openly admit this. Which is why texts written by white people acknowledging their white privilege are so important. Such is the case of today’s piece. 

I am a woman. I’m from the periphery. But I still have an advantage: I’m white.

Yesterday I heard something that captivated me to write about a topic that always touches me, but I never feel able to write about it: racism. Obviously I never suffered racism. I’m white. So I decided to write from the point of view that fits me best, that of the oppressor.

By Camila Castanho Miranda

The first thing I need to say is that assuming the place of the oppressor is not being a bad person or something like that. It’s simply understanding my historical position in society. The second important thing here is that, depending on the circumstance and deepening of my family tree, I cannot be white. But it’s not what my skin and my hair say to society. So when talking about racism, I’m white indeed. I could be beige, if you will. It doesn’t matter, I’m not black. I was never oppressed because of my image.

I don’t know you, but it took me a lot to me to realize that racism existed. It’s hard to notice the little racism of everyday life when you don’t suffer from it.

It was in the pré-vestibular (college entrance exam prep courses), already at 17, that I started realizing that something strange was happening in the world in relation to black people. I had studied history, sociology, anthropology, but it was only when I, a pavunense (1), go out drinking in Leblon and Gávea (2), that I understood. I had never been to a white place. I felt very uncomfortable about being there, because usually people looked at me very different. I dressed differently, I behaved differently, I spoke in a different tone of voice. But I circulated freely. I had friends there.

I was accepted to some extent. And I began to realize that beyond the cultural, structural and geographical differences, the biggest difference between Pavuna and Leblon was the black population. There were almost no blacks circulating in the night spaces of the zona sul (south zone). Once I understood this, I remembered all the circumstances in which I was the only white girl throughout life. And as I was privileged because of that. It was in the details, the small advantages in the day-to-day, that I started to discover racism.

I represented white oppression every time someone told me: “Wow, you are so beautiful, so smart, so branquinha (white) … you don’t even look like you live in Pavuna …” (3). And I heard that MANY times.

I represented white oppression when a black man told me he realized the dream of his life was being with me because his mother, black, always told him to get a white girlfriend because a black woman’s no good (4).

I represented white oppression every time they told me I dance samba that not even a black woman can. And in the same way, when I was a teenager and obliged a black friend to samba, saying that if I knew how, she was obliged to know.

I represented white oppression every time that I was chosen to represent the mother of Jesus in little childhood plays when they told me I looked like a princess or a doll. My black girlfriends were not chosen and didn’t hear the same things as me. And they didn’t come with this talk that Mary was white. If you thought that stop now.

I represented white oppression when, in one of those clubs in downtown Rio, I met a loser from Leblon that, finding out where I lived, came with the following lines: “Gee, I always wanted to know more profoundly a suburban woman. They’re hotter, right? And you’re a white girl from the favela (slum), you’re beautiful!” Now imagine what he would have said if I was a black woman. This IF he would even approach a black woman.

I represented white oppression every time I said I just wanted to pick up a negão (big black man). I stopped with this before academic reflections, when experience has shown me that there are men with pegada (good in bed) and without pegada, there are people who are attuned with you in sex and others that are not, and that tamanho do pau de um homem (a man’s dick size) is not linked to the color of skin, and that this can be a factor of sex, but it is only one among many.

I represented white oppression every time someone was surprised because of my being a filha de santo in a terreiro, saying things like: – “Wowwww, but you’re so educated!” or “Wowww, but you’re so branquinha” or “Wowww, but you, such a good person?”

I represented white oppression every time I crossed the street when a young black man passed by on the sidewalk. One day I stopped doing that. I just stopped, and I was never robbed.

This short list could be endless. But I will stop here. Now, a few important things:

I usually feel better in environments where cultura negra (black culture) reigns. This has to do with a number of issues ranging from where I grew up (everyone feels good when you feel at home) the tastes, pleasures, choices and feelings. That does not make me black.

There are good white people, bad white people, good black people, bad black people and so on.

I sambo (dance samba). And I don’t samba like not even black women samba. I dance samba like me, because I like to samba. And black women are not required to like it.

Umbanda (5) is not a white religion because it has white people in Umbanda, or because it uses images of white saints. And I’m not black because of my religion.

The fact that I’m oppressed in other situations – a woman, suburban, umbandista (follower of Umbanda) – does not make me more oppressed than a rich black, Catholic man. Oppressions are different.

This text also talks about sexism. But feminism of the white woman is different from feminism of the black woman. The black woman earns the lowest salary of all, is very little represented in novelas (soap operas), fairy tales and magazine covers and is therefore less desired by men who are not only sexist but also racist – whether white or black.

My soul is not white. My soul is not black. I have no idea what the color of my soul is.

None of this is aimed at segregating anyone, nor preventing people from relating to each other. Segregation exists. And recognizing is helping to deconstruct it.

Source: Geledés

Note

  1. Title given to a person born or that lives in the neighborhood of Pavuna, in Rio de Janeiro’s north zone. Rio’s zona norte (north zone), in contrast to the south zone, is recognized as a region of the lower, middle and popular classes of Rio de Janeiro.
  2. Upper class neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro’s zona sul, or south zone
  3. Contrast the positive reaction in this statement in reference to a white girl living in a region generally associated with blacks with that of reaction of a black girl who is questioned about her origins because she doesn’t appear to be from a city that is overwhelmingly white. See that story here.
  4. Something to keep in mind when so many people insist that the high rate of interracial relationships among Afro-Brazilians is based purely on emotions because “love has no color“. The writer here clearly recognizes the value of her white skin in attracting black men.
  5. Umbanda is a Brazilian religion, often defined as Afro-Brazilian, an erroneous definition, which inherited many elements of African religions as well as the Judeo-Christian religions, indigenous religions and spiritism, however, without being defined by them. It was formed in the twentieth century by Zélio Fernandina de Morais and his mentor Caboclo das Sete Encruzilhadas, subsequently enriched with the synthesis of other religious movements; is considered a syncretism that combines Catholicism, the tradition of African deities and spirits of Indian origin. Source. Although Umbanda, like the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé is often associated with negative connotations associated with what many perceive to be devil worship, it has a very large following among white Brazilians.

3 comments on ““I am a woman. I’m from the periphery. But I still have an advantage: I’m white” – The recognition of white privilege and racism

  1. Pingback: Mixed Race Studies » Scholarly Perspectives on Mixed-Race » “I am a woman. I’m from the periphery. But I still have an advantage: I’m white” – The recognition of white privilege and racism

  2. GHRS
    November 9, 2015

    I would say sometimes the advantage can be very small. If you take the white northeastern Brazlians and compare then with black, they will have virtually zero advantage I can see in Rio. Blacks will be called monkeys in an altercation, truth, But not as fats as someone from north will be called a paraiba. Not to say that there are no situations that they will be better just because of being white, but in general, local blacks can face even less discrimination.

    • Profe
      December 19, 2015

      Some people love to discredit white domination while ignoring or even maintaining its existence.

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