The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent
Note from BW of Brazil: So today I’m bringing you perhaps a lighter post than what was posted yesterday (on recognizing ‘palmitagem’ in the pursuit of white romantic partners), but in some ways just as serious and one that cannot be disconnected from yesterday’s topic. You see, as so many previous posts have already shown, Brazil is a country that indoctrinates its people from a very young age that whiteness is the racial status that all should admire and aspire to. And with all of the manipulative forces of the mainstream media as well as the culture itself, it can be an uphill battle for anyone wishing to instill in their children or family members a sense of black identity and a connection with the everyday psychological warfare that every afrodescendente (African descendant) must eventually confront, even when they don’t know it. Today’s brief story is simple but very indicative of this struggle.
“I loved the black doll, auntie.” It was the best Christmas message that I received
By Laura Astrolábio
My niece is a preta de pele clara e cabelo cacheado (light-skinned black girl with curly hair). When she was younger, she wouldn’t let me tell her that I was black, that my sister was black and that she was black. I took a picture of my father and showed it to her and said:
“This handsome man here is my father and your mother’s father and he is black. He’s your grandfather. Look how we look like him! “
“você não é preta, tia” (You’re not black, auntie)
I explained to her that I was and how there are people of different shades of black skin as well as white people have different shades of white skin. I started giving black dolls to her (the ones I could findthe ones I could find) and she couldn’t care less and said,
One day she drew a sketch and said,
_ “Auntie, I drew you”
It was the drawing of a woman with long straight hair and I asked her why she drew me like that and she said,
“I thought you’d like to be drawn like that.”
I cried and my sister said that I was creating drama, since she was small and didn’t understand. I explained with all the love that this was the reason for my crying, because I didn’t know what to do to get out of her head, that the system had put into her since she was born, that I was nothing against the system and that inside my family I had lost to it.
I felt useless and I said several times, that it was no use receiving messages from people saying that I had helped them in their acceptance processes with the things I wrote if my niece wouldn’t accept me and wouldn’t accept herself. However, I always had a friend of my soul to comfort me and say that I would manage and that it was just the way it was.
I bought some books with black characters and read it to her, showing her the illustrations. I took her to learn about the Crespinhos S/A (1). Every time Elis Cantanhede appeared on a program I called her and told her to turn on the TV and watch the little girl she had met at that little dance. She kept saying she wanted a blonde Barbie and wanted to be blonde and wanted to have straight hair.
I was still sad and feeling like nothing in front of that little girl that I couldn’t empower.
Today she sent an audio, telling me of the Christmas gift she got (I still didn’t ask from whom). Very excited, she said that the doll is very beautiful and so on. She ended by saying:
“Eu gostei muito dela, tia… e ela é pretinha” (I really liked her, auntie … and she’s black)
The doll I bought her this year is too, but we still haven’t met so I can give it to her.
I never gave up, but it was me alone against the television and all its characters, against the school and all the students, parents and teachers who have somehow passed through her life in some way. But it seems that someone, besides me, decided to get into this fight too. Someone who may have listened to MC Soffia rap or seen Elis saying in a video:
_ “I’m preta! Understand what I said,” with a chest full of self-love.
The audio of my niece telling me full of enthusiasm, about having loved the doll, about the doll being beautiful and about the doll being black, was the best Christmas present I have ever got in this life. That seed that I planted, that I watered, that it seemed like it wouldn’t sprout… it sprouted.
P.S: Thank you, Renata Morais, for the times you helped me and told me not to give up on her
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