Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

“I have the right not to suffer racial prejudice”: Roberta Tavares tells how even in a student environment, such as universities, racism still reigns


Leitora de CLAUDIA fala sobre o preconceito racial que sofre

Roberta Tavares (photo – Marcelo Ribeiro)

Note from BW of Brazil: Some readers, whether first timers or returning visitors, will look at the title of today’s piece and simply disregard it as another piece on racism; some will even define the words of the writer as being a type of ‘whining’. Some will even ask, why cover these stories? Well, first of all, exposing a Brazil that has consistently refused to admit the very existence of racism and its effects on its citizens was one of the goals of this blog from day one. Another factor is to demonstrate how so many Brazilians of visible African ancestry have such similar stories. Being ridiculed because of having cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) is a fairly common experience that oftentimes leads people to the development of an identidade negra (black identity) of which they were in denial. But I also note how common it is how many people point out their feelings of exclusion at festa junina/São João parties, very strong cultural practices across the country. Another recurring theme you will find in today’s story is the fact that another light-skinned Afro-Brazilian recounts her experiences with racism, an important fact as there are many people who will either claim that racism doesn’t affect African descendants of a lighter hue or that they aren’t in fact even black. Whatever your stance on this issue, these stories continue to convict Brazil in the minds of the people in terms of the race issue. 

CLAUDIA magazine reader talks about the racial prejudice she suffers

Roberta Tavares tells how even in a student environment, such as universities, racism still reigns

By Isabella Marinelli

Whichever woman you choose to be, CLAUDIA magazine is ready to share this path with you. We want to be with you, reader, on this trail for equal rights and opportunities. None of us are alone anymore. And together we are much stronger and we will go much further.

We are the women who no longer wait for the blessing of society to claim what is ours. And we know that no matter what our desire, no matter what our choice, we have a right.

Get inspired by the story of Roberta Tavares, historian, 33 years old, from Belém.

#EuTenhoDireito de não sofrer preconceito racial 

(I have the right not to suffer racial prejudice)

I was born in a quilombola community in the interior of (the state of) Pará. I only moved to (state capital) Belém when I was 20, when I lost my grandmother and wanted to escape suffering, to experience something different. I studied history and today I’m taking a master’s degree. Even after so many years, the feeling of non-belonging continues and sometimes it comes out, depending on what I face in the day to day. In general, being a woman in Brazil, traveling alone, sitting at a bar table without men is difficult. But in Belém the harassment is scary. I have an aggravation, I am black.

The prejudiced look of society makes me have to experience embarrassing situations. Often, crossing the street, I hear someone screaming from inside a car that I have a head full of lice or should comb my hair. When I am strong, I respond, I react. But there are days when I fall apart. And then I feel even more guilty for not doing anything. This is monstrous. After the episode, you still get violent demanding an answer, a less hurtful, more active reaction.res). But racism makes young people not understand that the problem is prejudice, not their hair or their skin. They don’t understand why they are left out.

Blacks cannot tell when they have suffered prejudice for the first time, because it is instituted, it happens since school, when no colleague wants to be your partner in the festa junina. Straightening the hair is a way not only of seeking what is considered beautiful by society but also an unconscious means of protecting oneself from racism. My cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) was tied down for many years, though I never straightened it. Today, it is free and I am more exposed.

In the academy, prejudice is subtle, veiled. I am black, from a quilombola community and, usually, seen as an object of research. By becoming a researcher and producing knowledge, I position myself politically, I break a paradigm. I study slavery and place black people as protagonists of the story, I speak from a different perspective. This is also a confrontation.

I’m not early, I keep positioning myself because I know we can change society. Beginning with the social imaginary of Belém. Here, it is believed that girls of the interior, indigenous or black, when they arrive in the city, they must take on the work of servants. They engage in activities analogous to slavery and become available to the boss even sexually. But we were not made for this. We want to study, make art, be relevant. People who hear us get tired, think we see racism in everything. The frequency of the episodes seems absurd. But it is not. Racism is present from the time someone exposes us on the street, even when a professor at the university makes a skewed comment and only you understand the offense.”

Source: Claudia

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