Note from BW of Brazil: The issue of racism is a topic frequently discussed on this blog as it is key to understanding the racial hierarchy and dynamics that underline Brazilian society. But the twin pillar of racism, white privilege, is a topic that is still not discussed much in Brazilian social sciences although its existence is easily noted in nearly every realm of society if one wants to simply stop, look around and come to some honest conclusions. These conclusions are often difficult to come to in a society that insists on continuing the rhetoric of ‘racial democracy‘ and its most recent variant, the idea that ‘somos todos iguais‘, or ‘we are all equal’.
In discussions of race, many white people often have difficulty admitting that such a privilege exists. But beyond the difficulty of possessing an advantage in life that they did nothing to earn, I often wonder, do they really believe that such a privilege really exists? Do they really not note the overwhelming whiteness of television? Politicians? Diplomats and university professors? They don’t notice the very real different reactions to people and issues when there is a difference of skin color or physical characteristics?
The fact is that there ARE white people out there who DO perceive this advantage and sometimes even admit it (see here and here, for example). But for those who are still in denial, below, one blogger provides examples of how white privilege is experienced in Brazil on a daily basis.
25 privileges that whites enjoy simply for being white
Recognizing their own privileges is the first step to understanding systems of oppression and fighting them.
By Lara Vascouto
Of the many things that have reviewed my stomach in disgust and frustration every day, there are men constantly questioning and ridiculing my experiences as a woman in a sexist world is very close to the top of the list.
“Vitimista” (one who plays the victim) is often the preferred name-calling of these men, that without knowing classify obstacles and violence of which we are victims as inventions or exaggerations. It’s a way of trying to silence us, but also to protect themselves. After all, ridiculing the role of victims, they find themselves free from the responsibility of assuming that they enjoy a number of privileges that are guaranteed to them simply because they are men.
The full and complete recognition of these privileges makes them very afraid. One, because in doing so, the individual inevitably needs to also recognize the role of oppressor/aggressor. And another because from that recognition there are no more excuses not to initiate a process of profound changes in terms of behaviors, attitudes and worldviews (unless you’re an asshole, of course). Because these two developments can be deeply painful, many men cower and choose to deny their privileges, using them, ironically, to discredit the words, thoughts, testimonies and experiences of women.
Something very similar happens among whites in relation to racism. As in the case of machismo (sexism), to deny that there is racism these people find themselves free from the responsibility of fighting it and to recognizing that many of the privileges they enjoy because they are white are given at the expense of black people. They do not want to acknowledge how oppressive this system is, so they discredit the words, thoughts, testimonies and experiences of black people (ironically, using white privilege, just as the sexists use their patriarchal privilege against women).
The examples of whites that deny that they have privileges are several. Usually, they do so when the discussion revolves around social policies that benefit black people, as if they were getting spoon-fed things, while whites, poor things, have to scratch and claw to achieve them. Unfortunately, they fail to see how whites benefit in several ways for the mere fact of being white.
“Geez! I was born poor, fucked, I’ve been hungry, grinded out three jobs at the same time to be able to study and I’m white! I never had any privilege”- someone is there saying.
Well, what is urgent that people understand is that racism ensures oppression, poverty and deprivation of rights of blacks. It doesn’t have any pretension to improve the lives of whites. As said very well by journalist Touré: “Just because someone failed to capitalize on their advantage, does not mean that the person doesn’t have it. If you lose a home game that has already begun with two points for your team, it doesn’t erase the fact that you started out in front.” A country may have whites and blacks equally miserable, but racism is an aggravating factor that will make it much harder for blacks to cease from being miserable. No wonder that most of the poor in Brazil are black.
But what these privileges are these that whites enjoy, you ask? So, I made a short list! But remember: the goal here is not to feel guilty, but to become aware and hence an agent of change. After all, it was not us that started this whole story, but the fault is, yes, all of ours, if we refuse to open our eyes to the fact that it still hasn’t ended.
25 privileges that whites enjoy simply for being White
1 – I don’t need to think about what it means to me and my family the statistic that 77% of murder victims in Brazil are black.
2 – I don’t need to fear that my son runs the risk of being one of 28 children and adolescents who are murdered every day by police in Brazil.
111 – ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN – rifle and pistol shots, fired by military police against 5 – FIVE – unarmed, happy young people, celebrating the first salary of one of them on a nice evening in the cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city, Rio de Janeiro). The genocide of black youth in Brazil is real.
3 – I’m sure I earn the same amount as my white colleague earns and not half.
4 – I don’t have to worry if my hair or the color of my skin will prevent me from getting a job.
Dayane Rodrigues: “Guess who didn’t pass the 12th interview because of not doing the chapinha (straighten hair with straightening iron)? Yes, me! This time they said I don’t have the “physical profile of the company” or that my “exotic style isn’t permitted and if I wish to stay I would have to do a chapinha.” This time they went further, even looked at my resume, they only sent a “with this hair you will not be hired” and done. DONE. It ended there. I was sent home. I didn’t argue, no, this time no, I only came home. I’m discouraged yes, with no hope, yes, excuse I’m human.”
5 – I don’t need to think about what it means for me the information that the murder of black women increased by 54% over the past decade. Or that black women are three times more likely to be raped than white women.
6 – If I move to a rich neighborhood, I don’t have to worry if the neighbors are going to be nasty to me and my family.
7 – If my son studies in a private school, I don’t have to worry if he/she will be discriminated against for being the only white in the class.
9 – The history that I learned in school is the history of a people who have the same skin color as me.
10 – All the heroes, inventors, scholars, scientists, warriors that I learned in school have the same skin color as me.
11 – All these stories with white protagonists and heroes strengthen my self-esteem and my sense of importance in society.
12 – I can issue my opinion on various subjects without worrying about the possibility of being seen as a representative of my entire race.
13 – If I get a very good job, I need not fear that people think that I got the job not due to competence, but to fulfill quotas.
14 – I can say that I went to college with the certainty that people won’t think that I stole the place of someone more competent.
15 – I can walk out at night without making people shake at the sight of me.
16 – I don’t care when I pass by a police blockade, because I know that I don’t have the profile that the police automatically considered suspect.
17 – I can decide to become a doctor without worrying whether patients will ask for another doctor when they meet me.
18 – I can be rude, ignorant, do bad in school, fall short in personal hygiene without these characteristics being associated with the color of my skin and automatically assigned to all other white-skinned people.
19 – If I braid hair and make a thousand tattoos people may consider me stylish, creative, artistic, half doidinha (crazy), but hardly a “marginal”, with “cabelo ruim” (bad hair), “slob” or “social parasite”.
20 – I’ve never experienced or worried about going through the embarrassment of having boyfriends afraid or ashamed of introducing me to their families.
21 – I don’t need to be afraid to go through the embarrassment of being confused with the nanny of my own children.
22 – If I were an orphan child, I would have more chance of being adopted than a black child.
23 – If I go in alone in a store, I will hardly be monitored or accused of trying to steal something.
24 – I can drive a very good car and be sure that people will not think it’s stolen or I did some illegal thing to buy it.
25 – I can afford to distance myself from the discussion on racism when it gets too uncomfortable.
Source: No de Oito