Note from BW of Brazil: I’m sure that there are probably people out there who are probably thinking, “why do you make such a fuss about the race question? If you stop talking about it so much it won’t be a problem.” As if not talking about the topic will suddenly make the problem (that they often fail to see) simply vanish into thin air. In a world based upon white supremacy, I often wonder if persons who fit into the European standard ever stop and really imagine how they would feel if white hegemonic standards weren’t the norm. How would they react if they turned on the TV one day and 90% of the people they saw were non-white. If all of the political, banking and business elites, lawyers, doctors and models were all non-white. The results would probably be pretty interesting if there were such an experiment that lasted for only a week.
In Brazil, white supremacy is just as strong as that in other Western countries. It is so thoroughly ingrained in the population’s consciousness that no one questions it and either don’t even realize it’s there or simply accept as the way it is. Kind of like the air we all breathe. It’s just kind of there and it’s always been there. And as such, it’s normal. The comic strip below is a brief snapshot, a day in the life of a black woman co-existing with these standards. Based on a real life experience…
“Mommy, a black doll?!! I don’t want it!!” – Based on a true story
By Vanessa Pereira
In one of those toy stores (there was) a mother with her daughter. Me at the side a little distracted choosing a present for myself, when I heard:
“- Mom, a boneca preta (black doll), I don’t want it!”
(Deep. breath. It hurt a little in my chest, but…I took a deep breath…)
The child’s mother called the salesperson and said:
“- Hi? Wow! Why do you insist on selling these dolls? Children don’t like it! A doll has to be loirinha (blonde)!”
I looked at the person’s face and gave a smile.
She said awkwardly:
“- Ahh, no, you’re not preta (black), you’re a morena. A morenona. Beautiful! ”
(It’s true, nothing is so bad that it can’t get worse …)
I turned to her and said:
Good afternoon. I’m not a morena, nor a morenona. I’m negra. Beautiful I really am, but I reject your compliment because I don’t need them. You know why they insist on selling black dolls or, speaking in your language so that you better understand, morenonas?
She didn’t answer.
I insisted. I insisted because there are moments that it’s no use having a poker face and pretending that you didn’t hear…I can’t. This doesn’t work well with me.
“- They sell black dolls because there are kids of all types. Black, white, red hair, black hair, blonde hair. Curly, kinky, dreadlocks, straight and so on. Your daughter for example is much closer to looking like the black doll than a blonde. And look, I don’t want you to misunderstand me, I’m not saying that white children have to play with a white doll or vice versa. Quite to the contrary. I’m saying there has to be doll of all kinds so that children can play with them all. It is a question of identification. In fact, you’ll excuse me, I’m not even saying this for you, I’m saying this for your daughter, who is still a child and is absorbing all this prejudice that she sees at home. If you take your daughter to the doctor, for example, and he was a “morenão”, negro, black, on sight, will you make the same observation? The doctor has to be blond too?
Finally. There is something called, human, and being human is independent of color.
Have a good day.”
And I left empty handed.
1. For an understanding of terms such as morena (pretty brown girl), morenona (really pretty brown girl) and morenão (big, brown man) see the article on racial classification in Brazil. For more the “Brazilian way” of not classifying persons as negra/negro but rather using terms meant to “compliment” or “elevate” someone to an identification deemed to be “better” than negro/negra, see here.