Note from BW of Brazil: It’s a shame that in 2016 a woman still has to make such declarations, but we have to remember that this is life in Brazil. The issue of blackness and black identity are topics that we frequently touch upon here at BW of Brazil, and a recent post in a social network by an Angolan woman living in Brazil once again reminds us why this continues to be an issue worth discussing. First, let’s get to the story and later we’ll chime in on why her declaration is important.
Angolan living in Mato Grosso do Sul vents on the web: ‘call me black, I love it’
Ilda says she feels the fear of some people calling her black. She arrived in Brazil three years ago thanks to her father’s scholarship.
By Gabriela Pavão
“Please, don’t be afraid of offending me; call me negra (black). I love it. And if it was in an affectionate way, you can call me neguinha (little black girl) (1). I’m black, I was born black, I’ll die black and I’m very proud of my color.” The words are of the Angolan Ilda Isabel Lando, 23, who has lived in Campo Grande for two decades, and was posted by her on social networks on Monday (25).
In an interview with G1, Ilda said the posting had no direct relationship with any embarrassing situation or recent experience with prejudice, but was made to encourage other blacks to be proud of their race.
“It was a reflection really. We always see that people think that calling you black is an insult. There are people who say I am a morena bonita (beautiful morena), afraid to call me negra, thinking it will offend me, perhaps because negra is too strong a word. But for me it’s a compliment, I like it, I’m proud to be black,” she said.
Daughter of a nursing technique and an economist, Ilda was born in Luanda, the capital of Angola, and came to Brazil at three years of age, after her father won a scholarship to study economics in college.
At the time, Angola was experiencing a civil war that lasted 27 years. The fight in the former Portuguese colony was the longest military conflict in Africa, left a million dead, four million refugees and destroyed the country’s infrastructure.
Arriving in Brazil reach as a child, black with an accent and different culture it became the most difficult adjustment process, especially in association with other colleagues at school, remembers Ilda.
“When I entered pre-school I still had that thing of an accent, besides (being) black and African, but, thank God and with the help of my family I overcame it and everything worked out,” she said.
Being proud of one’s beauty and see one ’s self as pretty as other colleagues was a matter of time. “Previously it bothered me a little, more on the issue of school because there was one thing to self-affirm, having the standard of beauty, during childhood and adolescence there was this business and it was difficult because black beauty was never seen as standard,” she said.
About prejudice and racism, she says she has been the victim of veiled situations, but has learned to cope. “I’ve gone through this yes, situations of racism, but not explicit. It was that more hidden prejudice, because nowadays people know that it’s a crime, then the person will not come to you and say they don’t like blacks,” she mused.
According to the Secretary of Justice and Public Security (Sejusp), from January to December 2015 there were 12 cases of racism, prejudice and discrimination recorded in Mato Grosso do Sul, 4 of them in Campo Grande.
Overcoming the difficult phase, Ilda came to be an icon of black beauty for herself and for others as well. In 2011, she was elected Miss Black Beauty of Campo Grande. In the following years she took part in other beauty contests and still does some freelance work model, but currently divides most of her time between studies and working in a Campo Grande hospital.
Note from BW of Brazil: If you’ve spent any time reading the material on this blog, you know that for many Brazilians, coming to accept themselves as black is a journey of self-discovery. You see, since the country’s 350 year plus years of slavery, Brazil has indoctrinated its citizens, both black and white, to view blackness as something horrible, something negative to be avoided at all costs. As such, whether one has light-skin and more of a mixed-race appearance, or one is more obviously black, the terms preto/preta or negro/negra, both being the masculine and feminine term for black in Portuguese, were terms to be avoided. If one was to be polite in addressing another person, they would not use such a term because the person to whom the term is directed could be offended by being described with such a term. As this stigma has centuries of history behind, many people would be prefer to be defined or define themselves with more ‘acceptable’ terminology such as the ever popular ‘morena/moreno’ classification as Ilda described above.
But as we have seen in recent years, more and more Brazilians are freeing themselves from the psychological prison that defines blackness as something to be avoided. Ilda is an Angolan woman that has lived in Brazil most of her life, but her experience is similar to that of millions of black Brazilians, many of whom would still prefer to be defined with more ambiguous terminology. Good for Ilda for making her views known! And hopefully we continue to see more persons of African descent living in a country that is so destructive in terms of the development of a positive black identity follow her proud example.
- Important to note this statement as well because with the rise of black identity in the past few decades, many self-defined negras take offense with the usage of terms such as neguinha while others see it as a term of affection. As we have discussed in previous articles, the term can be seen as affectionate or an insult depending on it is verbalized and the situation.