Note from BW of Brazil: Question: If you had to choose another country to live in and after doing your own research on one in particular, you now want to get a personal perspective from someone who lives in that country. Given the choice between an adult who was born and raised in the country and another person who, as you may become in the future, is an immigrant, whose opinion would you most likely trust? In reality, it’s a not a simple question. The person who was born and raised in the country could provide you endless information based on the experience of being a native to the country. But on the other hand, any citizen who loves their country could also distort facts about said country in order to present the best image of their native land possible. Is it possible that a immigrant can see and expose things that native-born citizen can’t or won’t?
Millions of US-born Americans continue to believe that the US is the “greatest country in the world”, but is this perspective actually stand up to scrutiny? Is it actually true? I mean, by what parameters does one measure such a statement? Is it possible that a country could be great in some areas but severely lacking in others? What if were black and you were considering living in another country, would the issue of racism be a topic you might be concerned about in seeking a new country to live in? Would you ask a Brazilian how they thought his/her country treated black people considering the fact that so many Brazilians travel to/live in other countries and deny the existence of racism? Hmmmm….Maybe not.
Although Brazil has been a hot destination for immigrants from numerous countries over the past several years, it would be an understatement to say that there are differences between how a white European immigrant may see Brazil and how a black African immigrant may experience the country. In a number of previous posts, we’ve presented the often times negative experiences of African immigrants as well as Haitian immigrants in Brazil. Recently, another African immigrant shared his opinions of one Brazil’s most well-known cities in an interview with a top newspaper. See what he had to say below.
Maurício Wilson Camilo da Silva, researcher: ‘Rio de Janeiro rejects Africans’
Eight years in Rio for his studies, Guinean gives course on history of the great kingdoms of Africa at the Institute of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the UFRJ
By Thiago Jansen
Architect and urban planner, professor of History of African kingdoms, he sees Rio as an unfriendly city for immigrants from his continent
Tell me something that I don’t know.
Unfortunately, most Brazilians only know the image of a poor at war Africa. And if we take into account the fact that Brazil is the second country with the largest Afro-descendant population in the world, the absence of this knowledge is striking. While here African historical knowledge is restricted to the enslaved and free African, there the process is different, and considers the ancestry of the great kingdoms and nobles of the continent.
What changes can the expansion of this knowledge result in the social dynamics?
When the history of Africa connects itself to its descendents, whose knowledge comes down to slavery, this can wake up black Brazilians to the understanding that they are not only descendants of slaves, but also those who were masters and had their civilizations, like any people. And it can contribute to an ideological revolution in Brazil.
You have no training in that subject, but you organize courses in that respect. How did you become interested in the area?
It comes from my origin and the belief that if we don’t know where we came from, it is complicated to understand where we are going. In this sense, despite wanting to do a doctorate on the subject, I am an example that a person need not have a degree in History to seek such life experience, deepen it and pass it on.
How have your eight years of experience in the country been?
Brazil is a very heterogeneous country, but there are many myths built about it that only here you see that they are false. A curious myth is the idea that Carnival lasts months: as soon as I arrived, I saw that it’s nothing like that. Another (thing), more serious is the realization of that, because of being a very African country, it is receptive to this immigrant.
Brazil favors European immigrants more than Africans. Rio de Janeiro, in fact, is a city that very much rejects the African.
You don’t like living in Rio?
Rio can be terrible. It would be my falsehood not to say this about a city where, with frequency, I walk by the disdained people in the streets, and where the number of murders, mostly black and poor, is stark.
Are there good things?
There are, of course. And I believe that living here has been a learning experience. I think, outside my country, this is the only place where I would continue to live. It is a city that gave me the chance, even if through the rejection, of detaching myself from the field of social attention to reflect on myself. And that enriched me ideologically.
Have you been through situations of strong prejudice?
This happens from the moment I leave home. Once, a bus driver asked why I was here. (It was) said jokingly, but not so much, that the African arrived here in chains, helped build the country and today I came free to enjoy it.
Does prejudice extend to the academic environment?
Academia reflects society. So Africa is also seen as inferior in the university, and this is perceived by the relationships and behaviors in the classroom. It’s a more complex prejudice.
Source: O Globo