Note from BW of Brazil: It’s actually a very common story. There are possibly millions of black Brazilians who have long believed or still believe that Brazil has no racial problems. According to the thoroughly ingrained rhetoric, Brazil being a multiracial nation similar to others around the world, managed to escape racial antagonisms because its citizens believed themselves to be “all equal” and simply Brazilians rather than white, black, Asian, other or what have you. Incredibly, even those who are often on the receiving end of sometimes subtlely (or blatant) racist comments or jokes deceive themselves or are deceived into believing that such things that people say are in fact not racist. After all, “we Brazilians aren’t racists”, right? It is only with the taking of a certain level of racial consciousness that people come to acknowledge that some Brazilians can be as racist as people from any other country. And while some would have us believe that racial problems only began with the introduction of the system of affirmative action, the fact is that the world of the social sciences have debunked the idea that Brazil is a “racial democracy” since the 1940s. No, racism is nothing new; what IS new is the way that black Brazilians are reacting to it.
Since you became a black militant, it’s very difficult to talk to you!
By Viviana Santiago
I remember that then in the years 2006 and 2007 I began to take more knowledge of the racial issue, access to black movements and the privileged opportunity to know and be invited to be part of black women’s organizations.
At that time I experienced consciousness of the racial question like someone who got her first-degree glasses: I was a very near-sighted child, and I still remember today the sensation of only with glasses starting to perceive the detail of things …Those blots? They were the leaves of the trees. That stain on the wall that I saw from inside the bus? It was such a cute drawing … And it was like that: from the details on a wall to the precision in the colors, everything changed; and racial consciousness operates in much the same way.
Having a racial conscience and understanding the mechanisms by which racism and racial discrimination are operated, causes black people to enter into this same movement: Facts of everyday life, phrases, comments, postures are seen in another way, or I would say: they become fully perceived.
For a long time black women hear, see, feel…they experience a set of situations that, at the limit, were the attempt of subordination, of exercising control over their lives and bodies: We are invited to laugh at the jokes that said “quando nêgo não caga na entrada, caga na saída” (when a black doesn’t shit coming in, he shits on the way out), we were summoned to accept the compliments that said we were “nêgas, but very intelligent”, we had to accept the indiscreet looks, and the service filled with ill will when we needed to use some service. And for each of these episodes of violence there was the prompt response: “It’s just a joke, why did you get upset?” “It’s a compliment!” “No, it’s not ill will, it’s that you were also wearing these clothes”! And my favorite: “It’s that you black women are hypersensitive.”
Obviously, we understood that we were being passed over, we perceived a level of contempt, and yes, you could feel uncomfortable in all these situations. Only at that moment, it was a nuisance that many of us still didn’t know how to name, or maybe we didn’t dare say the name. And so, perhaps for some time now, many of us have been troubled but silent interlocutors who didn’t have the tools to act under this violence to which we were subjected;
Experiencing a process of taking racial consciousness, by understanding the dynamics of racism and the structures of domination, subordination, and oppression in society, each of us black women begins to change this game. From troubled silent interlocutors, we become people who can identify and name each of the situations experienced: Everything comes to be pointed out, criticized, problematized. Every joke, compliment, and racist attitude will be immediately exposed. Today in a racist society, black activists are people who survive racist violence and actively face it.
Faced with this change in our behavior, it has been increasingly common to hear from pessoas brancas (white people): “Now it’s getting difficult to talk to you, we have to think well before we say anything!”
We need to think about the real meaning of this phrase, as the black militants would say in Recife: we need to unpack this present: The phrase is about the annoyance of some racist people who would like to continue provoking, offending, humiliating and deposing black people. In a permanence of the slave-owning mentality, racists not only want the right to continue racist domination, but are firmly convinced that the população negra (black population) can’t react.
I’m used to hearing this argument from more varied people, some of them known for their education, politeness, some who have dedicated and dedicate their lives to building a better world.
But it seems that this better world, education and politeness are not intended for pessoas negras (black people).
Stop to think: Are you really accustomed to seeing these people who accuse black women of aggressiveness and hysteria, really saying everything that comes to their heads, the way it comes to mind when you talk to everyone else in society? Would it not be true that we perceive that these people usually take a few seconds to organize ideas, identify what they are talking about, and try to express themselves in the justest way possible?
Unsurprisingly, racist people, even those who fought for rights, have never recognized the black population as humans of human rights, our humanity is constantly denied, but we won’t accept less.
When I hear these sentences, I perceive two very clear movements: the search to expose injustice and racism on the level of hysteria and aggression and the intention to turn racist people into a victim of intolerance, and radically changing the logic of history, invites the interlocutor to feel very sorry for the racist person who, in order to avoid having problems with co-existing with black women, now faces the necessity of spending time thinking about what is said in order not to be offensive to black women.
But the question to ask is: Why should it be any different? Could it be that this is not what people really should do? Revisit themselves in search of repressing offensive and discriminatory content and in the relation of otherness with the other always treating in order to respect their integrality and wholeness?
We black women deserve respect, or rather demand it! And let’s fight for it. The anti-racist struggle is constituted of consciousness and of daily positioning, in several moments of our day, because it is in every fucking moment of our day that tries to vilify us. And we fight against this system, on which our survival depends.
You can’t do the fight in any other way, you can’t face racism without radicalism, which makes us take consciousness and make it clear that it is impossible to fight the anti-racist struggle without making racist people uncomfortable.
So my word to racist people would be: Don’t ask us to be soft and moderate in the denunciation of racism and in the fight for the construction of our well-being, what we are dealing with is understanding that we deserve the respect that we are, we will continue demanding the respect; and you racist person: Measure your words, attitudes, and postures, if you don’t measure you will be confronted and the idea that we leave is: Turn this nuisance into lesson. Revisit yourself.
Source: Palavra de Preta