Note from BW of Brazil: Many years ago, if one wanted to study everyday incidents of racism in Brazilian society, you either had to listen to stories from someone you knew, read it in a magazine or in a book written by a sociologist or anthropologist. This is another marvel about the internet and social networks. It gives everyday people the opportunity to share their stories with thousands of people in a way that just 20 years ago wasn’t possible. Social networks are so popular nowadays that even the mainstream media looks to them to get stories that they eventually end up covering. Today’s story is yet another example.
The northeastern state of Piauí is the location of this latest example of the racial problems that supposedly don’t exist in Brazil. And like numerous other posts that discuss the idea of ‘race and place’, this story once again shows that Brazilians don’t like, are not accustomed to and don’t know how to deal with black people whose educational attainments have taken them beyond positions as cleaning women, street sweepers, maids and doormen. The prejudice lies in the fact that the positions that a new generation of Afro-Brazilians are assuming have always traditionally been dominated and occupied by persons with white skin. As such, once you strip away the lie that education, a good job and salary will erase any sort of prejudice one might experience, you are forced to deal with the existence of the real problem: preconceito de cor (color prejudice).
Dentist, a victim of racism in Piauí vents on the Internet: ‘Yes, I was born black’
Patients are surprised and some refuse to be attended by the professional. In less than 24 hours, her post had more than 700 shares.
The constant manifestations of racism motivated the young dentist Laynna Marina Santos Lima, 25, to vent on her Facebook page. Until Tuesday morning (13), less than 24 hours after posting, her account had already reached the 700 compartilhamentos (shares) mark and almost 400 curtidas (likes).
Having graduated from the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI), with a Master’s degree and about to complete her second specialization, the young woman provides services in three medical clinics and still divides personal life and work to teach at three different institutions and take care of her little daughter. For Laynna, her entire resume goes unnoticed because of her pele negra (black skin).
The piauiense (native of Piaui state) says she has realized the racist behavior of some people from the door of her home to the office.
“And for you going into the office asking ‘where’s the dentist’, I reply: Hi. It’s me Laynna Lima. I graduated from the Federal University of Piauí. I have a Master’s in Dentistry and taking a specialization course in prosthetic .Yes, I am. Nasci negra (I was born black) as you can see… But my skin says nothing about my knowledge,” she said in the posting.
She spoke to the G1 website and reported cases she faces on a daily basis. In the office, she reported that patients enter the room to be met, look at her, are surprised and ask for the dentist.
According to her, some people have refused to be tended to, all because of the color of her skin. Women, men and even children have already played the lead role in embarrassing situations in the office.
“This didn’t happen once or twice. It’s happened several times and quite often. Patients arrive and are frightened by a black person as a dentist. This shocks me very much because the culture of racism seems to be even embedded in society,” she said.
But the cases in her office, according to the dentist, don’t even come close to what she’s already had to endure. With her daughter in her arm in a grocery store and in line at the cafeteria, complying with the law of priority, she has even been mistaken as a babá (nanny) (1). On one occasion, an older woman gave her spare change, calling her a mendiga (beggar) (2).
“I was at the door of a pharmacy waiting for my mother to buy a medicine and the lady came to me and gave me money. I asked why that was and she replied that I needed it. It was bizarre because it was a clear association with color of the skin. I didn’t even look unkempt,” she recalls.
Although very hurt, Laynna never registered any police report and prefers to work around situations in her favor.
“I’ve been through very difficult situations, but I learned to take them and turn things around in my favor. I try to talk with the person and try to educate her. We need to break the boundaries of prejudice. People need to be educated about it. They aren’t bad, it’s just that prejudice is embedded in society,” she said.
Laynna’s post in its entirety
“And for you going into the office asking ‘where’s the dentist’, I reply: Hi. It’s me Laynna Lima. I graduated from the Federal University of Piauí. I have a Master’s in Dentistry and taking a specialization course in prosthetics. Yes, I am. Nasci negra (I was born black) as you can see… But my skin says nothing about my knowledge. Moreover, I need to make a correction…It wasn’t easy to compete and pass the vestibular (college entrance exam)…It’s not (and hasn’t been) co-existing with racist people like you. It sickens me and makes me perceive how much of a well-balanced and educated person I am. Coming from a humble and black family I only have one thing to tell you: you don’t even imagine how much you lose when you refuse a consultation with me.”
- As we’ve seen again and again, being mistaken for a nanny is quite a common experience for black Brazilian women, again calling to mind the image of black women as servants.
- We’ve also seen the naturalized association between black skin, homelessness and begging. Interestingly, white Brazilians who fall victims to homelessness, drug addiction or perform less celebrated occupations, their experiences are quite different.