Note from BW of Brazil: We’ve been dealing with this for a while now. Although the issue of race and racism is more and more reported and debated, the overall society continues to have problems facing the problem head on. Not surprising for a nation that declared itself a ‘racial democracy’ for so long. Over a decade ago, the implementation of quotas in federal universities made Brazil face the issue of race in ways that it never had to. A new militancy among the Afro-Brazilian population has continued to push the issue as they seek to gain access to spaces that have been denied to them for so long. In coming days we will feature a few recent incidents that show how divisions along lines of race and difference of opinion are becoming clearer everyday. And as Eliane Oliveira so well puts it below, it has nothing to do with seeing racism in everything now; it’s always been there! (Photos taken from the “Ah, white people, give me a break” Tumblr page)
Now there’s racism in everything?
It’s not that everything is now racism, simply because it will never cease to be. Now we point to prejudice and violence that affects us for some time and we will not be silenced. We are not taxes of the politically correct as some unsuspecting like to make us out to be. To the contrary, we are aware of our history, our pain and our struggles
By Eliane Oliveira*
When someone comes to me with this question, I already have a response ready: no, now there’s not racism in everything! Because it’s not from now that racism affects us black men and women. It’s been since the time that our ancestors came enslaved to Brazil that we suffer with it. What’s new in this situation is that we get tired of being silenced.
That voice that black people attained in recent times gradually opening the face of Brazil that was masked for years. The country of mixed races, cultural multiplicity, that loves samba and Carnival, dominated by the racial democracy, this tropical country blessed by God would never accept to carry the weight of being considered racist. Not for who oppresses and reproduces racism, but for us this fallacy only existed in the beautiful academic texts and this weight that we carry in our daily lives all the time.
For whoever is black in this country, embranquecimento (whitening) and annulment of identity are historical. Beyond the appropriation of cultural symbols they still try to make believe that being called “negro” (black) is an offense. Referring to us as “pessoas de cor” (people of color), “morenas”, “mais escurinhas” (those who are a little darker) and worst of all for us women, they call us “mulatas”. All in the name of a false respectability to the person. Even when we point out that we prefer to be identified as negras because there is no problem with this, they try to justify themselves, as if they were right and we were wrong, “ah, mas você nem é tão preta assim” (ah, but you’re not so black).
We live in a racist society yes, and it is not from now. We are victims in a blatant way, there is no such veiled racism, as many say there. Here it happens to the naked eye, under the midday sun. Because of this we don’t see ourselves in most commercials, or in television productions (at most stereotypically), we don’t find specific products to take care of our skin or our hair. We are the main victims of state violence and those that earn the least. No, racism is not new, we’ve come to the point that the death of our people has become only statistics, not the cause of commotion.
The lack of representation, which serves to empower other black people, when pointed out as racism is justified by the discourse “of growing and winning by merit”, together with pointing out half a dozen blacks (of those they can remember) that are featured in the areas where they operate. They do this even without knowing the historical struggles of the persons concerned and how this representation is still low in a country of a black majority.
When they question my militancy saying that there are no races, only humans, I come back by asking what humanity is this that cannot see the profound inequality that affects most of the blacks in this country. The most interesting in the current moment in which we live is realizing that the same ones that keep accusing us of seeing racism in everything are able to write beautiful, scandalized texts when a famous person, a victim of racism, opens his/her case wide in the media.
It turns into a campaign on social networks, creates national uproar. But these same ones “sharing” and “liking” these actions are those who preach from the rooftops that they are in favor of lowering the legal age of criminal responsibility, that quotas are a thing of “preto vitimista” (black playing the victim), thinking the religions of African origin casts “spells”, that black women are hot and for enjoyment. Ie they will only ride the wave, they are the “fashionable anti-racists”, they don’t seek and don’t have interest in reporting on what it is or how not to reproduce racism.
It’s not that everything is now racism simply because it never ceased to be. Now we point out prejudice and violence that has affected us for some time and we will not be silenced. We are not taxes of the politically correct as some unsuspecting love to make us out to be. On the contrary, we are conscious of our history, our pain, our struggles. Our demands are extensive, our achievements have only begun.
The bridle of domination doesn’t fit us. It will not hide us in the closet in the background, like furniture they don’t want anymore. Nor are destined to us others spaces that are being chosen by ourselves. Our role in society now will have another outline that will be determined by the black color of our skin, by our experiences and our unity in fighting for other rights. We no longer accept being made invisible.
While racist practices are in force, for the oppressors we will continue to be those who see racism in everything, because for anyone who is the victim of it there is no single day of respite. For if we lower our guard what will remain will be only tears of sorrow, we prefer to keep the achievements of spaces and the battles won.
(*) Eliane Oliveira holds an MA in Social Sciences and a researcher at the Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares Afro-Brasileiros (NEIAB or Interdisciplinary Center for Afro-Brazilian Studies of the Universidade Estadual de Maringá/PR (UEM or State University of Maringá/Paraná), and professor of sociology of the public and private sector and a black feminist
Source: Revista Fórum