Note from BW of Brazil: The personal stories presented in today’s post are simply more common experiences of those that this blog has brought you for the past years. Brazilians coming to finally see themselves as black, accepting their cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair), experiences with racism, stereotypes of the “place” of black people, the denial of one’s blackness, etc. Experiences such as those shared in today’s post are a snapshot of the difficulties of being black in a place such as Brazil that has one of those sophisticated forms of racism in the world. Today’s stories come courtesy of the organization Instituto Identidades do Brasil, founded by former model Luana Génot.
IDENTITIES OF BRAZIL: Real stories of people struggling for racial equality
Courtesy of the Sim à Igualdade Racial website
I have been suffering with racism ever since I understood people, so, this goes for about 35 years. 9 years ago I began my religious career in Candomblé which added another element of discrimination and prejudice. This year I complete 7 full years of initiation and religious hatred is yet another monster to be faced and battled. In my family we learned from an early age to face racism and fight to occupy our spaces, but I confess that it is often very desperate to see that society does not change and that racism remains at the base of common-sense thinking. They try to keep us on the fringes of society. But we are roots and seeds, we will continue to resist since this was one of the legacies left by our ancestors.
Sou negra (I’m black). I suffered racism from 6 to 7 years, sometimes I dream or I remember the event: I have accepted for 6 years and 5 in which I accepted my cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) Today some people talk to me or I am an incentive for them, about accepting themselves. What affects me still was the racism that I suffered, and that we still have obstacles in life for being black, and the ironic thing is that it’s been since slavery! We can say that today we have more facility to certain things, but still we have to face the obstacles.
On the mother’s side I have Indian, black and white. On my father’s side I have black and white. I have never suffered prejudice because of color, but because of lack of money, yes. From my point of view, the problem is the lack of education and culture. My 5-year-old niece is black and says she is white: “Auntie, I’m not a negrinha (little black girl).” Only education and culture will help you increase your self-esteem, overcome future challenges and give the right answers, on time and for the right people.
I am a woman, a black woman and I grew up in the suburbs of Rio. This theme affects me a lot. We are miles away from the much-sought equality. I graduated in Physical Education 22 years ago, a postgrad in dance and I have worked in the same institution for 17 years. Even so, it still causes strangeness in some parents when they see that the professora de balé (ballet teacher) is black (see note one).
I was born and raised in Méier, north zone of Rio de Janeiro. My skin color is morena (dark). I am a descendant of Africans. My grandparents are black. My cause, and I run for it, is to be the best father in the world for my son, maybe a father I didn’t have in my childhood.
I am a Classical ballet teacher, and one day out of the classroom, I was “approached” by a question in a prejudiced style. We were leaving, two black students and one white student, and a pseudo client addressed my only white student, asking how the class was, as she wanted to enroll her daughter and wanted more details. My student laughed and said, “I’m not the teacher!” At that moment, we are faced with the prejudice imposed by society, where a classical ballet teacher cannot be NEGRA (see note one). The pseudo client did not have the education to ask who the teacher was: she simply called that my only white student was the teacher, of the 4 people, being white, why can only the white girl be the teacher? I still think that in the XXI century we face racism as a strong agenda. For me at the moment it was strong, but I could not show sadness at that moment, I had to, even suffering prejudice, maintain composure and attend a pseudo client. To be black is to be rejected by incomplete people of love and the ability to understand that todos somos iguais (we are all equal). After this event I kept moving forward, and believing that years of studies have not been in vain. But I ask God to free us from the weak and let them learn to respect and treat us as normal, not as unqualified beings.
I’m Jeovane, 22 years old, black and gay. From a very young age I knew of my sexuality, but my race and my empowerment as a pessoa negra (black person) only came in the last 3 years. But racism never waited to affect me, since I was a child I have heard that my skin is grimy, that my features deserve plastic surgery, and that my cabelo é ruim (hair is bad). I am the son of a black father and a white mother, and belonging to a mixed-race family made it difficult for me to recognize myself as a black person, especially because of the discussions of racism not having come to my house earlier. Today I am aware of my negritude, I am proud of what I am. Despite living in a society that marginalizes my body, my being, I struggle every day against racism and LGBTophobia. We are the majority and together we are being stronger.
Although I have white skin, I have Portuguese grandparents, from my father’s side. I had black and Italian great-grandparents on my mother’s side. It is interesting how the mixture of people ends up leading to different skin types. I have primos bem pardos (quite brown cousins), others who come to be quase negros (almost black), and I am white with light (colored) eyes. It is interesting how this miscegenation happens, especially in our country. One thing that motivates me is trying to help transform people’s lives through sport, which is something I have always practiced in life, and with which I work today.
I’m a daughter of black women and a white man. I never liked being denominated parda (brown/mixed). I inherited characteristics from both sides, so I am a mixture, a mestiça. Since I could, I have denominated myself negra and I am always look at with that “How come?” face. I guess it’s because I inherited my father’s hair. At the moment I don’t have hair to be compared (I’m on chemo), so maybe it will not startle (people) if I have to fill out a registration. The theme affects me more in the work environment.
Sou carioca (native of Rio) and my father’s family is from Bahia, my mother is from Rio. What moves me is the struggle to defend mainly us black women, because a lot of people discriminate against us because of being women and because of color.
I am black by skin and undefined by soul and spirit. Inwardly I seek to be like Jesus Christ, who for me is the perfect model of one who doesn’t make acceptance of persons, color, race or creed. He loves even those who reject him. Well, my mother reports that our great grandparents, part of them were from Portugal, some were Italians. Here in Brazil they mixed with Indians. SHE (my mother) mixed with my (black) father with an African root, my paternal grandmother carried Indian traits, we treated her as a “Chinese grandmother” (resembled the Chinese movies because she had slanted eyes) I realize that the features were indigenous. How inequality has affected me and still affects me! Well, I’m an attorney and I’ve been a business administrator for a long time. One of the most striking episodes that I remember was when I attended a business meeting in Rio Grande do Sul (Guaiba), I was waiting at the reception for the entrance call. The manager’s secretary appeared at the reception twice, saw me sitting down, and the two returned, not believing that the only black man at the front desk was the expected person. After a few minutes the receptionist’s phone rang asking, where was (Mr. Ricardo) and she whispered very quietly that I was sitting at the desk. The somewhat bewildered manager came personally and invited me in. At the counters of the courts, it is not very different, even when performing tasks that require prerogatives to practice them, the servants almost always ask “are you a lawyer?” (see note two) In conclusion (I am Brazilian, with roots scattered between African, European and South American continents) and I do not deny my “Brazilianness”, on the contrary, I am very proud of what I am! The color of the skin is just a detail for me: a beautiful detail!
Only when I was 40 did I understand myself as a mulher negra (black woman) and empowered myself. ‘Morena’ (brown/mixed) was the term that defined me before that, that equally ‘parda’ does not seem to say much. Understanding black and getting rid of labels. It is to love your hair and break the social currents that silently prevent you from diving in to understand yourself as ancestry. Blessings and responsibility go together. It was after discovering myself as black that I suffered my first racial discrimination. An attempt in the work environment to put me back into the shell of the oyster. But empowerment is no turning back.
I’m black, a resident of the Baixada (region in Rio). I am idealizer of the project Há Esperança (There is Hope), in the Baixada Fluminense. We are a convivial group of women from the Baixada, where we work with the empowerment of women from the periphery. My cause is to empower these peripheral communities for greater social inclusion.
My skin is a mixture of my family. My grandfather’s father came from Lithuania, this on my mother’s side. On my father’s side, I have a Swiss family. And the part of the family of Brazil is mixed, but I don’t know where it comes from. My skin is this mixture. My cause is the happiness of people. We have to be happy, so, I’ve seen the cause of everything that makes the other happy. For the sake of others, you have to respect each other. Respect our individualities, but always thinking about the collective.
Source: Sim à Igualdade Racial
- As we have seen in previous articles, Brazil continues to believe that classical dance/ballet is not the “place” for black Brazilians.
- Another common experience in which Brazilians don’t believe that certain people (blacks) don’t “have the face of…” (don’t look like) a doctor or lawyer or any other prestigious profession.