Note from BW of Brazil: Much of the content on this blog focuses on the challenges of identity and the reign of Eurocentric standards of beauty throughout Brazil. Many articles have documented what appears to an obvious preference of Afro-Brazilian men for white women. But as ALL Brazilians live under a “dictatorship of whiteness”, it is not possible that Afro-Brazilian women aren’t also affected by this standard. In a post from last year for example, one woman involved in the sexual tourism industry openly declared her desire to a attract a white man to limpar a família (clean or lighten the family).
This is not an isolated case.
One Angolan friend of mine who spent a few years in Rio de Janeiro filming a documentary shared his opinion that many black women there didn’t really even care what attributes a man possessed in considering romantic interests, as long as he was white, with blond hair and blue eyes. This filmmaker was amazed at the number of beautiful black women he found in Rio romantically involved with the most basic looking white men. Impossible? A generalization? Possibly. But also consider the opinion of some black women that it seems that black men require more qualifications from them if they want to be in a relationship while at the same time, many black men will accept a white woman lacking the social equity that he himself has. And that is not a generalization but rather a finding of sociologist Edward Telles who studied the fact (1) and many other facts about Brazil’s social hierarchy according to race. Speaking of the women, one would assume that there were other qualifications beyond whiteness involved, but this perception was interesting nonetheless. The fact is that a large percentage of black Brazilian female singers, actresses, athletes, etc. featured on this blog are involved in relationships with white men as well.
So what’s going on here? Is it pure physical attraction? Could it be that white men give these women more attention? Is it a case of feeling one’s value increase by being able to attract a representative of men that is portrayed throughout the world as the representation of power, good looks and intelligence? Is this partly to due with the opinion of thousands of black women that black men simply don’t seek relationships with black women beyond one night? Or in the case of high profile black women, perhaps their social environments are such that there are far more white men around them than black men.
All of these factors likely do play a role. But in Brazil, where the representation of “white is right” is on display almost everywhere, the myth of the white Prince Charming is also clearly a factor in the minds of girls from a very young age, as today’s post points out very well. (2)
(Note: today’s piece was actually written back in July in anticipation of the Day of the Latin American and Caribbean Black Women, but it’s subject is relevant regardless of the date)
The charming prince? For the end of the romanticizing of the European white man
By Flávia Simas
When I was a child and suffered all kinds of bullying at school because of my hair and my religion (at that time, I was a poor spiritualist in an Evangelical school of the upper middle class, imagine the drama), one of the ways I found to sublimate my suffering was clinging to the figure of the príncipe encantado europeu (charming European prince).
My dear readers will be wondering what this emotion was like, and I explain myself: the first (and most obvious) part has to do with contos de fadas (fairy tales). I could dream and secretly, I was the princess who would one day be rescued by a prince, which of course would have Caucasian features. Today I feel a chill down my spine when I remember that the only references of beauty that I had in my childhood were of white people, and that’s why I fight so much for representation.
The second reason is what I consider more pernicious: in my childhood and much of my adolescence, what I heard most was that no one would want me. I, black, obviously would not get married. Around me, some of my tias solteironas (meaning ‘extremely single aunts’, as they were pejoratively called) would not let me catch sight of another horizon that wasn’t singlehood. There is currently research that shows how the black woman is deprecated by society, occupying a space of invisibility and loneliness. My fear had much foundation.
The light on the horizon, for me, was to resort to the figure of the European man as a salvation. It was an idea I got from nothing. After all, several aunts married Dutchmen, and I had before me not only a new generation of male and female and cousins with dual nationality, but also female Brazilian cousins traveling to Europe and marrying moçoilos (young, lively men) there. The glamour of relatives waiting at the airport reinforced in me the idea that romantic, hetero-normative, monogamous love and generator of social status could indeed happen to me. It just doesn’t happen in Brazil.
Thus, I was growing up hearing that I was ugly at school, and I was always rebutting that I was ugly only in Brazil, because in Europe I was beautiful. My answer was always greeted with ironic jokes and laughter, but I held my ground, with a conviction based on familiar facts that made me believe that I would be “a tal” (the one) in Europe. Funny that this established itself so much in me as a defense mechanism, that to this day I find myself with this argument. Like the last time I was in Brazil and went to cut my hair. The hairdresser wanted to do anything to straighten my cabelo “ruim” (“bad” hair), and when I found myself there I was saying that in Ireland my hair is beautiful.
But why exactly am I exposing myself in this way, with another I cause regarding myself? Well, today is Dia da Mulher Negra Latino-Americana e Caribenha (Day of the Latin American and Caribbean Black Women), and this post is my honor to the date – so urgent and necessary – that it still remains forgotten. I understand that my story is not the worst, and that clinging to the saving figure of the homem branco (white man) was (in parts) even beneficial for my self-esteem. The stories of my family are very happy and the most amazing uncle that I had in this life was a Dutch philosopher who made a good contribution to the formation of my character, and I will always be grateful to him for all our conversations and having been a person so humble, cool, bold and bright.
However, being out of the country for six years, and the last of them having been in Europe, changed my view of the facts substantially. I’ll try to list my findings here, and invite other black women to add their own conclusions:
1) This view that in Europe things are “different” is nothing but a romantization, an idealization that has as a backdrop the very notion of superiority of the homem branco europeu (white European man). The European gringo is more celebrated than foreigners from other parts of the world. If the foreigner in question was from some underdeveloped country then… the World Cup gave us the measure of this: the Germans were friendly to us? Yes. But there was a deification that even produced a big rumor on social networks and this is symptomatic of our romanticized view of the savior gringo (3);
2) Racism is endemic in the world. Being black, having black friends, being married to a black person – none of it means an automatic absence of racism. Because the system is racist and teaches us very early and in a very subtle way, that in the hierarchy of life the black is in a subordinate position. I have attended natural hair roles (get-togethers), and lost count of the times in which women vented in these spaces than their European husbands don’t want them to leave their cabelo crespo (curly/kinky hair) natural. This is not a mere coincidence.
3) This ‘preference’ of foreigners for mulheres negras brasileiras (Brazilian black women) reflects in many cases, an intersection between racism and sexism, which results in the exotificação. Here in Ireland we receive many sincere greetings, but also the aggressiveness of certain “compliments” scares me. I even wrote a story about it on my personal blog (http://theafrolatina.blogspot.ie). The exotificação is because it puts the other in an inferiorized position, of dehumanization, and this is racist and very serious.
4) It is my last point, and also what I consider the most important: I was not the only black woman to have the figure of the European savior as a consolation prize for not being loved and appreciated within my own country. This is violence. I “bought” the idea, did I cling to it to survive? Yes. But it is still violent the fact that the solution to the loneliness of the black Brazilian woman is leaving. This devaluation has to end and that is why on this date we are here, willing to talk, willing to fight.
May July 25th reaffirm in us an identity we were denied. May our dark skin reveal a dignified ancestry worthy of pride and not deletion and conformity. May our hair have the form that we want, and not the form of compulsory mimicry. May our blackness be increasingly visible and appreciated for what it is: a symbol of beauty and much resistance.
Source: Ativismo de Sofá
1. Numerous Brazilian social scientists have also confirmed the social phenomenon of black men “marrying up” with white women of lower social status in order to offset their own social disadvantage (race). See for example Cor e mobilidade em Florianópolis, (São Paulo, 1960) by Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Octávio Ianni and A integração do negro na sociedade de classes by Florestan Fernandes (Dominus, 1965)
2. An excellent book on the psychological dynamics on the black Brazilian woman/white European man theme is Gislene Aparecida dos Santos’s Mulher Negra, Homem Branco. Um breve estudo do feminino negro (Pallas 2004).
3. During the 2014 World Cup played in Brazil, a rumor circulated through Facebook that the German team, that would eventually win it all, were donating the hotel where they were staying in Bahia so that the local community could turn it into a school. It was just a hoax, false and untrue rumor that spread through the internet and caused a large number of people to believe it and continue spreading such untrue information. Thousands of people congratulated the Germany team for this supposed act of kindness.