Note from BW of Brazil: The following article is from September of 2007 and represents the view from black Bahia of a topic we touch upon from time to time here on the blog: interracial relationships. To be clear again, the point here is to understand a facet of Brazilian society that has always existed, whether during the rape and sexual coercion that happened during nearly four centuries of slavery in Brazil, or the current situation where a number of people on blogs, social networks and website comment sections are pointing to what seems to be a rule throughout the country when the discussion is black men and relationships.
Since we first started posting articles that address the question of interracial relationships, there have been a number of people asking questions and making comments about the topic. One comment that one sees from time to time is, love is personal, a thing of the heart so leave the politics out of it. To this I respond: 1) Almost EVERYTHING we do is either political and/or influenced by something, be it internal or external. For those who believe the choice of partners is simply a personal choice, I ask the question: Do you think it is simply coincidence that Brazilian elites decided to promote an agenda of widespread miscegenation as a means to eliminate black people from the country and today Brazil is a land of widespread racial mixing? In the United States (the country that Brazilians always like to point to as the extreme opposite), there was a widespread dissemination of racial separation and throughout the nation’s history, for the most part, that has been the case. In regards to the US, we are also seeing a rise in interracial marriage that has happened simultaneously with more promotion of such unions. Again, coincidence?
2) Some people are questioning the fact that this blog seems to touch upon the interracial topic from a one-sided perspective that always “points the finger” at black men. We will address this question in more depth in the future, but for now here are few key points. A) Yes, there are plenty of black Brazilian women who marry white men. But this doesn’t change the fact that, B) statistics show that black men aren’t the ones who take longer to marry for the first time, their rates of being single are not as high as those of black women ad black men aren’t the ones being left to raise children alone. C) In all of the time that this issue has been discussed and studied in academia as well as online, I have yet to see any blogs and academic dissertations written by Afro-Brazilian men or organizations that address this issue while there are several authored by black women or black women’s groups.
I will not generalize, but in my own experience online, when black women address the issue of interracial marriage I notice that black men are more likely to respond that “love has no color”. This is not to say that there aren’t black women who also hold this view, but what I AM saying is that when there is someone who poses the question it is usually a black woman and the “love has no color” response while used by both seems to be more common among black men. It’s almost as if black men have silently said, “we’re not complaining, we’ve made our choice; do what you need to do because we certainly will.” This will not be the last time this topic is addressed so the debate will continue….
For now, here is a view from a black woman in Bahia who notes the trend in Evangelical churches. Keep in mind that although the article is a view from Bahia, the opinions of the author were found in the findings of other authors in other areas of Brazil. Cláudia Sales de Alcântara affirms that: “In general, the liturgies of the Evangelical churches in Brazil are white, and blacks, having access to them, undergo a process of embranquecimento (whitening).” This point supports the opinions of many black women interviewed by Claudete Alves for her book, Virou Regra? In that book, numerous black women point to a lack/loss of identity in black men’s pursuit of white women for relationships. Along the same lines, in his book A Religião Mais Negra do Brasil (The blackest religion of Brazil), Marco Davi de Oliveira (2004, p 87-88): […] opines that “Love knows no race, nor is it preoccupied with the skin color of the beloved. He who loves, loves, period. There is a personal choice, and it is very healthy. But it is known that not all marriages in the Pentecostal churches have love as its only motivation […] the choice of a spouse is often confined to the skin color.”
The rejection of the Evangelical black woman by the Evangelical black man
By Elba Oliveira Chrysostomo aka Makeda Foluke Nabulungi
Beautiful, intelligent, “a blessing from God”, however, rejected. This is the phrase of thousands of black women who live within the evangelical churches. They are beautiful, intelligent, a blessing to the lives of the brothers – but not good for marrying.
Talking about the black woman is always a moment of reflection and with the evangelical black women it’s no different as she suffers triple discrimination: being a woman, black, and evangelical, and finally a black woman who suffers, no less than the rest.
It’s not a novelty that black women are, in the majority, rejected by the black man and exploited in various aspects by the white man. Within the evangelical church it’s no different. Historically, the figure of the black woman was created behind the stereotype of beauty and sensuality: a totally sexualized image. This duality marked whole societies because of slavery, marking also the black man who became sexist, learning from the Western world such practices.
It’s quite common to find sisters, on average, 30-40 years of age, single in the churches, simply because no brother desires to marry her. Black women in the church are often considered ugly. In return it is quite common also to find white sisters married with black and white men from the church (these white women married with black men are mostly and poor and/or poorly educated), while black women serve to prophesy, clean, pray and not have a family like the rest of the women: the said life “blessed by God”.
Many of the married black women were or are violated, physically or morally by their sexist husbands. Other single women were sexually exploited, deceived with false promises of marriage.
The young black men of the churches “ficam (kick it/spend a night)” sometimes with a black sister – and this usually hidden away – but hardly want to marry or assume a relationship that generates future marriage. They date and marry, preferably with white women, because being black in the church is synonymous with ugliness and marrying a black woman doesn’t bring “good positions” or “status”. Many black male evangelicals are no different from some black men who are outside of the churches; both like to show off a white woman like a trophy and this happens not because of the fact that they are in love with them, but it’s as if that gives them this superior title of possession for being with a white woman. They have sex with black women, but will hardly marry one of them (1). Western sexism surely repeats itself within the churches.
As there is no emphasis placed on the relationships among black people, there is no questioning within the churches of why most black families within the churches are dysfunctional.
Separated mothers that generate future mothers or single and separated women, no one questions why black men rejects (them), using and abusing the sister of his color, much less why many black brothers have many children with different families. Disrupting families is one of the worst forms of violence that can be committed against a people; it’s another form of genocide of our people.
Churches trying to comment on racism – of telling those that do this – they address it so that, in a way that, apparently, racism and the racist are only out there in the “world”, or better, in society and not something that really involved the church and that is also within the church. There is the hypocrisy of false equality. It’s necessary to re-tell and re-write aspects of our African history, it’s necessary to deconstruct the dramas that happen to evangelical black families. The black woman was, deeply and intimately, negatively marked and the church still today wounds the black evangelical woman. We must construct black culture in the church and stimulate love among our people, we need to deconstruct the Western sexism that disrupts and destroys our families.
Elba Oliveira Chrysostomo aka Makeda Foluke Nabulungi is a Professor, Pan-Africanist, secretary of the Conselho Nacional de Negras e Negros Cristãos (CNNC) of Bahia
Source: CNNCBA. Alcântara, Cláudia Sales de. “Fé, expressão e cultura: por um resgate da negritude na liturgia evangélica”. In Padê, Brasília, v. 2, n. 1, p. 96-117, jan./jun. 2008. Oliveira, Marco Davi de. A religião mais negra do Brasil. São Paulo: Mundo Cristão, 2004.
1. The famous and well-known Brazilian saying “white woman for marriage, mulata for sex and negra for work” has been cited often on this blog and for good reason as social relations and media representations continue to support this standard. One notes in this description of the Evangelical environment in Bahia that Afro-Brazilian men seem to have also adopted the white man’s traditional view of Afro-Brazilian women.