Note from BW of Brazil: As with many personal texts I come across, translate and post on this blog, when I read today’s piece, I thought the author deserved applause. He deserves applause please he, like many other black Brazilians is delving into a subject that few people are willing to tackle head-on without cliche comments meant to deflect the topic away from any serious discussion. As a matter of fact, when I got to a certain point in today’s piece, I wondered if the author had listened to a lecture by the late, great African-American psychiatrist Frances Cress Welsing. Like the theories that Welsing developed over the course of some 50 years in investigating the situation of black people, some of the thoughts of today’s author, Emerson Luiz, may not be accepted in mainstream circles. You see, Luiz is not willing to tow the typical line in Brazilian society that refuses to acknowledge that there are far more influential forces behind the rise of interracial unions over the past few decades. Of course, I’ve been saying this all along, but people generally don’t like/accept these views when it comes from someone they consider an outsider. Question: How can anyone really expect that a black population that is under the complete dominance of the white population in every way imaginable does not also desire to be like or an actual part of that group?
Black Affective Relationships and how they tend to be complex
By Emerson Luiz
If there is one thing that is so complex to discuss in its very essence are the romantic relations of black people, especially lovers. It is important to highlight several points from which this problem arises, many of them originated in racism and in the social structure that ended up consolidating post-slavery, which apparently equated the black with the white in rights, but little was directed to social recovery and to the desacralization of the perpetuated image of blacks, allowing the same relations to occur, but now veiled by an alleged freedom.
That said, we understand the structural format with which racism legitimizes itself within Brazilian society, in which an image about the black still creeps and makes their relationships, to a greater or lesser degree, complex. There are several labels that blacks usually carry: when it comes to black women, they are strong, warriors, do not lie down for nothing (if you took the reference to (rapper) Rico Dalasam here, you are my idol hehe); with black men, the logic is the same-since the black man’s image was constructed around a perception of this man as a machine, both in a “commercial” sense (the black man is the object-man of Colonial Brazil, with no identity and totally focused on the execution of his work) as much in a sexual sense (virility, masculinity and the little emotional work of the black man – which he apparently does not need – make him an object of fetish and sexual desire, linked to ENDOWMENT).
It is from this stereotyping that we also understand, as blacks, that we must fulfill this burden because that is how history has succeeded us: in the blood, a living and pulsating trace of many struggles, a lot of resistance and a lot of pain. It’s as Rico Dalasam says in one of his songs, his new EP, Balanga Raba:
“In the solitude of the river flowing from me
I bleed “sozin” (alone), I live well this way”
(I love Rico and the fault is not his, but do you realize how much of that lyric is problematic?)
We bleed alone. And we always did. Because we were led to believe that we should. We believe that we must withstand the pressures, the violence, the loneliness and the absences of self-esteem of our day to day because it is in our blood to be a hero. It is in our blood to survive. On the one hand, this is beautiful because it shows how much our blackness represents resistance. On the other hand, it intensifies the difficulty in executing strong affective bonds, based on fidelity, good and old friendship (and the outbursts that come with it), and our perception of love. Everything gets very distorted.
In this bias, we also understand one of the primary aspects when we talk about the complexity of black relations: the hyper-sexualization over us is tremendous. Once, reading the content of History on Colonial Brazil, I discovered that, at that time, a saying was spread that affirmed that “a white woman is to marry, mulata to fornicate, and black woman to work“. The black woman, in addition to suffering doubly for being within these already marginalized social groups (woman and black), finds this conflict in their affectivities: they often mature without the certainty of finding a love that really welcomes them, understands them and, mainly, encourages them. Because, in Brazil, the labeling that occurs around the black woman is that of sexual object, with the least of empathy, affective (romantic) consideration and respect. And, due to the social image of the black man already addressed, logic also confers on this part of the community.
Talking about affective relationships among black people is, in a way, easier. But when it comes to “interracial” relationships (relations between people of different ethnic groups, for example, the relationship between whites and blacks is very obvious), the hole is further down. In them, we discuss colorism, palmitagem (see note one), the validation of these relationships and why these relationships continue to expand, but ironically the margin of blacks surrounded by solitude is still large, and perhaps most crucial: our perception of ourselves, and how the white fits into it.
Perhaps all these topics can be synthesized around a single idea: that even if we deconstruct and become whole and 100% conscious of who we are, what places we occupy and what we want (and WE MUST, and CAN) occupy, it seems we are on the sidelines of some kind of validation. And this validation we want is usually white.
For those who are black, carefree and completely sure of themselves, maybe this text does not have so much nexus (I admire you too much, but I need to deconstruct it all here inside of myself, so give me patience). But what happens is that, as I said earlier, the image molded around the pre-abolition black population remained in the post-abolition context, not seeking social correction of that population, resulting in the ideas that society has of these people and which are supported by the community itself. And in that sense, we have the question of our potentialities and self-esteem (I dialogue a lot about it in another text of mine, too, take a look afterward), VERY damaged in front of this social plan.
So, validation is everything. And white validation, then … even better. Perhaps of the problems cited, I think that only colorism tangents this factor, since, being the “hierarchy” of racism, it is evidenced to a greater or lesser degree according to the skin tone of the black person, following the logic that, ” “quanto mais preto, a mais tendências ao racismo você está sujeito” (the blacker, the more tendencies to racism you are subject to). Thus, pele negra mais clara (lighter black skin) is more socially accepted because it goes unnoticed. It is “a pessoa preta, mas não o suficiente, o que tudo bem” (the black person, but not enough, which is okay) (obvious that it is not okay, but it is only for us to understand).
But when it comes to palmitagem (when a black person ascends socially and comes to have relations with a white person as an attempt to equate this relationship with the state of ascension), the expansion of interracial relations and the persistence of the loneliness of men and women (and the role of the black him/herself in it), white validation is very pertinent.
Moreover, “interracial” relationships, for us many times, are not just relationships. From a certain perspective, it seems to weaken our individual black consciousness, messing a little with the issue of our dignity – which takes a bifurcated path. On one side of the road, we seem to have greater dignity when accompanied by a white man; concomitantly, on the other side, this relationship seems to erase our dignity from the moment we know our struggles and how racism behaves but, in the end, it is as if we ignore all militancy to get a white, which would be controversial (which is not necessarily so, but in my head it is so).
It is following this path which, often and perhaps unintentionally, we no longer associate with pessoas negras (black people) – because this relationship does not offer the same flavor, the same social ecstasy of the long-awaited and so desired feeling of belonging that the white can offer. In the pursuit of love, we end up leaving ourselves to our side, not understanding that the love that ours can offer is as valid, as beautiful and as delicious as the love that “not ours” offers.
Yet, even when we find the validation that we expect (white), the impostor syndrome attacks again: we were not taught to understand ourselves as worthy of love. When we do, the boycott is much easier than full acceptance of the situation.
Thinking about all this, I come to a great conclusion: our labels do not tell us who we are. Paraphrasing Nataly Neri quote in one of her videos (gorgeous gorgeous youtuber, stylish and proud to always be deconstructing ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤), we will not be the heroes. If we need to, we will not stand up to the pressures because we are socially told to hold them back. We will not (and need not) be strong, warriors, and the “negros batalhadores” (black battlers) that society expects us to be. We are fragile. We are exposed to a fragile reality that succumbs to us, drowns us and makes us doubt many of our certainties and potentialities.
We just need to be understood as the one thing we’ve been demanding for a long time: we need to be human, LOVED for their pain, their questions, their insecurities, but also, their self-esteem, their certainties – basically because of who we are. Not the black people that society has constructed, but people.
- The preference of some black people to seek/have serious relationships with only white people. For various discussion on the topic, see here.