Note from BW of Brazil: The introduction to racism and white supremacy for the black Brazilian child starts very early on in life. Whether it’s when the child is born and family begins debating how dark the child’s skin will be, or parents or relatives putting negative thoughts in their heads because of their hair texture or classmates/teachers making horrific comments/insults at/in front of them, Brazil indoctrinates its non-white children that blackness/black traits are things to be ashamed of either in blatant or subtle manners. I mean, if adults can make jokes in which they compare black children to monkeys, what should we assume these people are teaching their children? And without a support network to counteract such psychological aggression, these children often grow up hating being black, denying being black or making efforts to distance themselves from this stigmatization. The time has come to get this discussion out in the open so that our children know who they are, have pride in their identity and know how to defend themselves in a decidedly anti-black society.
The veiled racism in the schools: We need to talk about our children
By Barbara Rodrigues – originally published on the Blogueiras Negras website
This is the fictional story (only that it’s not) of a menina preta (black girl), five years old. The little girl started her first pre-school experience, was excited about being able to meet other children and learn new things. At that age, she had already been learned to read with her mother. Despite her age, she felt herself “being” in the world.
Her aunt from the perua (school van) (Bia) had the nickname of Xuxa, because of her blue eyes, blond and short hair. Bia, always rotated the children who could sit in the front seat of the van, each child would take his/her turn one day of the week. However, the little black girl could never sit in the front seat, her day was filled by another girl, loira, cabelos cacheados, pele branca e olhos verdes (with blonde, curly hair, white skin and green eyes), emphasizing her beauty, emphasizing that she could ride in the front seat more than once.
Always on arriving at the “Pré” the tia (aunt) (1) of the van undid the little black girl’s braid. She redid the hairstyle her mother had carefully done, always saying, “Your mother doesn’t do your hair right.” Although never speaking of race, cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair), pele preta (black skin), and racism, the aggression was implied in the way she was treated, in the handling of everyday situations, in comparison, and in treatment. To one who understands very well, words were not necessary.
We don’t know exactly when and how racism will present itself to our children, but the imminence of its arrival is a certainty for all of us. According to Unicef data from 2010, approximately 54.5% of children and adolescents in Brazil are black or indigenous. Although poverty in Brazil being referred to is cited, even in studies, in a general way, statistical data show that it has color and specificities.
Despite the lack of scientific production that brings us different data about racism and childhood, some studies show us the configuration of this situation in Brazil. Despite the rhetoric of the ruling class, we have several research data that point out how the educational institution is an apparatus of exclusion and restraint.
When, in the midst of co-existing with other children in the early stages of pre-school, crianças negras (black children) undergo various experiences of veiled racism, based on nonverbal language, through attitudes, gestures and vocal tones that reinforce racism and the rejection on the part of black children of their racial belonging (Oliveira and Abramowicz, 2010).
In this way, at all times negative models that harass, silence and steal the possibility of them feeling themselves as belonging to that social group is confronted. Hostile content is now internalized and incorporated into the identity in a negative way.
Primarily the right to exist in its totality and oneness is denied. The child internalizes very early on the necessity of resorting to who he/she is, to come to be a caricature version of him/herself, devising mechanisms to survive the aggressions. In this process of expropriation of racial identity, the child is subjected to adverse situations. The sense of undervalue, inadequacy and rejection is common.
This is a process of great psychological suffering. The child has spaces denied, begins to perceive his/her place in the world from a spectator perspective of his/her own history, apart, without the power of decision and action. Therefore, denying their own features, their skin color, and ancestry becomes a defense. It is a means of survival against the sensation of self-annihilation.
We can verify this picture, when observing the research with pre-school children: Souza (2002), points out that black children have often revealed the desire to be branca (white), de cabelo liso (with straight hair), wanting to compare themselves with the characters of the children’s stories, reinforcing the image that the black child makes of him/herself, evidencing the denial of their racial condition.
How do we strengthen our children?
With absolute certainty, the promotion of public policies in social spaces will be of great value with regard to the protection and mental health of black children, however, we know that racism has deep roots, and we cannot expect the public sphere to transform itself, so we need to strengthen our children even before they have contact with the wider social milieu.
Unfortunately because of a number of issues, including cultural ones, children don’t have a repertoire to face this cycle of aggression. There is no talk about race, color and social position within the family. Much of this behavior is due to a false protection against racism: denial of origins and traits in order to suffer less and be better accepted. However, as the research data show, there is no lessened suffering.
We construct the image we have of ourselves, taking as a reference the people closest to our relationship, because of this we talk about Family.
Throughout development the child constructs him/herself as subject and identifies him/herself as “I”, from the relation with the other. In this process that happens even in the first years of life, it is necessary for the child to feel secure of the love of his parents or caregivers, that he/she knows that his/her home is his/her territory.
Even before being inserted in a social environment, the great reference of space of speech and of belonging is the familiar environment. It is in this space that he/she must feel secure, be heard and welcomed, regardless of what he/she does or how he/she is.
We need to talk about race. It is important for the child to come into contact with representative figures, in which he/she recognizes himself: stories, toys, games, anything that favors imagination and offers good references. It’s important that he/she develops autonomy about him/herself and their decisions.
SILVA, V. A.; ANDRADE, L. H. C. Considerações sobre o corpo em Lacan. Estudos em Psicologia São Paulo. n. 1, p. 143-149, 2002.
LOPES, S.C.J.; A vivencia do Racismo e do Sexismo na Infância e na Adolescência e a Construção da Identidade das Meninas Negras. Cadernos Imbondeiro. João Pessoa, v.2, n.1, 2012.
MÁXIMO, O.C.A.T; Vieira, L. R.C.F.L; Lins, B.L.S. Processos de identidade social e exclusão racial na infância. Psicologia em Revista, Belo Horizonte, v. 18, n. 3, p. 507-526, dez. 2012.
CIAMPA, Antônio da Costa. Identidade. In: W. Codo & S. T. M Lane (Orgs.). Psicologia social: o homem em movimento (pp. 58-75), São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1984.
ABRAMOWICZ, A; Oliveira, F. Um estudo sobre a creche: o que as Práticas educativas produzem e revelam sobre a questão racial?. 2004. 112. Dissertação de Mestrado – Universidade Federal de São Carlos. São Paulo. 2004.
Source: Blogueiras Negras
- In Brazil, it is common to refer to men and women as tio (uncle) or tia (aunt) if they have a close relationship with a child even if they are not actually related to them. This can include persons in the family through marriage or people who the child interacts with on a daily basis such as a bus driver who takes the child to school/daycare and back home.