Note from BW of Brazil: The topic is regularly discussed on this blog. And that’s simply because it exists and there are still people who deny it, minimize it or label those who express their experiences with it as “whiners”. Many years ago, it used to be that if someone outside of Brazil wanted to understand what it was like being black in Brazil, one had to buy a book written by a well-respected scholar. Nothing wrong with that (well, to a certain degree), but the internet has given a much more personal touch to this subject and allows regular, everyday people to tell their own stories and have their stories reach a wide audience. Today, I’m featuring a piece by blogger Karla Lopes, who penned and posted this text for March 21st, the International Day against Racial Discrimination. For those who think that Brazil is completely different from “those racist countries”, feel her words and pain. How many more of these types of stories do we need to read before we all accept the truth?
What racism has already caused in my life
By Karla Lopes
Today (March 21st) is the International Day against Racial Discrimination and, well, I understand that very well. It took me a long time to understand what racism has already caused in my life, and today, looking back, I see the quantity of things I’ve stopped doing because of the prejudice of others against the cor da minha pele (color of my skin). Nascer negro (to be born black) is to know that at some time or another someone will look at you differently because of your color and discriminate against you because of your features. If may sound silly, but discrimination already happens before you even leave the crib.
At school the children were cruel. They talked about my mouth, my hair, my nose…Beiçuda (big lipped), nariz de tomada (electric socket nose), cabelo duro (hard hair), and other “nicknames” were things I heard practically every day. They would pull my hair and say they would cut it to make canteen pots. At 9, I begged my mother to alisar o meu cabelo (straighten my hair) in the hope that the racist taunts would stop – they did not stop. When I was 15, I went to a plastic surgeon to see if there was any way I could do a lip reduction and also thin my nose. If I could have afforded it at the time, I would have fatally done such procedures.
In relationships, racism is no different. You have certainly heard of the solidão da mulher negra (loneliness of the black woman) (we explain here what it is). Until recently, I didn’t quite understand what this was, but it was enough to read a little about it to recognize myself in that position. Still in school, I was not the boys’ choice as a partner for parties or presentations. I remember very well when one told me that he would even choose me if I wasn’t so black. That struck me so much that I didn’t want to participate in school parties any more.
Another fact that causes me a certain trauma until today was when, at the age of 18, I was with a boy in a nightclub in my city and his friend said that he would have to wash his mouth if he wanted to kiss a beautiful girl at the party. After this happened to me, along with the thousands of reports about racism that I see at parties like that, I started not to attend more hetero clubs (even being hetero). I go into these places and they always see this story in my head. So what happens? I feel uncomfortable, suffocated and I end up leaving in less than 10 minutes of staying.
Once, when I was still a teenager, my grandmother told me to be careful when dating homens brancos (white men). I didn’t understand very well why she said this until I started to go out with one and she told me that he didn’t feel comfortable introducing me to his family because they had difficulty relating to gente de cor (people of color). “Look, Ká, I’m not racist or anything, you know, but I think it’s going to be difficult for me to introduce you to my family now as my girlfriend because they don’t have much relation to black people.” You can’t imagine how this hurt me and the trauma that it caused me.
Biel@Biel – Prejudiced _|_ – just because I wouldn’t get with a black girl? It’s not prejudice, it’s taste and each person has theirs…
At work racism also exists. I won’t forget the time when I was going to do something for a store and the marketing there contacted me a week before the date, saying that they would have to cancel the job because they had to change the profile of the photos. The day they were made, I went on Instagram and all the girls in the pictures were brancas e loiras (white and blond) (see note 1). I didn’t have to think much to understand the x of the question, right? Then came the confirmation from a friend who worked in such a store that they canceled with me because blacks were not the target audience of the brand. Blacks can’t buy there? Hello? I was so sad that I almost threw out a project that was already six years old!
Dealing with racism is not easy!
I tire of seeing see people saying that “now everything is racism“, “so much mimimi (whining)” or that “the world is irritating”. Dear people, EVERYTHING was racism. The difference is that people didn’t fight, they didn’t speak out, they didn’t confront it (see note 2) or even because racial discrimination was already so interjected in society, nor did they realize that they were being the targets of prejudice. I did psychological therapy to get rid of my traumas – and some were still only softened.
Julia @JuliaSanttos8 – “It’s not whining, it’s not playing the victim, racism exists indeed and this needs to end once and for all!!”
Before you judge an oppression that you don’t suffer, try to understand it. You see cases of racism every day. And this affects all blacks, regardless of whether they’re on TV or walking down the street. Racism not only kills, it also hurts, it causes traumas, it blocks us, it prevents us from living with physical and personal security that any other non-black person would experience. Today I know my value, but that doesn’t stop me from having to prove it all the time.
As I’ve seen a lot of black people out there, we have to do things twice as good to match a white person. Aside from that, we often have to be the first – to win an Oscar, to be on TV, to be the protagonist of a novela (soap opera), to discover a historical feat, to be president of a nation … – because, even in the 21st century, there’s a lack of space for people in positions that are mostly occupied by whites.
I know all this is far from over. You can’t put an end to years of oppression in just one day. But today, on the International Day against Racial Discrimination, my only request is for us to keep fighting. I know it’s difficult, it’s painful, but I want you to learn that you should not lower your head and let them diminish you because of the color of your skin. I’m trying every day, and I see a lot of people trying too. If we’re going to be able to totally end it, I don’t know. But even in small steps, I see that what we have most is the strength to fight. Let’s go together – and with our heads held high!