Note from BW of Brazil: It is a regular theme discussed on this blog and for good reason because it is yet another signal that contradicts the idea that Brazilians see themselves as “all being equal”. Black women have long put forth the opinion that, in the area of love, relationships and marriage, most men place them on the lowest scale of possible partners for forming long-term relationships that lead to marriage and family. According to many of these very same women, this passing over for white women or the light-skinned, near white mestiços, is also a habit among everyday black men. I often read comments by Afro-Brazilian men that disregard this common complaint of black women as simply an exaggeration, but I always respond to this by pointing out that this trend is most definitely true among prominent black male athletes, entertainers and highly-educated, successful black men of a variety of occupations. If you’re someone who lives or spends a lot of time in Brazil, check it out for yourself. How many successful black men do you know that are in relationships with black women? To be fair, this also can be applied to successful black women, but, in my experiences, the possibility of a successful black woman having a black partner is higher than the other way around. With successful black men, it seems to be the rule rather than the exception.
The debate, finger-pointing and accusations ALWAYS attract an argument when the reasons for such choices, on both sides, are discussed in social media. And the conversation has been heating up in recent years and continues to be a hot topic as I will demonstrate in an upcoming article on the recent discovery and subsequent controversy over a pretty, successful black Brazilian actress recently going public with her new white boyfriend. Years ago, such a choice would have passed by without so much as a raised eyebrow by the vast majority of black Brazilians. After all, for decades, embranquecimento, or whitening, was mostly accepted the black community as a means to upward ascension and access to the “mundo dos brancos” (white world). But the atmosphere is changing.
With the rise of new black identity politics, discussions of “black money”, black unity and black representation, people are questioning these choices that clearly don’t work in the best interest of the black community. To be sure, in Brazil, there are still far more people who argue that “love has no color” and that personal relationships should be off limits in discussions of the way forward for Brazil’s black population. But it is no longer an open and shut case and the fact that several media outlets recently felt the need to publish the outcry against the romantic choice of this particular actress is proof that viewpoints that see choices of love across color lines, always promoted by Brazil as “proof” that racism doesn’t exist in the society, as the sign of a progressive society, are starting to question the legitimacy of demanding black advances when many black men and women don’t see any contradiction in “talking black” while “sleeping white”. Needless to say, the discussion is getting deeper.
Structural racism and sexism lead black Brazilian women to the routine of romantic exclusion. According to IBGE, half of them are not in a conjugal union
By Naíse Domingues
The filmmaker Rosa Miranda arranged a meeting with a man with whom she had already corresponded on the internet. During the time they spent together, he noticed that he wasn’t comfortable. As when they said goodbye, Rosa discovered that the reason for the nuisance was the color of her skin: “You didn’t say you were black. I’m not a racist, but not to lie, I’m not going to be with you,” said the man.
Rosa’s story is not strange to black women. Since childhood, they have co-existed with the rejection created by a combination of structural racism and sexism. They grow up feeling excluded because they don’t conform to the ideal of beauty and are not chosen to “kick it” or date. A loneliness that breeds emotional damage and has been increasingly discussed within black feminism. The last demographic census conducted by the IBGE in 2010 proves these narratives: more than half of black women are not in a conjugal union.
“It been like this since childhood.” In the playground, the black child is distant because the others don’t play with her. It is an exclusion that continues into adulthood: sometimes we want a friend to talk to, but we are not easily accepted into the group. In many places we feel alone even if we are the majority. And when we approach the subject, there are people who try to relativize, which generates even more distance,” explains Rosa.
Reproduction of stereotypes, such as that of the unshakable warrior who does not need empathy, and the objectification of the bodies of black women help explain the loneliness they experience. A scenario that worsens the darker the skin:
“The most accepted black woman is one with lighter skin, almost white, within the standard of the mulata stereotype. But, as the poet Elisa Lucinda says, this is not for marriage, its for fucking. “We are not the ideal partner, and this hurts us throughout life,” says Luciana Fernanda Luz, a black feminist a with a Master’s in Communications, who identifies the reason for solitude in various aspects of the black women’s everyday life. “At work, it’s common to face sexual harassment and also morally in the form of racist jokes. In relationships, we are often overlooked for white women. At home, we are the fortresses that find no shelter. There are many nuances to deal with; we have to reinvent ourselves every day.
Fiery, warlike and angry
Racial and gender issues have constructed narratives about black women since the colonial period. The image of the fiery, highly sexualized mulata that creates barriers in the consolidation of healthy affective relationships and also contributes to foster rape culture is part of the social imagery. The Dossiê Mulher, published in 2015 by the Instituto de Segurança Pública of Rio de Janeiro, indicates that 56.8% of the victims of rape in the state are black; among the victims of homicide, they are 62.2%.
These images are not constructed only internally, but are part of a product sold to the rest of the world. Gleide Davis, a black feminist and a graduate in social work, believes that sex tourism in Brazil is deeply tied to the image of the “mulata tipo exportação” (mulatta for exportation):
“Black women are not seen as citizens with rights, we are seen as pieces of meat. The “nega maluca” (crazy black woman) and the like are products that evidence how our image is exposed socially.
The figure of the strong black woman warrior leads to another barrier: the lack of empathy. The image of the fragile woman, so cultivated by sexism, doesn’t seem to be valid for them, who are historically assigned the lowest paid work and the function of serving. They take care (for others), but are not subject to care, which, in addition to serving as a justification for violence, generates an environment of exclusion and emotional abandonment.
This dynamic can be even more cruel when black women are in the spaces considered elite. The filmmaker Rosa Miranda realizes the difficulty of others in seeing her as part of the environments she occupies. She was already been mistaken with the maid of the house and received proposals to turn tricks. By defending themselves against the consequences of this type of caricature, many black women are labeled angry – another stereotype that reinforces their loneliness.
Reconstruction of self-esteem
The consequences of this chain of exclusion also reaches health care. It is estimated that 54.1% of maternal deaths in Brazil occur among black girls aged between 15 and 29 years.
“The numbers show that structural racism places black women at a distinct disadvantage in accessing citizenship, but this systematic exclusion also subjects them to harmful relationships that can lead to domestic violence, sexual violence and even feminicide,” says Gleide Davis.
Creating spaces for welcoming and discussing the structural problems that affect black women is fundamental for rebuilding their self-esteem.
“We must reflect on our aesthetic experience in childhood and adolescence to change the self-esteem of the new generations. It is also important to build new political spaces to discuss the transformation of society into a safe space where black women can grow up away from various forms of violence,” says Gleide.
* Trainee under the supervision of Renata Izaal
Source: O Globo