Note from BW of Brazil: To be completely honest, I don’t expect any group that has certain or absolute privileges to give them up or even share them. I mean, why would they? I would like to believe that, if there were a situation in which two people performed the exact same function in a certain office, but one earned 10% more money simply because they fit into a certain sociological category, that person would speak up. But realistically, who’s gonna do that? If I were a betting man, I would wager that the person that has the advantage in this scenario, knowing they had this advantage and that the person at the disadvantage didn’t know, 99% of people would say nothing.
Do you disagree?
Today, I share a write up that a middle-class white woman recently shared via social network. The woman lives in Salvador, the capital city of the northeastern state of Bahia, where the majority of the population is of African descent.
In her post, the woman details how she recognizes the differences in the way that black people are treated in comparison to people who, like her, are white. In the archives of this blog, we’ve seen other white people step forward and admit the privileges they have simply due to having a white skin and European features. One young woman lives one of Brazil’s slums was able to articulate very well how her white skin gives her certain advantages where she lives, including attracting the attention of black men. In another post, a white man detailed how he and a black man were both competing for a certain job. But even as the black candidate had a better resume than he, he knew that he would get the job because he had white skin, green eyes and that the institution for which the two were applying would never hire a black man.
To re-iterate my point, in an individualistic society in which institutional racism is woven into the nation’s fabric, I don’t expect that anyone to just give up any such privilege. But it’s still cool to hear people from privileged groups at least acknowledge that these privileges DO in fact exist and be able to clearly give examples of how they benefit from such a system.
You don’t have to be black to hate racism
Originally published in Fernanda Varela’s Facebook profile; published in Correio 24 Horas newspaper/website
Come and sit down…
In Salvador, I am considered white. Straight hair, middle/upper-middle class, living in the district of Itaigara. My husband is preto (black) (or negro, if you think using that word makes you less racist). We have lived together since 2011 and nothing has changed since then.
In our personal lives, of course. But in the endless racism he suffers, no, it hasn’t. Every day during these eight and a half years he was mistaken. Never for a doctor or a neighborhood resident, but always with the guy who came to provide services in the condominium, the school worker on voting day, the grocery product organizer. Today he was mistaken for a taxi driver at the office door (by a white person in search of service, of course). It’s not necessary for me to be there for me to make sure that no white person who was in the same place underwent the same approach. Yesterday, a friend – black – reported the discomfort he felt with the looks he received when he went to the Yacth (not from the workers, but the white frequenters). Not to mention the times that neighbors entered the elevator and only addressed me with a “good morning”. Or those who only respond when I speak.
No, there is no demerit in being one of those people with whom he has already been confused, but do you realize how much this has spread from enrooted racism, especially from whites? Until proven otherwise (or appear with an iPhone in hand or flawless dress clothes), the black is the one who serves the white. It’s as if there (in this case, Itaigara) was not his place, it’s as if he didn’t have the right to be a character that is routinely embodied by someone with white skin.
It’s not that it’s a demerit to be the guy who arranges the supermarket shelves. It’s really not. But have you ever wondered why my husband is always mistaken while my brother, white, who has lived in the same place for 28 years, has never been? My uncles, cousins, schoolmates (99% white) haven’t either. Is it a peculiarity of my husband being approached to tell people where the soap is? No, it’s really a matter of skin color.
Maybe you, white and racist – out of ignorance or malice – didn’t know the pain it causes in the one that hears it. You can’t imagine how much every word of yours hurts, attesting that it’s not the black’s place-unless he is ready to be subordinated to the white, of course. “Curiously” I have never been mistaken with the cleaning lady, or the maid (or her daughter) in any building I have ever entered in my 30 years of life. In contrast, I was mistaken for the clinic doctor, the owner of the Pituba store and the owner of the parked luxury car. My mother, white, ditto.
It’s not possible that you, white, don’t see that something is wrong. In fact, everything is wrong. I don’t know what it is to suffer racism and, of course, I will never suffer this. You also won’t. But my empathy and humanity allow me to understand that it hurts, injures, wounds. It’s fucking wrong. Maybe someone who suffers from racism uses every act of discrimination as a fuel to occupy more and more mostly white spaces. (you know that story that, with anger, you manage things that you couldn’t have even imagined..?) But this is not the way out. And, in many other cases, discrimination tires, discourages, or causes one to give up. In many cases, I would say.
You don’t have to be black to hate racism. You don’t even have to be white to be a racist. Once a black maid who was cleaning my old neighbor said that her boss had married a woman that “com cara de empregadinha” (looked like a maid). The woman was black, of course. It’s frightening.
The purpose of this text is not to point fingers or to attack. It’s asking for you to reflect on your actions. That you analyze if it’s you’re one of these people in the day to day. You can do this reflection alone, without expressing yourself. As long as you can rethink your racism, that’s enough.
We all have prejudices. ALL OF US. Even the most evolved of human beings. It’s hard to admit and see, I know. But it’s even harder for those who need to deal with the prejudice they have endured.
It is not easy to assume that we have some (many or few) racist, macho, homophobic, fatophobic or whatever attitudes or thoughts. But it is also not easy to be discriminated, offended, humiliated, hurt – even physically, many times.
People who have the least awareness of the severity of it all feel ashamed when they notice where their prejudices lie. This is great because it’s a sign that they have already identified that it’s wrong. And knowing that it’s wrong is the first step. It means you know you need to change urgently.
There are wonderful people who have prejudices and that doesn’t make them despicable. In fact, wonderful people see their prejudices, admit and work tirelessly to get rid of them and resignify things. Despicable people, in fact, even think that white is superior to black, for example. They don’t see (nor want to see) as racism everything that I’ve described.
Worse: they still find justification for their behavior: “But it’s normal for the doctor to be white and the plumber to be black, isn’t it???”. And that’s also where the problem lies. Whever has black skin is already born at a disadvantage in Brazil. Before the cut of the umbilical cord, they are already destined to hear more “no’s”, to have to prove they have double competence. Many are still taught in childhood how to deal with crooked looks, mistrust. I, white, was never told what clothes I should wear so I wouldn’t be confused with a thief, nor was I warned to avoid going to Americanas (store) with a backpack. No security guard ever followed me anywhere. That’s until today.
Anyone who sees justification for all this accepts racism, thinks it normal. You must think, “But am I obligated to like blacks?” Accepts the privilege of being white. In Brazil, a middle-class white has a bunch of privileges and likes it very much. Racial equality causes shivers. After all, blacks should only occupy new spaces when authorized – or by gestures of charity of the white (which feeds the Christian feeling of love to the neighbor with each donation of panettone to the janitor at Christmas time). Love of the next one goes to page 2, as they say.
Everything written here is just a small tip of the iceberg. It’s what I see happen to the next person. Husband, colleagues, friends. It hurts in me, but it surely hurts so much more in each one who suffers from it.
Racism is historical, ancient and has deep, deep roots. You don’t have to call anyone a monkey to discriminate or be racist. Make your reflection, begin your deconstruction. Being racist is vicious, cruel and wrong.
And you, who were injured today, don’t stop fighting. You will have black living in Itaigara and wherever he/she wants.
Source: Correio 24 Horas