“Your drawing is ugly like you”, said a teacher to a 4-year old black girl”: Racism in the life of a black child begins in day care

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Note from BW of Brazil: Coming from an academic perspective, we’ve known that racism has had an enormous effect on Brazilian society as a whole. It was through many of the classic studies on the topic that I educated myself on this issue in the first decade of the 21st century. What anyone who is new to the study of racism in Brazil needs to know that just as racism itself is embedded in the country’s DNA, early as powerful, albeit on a lesser level these days, is the denial of its very existence.

For decades, many powerful, influential figures have continuously denied the everyday experiences of racist abuse that Afro-Brazilians have endured since the beginning of the near four century practice of human bondage. The current President, Jair Bolsonaro, is simply the latest in a long line of elite and everyday Brazilians who continue to deny that Brazil regularly treats its population of visible African ancestry very differently from those who are of mostly European ancestry or whose non-African ancestry isn’t as visibly apparent. 

One thing that has been an incredible source of documenting the experiences of everyday black Brazilians over the past decade and a half or so has been social networks. Since the days of the now defunct social network, Orkut, as well as the rise of personal blogs and YouTube channels, black Brazilians have been able to speak for themselves and document the significance of racism in their lives. These experiences often begin in childhood, even though most children don’t know exactly what to call this sort of treatment when they first experience it. Racism, specifically in Brazilian schools was studied and exposed by the groundbreaking book by Eliane Cavalleiro entitled Do silêncio do lar ao silêncio escolar: racismo, preconceito e discriminação na educação infantil (From the silence of the home to school silence: racism, prejudice and discrimination in early childhood education) (Contexto, 1998), in which the author observes and investigates the differences between how black and white children are treated by teachers in a local preschool, a middle-class neighborhood of São Paulo. 

Just as important are the memories of black adults who can clearly remember what this sort of treatment felt like, how it affected them, and perhaps more importantly, how they are able to name this treatment for what it was later in life. In the piece below, Mariana da Conceição de Andrade shares a few of her memories. It’s worth recognizing that, according to many reports (see here, here and here), at the close of the second decade of the 21st century, things haven’t changed much for black children. 

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Racism in the life of a black child begins in day care

By Mariana da Conceição de Andrade

When I was asked to write about the times I came into contact with situations of racism, when they occurred and how, a lot of memories passed through my mind. Vivid memories of my thirty-two years of life.

The first contact occurred in early childhood. For a criança negra (black child), afrodescendente (descendant of Africans) child, racism has an impact of such magnitude that it can leave after effects for the rest of his/her life.

Once, when I was about four years old, after switching day care centers, I was in the classroom with my classmates and two teachers. Both of them talked while we, children, made several drawings. I always felt a different look from the teacher towards me, but as a child I could not decipher that look. It was then that a white classmate showed her drawing to the teacher in question, who complimented her. I then, in my childish naivete, also wanted to receive a compliment, and did the same as the white child, cited above. I also wanted to see the teacher’s smile and I went up to her full of joy. I showed her my sketch, asked if it was beautiful, and she, at the height of her racist arrogance, dryly told me that the drawing was “ugly” as I was, turning her back to me.

Faced with that racist, unjust, violent manifestation, I, a child, felt something very bad, feeling very much like crying. I isolated myself, staring at the picture, wondering what was ugly about it and why she had said that I was too. At the end of the day, when I got home, I reported what had happened to my mother, who promptly went to the nursery to ask what had happened. The teacher in question vehemently denied it, and said that she “would never say such a thing to a child.” The Director then talked to my mother, assured her that she would be attentive to the situation and begged her not to take the case to the Secretary of Education. I remember well, wounded, that I asked to change classrooms and didn’t spend much time in this day care, because I cried every day when I arrived at the door of the room.

This was the first of many other contacts with racism. And it is notorious that black children are the biggest victims of abuse and violence. There are a few cases reported by the media, of black children and adolescents, outside of the schools, exposed to vulnerabilities.

It is known that there are legal provisions, especially in the Statute of the Child and Adolescent, and organs aimed at the prevention of child abuse, phase of vulnerability and formation of the human being. But few take into account that the childhood of a black child will always be marked by episodes that will never occur with a white child.

As an example, I, as an adult, have no skill with drawings or paintings. I never did. I have developed a blockage that I have not been able to overcome after successive therapy sessions.

So, since it is unquestionable that black children are exposed to vulnerability and violence, even if it is veiled, much greater than the other children, is it up to all of us to persist in what can be done to improve this situation? How can you prevent them from being disrespected, traumatized by racist attitudes and acquiring blockages for the rest of their lives? Finally, what kind of society are we forming, what future do we want for our children?

For these others, I constantly think of giving up motherhood, because I don’t know if I will deal with such issues again. And even if my son is a boy, besides the fear that he might suffer from racist speech and attitudes, there is also the fear of losing him by the lead hand of the Genocidal State, which clearly stands against us.

The future of our black children, whether or not they come from our womb, depends on us. Something must be done to prevent our children from suffering from racism and to have the right to a healthy childhood and development that, so far, only a white child can, as a rule, achieve.

*Mariana da Conceição de Andrade, a graduate in Nursing, from UNIFESO/RJ. Experience in Immunization Clinics and currently works in a home-care company, full-time. She studies and researches foundations in the area of Public Health, Collective Health with a race slant, Health of the Black Population, and race/color influences in health services.

Source: Elas Existem

 

About Marques Travae 3225 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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