Note from BW of Brazil: Of course, as black women can attest, racist comments and questions are plentiful in Brazil. But there are some that are so common that if you asked enough black women to name some racist comment they’ve heard, at least one of them would be part of the list compiled below by Viviana Santiago. In previous posts (see here, here and here), we’ve already seen how black Brazilians are reacting such comments, but as race relations have taken a course of centuries to develop into what it has been, it should come as no surprise that somewhere in the country, people continue to hear such comments that certainly no one (white) would conceive as having racist content. And of course we know that Brazilians “are
n’t all equal”, but seriously, if you really believe this, what do you think people mean when they utter such phrases? Feel free to respond in the comments section if you can really explain the non-racist meanings of such phrases. Should be interesting, if not entertaining to know.
Black Brazilian women have tired of hearing such phrases for some time and in recent years, a number have taken to YouTube to express their opinions. The “COISAS QUE AS NEGRAS ESTÃO CANSADAS DE OUVIR” (things that black women are tired of hearing), a skit acted out in responses to such commments, courtesy of the DRelacionamentos YouTube and “COISAS QUE AS MULHERES NEGRAS ODEIAM ESCUTAR” (things that black women hate hearing) courtesy of the Coisas de Preta by Regianne Rosa page are just two excellent videos that express how fed up many black women are getting hearing such gems everyday. The first video I have made available at the bottom of this article with translated dialogue. So if you’re black, and a woman but have never been to Brazil, check out a few things youu might have to get accustomed to hearing if you ever decided to visit or live there.
10 racist phrases that black women hear (either denouncing racism or being accused of whining)
By Viviana Santiago
Every day black women in the most varied places of life in society hear to things and deal with situations that are often explicit, sometimes disguised, with the intention of trying to fit them into a place of subordination, exotification and dehumanization, and the worst: expectation of the black women’s acceptance, silence and resignation: at the least attempt of reaction on the part of the women, the racist game begins to disqualify the criticism and to empty the arguments with the accusation of hypersensitivity and susceptibility;
Let’s think about 10 of these statements that we hear and call racism, (because they are phrases that express racism) and we offer a challenge: Read to the end, identify racism and use your voice to confront it;
1- But you have such fine features, you don’t need to say that you’re negra (black). The first thing this observation reveals is a completely essentialized view of being black, stereotyped even though it confines the black being to a stereotype and an only way of being for this black body, the second that reveals is that in the sight of this person being black is something so terrible, that one only need to assume if it is really inevitable.
2-You are working/studying/reading … so much, why do you work so hard? It is incredible how the process of professional, academic and personal development of black women is criticized, in a society that demands intense specialization, have you ever stopped to wonder why it is only shocking, when it is the black women who experience this process? All people have a volume and delivery of work, readings, updates, but only when black women develop these practices comes the social censorship, which is actually the attempt to bar black women’s access to spaces that demand these experiences, the movement is of false concern because the intention is to prevent access to knowledge and opportunities for personal, academic and professional growth.
3 – She is a very hard-working negra. All pessoas brancas (white people) are intelligent, but have you noticed that in speaking of the performance of black people they always use the word effort? As if intelligence, wisdom were not the natural characteristics of black people.
4 – Ela é negra mas é tao bonita– (She’s black but she’s so pretty). This is said, right? The intense exposure and then the internalization of a padrão de beleza eurocêntrico (standard of Eurocentric beauty), means that the black face is not understood as a possibility of beauty, and if it is beautiful then it must not be black
5-But you’re black and don’t know how to sambar (dance the samba)? This is the place of black women in society, one can’t imagine another contribution of the African people to this society beyond samba, it also reveals that one does not understand the possibility of uniqueness, the individuality of each black person, racism denies this possibility.
6- Você passa um cafezinho pra gente? (Can you get us some coffee?) This is classic, it is always expected that black women will occupy this place, the domestic worker, the servant, even when these are not their formal occupations. There is no problem in these jobs, the problem is the racist thinking that prevents people from realizing that there are other places to be occupied by black women.
7- I love when you come with your hair tied down, it looks much more professional – The old theme of hair and that also gives us the reflection of the norm and the Eurocentric standard for everything that means superiority, beauty and here professionalism, it is understood that cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) is ugly, inappropriate and at best a “festive hair” that would not then be suitable for sophisticated professional practices. This is an excellent sample of what people think of black bodies and lives and professional practices, those other than the ones that wear white masks, are inadequate.
8– Ela é negra e mas é muito brava viu? e tem uma insistência com essa questão racial (She is black but she is very angry, did you see this? and has an insistence on this racial issue). We live in a racist country, and that black women are the majority of people without jobs, have a lower income than white people, suffer more domestic violence, are the majority in cases of sexual violence and these are only a few aspects of a life that is always lived from half a citizenship, and yet, every time a black woman stands in search of social justice, one constructs the notion that she is in a frenzy of fury and inconsistent. A quick analysis of the life of the povo preto (black people) and especially of the black women makes explicit that there is no inconsistency or folly in the struggle for social justice.
9-But do you live, work, study here? Unless we are Tia da Limpeza (cleaning lady), Tia do café (coffee server), Tia da arrumação (service woman) (1), branquitude (whiteness) is always questioning the presence of the black women in the space, because it is understood and it is expected that the place of the black women are those that the racist society determines And creates efficient mechanisms to guarantee the allocation of this population in these smaller spaces.
10 – Ah, você é inteligente demais, nem imaginava (Oh, you’re so smart, I didn’t even imagine). What the person is actually saying is: Are you not you dumb as I imagined?
We black women hear this every day, they are phrases that express a racist thought that reduces us to stereotypes, which dehumanizes us and directs us towards a subordinate place. Reacting to these phrases, problematizing the content is not mimimi (whining), it is unwrapping the gift that is being delivered to each one of us and enabling each person the opportunity to truly deal with the perverse content that is being delivered to us and insurgent against these perverse representations. Reacting to these comments means using our voice, and the nuisance is this, a black woman who speaks unbalances the racist game because she takes control of the narrative and imposes on the racist people the movement of looking in the mirror and maybe not liking even a little the content that you’ll see….
Things that black women are tired of hearing
Source: Palavra de Preta
- In Brazil, it’s common that women who provide varying types of services are affectionately called “tia”, meaning aunt, although they are usually not related to the person to whom they are providing the particular service.