13 black Women Reveal Truth that They were not Equal to White Women
Note from BW of Brazil: It’s one of the most common phrases you’ll hear in Brazil when the discussion is racism: We are all equal. It is current way that Brazilians uphold the old idea that there is no racism in Brazil. This despite probably thousands of studies, dissertations, interviews and books that have documented the everyday experiences of black and brown Brazilians living in a society in which whiteness is the standard.
So many people have this perception that racism is only serious if there is a situation of legalized segregation and bans on interracial marriage, but Brazil has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that racism, white supremacy and a racial hierarchy can exist without these two attributes of a racist society. In fact, it has used the lack of a ban on both to develop a system that I would argue is actually more effective than that of other countries.
The memories of the black women in the piece below demonstrate how a racial hierarchy maintains itself so efficiently in Brazil. White superiority in Brazil is a thing that is just sort of accepted by the population at large and, as it is so accepted, for decades, no one even questioned it. It was the dream of millions of black Brazilians, then and still now, to eventually whiten their families and be able to escape such an existence.
In the stories below, a number of black women give examples of the types of racism that they (as well as black Brazilians in general) experience every day, especially concerning afro-textured hair and also when it comes to finding romantic partners. It’s so subtle, so obvious, so natural, that people sometimes don’t even realize it’s there.
13 black women reveal when they realized they were not so equal to white women
Not all women are the same, so it is important to understand the differences so that we can respect them.
by Victor Nascimento and Aline Ramos; images courtesy of @maggiecoledraws
We asked black women from the BuzzFeed Brasil group on Facebook when they realized they were not equal to white women. The most impactful answers are in this post. Responses may have been edited for brevity or clarity.
1. “I still had that idea that everyone could find someone someday. Until I discovered that love is white.”
“When I joined a black feminism group and, reading the reports and stories, I understood why I never had a boyfriend in my life: because I was always rejected. I still had that idea that everyone could find someone someday. Until I discovered that love is white.(13 black Women Reveal Truth that They were not Equal to White Women)
The TV, cinema, magazines and cartoons from my childhood always showed me that. To give you an idea, I couldn’t find a homem negro bonito (handsome black man). Because in my head, handsome men were white. We have always been taught to hate and deny our color, our hair …
I read reports of women much older than me who never even had a chance to meet someone. I am trying to be well psychologically, but I confess that it’s not easy. Being rejected is one of the worst feelings there is.”- Anonymous
2. “I learned that it was not so equal when my white friends were with several boys, got a boyfriend and I had no one.”
“The most concrete thing is when you are in that phase of 8 or 9 years old and, on Valentine’s Day, there is an exchange of cards in the room and you don’t receive any. Or when, a little older, they were voting for a prettiest girl and you were never in the vote. Or when you arrive in adolescence and your white friends have several boys, they get a boyfriend and you get no one. And so we learn that we are not equal.”- Anonymous
3. “When I was seven, two white friends took pencils and coins from a colleague’s case, but it was me who had to explain myself.”
“I realized at seven. I was the only black girl in the room and two white girls by my side took pencils and coins from a classmate’s case. They denied it and the teacher thought I was lying. I had to explain myself, even though the boy accused them.”- Mariana Rodrigues
4. “Nobody wanted to walk with me at school. After two years of trying to figure it out, I straightened my hair.”
“Nobody wanted to walk with me at school and, after a couple of years of studying there, I started to notice what was the big difference between me and the other girls who always had several friends and with whom the boys talked. Yes, I spent two years looking for what I could fix to stop walking alone on the playground and it was in that year that I straightened my hair.”- Anonymous
5. “She, who was white, thin and had highlights in her hair, even without experience and almost without saying anything, was hired.”
“When a white girl and I were at a job interview and she, even without experience and almost without saying anything, was hired because she was thin and had highlights in her hair. I had experience and answered about eight questions, but I am black and fat, I was told to wait for a call I never received.”- Jaque Marques
6. “In elementary school when I won the ugliest girl in the class like three times.”
“In elementary school when I ‘won’ as the ugliest girl in the class like three times, or when high school boys met me in the hall and pretended to be scared (as if they had had a very horrible sight). When all my friends lost BV (virgin mouth) and I didn’t. When the boys made jokes with their friends, like: ‘That one over the there is one you’re gettin’ with, right?’ – for them to be angry or something. When a classmate said to a girl, ‘Você não é preta, preta é ela’ (You are not black, SHE is black) – referring to me as if it were a horrible thing. Because of that, I imagined several times that if I had white skin I would be a beautiful person.”- Anonymous
7. “I saw that I was different from minas brancas (white girls) when I didn’t go to parties because of my hair.”
“I saw that I was different from white girls when I didn’t go to parties because of my hair and my only wish was to have their hair like theirs. I wanted to be born again, I wondered what it would be like and what I could do to make it happen, besides the label of being declared the ugliest girl and never being wanted. Afterwards, at the university, I realized that the teachers’ view of me was a different one from that directed at white girls, a certain pity they had towards me, besides not treating me seriously.”- Anonymous
8. “The first comment I heard when I started to leave my hair natural was ‘cabelo de mendigo’ (beggar’s hair).”
I started to notice things now older. Nonsense like only white girls getting featured roles in school presentations at school, or feeling uncomfortable all day with a thousand hairpins keeping my hair in place while most of the classmates were disheveled with loose hair. But what I will never forget was the first comment I heard when I started to leave natural hair: ‘beggar’s hair.’”- Anonymous
9. “My white friend was considered a fashion icon wearing the same clothes as me.”
“When they laughed at my clothes and when my white friend arrived wearing the same thing, she was considered a fashion icon.” – Polianna Lima
10. “He never showed affection in public to me, two weeks after we broke up he started dating a white girl and exposed this to everyone.”
“When I was seeing a boy for months, we got along really well, but he never showed any affection in public with me. We broke up and two weeks later he showed up dating a white girl, walking hand in hand at school, Facebook status, photos and so on. I was about 16 and that was when it hit me.”- Julia Mattos
11. “The educator at my school said, just to me, that I should go to the September 7th (Independence Day) parade with my hair tied down.”
“I went about five years with only my hair up, because I believed I was ugly. That’s because the teacher at my school said, just to me, that I should go to the September 7 parade with my hair tied down because it’s curly. Only she did nothing about straight-haired girls.”- Mery Pinheiro
12. “One day he broke up with me because he couldn’t tell his mom that was dating ‘someone like me.'”
“I was 16 years old, the blessed time of boyfriends. I was with a boy, that dating thing in the living room. Then one day he broke up with me because, in his words, he couldn’t tell his mother who was dating ‘someone like me’.
I remember it hurt a lot at the time and, in my naivete, I didn’t know what he meant by that. A couple of months later a friend of his came to tell me that he was dating a girl from my school and that she had the style that would be nice to present to his mother: white. I think that was the moment that I realized the huge difference between us, black women, and white women. “- Ariele Martins
13. “We were playing being a princess, but the other girls said I should be the slave.”
“When the girls in my building went to play princess and said that I couldn’t be a princess too and that I should be a slave. I was 5 years old. “- Barbara Assunção Do Carmo (13 black Women Reveal Truth that They were not Equal to White Women)