13 racist expressions that they need to eliminate from their vocabulary

Illustration: Ana Maria Sena
Illustration: Ana Maria Sena

Note from BW of Brazil: Brazil is a country that loves to ignore or dismiss accusations that it is a deeply racist society in its ideologies, institutions, power structure and everyday interactions between citizens. This ideal that all Brazilians are somehow equal is a discourse that has been challenged over a number of years and thanks to international academia and media (of which this blog considers itself and hopes that it contributes to this endeavor), the outside world is also beginning to understand that the country is not the ‘racial paradise’ that it has always presented itself as being. Evidence of this fact is everywhere. It is in the near absence of non-whites in Brazil’s media, its government, its power structure, and its imposed adoration of whiteness. Another area where we see this is in the everyday sayings that people repeat without even thinking of the racial implications in such phrases. After all, it’s just a saying/joke, it doesn’t mean anything, right? Below, blogger Stephanie Ribeiro lists 13 of them. This piece is an excellent follow-up to another piece by the same author that illustrated these types of phrases in a fictional piece. Unfortunately, the expressions below, many of which have been featured on this blog, are not fictional and any Brazilian will be familiar with most, if not all of them. 

13 racist expressions that they need to eliminate from their vocabulary

By Stephanie Ribeiro, Modefica

Frequently, they ask me how not to be racist. And frankly I find the answer so complicated, after all we are educated in the reverse: racism is imposed and naturalized, and even not wanting to (there are cases in which it is indeed intended), many end up reproducing the oppressive discourse toward blacks.

Deconstructing this discourse, even in simple expressions and that apparently don’t seem to be offensive, but at the root are, it’s necessary and urgent. Thinking of breaking that cycle, I will show you 13 examples of this everyday racism in expressions and words that we often hear, but that should be eliminated from our vocabulary now.

1- “Amanhã é dia de branco” (Tomorrow is white day)

Any quick Google search will show more than one source for this expression, and the majority deny that it has any racist nature. But we live in a country where slavery of black people lasted more than 300 years, and slaves, even being forced to work, were generally seen as “vagrants”.

The consequences of this have lasted until today, the black is always seen as the person who makes “soft body”, that “malandro” (rogue/hustler) that does nothing. Including, among the opinions that arise when the subject is social quotas for blacks, that there is no effort on our part is the most common; so much so that we can make a parallel between this and the following expression.

2- “Serviço de preto” (black service)

Common in our day-to-day, this expression is used in order to disqualify determined effort and/or work, i.e. doing “serviço de preto” is equal to being sloppy. The black is always associated with something bad, the “good” work would be that of the white. You cannot be naive and think that there is no racist theory, especially when we associate other such expressions that place the black as the opposite of positive, such as:

3- ” A coisa tá preta” (The thing is black, in the sense of, ‘things are looking black’)

The expression “a coisa tá preta” speaks for itself: if the thing is black, is because it’s not pleasant, that is, an uncomfortable situation is the same as a situação negra (black situation)? This is racism.

4 – “Mercado negro” (black market)

The black market is one that promotes illegal actions, and once again it’s the word black being used with negative connotations. The negro (black), in the expression, means illegal.

5- “Denegrir” (denigrate)

The word “denegrir” already recurs when we believe we are being slandered, it’s a word seen as pejorative, but its real meaning is “tornar negro” (to make black). Something becoming black is evil, we have another case of racism.

6 – “Inveja branca” (white envy)

Finalizing the wave of words and phrases that associate negro and preto (both meaning black) to negative behaviors, example 6, which shows the “white envy” as being good envy, “positive”.

7- “Da cor do pecado” (Of the color of sin)

Another expression that makes the same association that negro = negative, only in a more subliminal way, not using terms like negro or preto. Usually this term is used as a compliment, but we live in a society guided by religion, where sin is not anything positive, being a sinner is wrong, and having your skin associated with sin means that it is bad. It’s not an expression that refers to a positive adjective, is simply a racist offense masquerading as exaltation of aesthetics and almost always directed at mulheres negras (black women).

8- “Morena”, “mulata” (followed by “tipo exportação” or ‘exportation type’)

Used for women and men, but more commonly used to describe women, especially when followed by the term “tipo exportação”. Here the goal is to soften what we are, “lightening” the black. There is no justification for denying that someone is negro, perhaps you can be annoyed in saying “negro”, and this is because you believe that calling someone negro is offensive, and as such, embranquece (whiten) the person – transforming her into a “morena” or “mulata”, and this is racism.

9 – Negra “de beleza exótica” ou com “traços finos” (Black woman of “exotic beauty” or “fine features”)

8 and 9 are similar when one imagines a black woman being beautiful she is to be an “export type”, have “fine features” and so can be the proud owner of an “exotic beauty”. Being black and being considered beautiful is related to not having black features, but rather close to that that branquitude (whiteness) defines as beautiful, which is the padrão de beleza europeu (European standard of beauty). Yes, that’s racism, and the most common that we see around here are in the hypersexualizing and exotifying when they use these expressions.

10 – “Não sou tuas negas” (I am not your negress)

Easily explainable if we remember that when it came to the behavior towards enslaved black women, harassment and rape were recurrent. The phrase makes explicit that with the black, one can do everything, and with the rest one cannot do the same, and everything is included undoing, harassing, treating badly, etc, etc.

11- “Cabelo ruim” (bad hair) , “Cabelo de Bombril” (brillo pad hair), “Cabelo duro”(hard hair) and the most unnecessary “Quando não está preso está armado” (When it’s not tied down, it stands up)

The issue of denial of our aesthetic is always common when they refer to our afro hair. They are racist words used, mainly in the stage of childhood, by peers, but that are perpetuated in universities, workplaces and even in television programs, with the black presence increasing in the media. Speaking ill of black hair and features is also racism.

12 – “Nasceu com um pé na cozinha” (One was born with one foot in the kitchen)

Expression that is associated with origins, “having the foot in the kitchen” is literally to have black origins. The black woman is always associated with household chores, since slaves could stay inside the casas grandes (big house or slave master’s houses) in the kitchen, where they even slept on the floor (their presence inside the casa grande facilitated harassment and rape by the masters). Post-abolition, we continue to be stereotyped as women of the kitchen, since we are the majority in domestic service, seeing all the policies that they have tried to stop black ascension.

13- “Barriga suja” (dirty belly)

Another term that is relative to the origin is used when a woman has a black son. If she had a black son, something impure – like a “dirty belly” – explains this fact. It is the one that causes me the most discomfort.

Of course there are many other expressions which clearly point to racism in the everyday life, and unfortunately numerous people, even knowing the facts and having access to explanations, will say that everything is pure banality, and probably continue to use these words and phrases.

When we point out racism, the trend is to hear something like “I am not racist, I have black friends and/ or black relatives”, or “I know a black and he doesn’t care.” The most ironic thing is that when a black reproduces racist concepts, ranging from thinking that racism doesn’t exist to not being bothered being called moreno, or thinking all these explanations given here are unnecessary, he is soon defined as a “negro de alma branca” (black with a white soul). Translation: they use a racist comment to “praise” their behavior of not questioning.

Empathy and consciousness are necessary so that these words and expressions are abandoned for good. The aim of this text is simple: ENEGRECER (to blacken) ideas.

SourcePragmatismo Político

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Great post! I totally agree with you. All these racist outdated terms should be eliminated! The sooner the better. That was a great list you came up with. Thank you for this post.

  2. Great post! Words like that shouldn’t be uttered at all. If Brazil wants to change, they have to come to terms that they have racists societies and stop lying to everyone that the country is full of racial harmony and doesn’t see color, when really it does.

  3. i really feel this page should be a private page a black only page. because I’m sick and tired of these stormfront racist sticking their unnatural to the sun noses into black affairs.. These racist are on this site heavily patrolling …

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