Note from BW of Brazil: Personal stories have provided some of the best insight into the development of black identity among women of African ancestry in Brazil as featured here at BW of Brazil. Because of Brazil’s specific way of dealing with the concept of race, which allows for a more fluid construction that, at its root, is very anti-black, its citizens often suffer through difficult process of identity in which they are constantly encouraged to deny their connection to blackness while simultaneously experiencing the discrimination that comes along with the association. Today’s piece provides yet another intriguing experience within this question of blackness in a land in which those who look the most German are considered the most beautiful.
How I discovered myself…
by Fran Kuhnen
I would like to share a little of my history with you.
I am the daughter of the heart of a family of German immigrants. I grew up seeing the look of surprise from people when they saw the soup of consonants which is my last name.
I came breaking barriers since I was little. My grandfather didn’t like black until putting me in his lap, I heard. My grandparents were the best in the world and I was pampered as the youngest granddaughter until they went to live in heaven. From some of my grandfather’s brothers, I want distance. They always treated me as (something) less. I was a schwarz (meaning black in German), the daughter of Francis, to them, I had no name and I didn’t deserve to carry theirs. It hurt to see my dad’s uncle turn his face when he would introduce me. I was 3, I never forgot that scene, and from that day, grandpa cut his relationship with two of his brothers.
I had few black references as a child. I was adopted at just 2 days old and my family is all blonde with light-colored eyes wherever my family tree points. I always studied in private schools and in the 90s it was harder to see black people there today, unless of course, with the cleaning staff. In the innocence of a girl, I wanted to be like my mother, blonde with very green eyes. I soon saw that this was not going to happen…
I realized I was “different” very early. I was not like my parents (unless the genius), I didn’t see blacks on TV, I didn’t see blacks in the environments that I frequented doing the same things I did and yes, I suffered discrimination as a child.
Being the only black girl in the expensive school, the only black girl in the club, in the swimming lessons, piano…For me it was normal. I always noticed the stares of others with that tone of “what are you doing here?”. When I was discriminated against, I pretended I didn’t care, but deep down I didn’t understand why all of this would happen to me. Sometimes I felt out of place at family gatherings amid all those white people. I was part of it, but I didn’t find myself there.
I became aware of my blackness at more or less 10 years of age, when I was already a little girl big enough to try to answer those who would disrespect me because of my color. My father taught me never to bow my head, and on that account he was called a few times at school because I, a feisty “alemoazinha (little German)”, never went home in shame.
I also remember not having dolls that looked like me to play with. They were all blond with blue eyes, but I knew that if I had a son he would not be like this. The first time I saw a little black doll, I was already 15 years old. This didn’t even stop from buying one. The girl was growing up, becoming a negona bocuda (big-mouthed black girl), stuck up, as I heard many people call me in this life.
There are people who say I’m not black. Huh? It’s not because my parents were able to give me an education, courses and other things that I was embranqueci (whitened). Maybe I had not suffered as much prejudice as my other brothers suffered and still suffer, but it’s not because of this that my life became a “white cloud”. I don’t need to say it, whoever looks at me sees it. It is difficult to escape the discrimination being a woman, black and fat all at the same time. For one thing will try to assess you, ridicule you…But you know what, I don’t really care. I’m BEAUTIFUL. This I learned. The little jokes no longer affect me anymore. The pretinha (little black girl) speaks 3 languages, is “estudada” (well-studied), plays musical instruments and even sings. Nobody can put me down anymore.
I never stayed quiet for anybody. I’ve already left a store stomping because the salespeople didn’t help me, I’ve argued with strangers who thought I was the babysitter of my little cousins with the angel face in the crib, I have sent many people to this place thinking I was employed in condominiums where lived, or at my uncles’ homes. But I prefer those people that throw in my face that the “good place” is not mine. The worst are those who call me “morena” (dark, brown or mixed girl), that ask me why I do not do a progressiva (Brazilian Keratine Hair Treatment) to lengthen my unruly hair. Even worse are those who see us and think that were just a beautiful ass that knows how to samba. That ask with a straight face if the black women are “hotter”. These are far worse.
In these few years that I have lived, I have only to thank my parents, to all my family for giving me the support that I needed. For teaching me that I am no less than anyone else, that I am not anyone’s object. To my mother for never straightening my hair and teaching me to love myself as I am. I’m not a morena, no. I’m preta (black).
Source: Blogueiras Negras