Note from BW of Brazil: The personal stories and re-collections revealed by various contributors are an important part of this blog. Most reveal a long struggle with coming accept to characteristic of themselves, be it hair texture, skin color or blackness itself. The histories are important for a number of reasons. Self-empowerment, self-affirmation, the overcoming of obstacles and the attainment of self-esteem are but a few. Another would the fact that these personal stories shatter the mythologies that most of Brazilian society lives by. For millions of Brazilians as well as persons outside of Brazil, the country still represents a place where racial hostility and hatred doesn’t exist and where all citizens see themselves and treat each other as simply Brazilians. The truth is far from this.
In my view, and I will continue to develop this idea and provide evidence for this thesis, the facade of racial harmony in Brazil is based upon and is only possible with the simultaneous submissiveness of the black population. Having been ridiculed, humiliated and denigrated as a people for nearly 500 years, many persons of visible African descent have long been taught to ignore this treatment, back down in situations of aggression or in fact deny that this treatment is based upon understandings of race. As we will see in the following story, this association of whiteness with superiority and subsequent behaviors originating with this ideology are often times learned within the household among family members creating a sort of hierarchy along lines of proximity to whiteness. In the end, as more and more black Brazilians begin to understand how racism and white supremacy works and continue to develop mechanisms to deal with racial aggression, situations of open racial conflict will continue to surface.
I am a neguinha…And?
By Dih Nizinga
Neguinha (little black girl). Whenever my older sister, who considers herself white, addressed me when we were kids, this is the way she would call me – “come here you neguinha.” (1) Offensive, hostile, was the way that she used to fight with me. For me, the blackest of my house, it sounded offensive, I felt really bad and cried a lot, because I was the one with the darker complexion.
My mother always told us that I was not neguinha, but moreninha (little brown girl), and it would make “neguinha” even more offensive to me. Until one day I decided, no one ever will call me neguinha. With this decision, I began to deny my race. When my older sister yelled at me calling me neguinha, I defended myself as if it were a curse and revile in return.
Until one day I began to see that being negra (black) was not bad, as I was told, and I made the most important decision of my life. I didn’t care what my sister said, what I cared about is being who I am: Black. Since then, I assumed my color and I began to be proud of this – I am Neguinha.
And today, my sister respects me and no longer calls me neguinha as an offense but in an affectionate way. I believe she has also accepted that she is the daughter of a black woman, for as fair as her skin is, she is also negra or afrodescendente (African descendant).
It doesn’t matter the color of the skin but our roots do and this I leave very clear with my children and my nephews, children of this sister, who, incidentally, do not have the same defects, or perhaps the same psychosis that we had as children.
We black women are forced as children to deny our origin and we learn to act white, when it is clear, by our melanin, strong features, curly hair, brown or black eyes, black traits and not white, or even worse, moreninha as the racist society imposes.
Today we know our origin and don’t suffer another psychosis disorder of identity that was imposed upon us. I am Neguinha… and?!
Dih Nzinga (Fabiana Nascimento), 33. Lives in the south zone of São Paulo, in the Chácara Santo Amaro neighborhood in the Grajaú region. She studies Public Relations.
Source: Nós, mulheres da periferia
1. The term “neguinha” has been approached in a number of posts as the term is sometimes accepted as a term of affection while it is rejected as an insult by others.