Distinct Forms of Blackness Despite Identical Origins
Note from BW of Brazil: The contrast and the likeness are two of the reasons that made me want to understand the situation of the black Brazilians. As a black American, I became intrigued with this comparison with only seven days remaining in the year 1999. The similarities fascinated me while the differences interested me. Our people were enslaved and exploited by different groups of Europeans, one British, the other Portuguese. The difference in the years of abolition in our respective countries was 25 years, although neither of our groups have achieved full emancipation after hundreds of years of enduring second class citizenship.
In my years researching, visiting and even living in Brazil, I have come to learn a number of differences in the character of the black American and the black Brazilian which helps me to understand why I, as a black American, could never be a black Brazilian, and this has nothing to do with simply not being born in Brazil. Whether we are speaking physically, mentally, emotionally or psychologically, the black American and the black Brazilian overlap in a certain track of the comparative scale and then diverge from there. The separate realities and experiences that have shaped us have perhaps made us more “cousins” than “brothers” and “sisters” and I think that any black Brazilian interacting with black Americans and vice versa long enough will eventually come to this same conclusion.
It is because of these differences in realities and experiences as well as differences in the practices of white supremacy that also contribute to why black Americans and black Brazilians react different to certain crises and situations, as was discussed in the context of recent protests involving the murder of black males in the two countries. These different experiences also explain why the United States would produce an artist such as a Nina Simone while there has been no such equivalent in Brazil. America’s notorious doctrine of “separate but equal” history versus Brazil’s debunked “racial democracy” also explains why we’ve never seen a black Brazilian female singer rise to the levels of popularity of a Whitney Houston. Different histories, different reactions, different scenarios, different people.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, if anyone was to travel to another country and come to know the culture and people and then discovered that they were exactly the same as their country of origin and its people, perhaps the thrill of learning about that new country and its people would lose its appeal.
One of these days I will delve deeper into a comparative analysis between the two countries and their respective black populations as I have already done quite a bit of this over the eight plus years of this blog’s existence. The study continues to intrigue me. As it turns out, it intrigues a lot of people. The piece below doesn’t get into the intricacies of the similarities and differences, but it does discuss some of the more obvious facts. Well, there is one “fact” that I would dispute here, but this isn’t the time.
The black American and the black Brazilian Distinct Forms of Blackness Despite Identical Origins
By David Coimbra
The black American is blacker than the black Brazilian. They are distinct forms of blackness, despite identical origins.
It is true that the African slave brought to Brazil suffered as much as the African slave brought to the United States, but, with the liberation of one and the other, the differences began to widen.
In 1863, when Lincoln abolished slavery in the United States, in the midst of the Civil War, there were 4.5 million slaves in the country. In Brazil, the number of slaves was more or less the same when the Golden Law was signed, 25 years later. The proportion of slaves to the total population of the countries, however, was about 15% in the United States and 50% in Brazil. Today, the descendants of slaves in the United States are 10 to 12%. In Brazil, nobody knows. It is estimated to be approximately 50%.
In Brazil, at the moment the slaves were freed, they looked to the side and saw millions of poor whites, exploited and discriminated against almost as much as they were. There was a small dominant elite formed by nobility and some of their accomplices, and, below them, everyone else. Hence, miscegenation became very natural in Brazil.
In the United States it wasn’t like this. There was no nobility in the United States. The men who crossed the ocean to form the United States did so to stay, not to extract wealth and enjoy the good European life, as the Portuguese who “discovered” Brazil yearned. Thus, in the United States there was a vast middle class and, under it, crushed by it, were blacks.
In the United States, blacks gained freedom, but only a hundred years later did they have the same rights as whites in all states. And even after the conquest of civil rights, many southern states defended the idea that white and black Americans should be “separate but equal”.
This distinction was made even in the libertarian North. In Brazil, there are certainly more blacks in the hills of Rio, for example, but in Brazil there was never a Harlem, as in New York, or a Roxbury, as in Boston, almost exclusively black regions, with black culture, black habits and even black language, where white men are not welcome.
In the United States, there are the rich, a large middle class and the descendants of slaves. But what about Obama? someone will remember. How do you explain that the President of the United States is a black man? Yes, Obama is black, but he is not a descendant of slaves. His father was a Kenyan economist, his mother a white woman from Hawaii.
The black American descendant of slaves knows what his ancestors suffered just because they were black. The black American descendant of slaves didn’t dream the American dream.
The black Brazilian descendant of slaves saw poor white Brazilians suffering as much as he did. The black Brazilian descendant of slaves didn’t dream the Brazilian dream simply because there was no Brazilian dream for anyone, of any color, except for a few, whether they were owners of hereditary captaincies, titles of nobility or men of great wealth.
Until the establishment of racial quota systems in Brazil, something, in fact, copied from the United States, there was no sense in a Brazilian declaring himself white or black. What difference does it make if all the poor suffer the same, whatever their color?
In the United States, that statement makes a difference. In the United States, official documents ask what color your skin is, and the answer may have consequences. Therefore, a white person saying that he is black, in the United States, can be revolutionary. In Brazil, where everyone was equal in poverty, maybe they will also become black.
Updated on July 4, 2020 at 3:24pm
Source: Gaúcha ZH