Note from BW of Brazil: But we’re all equal, right? Today’s piece is the result of a routine experience on a bus. But the simple comment of one black man in the heat of a moment speaks volumes for how race is experienced in Brazil and one could argue anywhere in the world where Africans and their descendants live in multi-racial societies under a global system of white supremacy. The man’s comment is a basic point that most whites simply don’t consider when they utter the phrase “somos todos iguais”, meaning “we are all equal”. When a black person says this phrase after having been the victim of a cruel racist joke or slur, it is an attempt to minimize the pain of knowing that we are not all treated equally and recognition of the fact that they have no power to change the situation. When a white person says this it is to deflect accusations of racism or to offer a weak expression of support for the black victim, a phrase that 99% of the time will never be followed up with any action to make this a reality. It is an example of the fact they don’t understand the depths of the system of which they are the beneficiaries.
The fact is, saying a phrase such as “we are all equal” also show that people don’t perceive the fact that before we can all be equal, we must recognize that pain and self-rejection sometimes creates in black people a desire to escape blackness itself is another harmful after effect of white supremacy that persons with white skin will never have to deal with. I mean really, how many white people have honestly thought to themselves, “I wish I was black”? On the other hand, due to the devastating, internalized concepts of white supremacy, there are black people who have been to taught to hate their natural hair, avoid the racial classification of black, seek whiter partners so that their future children may escape the stigma or even hate the color of their sexual organs. As such, until society is willing to address the deep psychological and emotional scars created by this cruel system, saying “we are all equal” does nothing but avoid the deeper issue.
“Do you think I didn’t want to be white?”
By Wynne Carvalho
About episodes that take place on the bus …
This week when I was going home, during rush hour in Salvador, I began to hear a buzz in the crowded bus. Among the faces that showed exhaustion and even stress, I saw that the speaker was a tall, thin, black man, who appeared to be in his 30s. He shouted to the driver: “I’m not a thief, no. If it was a freshly pressed branquinho (white guy) you wouldn’t have not opened the door. I’m a worker, I came here because I made a mistake.”
The thing is that the passengers come in through the back door and get off in the front. But recently, the Salvador bus system did the same thing as other capital cities and we have to do the reverse. The Bahian still hasn’t gotten used to it. I didn’t quite understand what really happened, but I started to pay more attention to what he was saying.
Still charged up, the guy continued: “This is punishment because of my color. You think I didn’t want to be white? I wanted to, at least not to go through this.” I stopped for a few minutes. I wondered what was going through his head, how his life had been thus far, what he would had experienced to have said something so strong. In my head, I just echoed his questioning. I thought of how many black men and women didn’t have the same desire of that guy.
I wondered why the desire to be white spoke louder at that moment when, finally, amid my thoughts, I concluded that the blame for this kind of thinking still exists and is ingrained in each one of us and not that guy. But indeed of the society that insists on wanting to show the whiter the better. It is still necessary that we go through the social, biological and aesthetic process of embranquecimento (whitening) to be accepted.
The first step to deconstructing this ideology is to understand that the European standard should not be the only accepted one and its imposition in the world has already been dismantled by every empowered black woman walking the streets, every child who refuses to straighten their hair, every black man that accepts himself! It’s necessary for us to continue to overcome the racist barriers with pride to influence our brothers.
Discovering oneself as black can be a slow process for many. Constructing identity itself, deconstructing racism that still persists in our society can take even longer. The issue of representation has to be discussed in each and every place. It must be stronger than all these barriers. Resistance and struggle are part of our history!
I wish I had talked to him, having said there is no need to want to be white because it is your right to be respected. I wanted to have spoken enegrecimento (blackening), acceptance, Mandela, Zumbi, Luiz Gama, black pride and courage that I hadn’t a way to tell him when I just saw him get off the bus.
It is extremely important that we continue to discuss the black self-worth, about figures that made a difference in our history and are, even today, little is spoken of including in education. Of the marks left from the colonization process in Brazil it is noticeable that they have not yet healed.
Racism acts directly on the psychological of those reached, sickens, saddens, and provokes. We will no longer let racist labels and prejudiced stereotypes, as what certainly crossed through the mind of the bus driver, reverberate in attitudes like this.
Racists, will definitely not pass by!
Wynne Carvalho: Woman, black, northeasterner, Bahian, proud of her roots; journalism student who believes in the power of words and how we can change the world using them.
Source: Blogueiras Negras