Note from BW of Brazil: The title of this article is true for a number of reasons. In many ways, Brazil is a very anti-black country. The proof of this in its very history as well as its official and unofficial public policies of today. Not only did Brazil enslave more Africans than any other country in the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries, it also openly proclaimed its desire to eventually whiten the country through mass immigration of European peoples but also through the restriction of possible immmigrants from Africa. Basically, Brazil’s elites were saying, ‘we have too many blacks here already’ and the only way to ‘improve’ the country would be through seeking more European blood and bodies.
Which such a policy, one can imagine what this meant for the millions of African descendants that called Brazil home. After nearly four centuries of enslavement, black Brazilians were the last slaves in the Americas to be liberated, but with millions of Europeans pouring into the country in the new free labor economy and taking all of the jobs, black folks were basically left to their own resources. To this day, non-whites continue to earn more or less about half the salaries of people who consider themselves white.
Nearly every socio-economic stat that exists shows the existence of one Brazil for black, brown and Indian people and another for whites. But the stats and tactics of social exclusion don’t tell the whole story. In a society that makes it both implicit and explicit that white Brazilians are the preferred racial class, black Brazilian children often must deal with racist treatment from business establishments, the schools and sometimes within their own multi-racial families.
For decades, black Brazilians themselves did not prepare their children for a world that often times would treat them with disdain, actually believing in the Brazilain discourse that racism was simply ‘a thing in their heads’. To deal with such treatment, black folks would more times than not simply attempt to accomodate the wishes of the society, straightening cabelo crespo (kinky curly hair), for example, to avoid ridicule. In those times, and to a degree, still today, many parents would refuse to classify their children as black in a attempt to avoid the mark of belonging to a stigmatized race. Because of such practices that are still be prevalent today, we may never know how many Brazilians are really black.
But things are changing. Today, the numbers of black mothers and fathers instilling pride and a sense of identity in their children as a mechanism of survival is growing, as Brazil’s black population is increasingly demanding representation in areas of Brazilian society in which they have been historically excluded. The changes can be observed in the streets where it is more and more common to see natural hair and afros. And slowly, we are seeing more black representation in advertising and in the media than we have ever seen. As more and more black Brazilians are getting access to information and understanding of their history, this change in the air is sure to continue spreading.
For black mother activists, developing blackness in children is a matter of survival
By Juliana Pereira de Souza Silva
Racism in Childhood
“Unfortunately not all families are ‘escurecidas’ (
darkened enlightened) enough to give their children a warmth and emergency care.” The explanation is courtesy of Priscila Gama, mother, social entrepreneur from Vitória, Espírito Santo and the one responsible for the Quilombinho project, an Afro-centered holiday event.
She underscores the power of afro-infantis (children of African descent) events to strengthen and boost the self-esteem of pretinhas e pretinhos (black girls and black boys). “Spaces of exchange like Quilombinho strengthen this issue of orgulho negro (black pride) and didactically escurece (
darken clarify) issues related to racism, because we don’t deal with racism directly with children because it hurts, but we explain it in another way. When children exchange experiences in these spaces, they become stronger, it’s inevitable.”
Learning to defend oneself against racism is also one of the positive aspects of the appreciation of being black from an early age. “The experiences we have here in Vitória are of a group of children who see themselves strong in their individualities and peculiarities, especially in relation to their pretitude (blackness). We see cases of children who suffer racism from other children and who defend themselves, saying that it is racism, or for example, pointing out that a white (child) doesn’t want to play because she is a black child and who loses is the criança branca (white child). Children make their own argument for black pride, to defend themselves, and so this exchange between black children is important, as a potent micro-community, of various explosions of pride in our little ones,” says Priscila.
Carla Cavallieri, mother of Ágatha, Aisha and Akillah and an historian from UFRRJ reports that her militancy as a mãe preta (black mother) was even mocked. “When I created Nana Maternidade Negra (Nana Black Maternity) and to this day, many mães brancas (white moms) questioned and mocked the demand. But it is precisely for this reason (cases like Ayo’s) that Nana exists. We must be fully aware that the child is the replica of the adult, with whom lives he or she lives with and that this is simply the result of a país branco, racista (white, racist country) that has put into its head that a racial democracy exists and that whatever happened is child’s play. It is not. It’s an adult attitude that the child will reproduce it.”
“This is what our children are subjected to every day as long as white and racist families don’t assume the privileges that surround them and educational institutions don’t open this debate from the early grades. It’s not only May 13th or November 20th. It’s necessary to have an anti-racist curriculum that meets the true history of this country from the beginning ”, defends the founder of Nana whose main objective is to make visible and give voice to the demands of maternidade negra (black motherhood).
Source: Brasílidade Negra