For centuries Europeans exploited Africa and its people and in Brazil the situation remains the same – Could it be that it’s racism?

The most beautiful color: “I never understood why white dolls are more beautiful” – Image originally published in Canal da Imprensa

Note from BW of Brazil: With certainty, the majority of the world’s people don’t truly know the history of Africa and its people. Due to the media, influenced by racist ideas according the Eurocentric views of the continent after European colonization of the land, exploitation of its vast resources and enslavement of its people, the image in the minds of most people around the world of the so-called ‘Dark Continent’ is that of poverty, hunger, disease, civil wars and backwardness. But rarely do people stop and ask how true this image is, how it happened and what the continent was like before the coming of the white man. For if they did, they’d know that African civilizations peopled by black-skinned people were the sources of the great knowledge that the Greeks, considered Europe’s first great civilization, would come to be influenced by. Few know that without the resources from the continent, many of today’s technological luxuries such as computers, iPhones, videos games, etc. would not be possible. Few know that much of the poverty that one finds in Africa today is directly due to European exploitation. 

But it’s not like this information isn’t freely available. Books such as Walter Rodney’s 1973 classic How Europe Underdeveloped Africa offer insightful information on exactly what the title says. British historian Basil Davidson devoted much his career to bringing the origins, genius and achievements of glorious African civilizations in a number of books such as African Kingdoms (1966), The African Past: Chronicles from Antiquity to Modern Times (1964) and Lost Cities of Africa (1959), among numerous others. The great Yosef Ben-Jochannan’s credits Africa as the source of the world’s major religions in his 1991 masterpiece African Origins of Major Western Religions while Chancellor Williams’s 1971 classic The Destruction of Black Civilization documents over 6,000 years of Africa’s rise to greatness and its eventual fall after successive destructive invasions by Arabs and Europeans. Brazil’s history up to modern times is simply an extension of this domination and exploitation of African peoples in the Americas. But as more and more afrodescendentes (African descendants) gain access to this wealth of information, the awakening to the origins of this reality continues. But it’s Brazil. The position of blacks in Brazilian society can’t be due to, say, racism….could it?

#éracismosim! (It’s racism yes)

By Luana Pereira

#Seráqueéracismo? (Could it be that it’s racism?)

African people, in spite of living socially isolated, possessed social organization as advanced as the Egyptian. Although there was slavery in these societies, it was quite different. It was incidental, it co-existed with other forms of labor. People were enslaved because of war, crimes or debts, and didn’t lose all their rights, they were neither were they freely beaten as were those people enslaved by Europeans. The commoditization of slavery began between northern and southern Africa, but it was still very small scale compared to what happened with the arrival of Europeans.

Could it be that it’s racism?

The Europeans influenced culturally and economically African societies, bringing social inequality and the logic of market to Africa. They determined also the expansion of the slave market to the extent that it influenced the structure of African societies in such a way that slavery and the slave trade turned into something institutional and fundamental and no longer peripheral, as it was before. European interest in enslaved people was so great that such conflicts were encouraged to meet such demand.

Could it be that it’s racism?

Europeans approached African elites, buying people enslaved because of war, exchanging them for weapons and products that didn’t exist in Africa. More weapons generated more wars, which generated more prisoners to be enslaved, they were replaced by more wars, bringing more weapons. When wars no longer met demands, they initiated the abductions of black men and women.

Could it be that it’s racism?

Africa was seen by Europeans as only as a source of cheap labor and raw materials, consumer market, populated by “subhuman” beings. To hide this fact, they justified white domination of Africa through the “lack of religion” of the African peoples (which is a lie, they had their religions, they just weren’t Christians) and the dominant anthropological theory at the time that classified Africans as a “sub race” that was doomed to the domination of the white man. With the arrival of Europeans, given its overseas expansion, Africa was “shared” in areas of influence in the nineteenth century, without, however, ceasing to face resistance. Africa was divided arbitrarily in relation to the notion of territoriality of African societies, and in this way tribes were divided into different territories and rival tribes were kept in the same territory. Conflicts that were resolved between the tribes of a more dialogical form, gave rise to strong conflicts that happen today.

Could it be that it’s racism?

5.5 million black men and women were enslaved and brought to Brazil. Of these, only 4.8 million arrived alive. Here, they were legally treated as objects, beaten, hunted down, abused and exploited. From the mid-1500s to 1850, no change took place. Since then, laws giving “freedom” to black men and women began to be edited, culminating in the Lei Áurea (Golden Law) in 1880. Whoever thinks that Princesa Isabel could be called “mãezinha” (mommy) is deceived. She and the slave-owning white elite of the time had economic interests behind this. With a predominantly slave labor workforce, that was unpaid, trade was difficult, after all, whoever doesn’t have money can’t buy. Good, but now that the black men and women were free, it was all right, right?

Could it be that it’s racism?

It was clear that the racist structure that gave such power to whites would not end so easily. Black culture, art and religion were successively attacked in order to be destroyed. Negative syncretism, criminalization, appropriation. There was no reparation. There was, yes, a policy of hygiene and “urbanization” of the cities, during the Old Republic, due to the sanitarian discourse, as in the “bota-abaixo” (1) of the slums in Rio de Janeiro to expand avenues of the city. There was a eugenicist ideology, in order to embranquecer (whiten) the population. There was the arrival of immigrants in order to resolve what was disseminated as the major problem in Brazil: Brazilians. Black men and women were systematically excluded from society, economy and any space of power, whose mechanisms remain the same today. The widely disseminated standard of beauty was white and black men and women were taught to hate their own bodies.

Could it be that it’s racism?

Today they kill young blacks with the same justification. They kill young black men with rifle shots because they were driving a car. They kill black children because they had a cell phone in their hand and it looked like a gun. They kill, exclude, marginalize, acculturate and exploit. Even with all that, the discourse of “somos todos iguais” (we are all equal), “democracia racial” (racial democracy) and “consciência humana” (human consciousness) remain. The most perverse this very well-articulated racist structure is that it makes us believe that it doesn’t exist. Its invisible hands violate is in a way that we blame ourselves for the oppression we suffer. So throughout our lives while we are insulted and violated we still hesitate and ask ourselves:

#Seráqueéracismo? (Could it be racism?)

Source: Blogueiras Negras


  1. The demolition of buildings for urban reforms, opening avenues etc; to overthrow.
About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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