Note from BW of Brazil: It’s one of the dirty little secrets in a country know for its joy, samba, Carnaval, futebol, beautiful beaches and women. But in the same way that the brutal displays of violence put into question the Brazilian image of cordiality, the experiences of foreigners in Brazil (1) have contributed to deconstructing of Brazil’s image outside of the country as a ‘racial democracy’. Even if the mythical ideology managed to fool many Brazilians themselves, the idea of the land being free of racism was never able to deceive all of its citizens, many of whom began to denounce and unmask ugly displays of racist practices over 80 years ago. And this unmasking continues today, with both visitors to the country sharing their experiences as well as the country’s own black population continuously finding new ways exposing how Brazil treats them, the latest being a hashtag campaign that recently went viral. As these experiences and opinions continue to come out, it is long past due that Brazil begin to address the issue in a more straight-forward manner.
Brazil is one of the most racist countries in the world
By Edergênio Vieira
The journalists Cristiane Damaceno and Maria Júlia, known as “Maju”, and actresses Taís Araújo and Sheron Menezes, besides being women and black, have more facts that connect them as remarkable characters of the year 2015. What connects these four women and many other anonymous in Brazil is the fact that all were victims of racism.
Alexandra Loras, that is not as well known by the Brazilian public as the aforementioned women, but she still has much to say on this topic. Alexandra has been a French journalist for 38 years, graduated from the most respected school of political science in France, Sciense Po. She is married to Damien Loras, Consul General of France in Brazil, she has resided in the city of São Paulo for three years, in a recent interview the magazine Isto É, (issue 2400 /Nov.27, 2015) Loras says flatly that “Brazil is one of the most racist countries in the world.”
The consul speaks with the propriety of a woman who has traveled to over 50 countries and has lived in at least 8, ie Loras, knows, or rather has felt Brazilian racism up close. The same that the Taíses, Sherons, Majus, Cristianes, Raíssas, Cíntias, Lidianes and Alexandras have suffered, are suffering and will suffer. Brazilian racism that of a population that is 57% black men and women (1) puts only 4% on the TV screens. Brazilian racism that leads to black invisibility in the schools, workplaces and in the circles of power. Onde estão @s negr@s brasileir@s? (Where are the Brazilian black men and women?) How many are in the universities? In Congress? In the Assemblies? In the Courts of Justice? In the city halls? Governments? In the secretariats? In the ministries? The figures from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) released through the Synthesis of Social Indicators (SIS) an analysis of the living conditions of the population in 2015 on December 4th which shows that something has been done in recent years in the country, but there is still a gulf that separates blacks and whites in Brazil.
And the gap between blacks and whites is even worse when one approaches it from the gender perspective. If young black men are the main victims of both institutionalized violence by the state’s repressive forces, and by the social environment, black women are the main victims of racism related to aesthetics; this racism that destroys and mutilates the self-esteem of these black women. And lead them to seek a process of embranquecimento (whitening) that goes from the straightening of the hair extending down to, amazingly, beauty products that promise the whitening of the skin. Research of the dolls (available at the website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDO3RrxmCeQ) shows that the hole goes even further down: 85% of black children chose the white doll as the good girl and the black as bad and ugly. All this is the result of an ideology that is conveyed in the media, in novelas (soap operas), TV series, in every corner of the supremacy of a white phenotype as “standard of beauty”.
But for black women what is left?
The coffee harvest period, usually begins in the month of the “noivas” (brides), May. In these periods the days are very long and painful. It is still winter, however a winter in the tropics, with its sun flambéing it in ten hours of toil, transforming the land into a furnace. At such times, black women burned in the sun in the fields of plantations. The soft hands were chosen to harvest the cotton. In addition to dealing with the field, they were responsible for numerous obligations both physical and sexual.
It is evident that this look of black women as the “jack of all trades”, moves away from the idyllic vision of the woman as the weaker sex. Even before the feminist movement demanded the right to work, black women already occupied the farms and later the factories. All of these racist, sexist and prejudiced burdens of old show the current situation of black Brazilian women. We wanted that this portrait of society be a photograph from the nineteenth century, we wanted this, but it is not. The dominant ideology constructed the imaginary relating the black woman to the sexual pleasure of whites, recognizing and laying on her body the archetypal of the slave and sexual objectification, generating the envy of the white mistresses.
The mutilation, extirpation, deformations and other atrocities committed by white mistresses on the body of black women, of which examples abound in the literature of the time, sought to affect body parts commonly identified with the power of seduction. Today the descendants of these mistresses attack no longer in physical punishment, in mutilation, but in self-esteem, in the hair, in the cor de ébano (color of ebony), in that which the black women that position themselves in society most cherish: their identity, their blackness. Until when?
The question that closes the Alexandra Loras interview deserves literal transcription.
Istoé magazine: Brazil knows that it’s one of the most racist country in the world?
Alexandra: It doesn’t know and doesn’t want to hear this. Brazil is the country of optimism, samba, Carnival, nature, of this happiness and informality. It is a narrative of the foreigner. In the elite, people don’t want to discuss this, because this issue bothers (them). But, in two years of demonstrations and all that has happened in the country, I feel that Brazil is like a young rebellious teenager. It now wants to protest, listen and reflect.
So let’s reflect, finally, is Brazil one of the most racist country in the world?
- See also the experiences of Haitian and African immigrants which have exposed strong sentiments of anti-black, xenophobic sentiments.
- Official reports put this number at 53.6%
While I agree, I don’t appreciate French people, who committed a myriad of atrocities against Africans to suddenly be in high horses trying to tell Brazil how to act. Yes, Brazil is goddamn racist place and probably the one with the most effective racist strategy. Still, the French can all go f. themselves. If they are that worried about racism, they should simply send billions of dollars to Haiti in compensation for slavery.
Oh yes, and in particular coming from someone who does not use a natural African hair and needs to hide.
Dont talk about the French.
Talk about Brazil.
It’s not me doing it pal.
if someone only lives in a country for 3 years I don’t think they have the right perspective to judge or say anything about a country
I disagree. Maybe three years doesn’t make one an expert but a person can stay anywhere for a few days a develop a perspective and an opinion. I am not speaking of a fully scientific, sociological/anthropological, but an opinion and perspective regardless.
Funny enough, I have just watched an interview with this couple on a brazilian TV channel. On this interview this couple says that they had the chance to be sent else where in the world by the French Consulate but they didn´t want to. Their second choice was to be transfered to places like New York or Paris, but they said a big NO to those options. And what is even funnier is that just recently he has abandoned his position only in order to be able to live in Brazil permanently because they no longer wish to live at another country after having lived in Brazil. I have googled the latest news in English about this couple and I couldn´t find ANYWHERE in English the extremely positive interview they gave about Brazil on this brazilian TV channel , where they state that they have no desire to leave the country at all. They also stated that although France is their home country, Brazil has become their passion over the years, and he has even left his career in order to be able to stay in this awesome country which is Brazil. Can anyone explain that, please? The latest news about this couple do NOT match to this article AT ALL. Could anyone please let me know where I can find THE REAL news about them in ENGLISH?
Hi there Maria!!
Thanks for your comment, but tell me something…Could it be possible that overall she loves Brazil but still has to be honest enough to speak about the racial reality? For example, if I were to say I LOVE Chicago but I hate the winter in that city it’s not a contradiction. It simply says hat there are many more things I like but it still doesn’t eliminate something that I DON’T like.
Just my two cents…
Yes Brazil is very racist country!!!!! But what I suggest to this Lady to keep their hair as it should be and not trying to straighten up her hair. I just believe that they decided to stay in Brazil and not returning in their adorable rich lovely country because here they can be seeing as celebrity, rich and important whereas in France they will be seeing as only the mixed low race couple. So it is better being in a racist country called Brazil and be a celebrity e feel important.