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%