Note from BW of Brazil: The space of relationships is yet another area where we find the challenges that face the Afro-Brazilian community. It is a topic that has been covered in a number of posts here on the blog. From consistent accusations that black Brazilian men overwhelmingly prefer white women for relationships, to widespread experiences of black woman experiencing low-term solitude and as a result being the majority of single women in Brazil, the fragile existent situation between black men and women is in many ways symbolic of the state of the community as a whole.
In a very personal piece below, Ana Cláudia Silva shares her journey through an admitted adoration of white men to a realization of what being a black woman really means in a racist society, how relations being the races haven’t changed much since the days of slavery and finally a meaningful connection with a man of her own race that helped her to discover a blackness that it seems, in some ways, she was trying to escape. Along the way she touches upon aspects of racism, police treatment of black Brazilians, and an apparent low self-esteem that is symptomatic of living in a society in which everything of value is associated with whiteness.
In a Brazil in which non-white people are taught to overvalue this whiteness from the cradle, one must ask how many people are affected by these feelings expressed by Silva. And how many don’t even perceive it? How many will never free themselves from the mental conditioning of white supremacy? We may never know, but from the numerous realizations, observations and opinions we’ve seen over the years, it wouldn’t be surprising to know how widespread it really is.
By Ana Cláudia Silva
In 24 years I had never thought of maintaining a relacionamento afro centrado (Afro-centered relationship). I have always seen and thought white men were much more attractive and cleaner than black men.
I always said that I liked a pink penis because of the quite disgusting purple of my vagina, among other bad things I spoke and thought. In all my interracial relationships that were for dating or ficadas (casual sex), I always accepted being called moreninha, and at ultimately accepted even be called encardida (dingy), not by my ex, but by a female “friend” of those times who lived more in my house than in her own and interfered in the relationship that already wasn’t good.
The latter was the most abusive. It was where I was most put in my place as black. I’ve always been an intelligent self-taught type, never needed to study to take tests, and I was envied by my ex because of this. He envied much in me and because I am black, always made it clear that I was less than him. It has always been known to me that I should accept the post of cook, housekeeper and sexual object when it had the will (almost never).
He didn’t like to go out with me, didn’t like to do things with me, I don’t know if it was because of racism or just because he was the same shit. When we went go out with this female “friend” everyone thought that she was his wife and I her friend, a little because I was black and the other little thing because I am black. Because, imagine that a branquinho (white guy) like that would be the husband of a neguinha. Even more was that he conversed more with her, who is blonde, than with me.
On one occasion we were on a highway, him and me in the back seat and this “friend” in the front seat with another friend. The highway police pulled the car over, I was wearing a seat belt and to avoid a fine I pulled the seat belt and shifted myself quite a lit doing this. When the cop arrived, he pointed his flashlight straight in my face and asked why I moved so much as the car stopped, I made up an excuse and said my phone was ringing and I was sitting on it. The police simply said, “I could have shot you! How would I imagine what you were doing? You could have a weapon and attack me!”
I looked at the face of my former husband that had no reaction, he didn’t defend me, he said nothing to protect me. I said to police that I wasn’t doing anything and let it go. He barely glanced at my documents, barely looked at the white people in the car. It was all on me. That was a horrible situation, after we left the people made a comment that “it was just because you are black”, and it really was just because I’m black and at the time I wore braids. It was just because I’m black and I could be kidnapping all those white, good citizens in the car.
This episode broke my feelings for him, I always knew he was a fucking coward, but I didn’t know how much. I didn’t know if I would have remained silent if that caveman would have shot me in the face.
A time later it ended. I found myself alone and not knowing where to start new life, but that’s not what I want to emphasize. In my time being single I started again to relate to white man after white man and feeling alone and used as usual.
Until one day when I came to visit São Paulo, I met a black guy. He filled my eyes, we talked a whole night about music and things in life. Things of which I had NEVER spoken to anyone, I felt comfortable to share with him like this out of nowhere.
I returned to Campos do Jordão, we kept in touch, we met, we exchanged photos, stories and started dating. We are still dating today. I must share that in addition to love, our relationship has a lot of respect and understanding. No man understood me like he understands me, no man respected my body as he respects it.
In my Afro centered relationship there is none of this business of my place or his place. We both are likely to suffer from racism, both of us are at risk to be stopped by the police. Not to mention that there need not be any shame of the parts of our bodies that are not rosy, outside of standards. Our bodies are alike and made for the same purpose.
He protects me while and how he can and I do the same, we love and respect each other as black women and black men trying to establish and empower themselves and grow up in a country that still kills blacks for being black.
The big difference in having a Afro centered relationship is that he as a black man as the son of black parents, never depreciated any part of my body, like my dark nipples for example. He never said that my cabelo é duro (hair is hard), including it being he who empowered me to accept my cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair). He helped me construct the empowered woman that I am today. He even introduced me to feminism.
I don’t babo ovo (suck up to) any male as they say around here. I just don’t take away from him or the credit that is due. I don’t take away from him the participation that he’s had in changing my life for the good in such a big way.
Love has no color, but it is often a choice. I choose to be with someone who understands and shares with me the ills of our people.
Note from BW of Brazil: The piece above has been shared through various Afro-Brazilian-oriented social networks and was a topic of much discussion and support. Below is only a small sample of some of the comments (translated into English) made on the theme. At the bottom of the page are the comments in the original Portuguese.
Claudia – I want to know when we will read such a statement coming from a black man. When will it be when a brother have the same courage that this sister had, of publicly assume that in an interracial relationship, the white man (woman), always judges himself/herself as superior to him (her) and that always suffer racism, whether from the partner or from friends and family ??? I will look forward to such a testimony.
Paloma – Beautiful story! How wonderful! I always had Afro centered relationships so I don’t have any difficulty, some friends tell me that I “only like black,” because histories in common complete themselves, common experiences understand each other and power relations are not formed, because we are equal! But once I felt used, by a white man, I felt as if I was in the time of slavery, the slave that was used for sex, I realized this when I saw him get engaged, and his fiancée was white, of the kind that was “Pra casar” (for marrying). It took time for this to sink in, but when it hit me it hurt a lot. Because of this my attraction to black men is so strong, my eyes only find grace in one equal to me, because he (hopefully) will respect me much more, will give me more value, our trajectory will have the same traits. Anyway … (smile emoticon). Cheers! Black Love (heart emoticon)
Husani – 90% OF “BLACK” WOMEN THAT HAD YOUR OLD THINKING, GO THOUGH THAT SAME SITUATION THAT YOU WHITE MEN PUT YOU THROUGH. SOME AGREE, THE MAJORITY PREFER TO SUFFER SILENTELY AND CONTINUE IN ERROR. CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU TWO !!!
Josy – Unfortunately there are many black women living in a white world that need to be humiliated to really see how it is in fact with our historic oppressor, humiliation, death, slavery and pain, not accepting themselves, I’ve dated white once and I saw up come close the racism, he walking among blacks, he was racist, finally today he married a branquinha (white girl), because negras only serve for bed, and for marriage are white women ultimately, I do not trade my race by no other, I always went around with braids, many blacks have to open their eyes and re-learn to love and respect themselves and not accept ever being mocked and humiliated. Peace to everyone!
Francisco – I WOULD LIKE TO ATTACH ANOTHER STATEMENT, IN MY PREVIOUS POST: IT WILL ALWAYS BE LIKE THIS, THE WHITE PART OF THIS TYPE OF RELATIONSHIP, WILL ALWAYS FEEL SUPERIOR IN EVERYTHING, IN THE SUBCONSCIOUS, IN RELATION TO THE BLACK PART, SOCIETY TEACHES THIS, SINCE OUR TIMES AS LITTLE CHILDREN !!!!! THE BLACK PART OF THAT RELATIONSHIP, BELIEVE THEMSELVES TO BE INFERIOR TO THE WHITE PART IN THEIR SUBCONSCIOUS!!!!!
Marluce – And I hardly have related with with black men because they prefer white women … At least the bastards I know!
Daniela – My life (which is still short) was also hard … I was as rejected by black men and white men because of veing black and overweight. When I related with white men, I had this same feeling of being “used” because I only ficava (has casual sexual relations) with men and didn’t date, but after a few weeks of the end, they appeared dating white women, and when I thought it would not happen with a black man I was totally disappointed because it was the same thing … I found myself alone and unloved, at the time I had many black and gay friends and I started going out with women (I always had a certain interest) and saw them as much more sincere, no white woman “used” me nor black woman… However my happiness did not last long and a girl I was totally in love, black, and also overweight broke up with me out of nowhere, she disappeared and did not give me explanations. After a month she was dating a blonde girl with light-colored eyes and when I asked why she ended it she was just “tired of her equal, black and fat, myself is enough!” I was desolate, had no desire for anything. I didn’t want to go out or anything and after nearly three months of what happened my best friend told me that her brother was very alone and we that we were a match, I went to meet him, we talked, laughed … He understood me so well and I did not know that was possible, he went through things very similar to mine and today we are very happy. With love and respect. Because of this don’t generalize any race, there may be whites that understand or at least respect you and give you the love you deserve.
Source: Mulheres Afro-Brasileiras page