Note from BW of Brazil: The post below speaks volumes about growing up in a society that believes itself to be free of racism and where the question of race is thought not to be a problem. The truth is the exact opposite and much worse because many people continue to deny it. In a society that concluded toward the end of the 19th century that it wanted to be white and actually set out on a course to do so, the adoration of whiteness and the racist face of miscegenation can and has had devastating psychological effects on those in the population who are clearly not white or not quite white. Only an open, honest conversation about the denigration of blackness and the desire to take actions to eliminate the daily assault on the psyches of those labeled as “other” can eventually lead to a healing process. Until then, we will continue to hear stories such as these. But sisters, please continue to tell your stories because they need to be heard.
by Thaís Vieira for Blogueiras Negras
When I was 13 years old, I went to the general clinic for a routine checkup. I was wearing a school uniform and braids; all happy because I had learned to do braids that day – I entered the room with my mother (who is also black). The doctor was white and as soon as I went in he measured me from head to toe. He examined me and everything else. And before I left the room, he gave me a message:
“How do you leave the house like this, with this hair, with these badly done braids, you didn’t put on lipstick, you don’t wear earrings? Girls your age are not like this, they dress well, they’re better. How will get a boyfriend like this?”
After hearing all of this I couldn’t say anything else, my mother agreed with everything the doctor was saying (1), which made me sadder. When I got home, I cried. On the day that I was feeling pretty that doctor devastated me with all those words.
Besides him telling what to do about my appearance, he was comparing me with girls of my age, from the school, but these girls didn’t wear braids, didn’t have kinky/curly hair, these girls were not NEGRAS (BLACK). As a child my beauty was always compared to that of a white girl. On the lists of the most beautiful girls in the classroom my name was not even there. When the aunts of the kindergarten combed my hair, I only heard comments like cabelo duro (hard hair), cabelo ruim (bad hair). In the jokes someone always nicknamed me MACACA (MONKEY) or called my father ORANGUTAN.
And it was in this way that I grew up without any self-esteem. How many times did my mother straighten my hair to see if things had gotten better? How many times did I think of myself as the ugliest girl? And how many times did I cry for not to being the standard of the beautiful girl that boys wanted so much, that coincidentally was white with straight hair?
Now I realize at 16 years old that after that racist doctor said all of those things that he knows nothing about self-esteem. Given all the difficulties we black women have to face, accepting ourselves as we are, liking ourselves is an important issue, it is self-esteem. I am proud to be black, to have cabelo duro (hard hair) and keeping on the way that I want.
And black women: do not let racism and sexism shake you up; we are beautiful, we are black. And we should be proud of that.
Thaís Vieira Costa is 16 years old, a student and black militant.
Source: Blogueiras Negras
1. This is also a serious problem when the parents of the oppressed pass on their own ideas that are shaped by the dominant society and thus assure the maintenance of self-oppression of the group. See here for another example.