Note from BW of Brazil: In numerous previous posts on this blog, many writers and I have discussed this question of “the place” of the black Brazilian. And what I mean by ‘place’ is the conceived position, location, job and image of black people in the Brazilian racial hierarchy. Black Brazilians are ALWAYS expected to occupy the lowest positions in this hierarchy because it is accepted as “natural” that white/whiter Brazilians are supposed to occupy the superior positions. They are always expected to be the lawyer, doctor, judge, CEO, president, businessman/woman, while black people are expected to be “the help“: the maid, the cleaning lady, the doorman, the chauffeur, the street sweeper, etc. While whites are expected to live in the high rise apartments and big houses in middle-upper class neighborhoods, blacks are expected to live in the favelas, slums, and shacks.
As such, when society encounters black people who don’t fall into these officially established places and positions, the society doesn’t know how to deal with this. We see this all the time in reactions that people have when they see black people driving expensive cars, living in nice homes, attending top universities or being VIPs at their jobs. It explains why a black lawyer would be barred from entering a nightclub, why a legal advisor could be mistaken for a prostitute, why a dentist would be mistaken for a nanny, or why a journalist would be mistaken for a makeup artist. These type of black people have escaped “the place” that Brazilian society reserves for them and having earned such success, more black Brazilians are displaying an air of self-confidence that they have never been expected to have. Historically, blacks are supposed to know “their place” in Brazilian society and carry themselves accordingly. So you can imagine the shock that people feel when they meet black people who succeed and refuse to lower their heads and maintain positions of subordination. It’s a very common situation these days…Like the one below.
What is it to be a “conceited black woman?”
A few days ago, a person I shall call “x” person turned to me in a conversation and said that I was a nega muito metida (very conceited black woman). Of course, the person said this smiling, as a compliment, but then I made a point of knowing why. The person told me that I was metida because I was educated, intelligent, very clear on some issues, quite independent in others and ended by saying that she was not accustomed to seeing women like this.
Again, I wondered if she was not used to seeing women like that or black women like that. Realizing that I was serious and clearly bothered by the “compliment”, the person answered me, choking on her words, that it was amazing (yes, she used that word!) seeing a woman like me, so young (but in truth it wasn’t really the adjective she wanted to use), frequenting such cool places, being so intelligent, independent and enlightened. I kept looking at the person and she, very uncomfortable, tried to change the subject and seems to have given thanks to God when an acquaintance came up to us before I questioned her again.
The person may not have noticed clearly why I was bothered by the “compliment” she paid, but this all makes me think a lot about the space that black women occupy in society.
For a long time in my life I found myself completely inferior to all the other women around me. I felt that my intelligence was not enough, that my clothes were never good, that I didn’t belong in the places I frequented and diminished by my color in places in which it’s not so present (even diminished).
After deeply addressing these issues, I began to give myself the value that I deserve and always deserved. And then I became the nega metida. The nega metida who frequents nice places, writes, works with things that they think are incredible, who travels, speaks a foreign language, takes pictures of herself and put them on social networks, solves her own things, speaks well, is sympathetic … In short, everything that another woman could also be, but, if she is black, she’ll be called a nega metida because of it.
I think people are astonished to see black women who value themselves and their deeds because that is not the social role that is expected of them. When a black woman reaches the top, a lot of people see it as an “invasion,” not a deed that deserves praise (and no, saying that she is a nega metida is not a compliment).
These days here in BH (Belo Horizonte, capital city of the state of Minas Gerais), a black woman was stopped in the street by another woman who asked if she did cleaning services. The black woman readily replied that, no, she was working on her master’s. Would she be stopped, out of nowhere, while walking, if she were branca (white)? It reminded me of when person “x” asked me a while ago what I was doing with my life. I said I was a journalist and she said: wow, how different, I never imagined it, I thought you worked in one of those little shops here in the neighborhood.
Remembering that NO profession should be overlooked, regardless of what it is, my question here is: why is a mulher negra (black woman) approached by a stranger in the middle of the street to do cleaning work or cause astonishment when she says that she is a journalist?
Do an exercise: look at the places you go to, at work or at your friend network. How many black women are there? Speaking for myself (and recognizing my privileges), I see very few pessoas negras (black people) among my friends, at my leisure, and at my job. I’m always an exception. When I go to an event, for example, I’m a minority. At parties too. Just like at some bars and restaurants.
And when you are a minority in a place where only the majority have access, you cause astonishment when consuming the same as other non-black people are as well. So, for all this, a lot of people find me to be nega metida – and whenever they say that, debauchery almost comes to life in words. Again: it is not a compliment.
I’m not going to stop extolling my accomplishments, myself, nor attending the places I like because they think that there is not the place for me. If you say that I am not the standard of that place, what I really want is to occupy more and more space for people to understand that I am not a negra metida, but a woman like any other and that will not be intimidated by a social standard that they created for me.
And, yes, we need to find ourselves. You need to be proud of everything you’ve achieved, of what you do, and of what you’re still going to achieve. Because only then will we show other black women that they can be what they want, value their own beauty, show it to the world and occupy spaces that they think are not theirs – but they are, oh yes they are!
As the educator Dr. Azoilda Loretto said in this post here that I read in Geledés, “the greatest revolutionary act that a black woman can do is take care of herself”. We will do this. With great pride. Thinking of yourself as great until others understand that it’s not amazing when we occupy places that they think weren’t meant for us.
Source: Hey Cute
That first picture of the three black sistas… they are gorgeous!