“In Brazil it’s normal to be racist, abnormal is to fight against it”

no brasil c3a9 normal ser racista anormal c3a9 lutar contra isso 31
no brasil c3a9 normal ser racista anormal c3a9 lutar contra isso 31

'No Brasil é normal ser racista, anormal é lutar contra isso' (3)

Note from BW of Brazil: It’s something we’ve pointed out in a number of previous posts here on the blog. There is nothing new about racism in Brazil; but what IS new is resistance, push back and the will to reject this dehumanizing behavior. It could be argued that racism in the country that would come to be known as Brazil started with the Portuguese colonizing the land, decimating the indigenous population and enslaving millions of Africans (more than any other country in the west) to construct the country under a situation of bondage. 

To be honest here, neither racism nor resistance against are new. Numerous documents and texts attest to various slave revolts and other forms of resistance during the slavery era. We also know that organized resistance against racism in the form of black social organizations have existed in the form of black brotherhoods, Afro-Brazilian religions, samba and capoeira. In the 1930s, we had the Frente Negra Brasileira, in the 1940s we had the Teatro Experimental Negro and in the 1970s we had numerous organization coming together under the umbrella conglomerate of the Movimento Negro Unificado. But these organizations were generally reserved to small numbers of Afro-Brazilians.

What one notes today is that black consciousness and resistance is becoming more widespread among the general population as Afro-Brazilians are utilizing various mechanisms in the consciousness-raising of the people and rejecting the discourse of Brazilian culture that dismisses accusations of racism while simultaneously maintaining it as the status quo. This consciousness leads to activists taking their issues to classrooms of top universities, calling out companies for lack of representation, and confronting residents who support the killing of black youth. Now this is not to say that this activism represents the militancy of the vast majority of black Brazilians. The truth is that even today, there are millions of black people in Brazil who, when confronted with racism, shed tears, pretend it wasn’t racism, find fault in themselves or simply forgive the ignorance of others. But it can be argued that there are far more who ARE willing to stand up and say “enough” than there were just a few decades ago. 

Below, Stephanie Ribeiro puts a personal perspective on what this means…

 “In Brazil it’s normal to be racist, abnormal is fighting against it”

By Stephanie Ribeiro

'No Brasil é normal ser racista, anormal é lutar contra isso'
Stephanie Ribeiro

For a long time I didn’t have the courage to face myself in a mirror, because I believed that I was ugly, incompetent, short of others. I grew up hearing that I was a monkey, ugly, disgusting, preta fedida (stinking black), this gets into your structure, marks you and never comes out. Racism is an institutionalized and collective social problem, it’s not an individual matter. We live in a racist structure where the individual who holds the privilege or the discourse of branquitude (whiteness) is not ashamed to be racist, faces himself every day and think it’s a matter of opinion, taste, a joke. This is what the documentary Espelho do Racismo (Mirror of Racism) of the NGO Criola wants to expose.

Espelhos do racism
‘Espelho do Racismo’ documentary

It’s not only the billboards and phrases said on the internet. It’s becoming a fact that what you do/say on social networks, is not only on social networks. Racism impacts beyond the comments, it hurts, it wounds, it marks the narrative of black persons, because we are dealing with this every day. There is no way out, there is no alternative and there is not even an apology to end this pain. When they offended Maju, really they offended all of us. Just like when they killed Cláudia, Amarildo, Luana and Ítalo, who died at 10 years old; they killed a little of us too.

This is how racism works, it is everyday and wounds blacks of different ages, genders, social classes. It  molds itself and can be that “hint” from your colleague: “Alisa esse cabelo” (straighten that hair). It camouflages itself when it’s just that gesture of holding the purse a little stronger when a young black passes in the street. It constructs relationships or not, when we understand that black women are good in bed and only that.

Racism it’s from the genocide of the black population proved by numbers, to the absence of black shades in makeup. So I agree, when a black person is attacked, we all are. However we react to it differently. There are people who forgive, there are people who pretend that it didn’t happen, there are people who get depressed.

I think we have to respect the subjectivity of black subjects, I don’t know if I would forgive everything that they’ve already done to me, I only know how it hurts. As I understand the mother smearing her son’s blood on her face will not want to forgive the genocidal state that kills blacks every 23 minutes. But there are those who forgive and we have to respect this, there are those who fight in a combative way and those who don’t, there are those who resist in the streets and those who don’t. Understanding these individuals is important to combat the idea of what it is to be black and how we act.

The documentary is also about this, I don’t think the forgiveness of the perpetrator is the main focus. I think the narrative is to show that racism is rooted in our social structure and we need to talk about it, the ugly word we insist on denying, the gesture that we only attribute to the other. So one of the focuses is to expose the aggressor. I understand that many say that there was no exposure, but I think it’s a pleasant surprise to have near your home a billboard with a racist phrase you said, this inconvenience, the idea of forcing the person to deal with what he/she says, I think it’s incredible.

We black people still have a much difficulty in acting, because the law is flawed and includes acts like these as injury and because they lack the resources. I am very happy that the ONG Criola have come out of networks and made real its indignation of why we still accept that racism is naturalized believing that the problem is black people and not the racist, just changing this logic we make it so that the structures don’t remain intact.

Source: M de Mulher

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Thank you for your willingness to speak out on a subject that many people think of as being simply an American problem. It’s a problem for all people of color. We’re looked at and treated differently, no matter where we are. You are far from “ugly”, you are black, a woman of color, and you’re beautiful.

    • Samuel: It’s very simple to say something like “in brazil racism is illegal”. But so what…There are many problems with this.

      1) It doesn’t stop racist sentiments even when people don’t actually say them.

      2) As racist insults happen EVERYDAY in Brazil, it also doesn’t deter people from actually saying such things.

      3) The law has loopholes in which insults can be interpreted. If someone sues someone for a racial insult, the judge can declare the insult just a “racial injury” of which the penalty is not as hard as when it is judged as racism.

      4) Many cases of racism actually get “archived” in court records and nothing happens.

      A few years ago, a black Brazilian man
      tweeted to TV host Danilo Gentilli that he was tired of his racist jokes on TV. Gentilli offered him bananas to forget the whole thing. The judge saw no problem with the comment and the case went away.

      This happens all the time. As such, simply having a law outlawing racism when it’s difficult to enforce this law actually means very little. Racism and racial insults happen all over the country, everyday. At work, in banks, in restaurants, in schools. So what does the law do about this? There are cases on this blog showing that when black children experience racism or racist insults, teachers usually DO NOTHING ABOUT IT! In one case I remember, the school actually made the girl who was a victim apologize to those who were harassing her!

      So, racism is illegal in Brazil. And? It doesn’t change anything. So what’s your point?

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