Note from BW of Brazil: It happens every now and then when a subject will come up and a white colleague will casually state that nowadays, in the view of black people, “everything is racism”, even when it clearly isn’t. I’ll hear this type of opinion when I occasionally listen to a YouTube video or blog radio program in which the white host ends up discussing their views on racism even when it wasn’t the topic of the program. The hosts of these programs will invariably end up saying something to the effect of, “If you people don’t like it here, why don’t go back to Africa?” The obvious reference is that, the state of Africa is so terrible that you should appreciate where you live. But I always wonder, why is it that these people never discuss Africa before Europeans arrived? Why is it that they never consider how much Europe and its descendants have stolen from the continent in order amass their staggering fortunes all the while subjugating the people of Africa? I would say, put everything you ever stole from the continent and solemnly swear to never return and Africa would perhaps seem more like a viable option for its descendants around the world. I won’t go to far into this because that’s a longer conversation, but going back to the first sentence, it is often mind-blowing on so white people, and even black people, fail to realize the subtle and blatant ways that racism manifests on a daily basis. Fortunately, today in Brazil, more and more of Africa’s descendants are starting to understand that the “r” word goes MUCH further than someone calling you a monkey. Let the awakening continue…
WHERE RACISM HIDES
By Juliana Gonçalves
For a long time, I couldn’t see when I was facing a racist act. Really because a fog prevented me from seeing that I was in fact black. Even knowing that I wasn’t white – a common confusion in a Brazil of colorism. But I have learned that it is not only when someone delimits what is or is not a coisa de preto (black thing) that racism happens.
I took some good buckets of cold water in the middle of my process of understanding myself as a mulher negra (black woman). With them, came the perception that racism was always present in my life: at home, at school, in dance class or between friends. It was always there.
It is so rooted in the structure of society that many people don’t realize their racist attitudes. And many, like me, don’t realize when they are being victimized. Even the most progressive reproduce stereotypes and contribute to the perpetuation of racism, even in jokes and compliments.
It took me a while to realize that “having been lucky” to not to have been born with my father’s “cabelo ruim” (bad hair) was not an advantage. Or that being “praised” for my “exotic beauty” of “morena cor de jambo” was no honor. Or that having a “quadril de boa parideira” (hips of a fertile woman) was not lucky at all. Incidentally, none of this prevented me from not being invited to the private white school party where I was a student, being monitored by security personnel when I entered a store, or not being tended to in a restaurant (yes, it happened).
Situations are always happening and repeating themselves. E sim, é só porque sou preta (And yes, it’s just because I’m black). This year, over a period of a week, I found myself in three situations where racism came in subtly, ready to go unnoticed, but it was there. I was stirring up the feeling of disdain and analyzing the reason of each thing.
At the hospital
My late white grandfather, who affectionately called me a pretão (big black) – to the madness of grandma who always reminded him that I was really moreninha (not so black, but really brown) – had to be hospitalized. He had to go through a certain procedure where he needed a chaperone. I, having already worked in the area of health and emergency, offered myself. I stepped into the room, pushing the wheelchair, and my white uncles waited in the hallway. In the middle of the service they asked me if I had been caring for him for some time, because by the affinity he seemed to like me a lot.
I said that I was his granddaughter. The nurse apologized ashamedly.
In the store
I was in a store in the South Zone of Rio that gave me that glance when a somewhat harsh lady asks me about a product. I was mistaken for one of the clerks. A classic. No, my clothes did not look like the store uniform. No, I didn’t remember any of the place’s employees (including that they were all white). Simply, I was the “darkest” one in the place.
This situation has happened so many times that I already have a ready answer. Every time I felt agonized. I just didn’t know why. But now I understand that it is because racism is embedded in this innocent act of confusion. Apparently, there is a rule that says that a black person in a shop is either an assailant or employee. We can’t have purchasing power and we must always be in the position of someone that serves.
“You don’t have the face”
I took a Uber in the Baixada Fluminense (region of Rio) towards the South Zone. A distance that can make for a long conversation with the driver. I say that I am on my way to work and he, we know well why, deduced that I was a maid and had a wonderful boss to pay for an Uber for me – he said that he picked up a housekeeper who took the same route. So I decide to say that I am a journalist – I wanted to really cause tension – and here comes the phrase: “Você não tem cara (You don’t have the face). You don’t look like one”.
The driver, also black, was shocked by the information. For him, this type of profession is not what is expected of a black person, especially one from the Baixada. I didn’t tell him that this thought was a reflection of structural racism, but I was forced to make a rather motivational speech by saying that it was indeed possible.
He ended the trip by saying that I was very hardworking.
Some time ago, I couldn’t see what was wrong in these cases. Today, I know they happen because they expect less from blacks. O entendimento do que é ser negro (The understanding of what it is to be black) goes through the recognition of racism and, consequently, of the situations in which it occurs. I repeat that we need to point out every racist attitude. We need to stop denying racism.
Source: The Intecept