Note from BW of Brazil: The question and discussion of race, racism and black identity has been at the center of the struggle of Brazil’s Movimento Negro for a number years and continues to move toward center stage as more “pardos” and “mulatos” become “negros” and afrodescendentes”, understanding the necessity of recognizing, accepting and appreciating their African ancestry. But as the struggle takes on a more politicized meaning, inevitably, lines will become drawn between different factions of ideologies. For some, one simply accepting and defining one’s self as negro/negra, or black, symbolizes a great step forward for a nation of “mulatos”, many of whom for centuries have attempted to avoid or escape this mark of the Africa continent in their very existence. For others, this is merely the first step of a long struggle that can’t and won’t stop. For this group, black identity must also lead to political blackness, an understanding of the many faces and facets of racism and white supremacy as well as an allegiance to the black struggle. We saw this difference of ideology in a recent post in which one black woman supported the so-called “we are all monkeys” slogan as a means of addressing racism while another woman saw the “symbolic violence” in accepting a term that has always humiliated the black population.
In today’s post, we see another difference in ideology based a previous article about a recent beauty pageant winner who claimed she had never been victim of racial discrimination and didn’t wave fly any sort of black militancy flag. Although it is true that only the person actually involved can truly know if they had or hadn’t in fact been the victim of racism/racial discrimination, in a Brazil in which racism takes so many different forms against the black population, is it possible that someone has never been the target of a joke in bad taste, a crooked look or derogatory comment connected to race or color? In response, one black activist group from the same southern Brazilian state took issue with the beauty’s views. Members of this same group recently sat down with the dean of a major university to settle a recent racist incident that involved the school’s student body. This group represents a rising militancy among black Brazilians that continues to demand “power for black people.”
The 4P Group talks about the importance of waving the flag of the black cause
The Black 4P Group sent us a counterpoint to the testimony of Elisa Freitas, Miss World Santa Catarina 2014 published in the April issue of TPM magazine.
by Ricardo Wolffenbüttel
“I never had any hassle connected to my color or my social origin in my time for facing the world. I never felt any prejudice. I think I’m so well settled that if there was any prejudice against me, I didn’t realize it. In my opinion, it’s in the head of who interprets it…” Elisa Freitas, Miss Mundo Santa Catarina 2014.
Less than a month before another May 13th, amidst discussions throughout the country on the issue of racial quotas, the reverberations of the declarations of Pelé on racism in soccer – or lack thereof – we are faced with the statement of a black woman, with visibility in the Santa Catarina media, claiming that she has never seen signals of racism throughout her tender 24 years.
Elisa Freitas was the only black woman in the midst of so many women in a beauty contest. The photo of this contest, with all of the women gathered, is the sincerity of the racism depicted in color for whoever wishes to see. Seeing racism up close can sometimes take time, can hurt and unfortunately, can’t happen for several reasons. We want to make clear that it is not in the fault of black men and women, but because of a long and slowly constructed process of destitution from power that our black roots possess. Therefore, this discourse is present in the comments of some of our (own). Understanding that this discourse must be deconstructed, and combated, the Coletivo Negro 4P – Poder Para o Povo Preto (Black Collective 4P – Power For the Black People) has come to the public to demystify and discuss these perspectives so ingrained in our society, which ultimately place blacks as responsible for the process of discrimination that they themselves suffer.
It is urgent that this historically constructed process is analyzed and debated thoroughly between black men and women. It is through the review of our history that will be guaranteed to us the construction of an empowering discourse, of struggle and political consciousness about what it is to be black men and women in Brazilian society.
Establishing oneself politically as black is not a simple process of affirmation but presumes a reflection of its historic condition, a critical process of discriminatory statements that are always present in our society. It requires that we walk from the place that was intended for us, to proceed up to the understanding and writing our own history. When Miss Elisa Freitas says she waves no flags, we even understand what she meant, but it is important to emphasize that waving flags is not necessarily connected to party affiliation but rather political. Debating and positioning oneself on the black question in a country that brings the rancidity of the Myth of Racial Democracy is the minimum you would expect from someone who comes from a humble place, and manages, somehow, to ascend within the social context in which we live. It is necessary to understand, know the history, and see that, since our ancestors arrived in this country, we live in the same way: invisible, alienated, broken, criminalized, disqualified and inferiorized.
“Debating and positioning oneself on the black question in a country that brings the rancidity of the Myth of Racial Democracy is the minimum you would expect from someone who comes from a humble place, and manages, somehow, to ascend within the social context in which we live.”
When Elisa Freitas talks about the children of the community where she lives “…. They see the foot of the hill as another world and are afraid of it,” it is clear that she cannot understand that there is a division between the lines, “those from above and those from below”. And this division is notoriously a form of segregation, if we consider the history of the formation of the favelas (slums).
The community where Elisa Freitas said she was born, as well as many others, come from a social hygienization process of the nineteenth century. A process that delegated to blacks occupation of the hills, displacing them from the lower part of town. This perhaps being the other world that children see more openly than Elisa, because if in her understanding the children have resistance it’s because she feels up close that there is a segregation. However, because of being inserted in this community in itself the Miss should have already been prompted to reflect on the subject, because she herself affirms that she wants to work with children. Therefore, she would have to research and know more profoundly the issue of black children and peripheral areas (of the city).
What is lacking in our representative, in our perception as a movement with a flag, is the understanding of that the word has the power to preserve our culture, our history. And recognizing one’s self as a target of prejudice and is not placing oneself in the place of the victim, but rather it is to show to this oppressive Eurocentric culture that prejudice is structural and must be combated including with public policies, like the example of racial quotas. Yes this is a flag that must be raised, and which, incidentally, is already raised by many black women; our griots taught us and continue educating us in order to perpetuate a memory. We, black women are resistance in our homes, neighborhoods, communities, schools and universities, showing that it is necessary to exalt our roots, enegrecendo (blackening) a history that was told by non- blacks.
“Black men and women don’t appear as the protagonists of the history of this country. So we grow up without being proud of who we, alienated from references”
One of the ways of presenting our demands for discussion is through a prominent place conquered by a black man or woman, making us visible to the eyes of society and showing the younger generations that they should be proud of their race, their color and their origins. What Miss Florianópolis makes us realize is the lamentable lack of black representations in her life, in addition to educational neglect, because we believe that if Africa made itself present in our notebooks, maybe it wouldn’t be necessary to discuss the invisibility of blacks in Brazil. Unfortunately, our history is withheld in textbooks. Black men and women don’t appear as the protagonists of the history of this country. So we grow up without being proud of who we, alienated from references.
It’s lamentable to hear black persons make statements like those of Elisa Freitas. It’s not part of the curriculum project we learn about the history of black heroes and heroines, of black princesses and Princes, of black thinkers and black inventors, even though having many of them around the world, and here in Brazil we can cite as an example: Machado de Assis, Abdias do Nascimento, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Cruz e Sousa, Antonieta de Barros and so on.
It is interesting and amazing for us black women to read a sentence in which Elisa says: “My parents never made me feel this type of isolation, they never placed me as someone excluded from society.” Everyone has, at the minimum, at least a dozen stories of prejudice and isolation suffered since childhood. Stories like Dona Jacira, mother of rapper Emicida – posted in TPM magazine – that hurts to read. But a necessary pain that reminds us why we’re here discussing that that hurts us. Follow this:
“I didn’t know what racism was until I was about 7 years old when I went to school. I wanted very much to put on Vulcabras shoes and a uniform, but it wasn’t what I imagined. It was a charity school run by nuns, and on the first day they started to separate us by color. It was like this that I discovered I was black. On one side there were the children with cabelo ruim (bad hair) and on the other, those with the cabelo bom (good hair). But wait, it was my hair, I didn’t know it was bad! To sum it up it, the black girls were picked on a lot. Really. The nuns gave us baths in violet gentian saying that it was to clean us, because we were dirty. Today I know that it was to hide the marks of the beatings. One day I showed the marks to my mother, who was satisfied with the school. At the time, a lady took me to a room and said that if I told the truth, they would kill me. I was a child of 7 years and believed it. I denied it. When my mother went away, the world ended. They locked me in another room and I don’t know what happened there. I fainted. I woke up in a hospital in Santa Marcelina Hospital where a doctor said I couldn’t have seen a nun who was bad.”
“We want to invite her to come and join forces and participate in our discussions and try, together, to identify there, the blackness that reveals itself to be absent in her statements, because as Miss, we hope she has a political and active stance within the black cause”
We understand that the positioning of Elisa Freitas is more a strategy of not feeling exclusion up close, a process known from many of our other black brothers and sisters. But we believe that a young woman, black, a student and resident of the community, is open to discussion and want to do a dive into the history of her origins. We want to invite her to come and join forces and participate in our discussions and try, together, to identify there, the blackness that reveals itself to be absent in her statements, because as Miss, we hope she has a political and active stance within the black cause. We know, however, that the taking of consciousness is present from the moment we are singled out as different. And it is this moment forward, together, that we can make ourselves stronger. United we must also contextualize and problematize the affirmation that we are a mixed-race country, we are not prejudiced, and therefore live in harmony and with pride of our roots.
And is persevering in the construction of a political consciousness, of a black identity, and in the struggle for social and economic achievement that we reiterate our invite to Miss Florianópolis, Elisa Freitas, to make this reflection and take knowledge of how other young blacks of your city try to deconstruct a Brazil with colonial remnants; to position themselves when they are inquired about their color; to realize how important this self-affirmation is for the construction of Brazilian society. A society that is being planned and guided by debates; within the collectives; within the movimentos negros (black movements) around the country; by the black men and women who are entering universities by quotas and position themselves to think about their condition; by the black mothers and women heads of families who don’t bow the face of discrimination and indifference. Finally, we call you, Elisa Freitas, miss, woman, samba school passista (Carnaval dancer), college student, and all other black women to be part of this history that is ours. This is our flag, this is our struggle!
Visit: Fanpage Black 4P Group
Source: Revista TPM