Note from BW of Brazil: Racial/black identity is a favorite theme here at BW of Brazil. It is always intriguing to read personal reflections of Brazilian women who come to accept what Irving Goffman called a “spoiled identity” in a country that encourages one not to be black provides insight into the soul of a nation in which the famed myth of racial democracy acts as a mask that covers up the widespread assumed inferiority of the black population. This rejection of blackness plays itself out in a number of ways from the media, to politics to the belief systems of everyday Brazilians, many of which only discover a level of black consciousness after realizing that they have always in fact been surrounded by anti-black sentiments (1). Below we present Regiany’s story.
About colors and conflicts: My skin may be fair, but my soul is BLACK!
First of all, I was never white.
But you will say this to those that always prefer to see in me only a thin nose, a white father, a parda (brown) mother and a very light-skinned sister with straight hair. They spent my whole life trying to convince me that my parda skin, of a light tone, would make me a menina branca (white girl), but I never accepted this.
In school, they called me German, to provoke me, (because) they knew that I hated the idea of being white. From a person with an identity crisis I came to also be called a racist, “that crazy one that hates whites and thinks she’s Eminem,” I heard this from many people, as much inside of the house as in any other place where I was. But for them, very well, they laughed and didn’t take me very serious.
It was very difficult because I didn’t feel comfortable with my skin color, being branca (white), morena (light brown) or parda (brown/mixed) wasn’t part of what I was. I wanted to be preta (black), I wanted to look at myself in the mirror and see my skin darker, because like this I would be pretty as my cousin Sil, or, would be as cool as (rapper) Mano Brown. But, at the same time, I would tie up my hair to hide the volume f my curls, the biggest mark of my black roots.
When I was little I would hear my father reproduce racist comments of the worst taste. This always bothered me a lot because my cousin was negra (black), my best friend was negra and my first boyfriend was negro. And may my father not read this text, because he never knew that I dated that “neguinho” (little black guy) that lived in my house, he only knew about the second boyfriend, because he was “branquinho” (a little white guy).
But also I grew up listening to the Racionais (MCs) (2) – super addicted! (The song) “Negro Drama” for me became an athem, my pleasure was the sing:
“Inacreditável, mas seu filho me imita, no meio de vocês ele é o mais esperto, ginga e fala gíria, gíria não dialeto… seu filho quer ser preto, ah, que ironia.”
“Unbelievable, but you son imitates me, in the middle of you all, he is the cleverest, he’s got style and speaks slang, slang not dialect…your child wants to be black, ah, how ironic.”
I thought: thus is who I am and this is what my father deserves to hear. I found myself.
My father really deserved to hear (that), but I say this to him today in a more subtle way than Mano Brown.
Now, at age 25, I am learning to accept that I don’t have pele preta (black skin), I am a parda. Sometimes I turn red in the sun and my nose is thin, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not negra, this is what society prefers that I believe. It’s easier to embranquecer (whiten) everybody and annul our African roots.
I understood that the light tone of my skin doesn’t determine everything that I feel, believe, defend and doesn’t even hide my history and my family. It would be easier to straighten my hair and accept the label of branca, but now I choose to free my curls and say “I have black blood and how proud I am of this.”
I managed to find my negritude that they denied to me so much mainly when I understood that this went through my choices and being negra was always one of the greatest of them.
I chose to love my cabelo cacheado (curly hair), I chose to admire my African ancestry, I chose to respect the sacred of the terreiro, I chose to be a daughter of Iansã, I chose to support racial quotas, I chose to have a discourse of a black woman that recognizes the historic debt that Brazilian society needs to pay and I chose to be a voice that screams against racism and the genocide of the black population.
And to those that still wish to define me by a color, I offer the color of my soul, because this is indisputably PRETA (BLACK)!
Source: Nós, mulheres da periferia
2.Many Afro-Brazilians who come to accept a black identity speak of the tremendous influence of the hugely successful Hip Hop quartet, the Racionais MCs. Considered the most important, most successful rap group in Brazilian Music history, the group continues strong after more than 25 years.