Note from BW of Brazil: Brazil is a country that is notorious for denying that it is racist while simultaneously perfecting the practice of creating racial hierachies precisely because of such practices. These discriminatory policies are known very well by the black population that is usually the victim of these exclusionary methods. Talk to any black Brazilian for any amount of time and you’re sure to hear experiences in which they learned that the color of their skin warranted different treatment than their white counterparts.
But nowadays, black Brazilians are finding ways to challenge the job market as well as making their grievances public. This is not to say that the job market has done a 180 turn in how it deals with black people, but the pressure put on numerous industries has led to a clear change in which we see the presence of more black faces and black bodies in places that, in the past, simply didn’t exist.
Another response to a job market that continues to overvalues whiteness is the entrepreneurial spirit of Afro-Brazilians. We see this in the fact that black Brazilians make up more than half the entrepreneurs in the country. Of course, the vast majority of companies are ones in which the entrepreneur him/herself is the company’s only employee. But there are also some true “making lemonade out of lemons” success stories. Below are three of them.
Not even racism stops them: the success of black women entrepreneurs
The labor market still maintains discriminatory hiring standards, but they have circumvented prejudice. Check out three inspiring stories
With information from R7
Black women are 50% more likely to be affected by unemployment. The data is from the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea) and reveals a scenario taken by racial discrimination in Brazil. But if racism closes doors and the labor market consents, black women have been building new ways of entrepreneurship and employment.
This is the case of Luanna Teofilo, 38 years old. With a background in Law, a master’s degree in Linguistics in France and an international career resume were not enough to keep racism at bay. She worked as an executive at an international communications company and was fired after adopting a box braids hairstyle.
The situation ended in court, and the turnaround came in the form of innovation: she created the Painel BAP, a platform for market research aimed at consumers of African descent.
Coupled with the BAP Store, an e-commerce of Afro-oriented products, the panel works with the African concept of ubuntu, which means “sou o que sou pelo que nós somos” (I am what I am because of who we are). “We offer products and services to entrepreneurs of African descent, creating a cycle of prosperity,” says Luanna.
Bruna Inácio, 29, fell into the limbo of unemployment even with extensive experience in store management. During interviews for job openings the “nos” were recurrent, while white women, with less experience than her, were hired. So she gave up looking for a job.
With two young children, the only way out was to clean. She announced the service in a Facebook group and customers started showing up. “I was discovering everyone’s needs. Sometimes they needed an electrician, another, a painter, someone to make carry out lunches,” says Bruna.
Her husband, who already worked with maintenance in general, ended up in the “venture”. When she realized it, Bruna had created FaxinaLar, a cleaning and maintenance company. “My idea was to give practicality to customers and it worked out super well,” she says.
“It was always the same story that I didn’t fit the profile.” – Bruna Inácio
If racism in the job market is evident, in the fashion world it is no different. Regina Ferreira is 30 years old and for a while tried to achieve her modeling career, but to no avail. “I did a booking, presented it to several agencies and they refused because they already had one or two black people on the team,” she says.
“In theory nobody is racist, but in practice is different,” says the model. When she was able to join an agency, she was selected for only one job where she would be a model for hair coloring. “I suffered a corte químico and went to work as a cashier in a supermarket so I didn’t have to go back to this situation,” recalls Regina.
“They refused me because they already had a black woman on the team” – Regina Ferreira
When she saw that being a model would not work, Regina decided to specialize in fashion production and started doing events as an assistant. “When I presented the models, if there were six black and four white, they chose white and only one black,” she says. The way was to reinvent herself and Regina created HUTU Casting, a black modeling agency. “Then there is no excuse when the time to choose comes. I’m doing for them what they didn’t do for me,” she says.
“In theory, no one is racist, but in practice it’s different” – Regina Ferreira
**The corte químico (chemical cut) happens when an extreme aggression to the strands happens, either by straightening in excess or highlights done in the hair weakened by another chemical process, application errors of the products (incompatibility, pause time, excess, force of the straightening, among other things).