Note from BBT: It’s a question that more and more black Brazilians are asking themselves. O amor preto cura?, meaning, does black love heal? It’s a legitimate question. In reality, black Brazilians have never really had a time in their history when they looked at each as women and men and placed importance on black couples and black families. Brazil has always promoted an idea that black people should aspire to enter relationships with white partners, mainly in order to lighten Brazil’s population by having skin with lighter skin and more European features.
But another factor in Brazilian style white supremacy is the creation of an atmosphere in which millions of black Brazilians seek in white partners a sort of validation of their very humanity. A validation of self-worth and value. A seal of approval that represents the idea that they are equal to the white population because of the fact that they have a white partner at their sides.
Not my words and opinions. After having read so much about how Brazil being a racially harmonious country partly because of so many couples that get together across color lines, in the age of social networks and blogs, many black Brazilians began to expose the scars of growing up in mixed families in which that still make racist jokes against its family members in which their attributes of blackness were simply undeniable.
These same people have discussed how within their own families, they were taught to pursue white partners because two black people together was simply no good, it wouldn’t advance the family appearance and they probably would go nowhere in life. It is because of these and numerous other reasons that placed white people at the top of the desired relationship partner hierarchy that it is so exciting to see so many black Brazilians discussing the need to construct relationships with people who look like them.
In Brazil, this is unheard of. In general, within the society, people often think, ‘why would you go out with a black person when a more desirable white partner is available?’ It’s one of the most striking attitudes and markers of racism in Brazil.
I often wonder to myself how it is that so many black Brazilians speak so boldly against racism but still go home to white partners. But that’s just me. A black American man who has himself dated interracially. Before I started understanding the history of conflict, domination and exploitation between white-skinned people and black/brown-skinned people, I didn’t have a problem dating blonds and brunettes.
My own view on this gradually changed as I not only explored black history but also came to understand that most of the white girls/women that I dated back in the day didn’t really get the race issue, had no connection to it nor a desire to understand it. Some of those girls/women adored elements of black culture and had an attraction to black men, even I was the first one they ever desired.
At a certain point in my life, I decided I would no longer date, marry or have children with non-black women. There were several reasons and experiences that led me to that decision. I remember one girl that once asked me what rapper Tupac Shakur meant in his song “Words of Wisdom” when he said the words “Ameri-K-K-K”.
I remember once asking another young white woman what it was the thought of the infamous O.J. Simpson verdict that showed how deeply divisions on race still ran in American society. After asking her three times what she thought and watching shrug her shoulders and give me an answer of “I don’t know”, I just wondered how she couldn’t have an opinion on perhaps the biggest court case in American history.
I later concluded that either she really didn’t have an opinion (I doubt that) or she just didn’t want to debate a controversial topic with a black man of whom she was interested in at the time. It’s funny, a colleague of mine later told me that this same white girl had openly stated that she would never date a black man, making a face of disgust when someone simply asked if she ever would.
From that point on I never had a desire to date non-black women. As racially polarized as the world continues to be and consistently seeing black people being murdered in the streets by police agents, coming home and seeing a woman that looks like the daughter of someone who could savagely kill me simply due to my blackness is simply not a feeling I want to have to deal with.
Of course, I know that people will continue to date, marry and have children across racial lines and that is an individual choice just like any other. But I see it as a healthy development that black Brazilians are even contemplating forming long-term bonds with other black people. For me, it is a step toward questioning the long unchallenged racial hierarchy that has long existed in Brazil. If one honestly sees everyone as being equal, why wouldn’t a person consider someone who looks like them as being just as worthy of their love of a person with fair skin and straight hair?
Does black love heal? I guess that’s a matter of opinion. But to even answer the question, first there needs be black couples who genuinely choose each other out of desire, love, and an understanding what being black means and not because they didn’t manage to attract the attention of a potential white partner. Let’s see how others respond to this question.
Black love: the impact of black genocide on love stories
What are the impacts of racism and genocide on the black population in love relationships? We interviewed women and a man who are dating or marrying black men and made an invitation to reflect on the fears and powers of being together. O amor preto cura? (Does black love heal?)
By Semayat S. Oliveira
My legs were on his while we spent a Saturday in the quarantine on the couch. Suddenly, he said to me, “Wow! The police killed a boy named David Nascimento dos Santos near my neighborhood, in Butantã”. My boyfriend’s name is also David Nascimento dos Santos. “If my mother read this news, she would be desperate,” she continued.
David, a 23-year-old young man from São Paulo who worked as a street vendor and dreamed of becoming a singer, was approached by Military Police on April 24. In shorts and sweats, he left around 7:30 pm to get a delivery for himself and Isabele Vieira, his girlfriend, but he didn’t come back.
Since then, other stories of deaths of black men have been news in Brazil. The numbers indicate: death is much closer to black bodies than to white ones.
According to the Brazilian Yearbook of Public Security 2019, in 2018, 6,220 people died in Brazil as a result of police interventions. Of this total, 99.3% are men and 75.4% are black (between pretos/blacks and pardos/browns).
Black women, the main victims of femicide, with 61% of cases in 2018, are also affected by police lethality. An analysis by the Instituto Patrícia Galvão from data collected by the Brazilian Public Security Forum in the years 2005 to 2015, indicated that 75 deaths of women were registered in police actions. Of these, 52% were identified as black.
In the LGBTQI + community, state and social violence is also high. The Dossier on Murders and Violence Against Trans Brazilian People (ANTRA) indicates that, in 2019, 124 Trans people were killed. Of the total, 121 were transvestites and transsexual women and 3 trans men. Of these, 82% were identified as black.
Racism crosses over love
“Anti-racism” seems to have become an increasingly popular term and the debate has taken over networks in recent weeks. But this discussion is recurrent among black families and people.
Speaking of romance, racism invades the couples’ everyday afternoons, changes the agenda at dinner parties, paralyzes nights and causes cries and silences in everyday life.
This agenda was born when I wrote to David, my boyfriend, and asked him to avoid that his few outings during the pandemic were at night. Reports of black youths being approached by police officers for wearing a mask, for example, have become increasingly frequent.
The intellectual and writer bell hooks has a vast production that places love as a fundamental element in the political dispute and in the survival of the black community. This concept is broad, goes beyond the romantic sense and considers relationships between mother, father and child, for example. But it also applies to couples.
In the book Tudo sobre o amor (2000), one of the chapters has the following title: Loss: loving in life and death. Among so many things, she talks about how the culture of domination imposes a constant imminence of death for the black population.
In many of her elaborations, which can be easily found on the internet, bell hooks defend in different ways that the black population needs to fight “the lack of love”. Affective relationships play an important role in overcoming the violence imposed by racist societies.
“Many blacks, and especially black women, have become accustomed to not being loved and to protect themselves from the pain that this causes, acting as if only white people or other naive people expected to receive love”, writes in Vivendo de Amor (1994) ). hooks closes the text by stating that “when we know love, when we love, it is possible to see the past with different eyes; it is possible to transform the present and dream the future. That is the power of love. Love heals”.
O amor preto cura? (Does black love heal?)
For this reason, on Dia dos Namorados (Brazil’s Valentine’s Day), boyfriends, girlfriends, the Us, women from the periphery proposes a reflection on what the impacts of racism and genocide of the black population on love relationships are.
With a focus on the risks suffered in the face of state violence, we interviewed women and a man who are dating or marrying black men and made an invitation to reflect on the fears and powers of being together.
The expression “Amor Preto (Black Love) is widely used by couples made up of black people. So, from here, you will know different and, at the same time, similar stories. And at the end of each experience, each participant answers this question: Does black love heal?
Check out the reports!
Ana Paula Xongani and Rogério Ba-Senga: We can’t not go home
Together for over 10 years, the couple met while Rogério was studying in a higher education institution in Brazil
Ana Paula Xongani has a degree in interior design, is a TV host and one of the main black influencers in the country. In her personal life, she’s been in a marriage of more than 10 years with Rogério Ba-Senga, a journalist and documentary filmmaker who left his native country, Mozambique, to graduate in Brazil. That was how they ended up getting to know each other and, to this day, live on the east side of the São Paulo capital. Together, they are Ayoluwa’s mother and father.
“My first experience of love for a black man was in relation to my brother. I experienced my mother’s concern and that remained with me. ‘Take your ID. He doesn’t wear a hood. Do you have your document (ID)? Do you have money? You will not go around without money because if you need it, nobody will give it to you to take the subway’, were some of her comments to him.
So, all of this was already in me and resumed strongly when I married Rogério and I realized that there was a weakness of him being on the street. With an aggravating factor that he wasn’t born in Brazil, he didn’t live his childhood here. So it took him a longer time to understand the risks he was taking. This creates a second insecurity.
There have been situations that have been striking for me. Once there was a woman experiencing violence in a car, it was at dawn. Rogério wanted to protect that woman and I was afraid that he would hit the car window and be judged as a thief or as a violent person, of the white man fighting with him or this white woman calling the police.
And I, as a black woman, what did I do? I said to him: ‘go home and I’ll talk to her’. And then, I found myself protecting a black man and a white woman. I wanted to get him out of the picture. And for many people, especially when we talk about white women, this is not understandable. Our remnant of machismo says that the man protects.
But black women protect their black companions. And we usually protect and are not protected.
And you know something that’s really crazy? I always said to Rogério: come home early. And when he leaves, I have a different sleep, much more alert. And reading it for a long time, as much as reading society, is that it means jealousy, which is a perception of machismo. I would love it if it was just jealousy, but first there’s the fear.
The fact that we had a daughter also changed a lot. Having a child is a renewal of the sensations of racism, I seem to be watching myself grow again. The fact that Ayo is a girl takes some of the fear away. If I were a boy, maybe it would be stronger. But Rogério and I started to protect ourselves a lot more.
We can’t not go home. I won’t leave my daughter alone in the world. Nor Rogério. So we make programs that protect us.
O amor preto cura? (Does black love heal?)
I can say yes, it heals. But not all wounds. There is a job that is individual and the black man cannot cure certain things because he is a man. So, there are things that only a black friend, another black woman, can cure me of. Now, being with someone who understands the pain of racism is much more comforting”.
Nelson Pereira and Deivid Borges: gay love
Together for 5 years, both are passionate about traveling and created the Cheguey platform
Credit: Arquivo pessoal
Nelson Pereira da Silva Filho, a marketing professional, and his companion, David Borges, professor, are the creators of the Cheguey platform, on Instagram. Baianos (Bahians), residents of the Cabula Seis neighborhood and have been together for five years. Both are passionate about the Northeast and tend to travel a lot through this part of Brazil. For this reason, they decided to map the Northeast tourist attractions with the LGBTQI + demographic.
“I was thinking, when you (myself, the reporter) said that you were concerned about your boyfriend because of the genocide and the fact that he was a black man, being Cis (gender identity of the individual with his hormonal and genital configuration of birth), everything you felt, I feel double. Because in addition to being black, we are black and gay.
In a society like Brazil, it is very difficult to be black, to be gay and, in my case, I am also a fat man. So I feel the prejudice of all these minorities in me. And it is very difficult, but I’m not a black man with pele tão retinta (such dark skin). My husband is. And I have never directly suffered from racism. I want to say that without a doubt I suffered racism, but there is not one episode that has bothered me a lot, personally.
Being with David, we have suffered together. In stores and in situations where I have been with him and I am always very uncomfortable. But we resist, we struggle a lot. We also suffer from the hypersexualization of our bodies. The black body is always seen as virile, as the gay man who serves to be sexually active in the LGBT world specifically. Being with a person who understands all that you go through and how society sees this, makes it a lot easier.
O amor preto cura? (Does black love heal?)
“I think it is important and necessary, but I don’t know how to answer if it heals. From the height of my 28 years I can’t see myself in an affective relationship with a white person. I think it is very important for black people to relate to each other because they are shared pains and, suddenly, these pains are able to transform and fill one gap or another”.
Juliana Maia Victoriano and Ronilso Pacheco: activism in common
Juliana Maia Victoriano is a lawyer, researcher and master’s student linked to the Research Group “Sexuality, Law and Democracy” through the Federal Fluminense University (UFF), in addition, she is an activist and shares a Christian vision that prioritizes anti-racism and equality in different aspects. Her companion, Ronilso Pacheco, is a theologian, pastor and writer. Like Juliana, he is also an activist. Currently, he is conducting a Master’s research in the Union Theological Seminary program, linked to Columbia University, one of the most respected in the world. Therefore, the two are living in New York together with Olivia, the couple’s newborn daughter.
“The possibility that my husband could be violently approached, confused or hurt for the simple fact of being black is something that terrifies me. Being in New York now, we always have the habit of not going out without a passport. You have to have your passport, because there is the visa, there is the institution to which you are linked,’ I say.
Likewise in Brazil, the question of always having a document and being well dressed, as if that were something that could make the police doubt. They’ll still approach, but perhaps in a less truculent way. And that doesn’t mean much. Here in the US, last week, an FBI guy was approached and his badge was in his pants pocket. And until he got the cops to listen to him, he was abused, quite humiliated, mocked. And when they saw that he was an FBI agent, the treatment changed.
As a black woman, thinking about relationships and affections, the state’s violence certainly crosses. It’s inevitable to think that your husband is going to do something, exercise or work, he is in danger of being approached. And it’s interesting to think about the fact that we are influential people and how we also have bubbles. Our influence takes place within a space of black thought, of black self-criticism, of racial construction, of anti-racist relations and solutions. So we are still very limited.
And it’s essential to think that the state is a domain of branquitude (whiteness). Our influence is not enough that Ronilso isn’t approached. Perhaps, we would be able to publicize this violence that, eventually, is outside of what the law determines. But the approach is going to happen.
Before, I was afraid of Ronilso’s public activity. I fear that the acts and questions of police violence could make him the target of reprisal. When Marielle died, I told him to stop everything. I told him that we published the acts with address and time, everyone knew who he was, but he didn’t know who was at the acts.
O amor preto cura? (Does black love heal?)
It cures. Knowing that love is a political act, a decision, a choice. Amor preto is to value your ancestry and your history. Amor preto is the sharing of values and principles, the communion of an ethical horizon.
Ayeska Candido and Gilmar de Jesus Pereira: for each other
Ayeska Candido Ferreira is a social worker that graduated from PUC-SP (Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo). She acts as a leader in a health institution and, during the pandemic caused by the coronavirus, she performs one of the most essential activities to fight the crisis. Gilmar de Jesus Pereira is a lawyer graduated from Faculdade Zumbi dos Palmares and a does capoeira, which is his passion. Together since college, the union has already completed 10 years. Residents of the São Miguel neighborhood, on the east side of São Paulo, the family grew a few years ago, when they received their daughter Ayan.
“I don’t remember not being afraid of Gilmar coming home late. We have already experienced several police approaches together. When I met Gilmar he was going to college at Zumbi dos Palmares, which is an institution of access to education for the black population, all his friends were black and we saw that it was very difficult for people to stay there, especially in the course of law.
I studied in the morning at PUC and in my class there were only three black students, counting myself. At the beginning of our relationship, he said to me: ‘I was saved by rap, I am a survivor, because my life was very hard’. He got to know and access education and college long after me. I started higher education at 17, he at 22. After having worked in metallurgy and such.
As the numbers show, black women arrive at university earlier because of genocide and violence. The daily life he experienced was much more difficult than mine, for example. And in our relationship, this has always been an issue. Nowadays, we both have university courses, a home of our own. But because of the college I went to, the environment I lived in, my professional career leveraged faster than his.
He is a self-employed professional and this month he has been unemployed for a year and two months. Being a black lawyer in this country is very difficult, especially wearing dreads. We are already not accepted, especially when we impose ourselves as resistance.
We say to each other: ‘it’s one for the other and we will still go very far’. Because most of society doesn’t want that. So we have to want it. When I got pregnant, this came strong, a lot more for me. The first thing I felt when I found out I was pregnant was fear.
I thought: ‘what the hell did we do. We didn’t think about saving this child from everything we’ve ever experienced’. And then he said: ‘she is going to go through all of this, but we went through hard sentences, our parents were unable to give us what we can give Ayan today’.
And what we want is for Ayan to be able to speak, for her to have a voice, for her to give an answer. I don’t want to give her fear, I want to give her power to put herself. So we have to be very careful because I have a black child to raise and she has a role in this society. This is my and Gilmar’s obligation. I cannot fail with Ayan. Our parents made us get here, so I cannot weaken. I have to make her a great woman. It’s a political act to have black children.
At the same time, the fear of loneliness is real. Especially after being a mother, my body has changed and society demands another body. What if this relationship ends? Am I going to be alone? This is also an issue in our relationship. And it’s much easier for me to say this to you who are black and to another sister who is also black than to say this to my partner. I do this exercise here at home today because we have been together for 10 years. This was achieved, it was little by little. But it also depends on us, taking care and looking at each other more”.
O amor preto cura? (Does black love heal?)
It heals, if we position ourselves to heal, because healing is internal. Whether in black love or in another love. The cure is from the inside out. And we need this because we are hurt by things from many years ago, you know? So we need to propose to this cure.
Andressa Castro and Saman Ferreira: loving a trans man
The youngest couple in this story. Andressa Castro, 20, completed high school in 2019 and continues plans for her studies. Saman Ferreira, 22, has a bachelor’s degree in Humanities, majoring in Social Work at the Federal University of Bahia and a writer. Residents of Águas Claras, a mostly black neighborhood in Salvador, they have been together for five months.
“I have a double concern about the fact that Saman is black and is a trans man, he has these two sides of race and gender and that is very worrying. We live in a neighborhood on the periphery here in Salvador and we are, at all times, on the margins and more vulnerable to violence.
I have a constant fear and concern about him, we always take precautions and pay attention to where we are going. Here in our neighborhood the police almost never come, when they come it’s with extreme violence, it’s never tranquil. But the fear that I feel is from society in general.
Saman has always lived in the same neighborhood. People knew him in one way and today they see him in another. We are afraid of the attacks, even verbal. We always hear jokes when we pass on the street, neighbors talking. It’s a concern for people. Physically it never happened, thankfully.
With regard to machismo, in my relationship there is a difference. Because Saman is a trans man, his masculinity is constantly being constructed. And he has experienced things before, so he knows how to speak, how to behave, what to say or not.
O amor preto cura? (Does black love heal?)
No doubt. Saman is my first boyfriend and when we started dating, I saw the difference in an Afro-centric relationship. What is care, he knowing and understanding my experiences and I, his. This relationship that we have about family is also very important. Our families are very similar. Single mother, they live on the outskirts, we have a similar history in relation to this.
Source: Nós: mulheres da periferia
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