Playing The Victim | “Whining”: Shall We Talk about Privileges?
Note from BW of Brazil: With protests making headlines in recent weeks, the discussion of what has long been labeled white privilege is being more openly debated. I DO find the topic to be extremely necessary. Sometimes I wonder how it is that people can reject the idea doesn’t exist. It’s a pretty simple concept to understand when you really think about it, and it reality, deep thought on the topic isn’t even necessary. Just ask yourself a simple question. If you are white, ask yourself, do you believe there is any possible social situation in which you could be favored over a non-white person?
Really, it can’t be that difficult to see. I mean, do you think neighbors would be uncomfortable enough to call around or call police if you were simply taking pictures of birds with your camera? Do you think people would automatically assume that you must have stolen a high-priced automobile? We see countless examples of this everyday in Brazil. Such a privilege can actually lead to life or death situations.
Yet still, many white people still can’t come to grips with accepting that, one a global level, the world simply favors persons with white skin, straight hair and European features. I still remember many years ago when I attended a lecture by white scholar who was an expert on white privilege and had actually released a book on the topic. At the time, I was majoring in Anthropology at a particular elite university in the state of Michigan. After the speaker finished his lecture and began to accept questions, I was shocked to see that the head of the Anthropology department of the university stood up andgot into a debate with the speaker because he didn’t believe there had been the beneficiary of any privileges in his life due to skin color.
A black colleague of his who was sitting next to me as we watched the lecture and question and answer section together looked at me and said he couldn’t believe his friend, who he had known well over ten years, was actually claiming this. The head of the department was at least 20 years older than me, so I thought like this. Did he think that his father, who was probably about the age of my grandfather, didn’t receive any privileges in life between the 1920s and 1970s, in the time period in which they and we were both born? How was it that the head of the Anthropology department at a prestigious university didn’t get this? I still think of this incident to this day when the topic of white privilege comes up.
As it turns out, there are a lot of white Brazilians who would probably agree with my former professor on this topic. The piece below was written by CNN Brasil journalist Luciana Barreto several months ago.
“Playing the victim”, “the poor thing”, “whining”: shall we talk about privileges?
By Luciana Barreto
This story happened in the early 2000s. An important law firm in Rio contacted PUC university to request the name of a good law student to be hired. The institution chose one of its best students. He promptly presented himself to the office reception desk, delivering an envelope with documents. When he left, he realized that he hadn’t put his cell phone number on his resume. He went back to reception to include the information.
Upon receiving the document back, the student found that the word ‘mulatto’ had been written on top of it. The young man then replaced ‘mulatto’ with ‘negro’, wrote down the telephone number and returned the envelope to the reception desk. And he wasn’t selected! The report of the qualified, recommended young black man, rejected for a job vacancy is in the doctoral thesis “Afrocidadanização”, by Professor Reinaldo Guimarães.
A story that is repeated daily in the Brazilian labor market. In simple exercise, imagine that for such a job, someone less qualified was selected. Imagine then that this someone has another “advantage”: he is not “mulatto”. What is the responsibility of this “non-black” person who was selected? None?
Reporting situations of structural racism is among the many targets of hate speech on social networks. Each outburst comes accompanied by comments with accusations of victimization, such as “mi mi mi” (whining), “victimismo” (playing the victim), “coitadismo” (playing the poor, little thing) and then the idea of meritocracy is evoked.
Meritocracy, as the historian Sidney Chalhoub puts it, “is a myth that serves the eternal reproduction of social and racial inequalities that characterize Brazilian society.” Therefore, recognizing privileges and combating meritocracy should be the homework of anti-racist whites. Because “every white person, whether you like it or not, is a beneficiary of racism. But not every white person is necessarily a signatory of racism and the social contract that it imposes,” says philosopher Sueli Carneiro. The phrase is didactic, direct and indispensable.
Cara gente branca (dear white people), you had no slaves, you did not act in the process, neither did your father nor your grandfather, but you benefit from the racist structure that Brazil maintains. So, if you are not a signer of this contract, stop only to enjoy the privileges it brings you. If you are not racist, you need to be an anti-racist!
Source: Notícia Preta