“Racism in childhood: the day my mother changed my life” – How a black woman’s consciousness and strength taught her daughter to cope in an anti-black world

Racismo na infância - o dia em que minha mãe mudou minha vida

Note from BW of Brazil:It’s great to know that more and more black parents are having these types of dialogues with their children. There is still a long ways to go but stories such as this one shows that progress has been made. As various studies, dissertations, books, etc. have proven beyond any doubt, Brazil’s particularly potent style of racism not only deceives the victim into believing that it doesn’t exist, but often renders the victim helpless when such an incident does happen. As we’ve seen in the stories of militants such as Frei Davi dos Santos and Jurema Batista, to name but a few, Brazilian society not only successfully indoctrinates blacks to accept that racism is only in their heads, but also that they are in fact not even black. Over the years, numerous stories documented the high incident of black children coming home crying after having being been racially humiliated by classmates only to be given soft messages by their parents such as “we are all equal”, “those people are just ignorant” or “it didn’t happen because you are black”, which often put a bandage on the wound instead of directly dealing with the pain. But as consciousness continues to rise, we will also continue to see stories such as the one below. 

Racism in childhood: the day my mother changed my life!

By M.ª Tatiane Pereira de Souza*

I didn’t choose to be in education by chance, to work in favor of diversity and social and racial equity in school was an intentional choice and policy, carefully educated and instructed by books, but especially by the example and militancy of my mother Maria Abadia Ferreira da Costa.

My greatest motivation among many, was to realize that the school was for me and it is for other black children, a hostile environment that in many instances by means of the students, staff and faculty imposes racism, discrimination and prejudice on thousands of children instructed there, either in the public school and/or private schools.

During my childhood, I went through long and everyday periods of prejudice and discrimination, it put me at a disadvantage, even in times when I got good grades I was at a disadvantage. The teachers made excuses to pejoratively justify “a moreninha que fugia a regra” (the little brown/black girl who escaped the rule), and that by being intelligent had a alma branca (white soul). The various experiences I had in school led me to several questions about my life and why all of this happened.

The following questions always came to head: – “But if people in my class are of the white color and I of the color black, it’s easier for the teacher to see me, why doesn’t the teacher not see me and doesn’t hear me when I talk? Wow, I’m so black in this way and yet this teacher doesn’t see me? Why does she always confuse me with other blacks, we are different, I wear braids, my friend straightens her hair.” I was invisible in the classroom, especially in situations of symbolic violence when they subjected me to invisibility in my own identity and belonging. On the other hand, in many instances they made me visible by the teasing and jokes that sought to disqualify my phenotype, my braided hair, my colored clothes, and my cultural traits that served for jokes of bad taste and rejection.

Until one day I went through a very great humiliation in front of all my classmates. I did an exercise on the board and did it right, but the teacher didn’t believe that I could actually do it, went into my wallet, took out all of my sheets with all the exercises, ripped up my paper and threw it in the trash, arguing that I was wrong in three equation topics and because of this I was not smart enough for mathematics. Detail, the sheet she tore contained 15 equation topics, and I had got only three of the exercises wrong.

I came home in tears and told my mother. At the time I was 12 years old. It was on this day that my mother changed my life, I told her everything that had happened to me during those months in school, explaining that I had not said anything before because I thought I could overcome it, but that I could no longer stand the pain that the situation had caused me in addition to the name calling that I started listening in the van coming back home. After listening, my mother cried with me and said that consciousness is something that we should exercise. Being that it was this way that she exercised her conscience because in two days my mother mobilized family and other mothers of black students who gathered at the school to talk to the director. I remember this passage and got emotional, because in two days my mother had a letter from then childhood judge of São José do Rio Preto, that demanded retraction by the school director and teacher. On that day I was initiated by my mother in the Movimento Negro (black movement) and the movimento de mulheres negras (movement of black women). My biggest lesson was learning that we cannot remain silent when faced with an injustice, I learned this in practice, exercising justice such as the Desmond Tutu phrase: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you choose the side of the oppressor.”

So on that day, the school was forced to give lectures about the culture and history of Africans and their descendants in Brazil and Africa. The request of the mostly black mothers and the demands of the local Movimento Negro were met by obligation, I could see my mother and other mothers talking about the importance of black culture to the country’s development and how our ancestors suffered in this place.

Given this fact is I came to better understand the performances and actions of the Movimento Negro. I have always followed my mother, but didn’t quite understand, after this situation in the classroom I paid attention to what it was to be black, beyond skin color. And at age 15 I started acting politically as a young-black-woman in the sphere of consciousness, reflecting, acting, political positioning and actively participating in social movements: the student youth, black youth, women, black women and black culture movements of which I always involved myself in my militancy. And in these contexts my mother continued to change my life because she always accompanied us in the activities and participated in the discussions. Even today she is active in our lives and teaches us by example of being a woman, a mother and black.

This is my story in my gratitude to a minha Rainha Mãe Bá (my Queen Mother Bá), the awakening of our consciousness, the lessons learned from life, with the oldest in the family, by the education transmitted through faith, by her willingness to teach with love, patience and dedication. I offer this thanks to the women of my family! I dedicate this text to all mothers who let flow the strength of our ancestors! Ubuntu!

* M.ª Tatiane Pereira de Souza is a pedagogue, Master of Education from UFSCar, PhD in Social Sciences from UNESP and contributed to Pragmatismo Político

Source: Pragmatismo Político

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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