Note from BW of Brazil: The question of colorism and classification within African descendant populations has long been an issue throughout the African Diaspora, from the United States to the Dominican Republic to Brazil and Colombia. With whiteness being long upheld within communities of color as the standard of which they even judge themselves, it is rather common to see or hear of incidents in which a darker-skinned person of African descent is verbally insulted by a person who is much light-skinned or even a person who is not much lighter-skinned. Many trace the origins of the ongoing Haiti-Dominican Republic conflict to that of skin color, with Dominicans often seeing themselves as having lighter skin and thus being better than their perceived darker-skinned Haitian neighbors. In the US, although most people use the terms African-American and black interchangeably, the term “black” can be used in different manners depending on how the words is said. When using the term “black” in regular conversation, the term simply refers to all persons of African descent. But when the term is stressed louder or with more stress, as in “BLACK”, it can considered pejorative in that it negatively differentiates persons with skin tones darker that what is considered “acceptable” even within in the black community.
In Brazil, there are two popular terms that can be used to mean black, preto and negro, and even three depending on how the term moreno is used. For activists of the Movimento Negro, while the term preto denotes the actual color black, negr0 is the term used to defined all persons of visible African ancestry regardless of the wide array of phenotypes. For some, the term preto can also define all persons who are part of the black race while others use the term to define only the darkest-skinned of African descendants. The term pardo is a tricky term and like preto and negro, it can depend upon how the term is used and the understanding of the user. For some, pardo simply means brown, or a skin color between black and white. For some it is a term signifying any degree of racial admixture and for others still, it simply means a person of visible African ancestry who displays whatever degree of admixture with another race. The term can also apply to any person of American Indian ancestry in mixture with any other race.
Regardless of how one sees the issue, in the 34 years since the release of sociologist Carlos Hasenbalg’s 1979 groundbreaking work, Discriminação e desigualdades raciais no Brasil (Discrimination and Racial Inequalities in Brazil), hundreds of studies and reports have confirmed that pardos hold no significant socioeconomic advantage over pretos and the disadvantages of both are nearly identical vis-a-vis the white population. But this does not mean that mulatos/pardos necessarily see themselves as part of the black community in a political sense. Various studies have shown this. Iociologist Roger Bastide wrote: “In the United States, the mulato is part of the blacks. Here, the mulato escapes to the caste of color and revolts against the black, it is he, maybe more than the white man, that persists against his brothers.”
The understanding of color-coded terminology is important to grasp in order to understand this recent incident. Moisés Cunha commented on this case a few days ago in his social networking profile and made the following comment:
“Although we are in festive period, I invite my ‘Facebookers’ to watch this video. You laugh to keep from crying. Some people say there is a big problem of “racial” identity in the Dominican Republic, among other countries in Latin America, but when analyzing certain parts of Brazil we are faced with serious, deep and ancient crises of “Cultural Identity” that not even Sir Stuart Hall would be able to understand. The (mis) behavior and biotype of the “deletante” person has generated reactions correlated to xenophobia in some cities in southern Brazil. How do defend people who (mis) behave in this way? It’s simply indefensible.”
See video of incident here (in Portuguese)
Bus cashier accuses passenger of racism in Salvador
Woman confirmed that she insulted bus employee road, but claimed that the collector was rude to her
by R7/Record Bahia
The misunderstanding occurred, according to the passenger, after the collector refused to throw out a plastic cup
The cashier on a bus in Salvador (Bahia) accused a passenger of racism, on Tuesday (24). The victim said he was called “preto, vagabundo, descarado (black, bum, shameless).”
The woman confirmed that she insulted cashier, but claimed that the collector was rude to her. The misunderstanding happened, according to the passenger, after the collector refused to throw out a plastic cup. She also said the bus tried to hit her with an iron bar.
Police were summoned and the other passengers were sent to the Central de Flagrantes at the 1st DT-Barris (Delegacia Territorial or Police Precinct).
Note from BW of Brazil: As the issue of “race” is not always clearly defined in Brazil and there is such a wide array of phenotypes of afrodescendentes (African descendants), perhaps this case would be more accurately defined as “colorism” rather than racism. There are a few reasons for this. First, it cannot be defined how the woman identifies herself. She could see herself as a parda, mulata or mestiça (mixed race) and completely separate from those considered negros or pretos. Or she could be a person who sees herself as parda and belonging to the black race or a light-skinned negra (black woman) who in either case, may see herself as being better or in a different category than the man she insulted. The second question only applies if one considers both the people involved as being black and thus part of the same “race”. That question would be, is it possible for one black person to be racist against another? However you see it, the case is not unique to only Brazil and speaks to the complexities of the concept of “race” and identity in societies in which whiteness continues to be the standard.
Source: R7, Bastide, Roger. As Religiões Africanas no Brasil. São Paulo, Pioneira, 1985