‘She’s black and has a child so she must be homeless’: Offered spare change, dancer/researcher speaks of racial stereotypes

Researcher/dancer Silvia Alves with her one-year old daughter

Note from BW of Brazil: For many decades, Brazilians themselves as well as people around the world envisioned Brazil as a ‘racial paradise’ where the three primary races have historically mixed and co-existed without any type of racial conflict. But over the past several decades, activists have played a leading role in overturning this false image even as many Brazilians themselves continue to deny the existence of racism, racist views and a racial hierarchy. These racial issues that continue to be present in the heart of the social structure find their origin in a period of about 350 years of slavery in which the racial hierarchy and structure was constructed. In modern times, these images still influence the perception among Brazilian citizens of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, the rich and the poor, the beautiful and the ugly, the powerful and the powerless, etc. Often times the racism that exists throughout the nation is not of the blatant type in which persons are verbally assaulted with racist insults, but rather the subtle forms of prejudice that are still based on beliefs associated with the ideals of ‘place’ and belonging within the social structure. Today’s story is yet another example of these values. 

‘She offered me coins,’ says dancer, a victim of racism in Natal

Dancer and researcher Silvia Alves vented in a social network. She also reports that a bus driver refused to open the door.

Silvia Alves and her 1 year old daughter (Photo: Personal Archive)

“A woman offered me coins for me to buy something. I felt very bad because it was racism and I know that, unfortunately, my daughter will also go through it.” This outburst is from Silvia Alves, a 26-year old dancer and researcher, a victim of racial discrimination in Natal (capital city of Rio Grande do Norte). The account of the case made by the Silvia on her Facebook page has over 44,000 likes and just over 3,000 shares.

Born in (northeastern state of) Pernambuco, raised in Fernando de Noronha and living in Natal for 8 years, Silvia underwent two embarrassing situations last Thursday (12) and Friday (13). “I was with my 1 year old daughter at a bus stop when a woman approached with an outstretched hand. She offered me coins to me to buy something for my daughter. I said I didn’t need it and she was surprised. It was prejudice disguised as charity. I felt very bad and embarrassed because it was racism and I know that, unfortunately, my daughter will also go through it,” she said.

The next day, Silvia had to catch another bus. She had her daughter wrapped in a fabric, known as a ‘sling’, and asked the driver to open the back door of the vehicle, in order to facilitate entry. “I always do it with my daughter in the fabric as there’s no way to pass through the turnstile. I enter through the back, go to the driver, pay for the ride and turn the turnstile with my hands. But in this case, the driver refused to open the door. He thought I wouldn’t pay for the ride,” she said (1).

Sylvia recounted the incident on her Facebook page

“I have a doubt: If it was a white woman, would these two situations have happened? Some friends of mine have told me that their children were confused for marginals because of skin color The problem is that racial issues are not discussed, the racism is already cultural,” she said.

To fight against prejudice, Silvia participates in a collective called Pixaim (meaning ‘nappy’), discussing the problems of racism and the role of black women in society. “People think it’s something in our head and still say: ‘You see racism in everything’. But only those who go through situations like this realize that, really, there is prejudice in everything. It’s rooted and that needs to change,” she said. “There is racism in people’s behavior, in looks, in awkward comments, in the education system, the standards of beauty, it’s in the history of this country. Yes, it’s in everything! Seeking to understand and learn more about racial issues is important, extolling black identity and ancestry much more still!” she reported.

Source: Portal Guandu


  1. Another clear example of an Afro-Brazilian being judged as a criminal, of which there are numerous examples on this blog. See here.
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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