“Structural racism makes black people really sick”: Psychologist Lívia Marques warns of tragic consequences of structural racism on black bodies

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Note from BW of Brazil: The discussion of racism and white supremacy in Brazil are topics that have been covered extensively on this blog. From everyday experiences, to the historic impact to the manner in which it affects the position of black Brazilians in society. But even as most Brazilians will continue to deny or downplay the influence of structural racism, what are its affects on the black population as whole? In past articles, we’ve explored how racism can undermine the self-esteem of black children and adults, instill a desire to escape blackness, bouts of deep depression as well as the pursuit of whiteness, be it through trying to adapt one’s physical attributes to a European standard, to only wanting to establish romantic relationships with white partners to the desire to have lighter or white babies, racism/white supremacy takes its toll on black people in numerous ways, some of which, its victims aren’t even aware of. Below, psychologist, university professor, lecturer and writer Lívia Marques explains why structural racism is not just something that people can simply explain away as whining. 

Psychologist Lívia Marques

Psychologist warns of tragic consequences of structural racism on black bodies

By Lídia Michelle Azevedo

The finding of a high suicide rate within the black community, especially among the young, made it clear that structural racism kills. If, on the one hand, the myth of the Brazilian racial democracy is “celebrated,” on the other hand, the comunidade negra (black community) was required to have a stronger and faster reaction to stand on its feet.

According to data from the Ministry of Health and the Universidade de  Brasília, published in January 2019 in the column of Ancelmo Gois, on the website O Globo, the suicide rate of young black adolescents (10 to 29 years) increased from 4.88 deaths for every 100,000 in 2012 to 5.88 in 2016. In Brazil, of every ten young people who committed suicide in 2016 (the most recent year of the survey), six were black.

“The stereotype related to black bodies hurts. Structural racism makes black people really sick. I say this because today the place of speaking and the possibility of knowledge have increased and we see people confronting racism. But racism hurts. It demands a lot of the psyche from each of us. Seeing our deaths for being black, seeing women’s bodies trivialized, or, in a more real, sexualized way very early, hurts. The confrontation is constant,” explains Lívia Marques, a psychologist, university professor, lecturer and writer, who continues:

“Racism had not existed in Brazil until then. ‘Brazil is the country of the racial democracy’, what a beautiful phrase, only that it’s not! Brazil veils racism. Our country and our society veils all of this suffering and invalidates it all the time. Today, blacks and whites may think our speech is ‘mimimi’ (whining), which causes these social relationships to be disrupted by constant confrontation. Simply and unfortunately, all the time.”

This confrontation exists, even when it occupies certain places of power and knowledge, such as Academia. Even when it is in these places of production of knowledge, its presence and its production is questioned. Structural racism, then, is presented in a refined way, most of the time, but always making it clear that in this place the presence of a corpo negro (black body) is not expected.

“The higher we get, the more we do the neck test to find our peers. And sometimes we don’t find them. As a lecturer and psychologist I experience this day by day. Be it in person or virtually. But we cannot let ourselves down. These spaces are achievements. And we need to occupy them with all our potential and pull ours,” says the intellectual.


In addition to the confrontations experienced to occupy places, there is also the urgency in the discussion of empathy and affection within the black movement itself. Subjects such as “palmitagem” and colorism are in focus at the moment. Understanding the context in which this happens, Livia Marques points out the importance of each one to understand as an individual before taking a step towards the other.

“Lately, these discussions are very much on the rise, yes. Today, ‘palmitagem‘ (see note one) is something much debated, especially when we talk about loving relationships. Have you noticed? But I like very much to point out which social place, which space this black body, for example, speaking of love, is occupying? Because the tendency to relate to people in our environment is greater. We really need to assess the issue before any comment or note. Colorism is also much discussed. In the media, in the cosmetics area, in the quotas. And it is important that we can talk more about it, because we speak of social mobility,” points out the university professor, who is didactic when presenting the panorama of women and men:

“A woman needs to start taking care of her self-esteem and self-love. Her acceptance that she is a woman. A black woman that deserves to be loved and is not just a body. You need to understand that you must not bow your head and give in to anyone because they think she was not made to marry. Men, on the other hand, a priori, need to understand what love is. That it is possible to love and not be ashamed of not following the social standard, and therefore having to marry only pessoas brancas (white people). Or have relationships with pessoas brancas. The black is also loved. Don’t be ashamed and don’t feel inferior to have your amor preto (black love).”

Source: Notícia Preta


  1. Defined as the preference some black Brazilians have to only have long-term relationships with white partners.
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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