Note from BW of Brazil: In today’s piece, Gabriela Gonçalves analyzes the complexity of certain blacks having certain privileges among other blacks even though they are still not able to access the same types of privileges they would have had if they had the same credentials plus white skin. This piece touches on the reality of black achievement that the establishment, represented by whiteness, continues to try to keep in its place as well as the loneliness of not being among one’s peers once achieving a certain goal or position. It also harks back to famous words uttered by the legendary human rights icon Malcolm X as well as studies that confirm that successful Afro-Brazilians continue to experience discriminatory practices and attitudes regardless of their credentials. With the strides that black Brazilians have made over past decade or so, there are more and more Afro-Brazilians that can clearly relate to being in the not so privileged position of being the ‘privileged black.’
On being a privileged black: The exception among blacks and the exception among whites
By Gabriela Gonçalves of Blogueiras Negras
It doesn’t take an expert observer to realize that certain spaces are structurally designed to define what is destined to blacks and which is intended for whites. Good schools, clubs, college prep courses, universities. All these spaces are essentially denied to black people.
We, who for almost a matter of luck, belong to small proportion of blacks who might have access to these places literally feel up close the wounds of the lack of identification and representation. That is, we are the exception among blacks and the exception among whites.
We managed to escape the stereotype of marginalization and misery that the racist system in which we live appointed us, at the same time that we are not part of the group pre-determined to these same spaces that on a daily basis we try to enegrecer (blacken).
The construction process of black self-esteem becomes extremely impaired when, besides the lack of identification, we have to deal with solitude and isolation. Many of us had to go through childhood and adolescence being the only black in the classroom, in a class of friends and, as adults, the only black person in the office, the only one to occupy a position of an intermediate level or leadership.
The lack of representation in these locations before completely restricted to whites ultimately hinders our process of self-identification; recognizing one’s self as black in a hegemonic white space owes itself to a traumatic and painful process, a process in which we don’t have the protection and welcome of one of our own.
There are quite frequent cases of brothers who, for little or no interaction with other blacks, had their self-esteem impaired and their consciousness and empowerment repressed.
Being the only black in the class is to be the stranger, the different one, the displaced one and, for that matter, the ugly one too, because yes, we know what the standard of beauty imposed on us is.
When we consider the gender perspective, the process becomes even more painful. Black girls from an early age feel the weight of what it is not belong to the Eurocentric standard of beauty, experiencing the pain of what it is being passed over by the other boys. That is, from an early age we are taught that love is only for the others.
For as much as it might not appear, for as much as we are outnumbered in these locations, we are the majority in the population, yes! But also we are the majority in the prisons, the majority of the homeless, the majority murdered in the peripheries of this country.
It almost sounds like a transgression to occupy spaces that are structurally denied to us instead of us filling in the staggering statistics of which our people are a part.
Recognizing that we reap certain advantages over the bulk of the black population, we don’t mean that we are free to suffer from racism. As we know, a rich black is still read as socially black. Barack Obama became president of the greatest world power and is still as much a victim of racism as the rest of us. Despite the social benefits we reap over most of our brothers, whiteness always reminds us of who we are and where, as a rule, we should be.
Recognizing privileges is the basis for focusing on any situation of inequality. We are the exception and we have to become the rule, we need to paint black these places built on the red blood of those who paved the way for us to get this far.
We have to make our problem the conditions of inequality under which black people live in Brazil, especially the underprivileged, those who survive on a daily basis trying to reframe their own destiny, those who are even part of the small percentages of black university students, intellectuals and doctors.
It becomes more than necessary to punctuate the needs of black people to understand that we are collectively equal, being a little less equal than others and this is the first step to moving towards the world of equality and justice for which we fight so much.
Source: Blogueiras Negras
Ultimately we as Black people must choose what we want. We cannot go around feeling guilty if we are educated and were not born poor. We cannot tiptoe into traditionally non-Black spaces and behave as though we do not belong there. And we cannot cry every time a bully is mean to us! This is what it means to be a “First Black” or an “Only Black”. Neither are we responsible for single handedly solving all of the ills of the Black race throughout the world. We are allowed to be free and live as we see fit. If others complain, so be it. We do not owe them anything. If you are a privileged Black, just know that you are Black and wear your skin with dignity and respect. Do not try to escape it in anyway. Educate the world by simply being who you are. You do not need to become an outspoken Black leader to do this. You just need to “be”!