The racist face of Brazil’s miscegenation

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Note from BW of Brazil: The question of racial identity and classification are topics dealt with frequently on this blog. Brazil’s history and reputation has long been constructed upon the idea of miscegenation, the myth of a “racial democracy” and being the largest mixed race country in the world. These ideals have long covered up a the huge socio-economic disparities between Brazilians who consider themselves to be white and those who are non-white.  While there are those who argue make accusations of militants attempting to “racialize” or “Americanize” race in Brazil, the truth is that the preference for European features and the denigration of blackness has existed for centuries in Latin America’s largest country. In today’s post, Jarid Arraes discusses the “racist face” of century’s of miscegenation that has led the majority of persons of visible African ancestry to deny that they are black people. 

by Jarid Arraes

The issue of miscegenation in Brazil is often oversimplified and romanticized. It is not uncommon to hear that Brazil is a mestiço (mixed race) and plural country and, consequently, all its inhabitants had their ethnicity inevitably mixed at some point in their ancestry. But under the axiom of a mixed country hides a violent and racist reality: the generalization of whiteness in a predominantly black country.

Popular singer Vanessa da Mata. describes herself as a "very mestiça (mixed) person. Some say I am negra black) of my hair and others say that I am white."
Popular singer Vanessa da Mata. describes herself as a “very mestiça (mixed) person. Some say I am negra (black) because of my hair and others say that I am white.”

If all Brazilians are mixed and have black and Indian blood in their veins, why are many people reluctant to recognize their own ancestry? It turns out that the social identification of black people in Brazil takes place directly because of the skin tone. The understanding of people in regards to blackness is often distorted: even if the parents or immediate family of an individual are black, what weighs for that person to be recognized as black is the color of the skin. Even a dark skin tone is no guarantee that someone will be seen as black; it’s enough to remember how many times euphemisms like “moreno” are adopted to refer to people with dark skin color, as if the word could somehow reduce the negative burden that the term “negro” seems to have.

Actress Débora Nascimento: Actress has a black father, a mother of Italian descent; boyfriend affectionately refers to her as "neguinha (little black girl)"
Actress Débora Nascimento: Actress has a black father, a mother of Italian descent; boyfriend affectionately refers to her as “neguinha (little black girl)”

Although society does not always validate the blackness of others, people often recognize that same blackness in feautures and physical characteristics, which are constantly transformed into justifications for racism and violence. The broad nose, thick lips and cabelo crespo (curly/kinky hair), popularly known as “cabelo ruim (bad hair)”, are targets for degradation and rejection. It is interesting to remember that Africa is a vast continent with a wide variety of ethnic groups, which don’t all fit into the known mold of “black features”. Even so, these are the features interpreted as black and eventually ferment racism in its various forms.

In an interview, former soccer superstar Ronaldo defined himself as white
In an interview, former soccer superstar Ronaldo defined himself as white

Even with so many stories of racist violence, many people still feel insecure when asked about their blackness. Last week was opened a research form targeted at admixed individuals and the responses were quite similar. Some people say they didn’t feel entitled to assert themselves as black because of the not having such a dark tone of skin. Many of them are direct descendants of blacks, or have close black relatives, but the racial affirmation simply doesn’t happen. On the one hand, this is a show of respect to black people of unquestionably dark skin, suffering daily, impassive racism of debate or speculation, racism against dark skin and against appearance. On the other hand, a serious discussion is necessary and sensible: why do so many people of African descent not recognize their own blackness and cannot assert it in a political and subjective way?

Neymar: Soccer idol once said that he was not preto (black)
Neymar: Soccer idol once said that he was not preto (black)

For Brazilians, it is better to be white whenever possible. If the skin is not dark enough, or if one parent has blond hair and blue eyes, then the person is considered white, in a relentless attempt to lighten the descendants, the family and the nation. From the mixture of races, born white by out of consideration and, therefore, dies the African descendant culture, religion and identity. Blackness and African culture, with its symbols and traditions become increasingly something of the past, of an ancestry that is, in the overwhelming majority of the time, completely unknown.

But the topics for discussion do not stop there, because it is not the recognition of the black identity that will make a person be black. Even if their parents or their grandparents are black, a person with white skin and light hair hardly suffers the racism aimed at black people. It is a matter of common sense: there is no empathy in making a political statement against discrimination of which you are not a victim. Redeeming your family roots, to know them, celebrate them and to promote them is desirable and inspiring, but it is important to take care not to trivialize black political affirmation and its struggle. There are white people, those with no black family ties, which are full of bad faith and say that they are also black because of miscegenation in Brazil. But this argument is a sham: in our country, black is who is recognized by others as black and therefore suffer racism and social discrimination.

Jarid Arraes
Jarid Arraes

Racism is a problem rooted since the formation of Brazil. For centuries our country has been struggling to impede the black political affirmation of racial self-recognition. We are part of a country that not so long ago openly had a policy of racial whitening, encouraging the entry of white immigrants to lighten the color of Brazil. Brazilian culture wants to delete blacks in its history, under the mask of pretentious miscegenation. But miscegenation can also be a weapon of struggle and empowerment: it’s enough that we understand ourselves as African descendants, without losing sight of the racism that we suffer. When the racist face of a society is revealed, there are no almost-whites, almost-blacks or morenos, but people in which blackness was recognized.

Finally, this text alone would never be able to address all the nuances and complexity of the issue. It’s necessary to brave Brazilian miscegenation and promote consciousness on the subject. This is only the start for the reflection and the realization of new debates and projects.

Jarid Arraes is a sex educator, specialist in sex toys and writes at Mulher Dialética and Guia Erógeno

Source: Blogueiras Negras

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

12 Comments

  1. Anti-blackness is global. It goes hand in hand with white supremacy. This is a great post. You made some very solid points. Hard to disagree with any of it.

    • Anti Blackness is not global, but since those world powers like britain and especially america began to rise to the top, their ideological anti african propaganda was spreading globally. And all the minor powers had to show that they dissociate with anything african.
      In the middle ages the black moors where highly regarded by the german staufer empire, friedrich the great. So white supremacy is a relatively new phenomen, put forward mostly by britain and the united states.
      Most brazilian planters of the first settler generation were afro-indian- portuguese.
      And even in 1850 the well known european hyper racist conte de gobineau after his journey to brazil reported that he only saw mullatoes, also in the highest circles.
      So becoming white was mostly a result of the racist pressures of the united states, because they dont do business with black or mullatoes.

      • I see what you mean. I guess you could say white supremacy is somewhat new historically. How it can to be is one thing. But the bottom line is all other races are adopting an anti-lack sentiment. It seems global from what I’ve seen and heard from others around the world. These other races worship whiteness. So they are still anti-black by default.

      • This is very wrong and uninformed. Anti-blackness has been a global issue since even BEFORE the rise of the catholic church which therefore increased the massive hate against other religions and people. Notes from someone who “highly regards” darker people mean nothing when in ancient civilizations it was the darker people who were enslaved in the first place.
        What you probably want to say is the fact that it was the birth of capitalism that put racism as we know it in the map. The reason colonizators such as Great Britain and Portugal started enslaving peoples so quickly, and categorizing said darker people as lesser than, was to further their own economy.

  2. This issue is a leaf on the tree of the global system of racism/white supremacy, and it won’t ever be fixed unless the roots of the tree are effectively ripped out. The dots have to be connected and the victims of racism must understand “words” and “symbols”–they have to get codified.

    “When people don’t understand white supremacy, what it is, and how it works, ever thing else they understand will only confuse them.”–Neely Fuller Jr., author of The United Independent Compensatory Code System. (//producejustice.com)

    Under the global system of racism/white supremacy, which is a crime syndicate run by a gang that collectively calls itself “white,” victims are mistreated and abused on the basis of skin color. White supremacy literally means the functional dominance of the “white” gang over its “non-white” victims in all major areas of human activity: economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, religion, politics, sex and war for the sake of Power. While a numerical minority, “whites” dominate and run this world–the evident is overwhelming. They are successful because they dominate their victims’ minds, and therefore their values, perceptions, tastes and desires.

    Collectively, non-white victims of this mistreatment don’t know how to stop the abuse–they lack functional power. It is also why, under the global system of racism/white supremacy, “non-whites”–shades of black–cannot be racist. There are colorful terms “whites” use to describe the powerless, but in general, people classified as “non-white” are victims, subjects and servants to people who classify themselves as “white” and who practice racism/white supremacy. Everyone classified as “white” is not a racist, but should be suspected of being one under the system of global racism/white supremacy.

    When victims understand that the shades of their skin don’t ultimately matter to white racists, and how the system of racism/white supremacy works, their priorities will reflect this. Hair extensions, skin lightening creams, and other “me-too” props will fall away. When people want to truly solve problems they will be brutally honest with themselves and stop the futility of “probationary” white status games. The evil unblinking mentality which produced extermination camps like Auschwitz and Treblinka is still with us because its parents, racism/white supremacy, are its roots. No one should be fooled by its guises, promotion of intrigues and false issues to extend its abhorrent life. Like a vampire, it needs to be vitalized by its victims.

    The “white” gang’s business is “white supremacy.” At its core, the business model is not ant-black. Appearing anti-black is a means to an end–“white supremacy.” The key is to get their victims to buy into patent nonsense and stay confused. For prime example, people who are melanin-deficient are not a “race.” The only reason to be a member of a race is to practice racism. Anyone, particularly, “non-whites” who plays this game, loses–instantly–to white supremacists.

    Racism/white supremacy is the actualization of a death wish because it is anti-Hueman, anti-Christ. We have to see this. It is a game where “white” becomes an poisonous intoxicating symbol of purity, goodness and “God.” Dirt, badness and devilment is always projected onto “others.” This planet will implode under this sickness. It follows that this evil “system” itself must be destroyed and replaced by a system of justice. A justice that guarantees no one is mistreated, and guarantees that the person who needs help the most, gets the most constructive help.

  3. I’m brazilian and honestly… i feel like a mongrel. I feel like i don’t belong in any
    ”race”. Black people call me white and “european white” people call me black. It feels horrible, you know?

    My father is white of Russian descent. And my mother is half black and half white.

  4. I fully agree with your point!
    I think who really have a skin complex are white people! Because like black woman when was little girl, I never had complex with my skin and my being, who always trying to find the complex or the slightest imperfections in me were the white people!
    In ancient civilizations there was no skin complex! If today many people do suffer for skin complex cause of whites!
    Obviously, I believe that people of European origins are in conflict and delirious their skin colour. The whites have never been able to admit that they are albinos, but have always known that they are different. The funny thing that there are black people and not only that generate albino children with white skin, blond hair and blue eyes! White scientists state that these children are not albinos but “whites”!
    This one of the tests that their racist behavior declaring as they are unsure of themselves and no people with dark skin!
    If a person is at peace with himself should not be mad and saying crazy words how happens today!

  5. I think the racism against black people and people of sub Saharan ancestry is absolutely terrible but I think the denial and unincorporation of the euro ( consenting euro DNa as in a direct white mother and a black father that love each other and have a kid) this can be very messed up. Calling mixed people black is the same as calling them white. Afrocentricity isn’t the same thing as eurocentricity and honestly just because black people have been marginalized doesn’t mean we can do the same thing that whites did. We (mixed people) are a binary both but different because we are both we are not black but we are not white WE ARE BOTH. I dont know why people just can’t get that you don’t mix you two get together and get the same thing. And it’s only like this when’s it’s black and white not white and Asian or whatever. I think everybody needs to stop trying to classify and just say it how it is. We are both not denying but not trying to Africanize or euroify yourself at least not me and if you do that you shouldn’t that’s when’s it bad. The one drop rule is stupid racist and retarded. Who cares if white people don’t accept you????? THEM NOT ACCEPTING YOU DOESNT MAKE YOUR DNA DIFFERENT WHITE PEOPLE ARE NO BETTER THAN BLACKS AND VICE VERSA. everyone’s so stupid these days and fightng over things that JUST DONT MATTER IF SOMEONE IS 70% WHITE AND THEY ARE VISIBLY MIXED WHY DO PEOPLE HAVE TO GET OUTRAGED WHEN THEY DONT WANT TK BE CONSIDERED AFRO BRAZILIAN?? They are a seperate category even if they look black or white it doesn’t matter anymore.

    • When you are visibly black, and you get called racial slurs by white people and nonblack people, it doesn’t matter to them if you’re mixed or what you identify as. You speak like someone in denial, either that or you’re mixed and you look more ambiguous or white than black – and therefore has never suffered real racism.
      Identifying yourself as black when you’re mixed is not about pushing anything, it’s about identity and culture. It’s about finding and accepting yourself in a world where people you look alike get constant hate and suffer violence every day. There is not a country or a language that doesn’t have a specific slur for black people – that says something.
      If you don’t love yourself for being half black, or if you like your mixed identity SO much, keep that to yourself because there’s an abundance of people like you already. What we need in Brazil is more people PROUD of their black inheritance, their culture and their ancestors!!

  6. Well, if race is no more than the colour of the skin, why should people with some african descent describe themselves as african if the total admixture of their genes has made them white?

  7. I liked the comment about people not getting that if you mix two races you don’t get either black or either white, you get MIXED or in between , biracial, whatever you want to call it. Of course, mixed people are mixed exactly in accordance with how much of whatever race their parents are and many people in America at least and maybe in Brazil too are probably not really biracial even if they supposedly come from a family with one “black” parent and one “white” parent because often times their parents aren’t full blood to begin with. Nevertheless, just because you look more of one way or another doesn’t speak for how you are from the inside and that is something that no one drop rule or any classifications or judgments that come from out in the world can place control over, not really. Not literally, unless that is the way that you want it to be.

  8. Someone who has some percentage of black ethnicity and another percentage of white or indigenous ethnicity may not accept labels as ‘white’, ‘indian’ or ‘black’ – and why should he or she? We are, indeed, with no possible denial, mostly ‘half-breed’ or mestizos. Therefore, the labeling comes from an external source, not usually from oneself. And usually, too, it’s irrelevant: we have talented and recognized celebrities (actresses, actors, singers, football players and so on) of all possible degrees of racial mixture. Many women and men, indeed, chose to wear african styled hair or african style clothing – even very white ones! And the opposite is also true. Why ‘problematize’ it? Brazil is at least 60 or 70% mestizo in reality.

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