Note from BW of Brazil: Brazil is a society constructed very much upon class and race. There’s imply no way to deny this (although people still try). Perhaps no better evidence of this is elite reactions to seeing traditionally poorer, mostly black classes ascending in life and frequenting places where previously only those elites and their families frequented. We previously touched upon this in a piece entitled “80% of Brazil’s new middle class is black and upper and upper-middle class consumers are none too pleased about it”. We’ve also made reference to the rejection of those deemed “out of place” by privileged classes who have voiced their discomfort with this presence in the racist graffiti that has been found in numerous university campuses throughout Brazil, most recently at the University of Campinas.
This resentment is real as college student Lorena Cristina de Oliveira Barbosa came to see it when she was told that “she’ll only be a maid, or will need to use her black sexuality’ to move up in life” or as Matheus Pichonelli documented well in his article “The maid has a car and travels by plane. Then why did I go to college?” Taken from that article, Pichonelli writes:
“Recently, a friend returned desolated from a meeting and decided to vent on Facebook: ‘Yesterday, in a condo assembly, there were people ‘angry’ because the laundress bought a car. ‘She earns a lot’ and ‘Why did I go to college?’ were some of the comments. One of the tenants wanted to ban her from parking her car inside the building even informing that the employee pay rent for the space to one of the owners.'”
This is to say that, being part of Brazil’s elite is not only based on one’s economic status and means of frequenting certain exclusive areas, but also enjoying the fact that so many others cannot. It is in response to these types of attitudes that no doubt influenced today’s piece.
The resentment of studying in the same classroom as the black maid’s daughter
By Tamires Gomes Sampaio
The skin color, the facial features, the nose, hair, beauty, clothes, shoes, absolutely everything has a white, Eurocentric standard, which denies all black culture and history. From the time we are little, standards are imposed upon us. With them, we cease to be what we are to adapt ourselves to what is considered “acceptable” in our society.
We formed our self-esteem with television programs that either don’t show a black woman or when they do, they are in secondary roles that exalt the hyper-sexualization our bodies.
We are convinced that we have to straighten out hair because our hair is “ruim” (bad), we grew up thinking that the only possible princesses and heroines are white and black women were slaves and that, therefore, we were born to serve.
The black woman is not on television, except as “maid”, the “mulata exportação” (mulata of the exportation type), the “favelada” (squatter/slum dweller), rarely as a lawyer, a businesswoman or a successful fashion designer. It’s always violent the construction of our esteem in a society that considers our existence, as a human being that exists beyond their body.
They didn’t explain to me that our facial features are like a document and carry with them the heritage of the expressions of the struggles that have been made against the greatest crime of all time. They didn’t tell me that cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) is resistance, it’s our crown. They did not tell me that, in Africa, we were queens, princesses, warriors, and they took us from there, erased our history and systematically tried to end our cultures.
We live in a country with just over 500 years of history – one third of it on the enslavement of black men and women brought from Africa to here and their descendants (1). This history of exploitation and violence was added to our patriarchal, structurally racist, sexist and classist society, which reproduces the structural oppressions in all our social relations.
It’s amazing when someone denies the existence of racism coming from the myth of racial democracy, on the grounds that we are a country of mestiços (persons of mixed race), as miscegenation is an historic mark of our country. Especially, because the myth of racial democracy is constructed exactly to end with black people since the genocide of the black population also occurs when it denies the existence of their culture and history.
Look at your side, in service, in the club, in the markets, the programs, shopping stores, the 9 o’clock novela (soap opera), the university and question: where is this black woman? We are the base of the social pyramid and it does not take a genius to realize that. It is painful to recognize one’s own privilege and start a real transformation, because of this they deny the existence of racism and inequality, to maintain this status quo.
The year 2015 has proved one of the most conservative of Brazil’s democratic history. It seems that the National Congress is holding a monthly contest to launch the conservative agenda of the week. Will it be this? Will it be that? Which that will end and regress more the rights gained? Reduction of legal age of criminality, outsourcing, PL 5069, family statute, disarmament statute, among several other agendas that are being voted on for our hopelessness.
If, on the one hand, this is hopeless, on the other this rising conservatism generates a huge rise in class conflict. The contradictions that were previously made invisible becomes wide open, generating a wave of reaction to this violence.
I managed to react to all this oppression and I’m assuming my black hair, as well as several other black women assuming their beauty. I see more practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions reacting to intolerance and assuming their religion with pride, black collectives and organized black women in all of Brazil, and cases of racism reported and not tolerated.
We no longer put up with and accept quietly racist messages in the bathrooms of elite universities, from people who still don’t conform to the presence of the maid’s daughter in the same classroom as the daughter of the entrepreneur. We also don’t accept the reduction of legal age of criminal responsibility, the mass incarceration of black youth and we will not remain silent in the face of police violence.
We no longer follow the standards, it is our ancestors that will give us the standard to follow.
I see more and more black women are referencing and revering Dandara dos Palmares, Lélia Gonzalez, Carolina Maria de Jesus, the Yabás, Chimamanda Ingozi, Angela Davis, Iansã, Acotirene, and many other black women warriors, goddesses, queens and historical intellectuals who are references and symbols of our struggle for a more just and equal society.
Black women are occupying more spaces. We are masters and Ph.D’s and we occupy the positions of representation. We will be presidents, singers, actresses, entrepreneurs, and everything that we wish to be! We are killing a lion a day to win what historically we were denied, but that belongs to us. It is our right to exist and resist.
The base of the social pyramid is moving and will construct a new feminist, anti-racist, anti-lbgtphobic structure, and no class hierarchy. For if there’s one thing a black woman can have it’s power. Axé!
- Actually, as the discovery of Brazil is a little less than 500 years and Africans and its descendants were enslaved from about 1538-1888, nearly 75% of Brazil’s history is marred in the practice of human bondage.