Note from BW of Brazil: It’s not hard to tell. We’ve covered how the education system in Brazil can be particularly cruel, exclusionary and difficult for the black student. Of course, there will many who will read this article and immediately label it as “mimimi”, or whining, but when you analyze the situation and ask people who have certain privileges in life if they’d like to trade places with a black student, they’d most likely say no. Why? Well, imagine that if elementary and high school education often drives the black student away, imagine the stakes at the college level.
Being a back student in Brazil’s education is exclusionary from the day the black child enters because the school curriculum doesn’t include the history of people who look like them. Many black children come from homes in which the income of their parents is so low that they often need to give up school early to get a job and help support their families. Then you have the fact of racist teachers, at every level, who doubt the ability of the black student, again, invoking a feeling of not belonging (often in predominately white spaces), and if that’s not enough, there’s the racist behavior of other students.
In recent years, due the system of affirmative action, hundreds of thousands of black students have gained access to college that simply didn’t exist before the 21st century. But if managing to score high enough on entrance exams was/is difficult enough, the struggle to remain in college is often just as challenging. Which is the reason stories such as the one we present below are so important. After all, excelling at all levels of education should also be a “black thing”, and more success stories we see, the more this becomes a reality.
“To be black inside the university is to do double to be recognized”
“Teachers doubted my ability and I even received a lower grade, even though I did everything everybody did,” says Juliete. The story of Juliete and all the mishaps she went through with her family to achieve her master’s degree.
By Jéssica Moreira; photo of Juliete Vitorino by Fernanda Freitas
This week, a survey of the ENEM (National High School Examination) of 2016 showed that 72% of the students who took the top 1,000 grades of the exam are boys, even the girls being the majority in the total enrollment. The numbers show not only a gender disparity, but also a racial disparity. Among the highest scores, which are those above 781.68, only 6% are jovens negras (young black women), while meninos brancos (white boys) account for almost 50% of the best grades, however, representing 15% of those enrolled. These numbers are not isolated, they are recurrent to our reality as mulheres periféricas (women living on the outskirts of major cities).
This is not an isolated scenario and is constantly repeated as the result of a society that brings the inequality of class and race entrenched in its roots. The entrance, however, is only one of the factors, then there is the challenge of permanence, as well as facing prejudice and discrimination within the university space. In order to talk about this, Nós (website) brings in today’s column the Master in Biology from the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp), which tells how the entry to the university reinforced these questions, but how important it is to occupy these spaces. Check it out in full below!
“Eu sempre soube que sou negra (I always knew I was black). But for a long time, I didn’t have to think about it. I am a black woman, poor and from the periphery, daughter of parents with distinct histories, but who were not stimulated to study, to the contrary, the dream of my mother since very young era to study and she was always forced to work.
My mother’s dream at an early age was to study and she was always forced to work
When they took my biggest dream away from my mother, it transformed something inside of her, and she was always the greatest supporter of our dreams. I remember, from a very young age, seeing my mother betting all the chips on us. My father was no different, he, when younger, was more silent, but he was always around.
I’m telling this part, because I only managed to enter the college because here at home we learned to be the greatest supporters of each other.
I came from a public school, and even though I received in high school academic merit (a person considered the best student in the class), I left school with a gap that prevented me from entering Higher Education, nor in those courses with low cut marks. At that time, there was no racial quota (affirmative action), but it was teeming with community cursinhos pré-vestibulares comunitários (college entrance exam prep courses) in the neighborhoods. I got a 100% scholarship in a cursinho, and there I went, I gave my best, but I couldn’t pass. I entered the university only after four years of study, in the course of Biology.
My first and great shock was to realize that people like me did not occupy those spaces neither to study nor to teach, most of the people like me were there just to serve.
And it was my first and great shock to realize that people like me did not occupy those spaces neither to study nor to teach. Most people like me were just there to serve. It was a mixture of embarrassment and non-belonging, at first, I tried to interact, but then I closed myself into a cocoon, where I felt safer.
Not going to college parties was one of the best things I did for my mental health. It was a space where, for me, racism was very explicit, but it was so subtle that I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Not going to these spaces was a very sensible choice that I’m very proud of.
At the end of college, I even received academic merit, which was a surprise. I left and went to do other things: I taught, I worked in a private school laboratory, I took a technical course and, despite the traumas that the academy brought me, I felt that I needed to go back to do a master’s degree, that was part of my plan. life. So, I took a deep breath and went.
Being in a space where you’re the only one hurts so much. Having no one to share your pain with at the very moment it occurs is a right that we, black people, have been denied.
To say that I was the only black woman in this space becomes a bit repetitive. But being in a space where you’re the only one hurts so much. Having no one to share your pain at the very moment it occurs is a right that we, black people, have been denied, because racism is so subtle that sometimes you have to have gone through a certain situation to know that they are being racist with you again.
The good part (or great) of the masters is that when I entered racial quotas already existed. Black people had gathered in a collective, it was my respite within that space. A black collective is the best thing that can exist for a black person inside the university. It brings understanding to what you’re talking about, and often all we need is just someone who understands what we’re saying.
To be a black person inside the university is to do at least twice what everyone does once inside the classroom so that they realize that you are there and do this outside as well, to ensure not only the survival of everyone who is there, but to allow those who come after us to have a more tranquil walk, and may in fact be there just to study.
Some teachers doubted my ability and I even got a lower grade, even though I did everything everyone did. I had to listen to a professor saying that everyone does a master’s degree and a doctorate nowadays (devaluing where they had gone). In fact, I wanted to live in this world, but I live in a world where people cannot even finish high school because they need to work.
There was a time when things became very heavy, and it’s only now, more than six months after finishing, that I can write about it.
It got heavy because it’s that old story that we already know: we are only useful while we are ready to serve, without question, to do what is ordered without daring to disobey or bring other ideas. This has made coexistence very difficult and being stops being pleasant and becomes a mere obligation.
Black women are made invisible in the area of Sciences
I tried to be as combative as possible and any breach that I found to discuss racism in the proposed seminars I battled. As well as giving visibility mainly to black women of Science who are so invisible.
I remember seeing in my masters defense a room full of family and friends supporting me and cheering for me. They were, for the most part, black and of immense professional diversity – advertisers, journalists, doctors, engineers, mathematicians, librarians, economists, among many others – however someone, looking at them and noticing only their color, decided that they were all from human courses, and she said something very close to that: “Juliete has no aptitude for the biological (sciences), she needs to go to the human area (humanities), just look at her friends,” and pointed to the people in the room.
That’s because people think blacks can only take courses in humanities. People don’t think people from other areas can question racism, for example.
Today, with my master’s degree in hand, and without having yet entered the labor market, I realize more and more how cruel racism, but I also realize how we, black people, are incredible. Because even with all the adversities, little by little, we’ve gotten there and opening the way so that more and more of us come and feel more and more belonging in these spaces.
Juliete Vitorino, black and from the periphery, a resident of Itaim Paulista (east zone of São Paulo). She is a biologist, post-graduate in distance education, a pharmacy technician and master in Biosystems. The daughter of Delcy and Juarez, sister of Beto, Júnior, Juracy and Juliana. She likes to write about everyday life. She is a militant of the intersectional racial and black feminist cause and community cursinho teacher.
Source: Nós, mulheres da periferia
Great article! This situation can be applied to many American Universities and colleges.
I know. I’m very familiar with American universities, but honestly, the problem is worse here.