Note from BW of Brazil: So what exactly is the experience of being black in Brazil, in the West and in the world? Is it just phenotype based upon physical features that associates an individual with the African continent? Is it adhering to certain cultural values? The acceptance of a black identity? Adapting a black political posture? Yes, these are a few of the details that contribute to one identifying as black or being classified as black, but it is still more. But this idea of blackness is not always understood in the same ways and can be interpreted differently depending on the region of the world one lives in, personal values that lead individuals to develop a special bond with persons of African descent throughout the world as well as a history of struggle.
And sometimes, even when people do see themselves as physically black, they don’t necessarily know all of the connotations that come along with this identity. As anti-black stereotypes are widespread throughout the world, there are many people who will attempt to distance themselves from this classification that Irving Goffman defined as a stigma or spoiled identity. In this distancing, one hopes to avoid being a victim of what Oracy Nogueira called “preconceito de cor”, or color prejudice. In some cases, a full understanding of what this classification/identity means comes only after experiencing a life-altering event caused because of this stigma, which makes the person look a little deeper into the persona and come out even stronger in the affirmation of the identity. The latter is the case of Mirian França.
Back in late December, we featured Mirian’s story. The Rio native was vacationing in the northeastern state of Ceará when a friend, an Italian tourist, was brutally murdered. With very little concrete evidence of Mirian’s involvement in the crime, she was imprisoned for several weeks which led numerous protests calling for her release. After finally being released, Mirian wasn’t sure of the possibility of her skin color having something to do with her arrest and imprisonment. But surely after some soul-searching and a new look at how race works in Brazil, today Mirian has a new understanding of what it means to be black in Brazil! Below, Mirian speaks on the various assumptions that were made of her character that police and the press used to portray her as ‘suspect’ or a ‘criminal’ and thus attempting to justify her imprisonment.
“Today I woke up with the will to scream: I AM BLACK!! I AM THE PROOF!!”
By Mirian França via the Mamapress blog
“Today I woke up with the will to scream: I AM BLACK!!”
Daughter of a single, poor, black retired seamstress who threw a black doctor into the face of society; a black woman who studies and works like hell to guarantee the right to be free and live as she wishes.
That’s me, MIRIAN FRANÇA, a black woman incarcerated in Ceará in December 2014 suspected of killing an Italian tourist.
Thanks to friends and the public, the police were obligated to release me from my prison. Yes prison! Dealing with an unfounded arrest, it is an illegal arrest. Committed by an unprepared and racist police who insist on seeing the black as guilty even when there is no proof, evidence, motive or witness. That insists in saying they have a “CONVICTION”, that we are guilty even when there is no proof of our guilt. Dealing with blacks police forget our basic right that we are innocent until THEY prove otherwise, not that we who must prove our innocence.
At 31 I discovered what being black really is.
Being black is to be called strange when you go on vacation and spend the day poolside reading because a black that enjoys reading “is very contradictory, probably forging an alibi.”
Being black is to be asked how you would have money to take a vacation in Ceará (a state of MY country, where only foreign tourists seem to be welcome).
Being black is to have the obligation to always be with a man; you cannot travel alone; you don’t have the right to have sex with anyone without being called a puta (whore) (moreover, this is the fate of all of us women).
Racism in Brazil IS A PERFECT CRIME. It is the disembodied crime without evidence, without witnesses. But it is clear when the police have “conviction that you are guilty,” only based on your “suspicious behavior” (Likes to read? Likes to listen to music? Likes introspection? Likes to travel? Being single?).
There’s no need to call the black a monkey to be racist, no. It’s enough to open your eyes and see who is arrested by mistake. It’s enough to see who needs to prove their innocence (when the law is clear that one is innocent until proven to the contrary). Who is murdered in resisting arrest is never a white. I never knew a white arrested for carrying a bottle of disinfectant (as was Daniel Braga). And nor a white woman being dragged by a police car (as was Claudia Ferreira).
I am living proof that lowering the age of adult criminal responsibility in Brazil is a pretext for arresting a black child. I am living proof that the death penalty in Brazil is legal consent for the State to murder more blacks. I am proof that for Brazilian police, guilt has color.