Note from BW of Brazil: It may be true that a site like BW of Brazil presents the experience of Brazilian styled racism to the English-speaking world several times per week, but just a few short decades ago, it was still quite for black Brazilians to deny the existence of racism even when they were the targets of such discrimination. After all, they had long been told that Brazil was in fact a ‘racial democracy’. As one well-known Afro-Brazilian activist herself described her own disbelief in the existence of racism in Brazil: “You’re bringing things from the United States here. We don’t have this thing here, no, only in South Africa.”
In other words, in Brazil the old saying that said, ‘If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it’ was immensely successful. But that was then. Nowadays black Brazilians continuously speak out on their experiences with this racism that doesn’t exist. The recent viral hashtag #seráqueéracismo (could it be that it’s racism?) is the latest example of how black people are telling the world about the real Brazil. The telling of these experiences tells us a lot about what it means to be black in Brazil in the 21st century.
Could it be that it’s racism?
By Stephanie Ribeiro
Social networks today are a field of narratives of disputes by so-called Brazilian minorities, those groups that, even being the quantitative majority, with regard to quality of life, dignity and rights guaranteed, become socially marginalized.
When we use the networks to give visibility to our pain and our struggles, we want to draw attention to facts that have been naturalized by a society that follows oppressive rules.
First came the filters for profile photos (the most popular was the LGBT flag). Then, the hashtags #meuprimeiroassédio (my first assault), #agoraéquesãoelas (now it’s what they are), #meuamigosecreto (my secret friend) that were invading the net and showing the strength and importance of the role of women in feminism.
Now the new protest on the networks is the hashtag #seráqueéracismo (could it be that it’s racism?). Its creation was motivated after the murder of five black boys: Roberto, Carlos, Cleiton, Wilton and Wesley took exactly 111 shots from the police. Like many young people of their age group (15 to 20 years), they were celebrating the first job of one of them.
The problem with this sad story is that, unfortunately, this is not an isolated event. In Brazil, 82 young people a day are killed on average. That means nearly 30,000 young people are killed each year. And of these young people, 77% are black. Thus, there are approximately 23,100 black youths killed each year. We clearly have a situation of genocide. However, people deny that the motivation of these numbers is racial.
It’s easier to say that it is a matter of class, it’s easier to say it’s bad luck than to assume that we are a racist country, that the racial democracy is non-existent, and no, não somos todos “negros” (we are not all “black”) (1). Whoever has the black mark knows what that means. After all, racism in Brazil does not give a truce. It is institutionalized – it hurts, silences and destroys lives.
Regardless of their class, gender, sexual orientation, suffering racism is what unites those not socially privileged by whiteness. And when we talk about privileges, we are talking about many factors that put someone in a favorable condition socially. In a country like ours, where many don’t have a sewage system, if you own your home, it’s a privilege. Knowing how to read, write, have a balanced diet, be able to go to the university, have tap water are more examples of privilege.
I can spend all day listing, but I prefer to surprise you saying that managing to catch a taxi being a white person is a privilege:
#SeráQueÉRacismo (could it be that it’s racism) when I walk several minutes with my daughter in her arms trying to catch a taxi and none of them stop, only when a white is stands in ‘solidarity’ and gives a signal for me? – post Thayná Trindade
Then you may think it’s an isolated case. Only that it’s not, it’s not.
Four blacks tried to get a taxi, more than ten passed by, none stopped…# seráqueéracismo? But it’s just a taxi. It is a taxi that doesn’t stop, because in Brazil the image of the black is associated with crime. One example is the hostile treatment by security to people like me. – Post by Jessyca Liris
# Seráqueéracismo when me and my black companion, are in a store and are followed by a white security guard, and when we ask why he’s following us, he responds that he’s “only doing my job. # #éRACISMOsim (It’s racism, yes)- post by Jéssica Ipólito
# Seráqueéracismo you’re with a group of white friends and you’re the only one searched at the entrance of the club“- post by Eliane Oliveira
The black associated with the criminal marginal extends to situations like this:
Same classroom, two students who use and abuse drugs. One white, one black. The first is treated as a coitadinho (poor thing), so stressed, “we had to do something”; the second is treated like a marginal, shouldn’t even be in school…# seráqueéracismo? – Post by Eduarda Lamanes
Brazilian prisons follow this tactic of criminalizing acts for blacks and liberating them for whites. A simple marijuana cigarette in the hand of a black boy can ruin his life and put him in an overcrowded cell if he is caught by the police. The same cigarette in the hand of a young white is just a “phase”. If our actions criminalize us, our aesthetic limits us in spaces:
# SeráQueÉRacismo the woman says that to be a lawyer I’ll have to straighten my hair to look more professional????????????? – Post by Fernanda Marcellino
# Seráqueéracismo When I was prohibited from entering the educational institution to study because, according to the disciplinary coordination, my hair was too voluminous for the “standards” of the school. – Post by Ellen Roots
Our sexuality is brutalized:
# Seráqueéracismo when the guy says that with negras (black women) he has the desire to fuck brutally whereas with “branquinhas” (white girls) he wants to be delicate during sex? – Post by Beatriz Anarka
# Seráqueéracismo “sempre quis transar com um pretinho” (I always wanted to have sex with a black guy) – Post by Ibu Lucas
Because our black body is treated as good for work and for sex, since we were enslaved. The Brazilian still follows the same mentality of the masters, even if we are talking of mere ordinary citizens.
# Seráqueéracismo: if you look around and realize that there are no black people present you can be sure that there is some mechanism of exclusion operating at some access point, no matter what the place – a group of friends, university, job, pub, cinema…Look around now, #éracismosim (it’s racism yes)! – Post by Marcio Black
However many people will really deny that: Of 555 columnists and bloggers of media vehicles such as Folha, R7, O Globo, O Estado de São Paulo, Época, Veja, G1, UOL, only six are black. Of the 18,400 university professors at the leading universities of the country (UFRGS, USP, UFRJ, Unicamp, UNB, UFSCAR and UFMG), only 70 are black. The numbers show that 60% of maternal deaths occur among black women. Between 16 and 24 years, black women are three times more likely to be raped than women of other ethnicities. 67% of children waiting for adoption are black, but 58% of families don’t accept children who are not white. And finalizing, the number of murders of black women increased by 54% in the country, while for white women it decreased.
If these data summed to all the #seráqueéracismo movement reports don’t make you believe that YES, IT IS RACISM, I can’t do anything else but to say that his privilege blinds you and prevents you from having empathy. And empathy and understanding of how racism works in the country is what white people need to have. After all, we can’t remember that racism exists only when blacks disappear, as what happened with Amarildo, or are dragged (on the ground) for 350 meters, as what happened with Cláudia. We need to remember this also when we blacks are still alive, in a country where it is also, unfortunately, a privilege.
As I Aline Cardoso said, the hashtag #seráqueéracismo is as painful as #meuamigosecreto, but necessary.
- This phrase is a direct shot at the countless “somos todos…” (we are all…) hashtag campaigns that spring up whenever someone is a victim of some form of discrimination. This frivolous, articificial ‘campaigns’ never yield any sort of real activism, is very selective about who garners support and usually dies off very quickly. For more on this subject see here.
I am so happy to see Black Brazilians having this discourse. One of the most disturbing things I have discovered since moving here is that the average person I meet has absolutely no clue about how racism manifests. These dialogues are vital to deepening our understanding on the issue! Now I cannot wait for the white Brazilians to start complaining about political correctness or how black people should really learn to take a joke!