Note from BW of Brazil: Black representation in the media is an issue wherever black people live in multi-racial societies. If the problem is bad in the United States, it is intimately worse in Brazil. This problem poses a dilemma for black parents who wish to raise their children with self-esteem, without issues of racial identity or rejection. We’ve already seen that it is the norm in Brazil that when a black family is shown on television or in film and are the principal characters in the program or movie, the production is normally imported from the United States.
Recently we presented a new cartoon that was a first for Brazilian TV in that it featured a majority black cast of characters. But even that program was a production from Colombia. Think about that. Brazil is said to have the largest black population outside of Africa and in Latin America, but to see black characters in a cartoon, it was necessary to import it from the country said to have the second largest black population in Latin America.
This problem of representation often leads to other problems as it re-enforces already deeply-ingrained racist sentiments within the population and can contribute to the existing problem of Afro-Brazilian children rejecting their own images. Often times this rejection continues into adulthood. In such an environment, raising children with self-esteem and pride in an arguably anti-black environment can be a considered an achievement. This is what one feels after reading the piece below.
Negritude: What I learned raising 3 black children
By Silvia Nascimento
“Wow mommy, this place is beautiful but there are no black people.” This was the sensible comment of my daughter Carolina who at the time was 6 years old, about the absence of people like her in a resort in Florianópolis (1) in the summer of 2014. I observed with attention her voice and facial expression as she exposed her uneasiness and a happiness grew inside of me noting that she indeed had a sense of belonging, that she felt “out of the box” for being, together with her sisters Maria Helena, 10, and Julia, 5, the only black children in a famous hotel that was full in high (tourist) season. The three girls circulated where they well understood, with heads raised high and didn’t even perceive the strange looks because of their voluminous hair and braids.
Maria Helena, the oldest at 10, has already taught me a lot, since she was born. In children’s decoration stories, it was difficult to find themes that aligned themselves with a room for a black child, in the middle of so many white-skinned, golden-haired princesses. But the challenge was worth it. And today, in spite of having put away her dolls, all black, even her apps on her tablet and cell phone always have a black personality.
Would I be raising racist children for only only buying dolls and toys that featured black children? Not really because we know that reverse racism doesn’t exist. What happens is that in previous generations, like mine and that of my parents, the toy industry ignored in an absolute way the existence of non-white children. Even dolls with dark hair were the minority.
Taste and preference are constructed socially factors and as a black mother that believes that believes so strongly that a good education, health care plan, affection and attention guarantees that the child love him/herself as he/she is. I see that their self-esteem is growing, watching cartoons with black children, playing with dolls that look like them and, of course reading books with black characters.
My youngest, Julia, is, as they say around here, the type that sambas in the face of society. She detests tied down hair and loves her “black” (afro) quite voluminous and “fofinho” (fluffy). She like little tracks in her hair and even turbans. It’s beautiful also seeing her showing images of other black children on the internet or TV and asking what I think of her hair or clothes.
Love themselves and respect differences. That is the lesson that adults, family members, teachers and all ethnicities should teach children. Liking what you are, doesn’t mean hating others. And this is what my little ones have taught me.
What we like at home:
Source: Mundo Negro
- Of course it must be recognized that another contributing factor to the whiteness that the little girl noted is the fact that this capital city is located in southern Brazil in one of the whitest states in the country.