Note from BW of Brazil: In some of the personal stories featured on this blog, a number of writers recollect being ‘the only black girl/guy’ within educational or social circles of which they are a part. It is not something that can simply be dismissed as something they are only imagining. Spend any time in Brazil and you will note an obvious social phenomenon if you take the time to notice it. In lower income areas, schools, malls, etc, the environment is much more mixed if not in fact majority black. But as the social surroundings become more prestigious, ritzy and expensive, the environments become almost exclusively white. We’ve seen examples of this in the so-called ‘rolezinhos‘ in which mostly black youth would get together and go to upper crust shopping malls (and were immediately repressed), elite high schools, and even in the VIP cabins during Carnaval. As Brazilian society has always indoctrinated its black population to enter into the “mundo dos brancos”, or ‘white world’, often times people would take pride in the fact of being the ‘only black’ in the environment. But for some, this entering the white world awakens them to the cost of separating themselves from their culture, background and people who look like them. And when one comes to terms with how they may be viewed by their white peers, it can be a very lonely feeling indeed. Today’s piece exposes how one black woman feels within this reality which led her to re-evaluate her identity.
The black girl among them
By Karoline Maia – originally posted in Blogueiras Negras
For a long time I only hung out with white people at school, I chose them, I avoided to the maximum hanging out with black people, after all, being black was bad, it was to be ugly and I didn’t want to be compared to them. Really because I was not negra (black), I was moreninha (1).
Not long ago, I saw assertions of black feminists about the various solitudes that black women face which are not limited only to the affective-sexual field, the thing is much bigger than that. As I had never paid attention to this fact, I began to sensitize other faces that loneliness has on the lives of black women and the first thing I remembered was my little friends groups at school. In which, for the most part, I was the only black girl.
Despite the desire to have friendship with black people, I kept them at a distance because I was ashamed of them, I was ashamed of myself. My white classmates were not a very pleasant company. I remember that in pre-school I was picked on, but I could handle that, in elementary school, I suffered bullying but also could handle that, in junior high I was humiliated by some white friends, but I also handed that. Things improved only when I entered high school.
It was bad to be with those people, who somehow felt better than me, because they are white. Still today, still being the only black person at the movies, the only black person at work, the only black person in the college group, the only black person hanging out, the only black person who is not serving.
In 2012, I entered the university and then started working and consequently people around me started to have another demographic and racial profile. And then I started to pay attention to the socioeconomic solitude, which limited me to having access and to experience things that, for them, was very simple to have, but for me, was and is a luxury.
Of course I don’t want to exclude white people from my life, but to include more black people in places that have been denied because of racist structures.
Even alone, I feel that my existence and permanence in these places is somehow a resistance, I, a woman, black, from the periphery and poor, occupying a place where I am “the only one”.
It’s bad to live with the certainty that solitude will always be with me because of the color of my skin. Sometimes, what I want most is a black woman next to me, to cry in her lap, to exchange a disapproving look when someone says some racist shit, the only thing I wanted was to be with someone who experiences the same pains as I.
But to ease the burden of this loneliness, the way I found was learning to love myself, to see myself as an important being, able to help other black women who are also alone. As bell hooks says in Vivendo de Amor (Living Love), love can heal.
“When we black women experience the transforming power of love in our lives, we assume attitudes capable of completely changing the existing social structures. So we can gain strength to face the daily genocide that kills so many black men, women and children. When we know love, when we love, it’s possible to see the past with different eyes; it’s possible to transform the present and dream about the future. That’s the power of love. Love heals.” bell hooks. – Living Love
I hope you, preta (black woman), find in your reflection in the mirror, a beautiful declaration of love, of you, for yourself.
Source: Blogueiras Negras
- As we’ve seen in numerous posts, Karoline also expressed her need to not be seen as a black but rather the ‘more acceptable’ moreninha or ‘little morena’. See a number of other texts that deal with this issue here.