Note from BW of Brazil: This story is so very typically Brazilian. It’s stories as this one that demonstrate why there are so many stories on this blog detailing the journey of Brazil’s African descendants in coming to assume a black identity. When it is reported that Brazil’s population could be anywhere from 16 million to 105 million (with some estimating the group’s number being even higher), this is one of the many reasons why coming to a legitimate number can often be a complex process. As Brazil is a country that has historically stigmatized blackness so much, today, even with decades of black consciousness-raising efforts, there are still millions of people who are confused about their racial identity, have shame of it, attempt to distance themselves from it with a plethora of color-coded euphemisms or ‘whiten’ themselves. We saw this in a recent report that showed 2.5 million preta e parda (black and brown women) somehow ‘vanished’ from census reports. The issue becomes even more confusing when one encounters others who assure them that, “you’re not really black, you’re just a little dark,” or “if you straighten your hair you would be white”, or, “Black? No way! You’re a beautiful morena!” In today’s feature, Viviane Duarte explains how she came to question her own race, or color, in an unexpected manner.
The woman who ‘discovered’ her color at age 36
By Edison Veiga and Rodrigo Burgarelli
The journalist Viviane Duarte is 38 years old and, until two years ago, had no idea that she was negra (black). Idealizer of the projects Plano Feminino (feminine plan) and Plano de Menina (girl plan) – the latter, which provides services to adolescents from poor communities in the city – she talked to a friend about gender difficulties. “I then commented that the problem must be even greater for mulheres pobres e negras (poor and black women), who tend to face much more complicated situations in life,” she recalls. “That’s when she asked my personal point of view, situating me as black.”
Viviane went home in shock. “I said to my husband, and he said, quite naturally, ‘Yes, you are black, you didn’t know?'” he said. “I started crying.”
Since then, it was not just her look in the mirror that changed – it was her look at the world. “Before, when I was analyzing advertising, I always concerned myself with gender and diversity issues, I wasn’t thinking about the issue of the black woman. Today, with the Plano Feminino, I’m worried about inclusion projects in companies,” she says. “I’m also better resolved with my hair, I can even do an escova (progressiva) (Brazilian Keratine Hair Treatment), straighten it. But if it’s curly, I don’t see it as a problem, either.” What didn’t change was the maternal way of facing the daughter. “For my mother, I’m still the morena jambo (1),” she says. The information is from the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo.
- The terms moreno (masculine) or morena (feminine) is one of the most popular terms used in Brazil to define one’s color if one possesses a light to dark brown skin color combined with hair texture and color. The usage of the term has been discussed in numerous articles. The term jambo refers to a fruit that comes in three varieties: jambo-rosa (pink), jambo-branco (white) and jambo-vermelho (red). In reference to skin color, morena jambo or morena de cor jambo (morena of the color jambo) refers to a person who appears to have a year round tanned color.