Review: Prejudice? Really?

An article I read the other day: Voices of Brazil, the models facing prejudice at home, from the Guardian, really bothered me and I just felt I had to write something about it, being black and all.

First of all, the author accuses Brazil of choosing a white couple to represent the country in the World Cup draw, which is downright incorrect. Brazil chose Camila Pitanga and Lázaro Ramos, two black actors, for the draw and Fifa rejected them and chose the two white models and couple, Marcelo and Fernanda.

Secondly, black models are rare anywhere in the world, Why? Because we are a minority in most countries and women find it harder to identify with women of other races and because models are chosen for other reasons, not because of colour. I mean, the world´s catwalks are not exactly abundant with Asian models, are they? People should never be forced to choose someone because they are this race or that race. That, to me, is racist.

Maybe black models have more chances outside Brazil, but it is precisely for the “tropical” look that they are chosen so being from Brazil might even be a bonus. Countries where there is a low population of black people are usually the ones who hire them the most. But again, so what?

I just wish people would stop whining about idiotic things and start acting to improve the serious things this country has to change. Picking on a country for just about everything is not going to solve anything.

There, I´ve said it.

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Black? Me?

I read an article in the Economist the other day about racism in Mexico. The article was basically about discrimination and racism toward black people in the country. The part that really caught my eye was the end: the author claimed that there are more black people in Mexico than recorded in the census because some black people tick the “mixed race” or downright “white” box  to [quote] protect themselves from racism and discrimination [unquote]. This statement amazed me by the sheer lack of knowledge on basic issues related to race.

How can someone expect to protect themselves from racism by claiming they are not black in a chart? Does the author honestly believe this is a protective measure?

It has always amazed me how little white people know about racial issues, and how ignorant they are of the problems affecting black people in Latin American countries.

Black people who tick the “white” or “other” box do it for one reason, and one reason only: They are denying their race, and they dislike being a member of that race.

My husband works in a construction company. Many of the black workers swear they are “olive-skinned” or “light-skinned” (pardo) at time of registration, and sometimes get angry if anyone questions their statement.

A friend of mine lost his black girlfriend because he once had the audacity to say, “hey, but you´re black, right?” when she complained about black people in Brazil. She walked out of their flat to never return.

White people have no issues about black people, but black people do. I have always believed that people tend to discriminate blacks simply because of statistics, not because of colour. Some friends claim it is classism, which seems acceptable to me. Black people are mostly poor, hence unattractive.

A white colleague from South Africa told me there was a “very handsome, smart and popular black boy in his class at school” who was, “really admired by all of us white kids”.  Even in South Africa, black people are most discriminated because of their inborn tendencies, not because of their colour.

In most cases, and of no lack of evidence, people see laziness, violence, ignorance and poverty when they look at a black face (again, nothing to do with colour), and this is very evident in Brazil.

Being black myself (“you aren´t that black”, claim some Brazilians), I never felt the full extent of my blackness until I came to Brazil. Black people in Brazil have no identity and imitate the black American in any ways possible. They lower their heads in shame when they see a real African, and gaze at all-white actor TV soaps in amazement and admiration. “Todos os brancos são bonitos” sighed a housewife I met in Bahia (“all white people are beautiful”).

Another black woman, who had 2 darker children and one lighter child proudly claimed that the latter was “cleaned” in her “stomach”. This is a common conception amongst poor black families: that the last child will be “whiter” because the “blackness” has rubbed off.

So I ask again: who really has a problem with colour?

Brazil still holds strong slavocrat roots. Consequently, black people feel inferior as opposed to being considered inferior simply because of their colour. They lower their eyes when they see a handsome white man or woman, incapable of “competing” or feeling equal in the face of such splendour. This is especially the case in the North and North-east of Brazil. White people in these parts of Brazil talk to black people differently and would rarely consider friendship or any other type of long-lasting relationship other than some form of service provision. Why? Because they live in different worlds, have different priorities and even think differently. Their colour is a symbol of their status, not a symbol of their race.

In Florianópolis, where I lived for 2 years and where the black population is very low, white poor people commit the same crimes and the same acts of violence (which tend to be more impulsive and aimed at random targets than white-collar crimes, say) as black poor people commit in other parts of Brazil where the black population is higher. Therefore petty and violent crime is linked to poverty, not race.

Education can be considered the basis of this problem, but one cannot expect a country with often incorrect and blatantly bad teaching material to include African culture in its history books. Nor can they expect children who hate their own colour to embrace this new initiative.

In summary, black people in Latin American countries are more racist towards themselves than white people could ever be. They mistrust their own race, mistreat their own race, and, as many white people, would much rather their children married white people or someone of any other race except their own (I have witnessed this phenomenon first hand many times).

Another clue as to the way Black people are seen in Brazil is the commonly used expression, “nego”. This expression is much like “nigger” in the US, and is used for a huge variety of purposes:

a. any crowd of noisy people (“o caminhão tá cheio de nego”), whether the crowd is black or not;

b. criminals (“nego levou meu tocador de CD);

c. any inconvenient or inappropriate person, again not necessarily black (“nego tá sempre batendo na minha porta”).

The funny thing is that this expression is acceptable to everyone.. Another mystery of Brazilian culture.

Why black people should stop whining

Like religion, racism and race is a touchy subject that offends and leads people to refrain from too much investigation.

The whole black issue only really started to affect me when I moved to Brazil, and a little in Argentina, where there aren´t any (2% of the population, I think). The whole slave (slavocrat) mentality in Brazil is very strong, and the larger the percentage of black people in the state population (as in the case of the north and north-east), the stronger the awareness one has of having black skin. Some people argue that it is classism, that blacks are considered lesser citizens because they are poor, which leads me to the next question: why are they poor?

On this issue, there is an interesting discussion going on at the BBC World Service website called, “why is Africa poor”.

Anyway, the question was first answered when I moved to Bahia….envy. A common characteristic of black people in Bahia, and one of the reasons why it is so hard to “get ahead” without moving away from family and friends, is envy. I was actually warned on the first day I got there that I had to be careful with “olho gordo“, and was swiftly given a red ribbon to tie around my wrist for protection.

White people are oblivious of the issues of being black. I suspect they are tired of the whining and the lack of solutions black people find for their problems, and which other minorites seem to have found, such as community spirit and support, financial aid for new families in the neighbourhood (Korean, Jewish, Mexicans in the U.S.). This does not happen with blacks and it never will.

Another thing that has always bothered me is how blacks in developed countries (as opposed to those of developing countries, who just shut up and lower their heads or join gangs and vent their frustrations by attacking others), always seem to resort to “demanding their rights” and finger-pointing whenever they feel excluded or attacked because of their colour, which is seldom the case.

So why shouldn´t they whine and get on with their lives live everyone else?

Firstly, and like my father said, no one can be forced to like anyone and that includes people of different races. Blacks are more racist than whites, but, as Chris Rock so wisely puts it, the “less fortunate” are allowed to hate others (as a fat person can openly hate a thin person). It´s no use forcing people to like you, you have to earn it.

Secondly, Africa is just as responsible for slavery as the rest of the slave buying countries. The greatest slave traders were black. Slaves were the losers of tribe wars and sold freely to anyone that wanted them, without concern for their fate. Blaming the white man for slavery is like blaming the messenger!Yes, they were cruel, but Africans of one tribe are just as ruthless with the Africans of another tribe.

Thirdly, the black man needs the white man to succeed. Don´t get me wrong: Blacks have their qualities. I mean, what would have become of music, dance and sports without them? My husband is as black a coal and I like it that way, but that´s not the point. Blacks are strength, body, movement and fun, while whites are work, planning and cynicism. If black people could only see that, as did Bob Marley  and other black musicians who would have never made it without their white managers, they would probably be more successful as a race.

Fourth, because pointing at people and blaming them for your back luck, as those crazy niggers that blame the CIA for creating crack to destroy the black race in America, only makes things worse and does not help anyone in any way.

And finally, because I firmly believe that Black people don´t always like being black anyway. The only person that called me a “dirty nigga” at school was blacker than I was! They don´t like people acknowledging the fact that they are what they are…and that can only be avoided by acting like everyone else, moving on with your life, chasing your goals and attaining them, and keeping your mind on your own happiness, instead of whining that you can´t make it because your great-great-great granny was a slave. Pathetic!

My theory on the real problem behind the black issue?  As I said before: 1) envy, 2) circular thinking.

We live in a linear world and black people (as do indigenous peoples) think circular. There is no future. Your salary has to be spent NOW. You eat all the food now because tomorrow is not an option. How can people that do not see the future have a future? That is the question that needs answering.

Great reads:

Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask

Article (Portuguese) – African participation in the trafficking of slaves

Racism vs. Racial Prejudice

The other day was Black Awareness Day and I actually stopped to ask myself what that was exactly. I watched a woman on the television, President of a Black movement, talking about the importance of that day to black people in Brazil and how much work there was to do to improve public awareness and racism, especially regarding public policies. It all seemed like such nonsense to me.

Black people have lost a war against themselves, not against other races. Other races are just patiently waiting for blacks to get their act together or simply don´t give a damn. The world is cruel, people are cruel, sometimes even in their own country, but when faced with the ^enemy^ they usually stick together, and that is not the case with the black race.

I refuse to accept things like Afro-American, Afro-descendent, and find it insulting that people from my own race actually promote those ^politially correct^ labels . In the Americas, we are all from ^somewhere else^ and labels should have been abolished years ago, not created!

In Brazil, white people are not racist, they are prejudiced against blacks. What is the difference? Well, if you are racist you hate someone because they are from a different race or ethnic group. White Brazilians do not hate jews, asians, muslims or anyone else for that matter. So why are they prejudiced against blacks? Because most of them have had bad experiences with blacks. Others simply do not like the way blacks live or behave. And then there are people so simply do not admire blacks like they do the asians, for example.
Another reason is that the history of blacks has made them hate themselves. No white man will ever know the feeling of burning under black skin when a black man becomes suddenly aware of what he represents to others. The feeling a little black girl has in an all-white party when no white boy wants to kiss her. Blacks feel this everyday and do nothing about it.

Yes, I know our race has suffered. I know slavery ripped the black man of his identity and beauty, of his name, his feeling of belonging to something, to his race. Blacks in the Americas were forced to adopt other religions in order to be accepted by another race and ended up with nothing except a shell-like existence and a bible. The beauty of being black to the black man has almost gone, almost dimmed into nothing. If he is not accepted, he feels he is nothing. He is like an orphan of himself.

There is the music, the dancing, the free spirit. the physical strength, all the beautiful things have been acknowledged and used by the other races, but not by the blacks. To them, it comes naturally and they underestimate just how important these qualities are. Where would we be without the influence of black people on music? If it weren´t for them, people would still be doing those funny dances to chamber music (nothing against it).

My father was always very proud of his heritage, but not of his people. He wore hats and jewellery that were gifts from this friends in Congo, Senegal, and other countries he visited during his travels. In Brazil, only white people would ask him about the origin of this outfits, while black people would look the other way in shame.  My question is, how can we enforce awareness on something we know nothing about? How can we complain about something we have not managed to overcome? Beats me.