By: Aline Guimarães
AFRICANGLOBE – If you weren’t born and raised in Brazil (or any other Latin American country for that matter) the question of Black identity may not seem to be a complex issue. In the US, fr example, one is either Black or they are not, although one could argue that the multi-racial category/identity has significantly contributed to the debate.
Although the US once featured a mulatto category on its census, since the implementation of the “one-drop rule“, the issue became clear as anyone with any known African ancestry was recognized as Black….period. In Brazil, it isn’t quite as simple. While most Brazilians would argue that the country is free of the “one-drop” rule, in the current social structure one could accept this to be true. After all, if Brazilians were judged according to the “one-drop rule”, easily 80-90% of the population would be considered Black.
But historically speaking, there’s a little known side. Various sources (Tucci 2005, Boxer 1981, Lara 1988 and Viana 2007) document colonial Brazil’s discrimination against “infected blood/races”. According to Boxer, “All of the religious orders that had been instituted in Brazil maintained a racial discrimination against the admission of mulatos.” In this period, it was necessary for candidates who wanted to assume public positions, to prove their “purity of blood” as far back as fourth generation, a method that sought to “control the status of free persons of mixed race in the sphere of social hierarchies.”
Although, as stated previously, no one would be foolish enough to suggest that this “purity of blood” rule is still respected among the general population, when one studies the near identical socioeconomic status between Brazil’s so-called “pretos (negros/Blacks)” and “pardos (mulatos/browns)” and their disadvantages vis-a-vis the White population, one could argue that the system itself still maintains this restrictive measure, at least regarding those whose African ancestry is clearly visible.
Still today, as in colonial Brazil, being considered a preto or pardo is still regarded as a social penalty, as such, it’s not difficult to understand how many persons of visible African ancestry avoid a Black identity or are persuaded to classify themselves with terms designed to distance oneself from African ancestry.
I use myself as an example for the affirmation of the title, since I had problems accepting myself as Black, repeatedly looking at myself in the mirror, this when I was some 8 years old, not liking what I saw and believed in the verbal assaults I suffered at school, things like “cabelo de Bombril (scoring pad hair)”, “Hey, give me your hair so I can wash my house”, this reduction made me grow up with a hatred of having such hair.
Since I realized my Blackness I open the eyes for our children who still suffer from this prejudice in schools, they are embarrassed not only in accepting their hair, but also accepting themselves as Blacks, because the idea that being Black is being inferior still lingers.
How many times saying to a child that her color is beautiful, did those children’s eyes look at me with disbelief without understanding where their beauty is.
Unfortunately what still perpetuates itself is the embranquecimento (whitening) of many who are born, newborn children are recorded as being branca (White), being that their parents are Black, the origin of those babies is not seen, but what is put forward is a facilitator that generalizes people with this culture “of not knowing their origins” even parents at the time of registration don’t interpose, for their children being registered as White is a (source of) pride.
The African origins are lost in a sea of prejudice, some children learn from birth that they should not accept (the religions) Umbanda and Candomblé (very repulsed Afro-Brazilian expressions) that are works of a demon that Whites created precisely so that afrodescendentes (Afro descendants) don’t know their African origin. If you ask in some public school class room which children consider themselves Black the answer is already known, not even half raises their hands, but more than half are Black.
Their mirrors are still blond dolls with light-colored eyed, in advertisements there are always White children with straight hair and this is not the reflection in which they see themselves, turning the color of their skin into a burden to carry for the rest of their lives.
Remembering that this text is not to generalize, because there are children who like cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair), their dark skin, but this is a small portion.
I wrote a short story thinking about this issue of the visibility of Black beauty in the world of childhood.
“On rua 19 (street) there was an artist who was happy to have a great desire to paint.
One day he with his brushes and paints in his hands looked at the screen and thought:
I know how to paint, where does my desire come from?
So the artist walked from one side to the other, scratched his forehead and decided to go out to the street.
He realized that for a long time he did not see dogs and people. He began to see how some places are colored and others not so much, he saw that people are of different colors; this left him with itchy hands and the more he saw people, animals and objects, the more he had this itch.
Until that the other side of the street he saw the most beautiful girl in the world, she was Black as the starless sky, her hair looked such soft clouds, the artist surprised by the beauty of the girl crossed the street and started talking to her .
“Where did you find the color of your skin?”
“I don’t know, I just know I was born this way.”
“But I had never seen such a color.”
“So you never looked around a lot, because there are many people with the same color as mine.”
And the girl walked away while the artist watched her.
He returned to the house and picked up his brushes and paints and when made his first stroke on the screen he discovered the desire to paint comes when we see people with beauty and respect.
He discovered that the differences are what bring the desire to paint.