From Brazil With Love – Insight Into the Lives of Black Women in Brazil
Bella, Oh Bella Brazil
By Daniela Gomes
Daniela Gomes, a Brazilian activist/journalist/scholar speaks to us about the country she knows and loves.
MBL: In America, we know little about Brazil except what we see in photos from Carnival and now talk of the World Cup. Tell us something you love about Brazil.
DG: I love my country, it is a little bit different from what you see in newspapers. We are not only having fun and there aren’t girls walking in bikinis all the time (smile). But we are friendly and we love to receive. The main concern in our country, for people of color is still inequality, but in the past few years, it has been changing a little bit.
Brazil is huge, so it is hard to say what I like in a few short words. I live in Sao Paulo, it is a great urban city, similar to NYC. You can find the best restaurants, clubs, theaters, plays, everything you would find in any cosmopolitan city in the world, so this fascinates me. Also what is most adorable is the possibility to find everything you want 24 hours a day.
Also what is most impressive about Brazil, is that you can find any kind of weather or place that you think about. Beaches, mountains, valleys and etc.
MBL : Ah, yes that is very much like the landscape of the United States, from the East to West Coasts.
DG: I also love our culture, which is really rich.
MBL: I understand that Brazil has a large black population but only a small percentage of people identify themselves as black. Is that the case?
No, this isn’t true. Today 51% of Brazilian population declares themselves as black or brown, which includes the black population.
What happens is much deeper, because people identify themselves as black doesn’t mean they are conscious or they have an identity constructed in blackness or that they are able to discuss racial issues.
Most people here still believe we live in a racial paradise, including black people who think they are better off today, because they can buy things or date white people. I think something similar is happening in the US, but we can’t say that most people don’t declare themselves as black.
MBL: Oh my, now that sounds very familiar.
DG: Yes, there have been changes in these past 10 years, especially within the black struggle movement.
To understand blackness in Brazil it is still necessary to learn more about the racial thought proces here, this can clarify things. I go into further detail on my blog.
MBL: I’ve read that there are more opportunities for black and brown women in the corporate world. Have you experienced that in your career?
DG: No, it is still hard to be a black woman here. We are still facing things like not being hired because we have an Afro, or something like that.
Most international companies that would have diversity programs in the US, don’t have the same policy here, and is still hard to find a certain level of respect.
What has been happening is that more black women are studying, and leaving low-level professions like housekeepers or cleaners.
MBL: Yes, we wrote an article about the growing numbers of black women in higher education. Also the growing numbers of black women reaching the middle class for the first time in history.
DG: But there is still a struggle because people can’t understand that there is a heritage of the slavery. Black women went from the lord’s house to the domestic service.
We are still receiving the lowest payment for the same positions as white people, so we still have a long road ahead.
MBL: Is Brazil a good country for black women to consider moving to?
DG: Brazil is a good country for everyone, however to live here one needs to understand how racism works here.
It shows itself in a “friendly” way, so the same person who says he/she is your friend, can be racist with you and it sometimes is hard to identify.
About black women, we are still treated as the “sensual mulatta”, although the black movement has been denouncing this word, so most people think black women are more sensual, or hotter, or more sexy, and an available body, but I think that is everywhere. I’ve been outside my country and all my friends throughout the Diaspora complain about the same issue, so I don’t think it is just a Brazilian thing.
MBL: No, it isn’t. It really, really isn’t!
Is it more difficult for an educated woman to find a a partner in Brazil as is the case in the West?
DG: Yes it is true. We have some issues here, especially because most educated black men here seek white women. If you ask to them they are going to tell you that I’m crazy, but this is the truth. I know there are some interracial relationships in the US too, but here they are the majority.
Even some conscious men, in the middle of the black activism are married or dating white women, although their speeches say a different thing.
And of course in a sexist country which is Brazilian case, it is hard to find a man who can deal with a successful woman.
Bachelors Degree in Journalism by Umesp, Specialist in Media, Information and Culture by Center for Latin American Studies on Culture and Communication of USP, and completing a Masters degree in Cultural Studies at EACH-USP.
Among my main activities is the struggle for the black population in Brazil, which I believe is my life’s mission. I’ve been a militant since I was 13, when I “afrofreaked”, that means, I discovered that my ancestry makes me a black woman!