Racism is ingrained in many cultures. Seems we humans can’t accept freely who is different from us. The deep necessity to feel superior in some way, to have who blame for our faults, mistakes and bad decisions had been used by extremists to fuel hatred, fear and indifference for those who are suffering discriminations. I can tell you because I faced it when living in Brazil.
I will tell you my story, not in search of any kind of recognition or notoriety. It’s a story like mine, occurring in the shadows of society, that have been feeding racism in the world. The small actions happened far from our eyes, in the homes and communities making the different, the one we think did not fit to our concept of being a human being seen as dangerous. Many times when watching a movie, it’s possible to see a repetitive view that black people or different people who had a different skin colour, and sometimes religions are pictured as the enemy. Each Hollywood move which shows the hero in light skin and the bad guy speaking with an accent or having a different skin colour from the so-called hero, we are fomenting in the imagination of millions of people fear about the other.
I was born in Brazil to a Spanish mother and a Brazilian father. Since very little, my mother’s voice echoed on my ears, saying words about how her blood was pure Spanish. Her words “in my veins runs pure Spanish blood’ were a hidden message to my father a mixed between African, Native Indians, and Europeans. A note being repeated times and times again until you see yourself as different from others. That kind of proud, the proud of purity was there.
In my teens, I could understand better my father’s ancestry history. His mother was mixed-raced (I hate the use of race to humans) and she tried to disguise her real parents having a fake photograph of someone else on her living room wall representing her parents. My mother told me my grandmother was ashamed because her mother was a daughter from a European and Native American Indian woman and an Africans and Portuguese man. “Her sisters and brothers had more dark skin that her. She thinks she is superior.” My mother comments about my grandmother passed through my mind every time I saw someone rejecting their ancestry, at the same time, showing how my mother wasn’t aware of her prejudices.
However, I never thought about how my grandmother felt or what was going on her mind that made her tried to hide who she really was. I looked at the mirror and saw someone equal all others around me. Never passed my mind, my father ancestry one day would knock on my door and make me feel exactly what racism means.
On my youth, already in the university, I had a variety of friends. They had names and characteristics, but I never used ethnic to refer to them. I learned to choose friendship based on how open to learn and talk and share they were. I had few friends, but most were supportive, present and funny.
It was at the university I met the man who would be my partner for life. It was a tumultuous relationship, with lots of tears, and indecisions. When finally, we decided to marry. Something new appeared in my life: discrimination. My partner family was against our relationship since the beginning; however, I thought the reason was I was not wealthy, and they were. Never in my mind, my skin colour was the problem, the issue making them hate me as I was an enemy. For more than twenty years, a series of humiliations, aggressions and awkward moments were pilling up. It was like they were always pushing me to break up my marriage as my partner was a prisoner from an inferior and disgusting woman.
Only when I miscarriage, I came to understand what was the real problem. I lost my babies when I was 24 weeks pregnant. It was a devastating moment in my life. A family should be supportive and understanding in a time like that, but what I have was my mother taking all the pain for her (as she was who had a miscarriage) and my partner family blaming me for what had happened. It was an afternoon when my husband brother and his fiancée came to visit us in the hospital. At that exact moment, my father was there. The ambient was heavy, but I supposed it was related to the babies’ death.
A few months later, in a heated disagreement between my in-laws and I, finally, the truth comes to light. My mother-in-law was clearing to say I should be grateful for had been accepted in the family. That they had done for me much more than my father. I wondered why she was pointing to my father. The families never had a relationship, and she knew little about who my father was or how was his relationship with me.
The argument has broken our relationship, and for some time, I had peace in my life. Four years late, my son was born. Unfortunately, he had jaundice, and his skin was dark and yellowish. My in-laws were always observing the baby trying to see on him traces from their son. It was like a competition. One day, when I was sunbathing my son to help with his jaundice. My mother-in-law told me how she was a relief the baby had light eyes and now, light skin. “I thought he would be as black as your father.” The final coin fell. I was shocked.
Many conversations later, my partner confirmed that they see me as a black woman. Meaning I was inferior in many ways, I could understand why many times I had been compared with the family cook and maid – who coincidental were named Helena and were black – and many times I was gifted with the same gifts they were. I was seen as a servant, someone inferior, and they were very upset about their soon choice to marry.
Suddenly I looked in the mirror and saw someone who didn’t deserve respect. Someone less than others with light skin. I was disgusted, disoriented, absolutely revolted to see people could be that racist. There wasn’t another word to express what my in-laws were. Racism was something running openly in the family. It was subtle for the outsider, but black people had only one place for them in the kitchen or cleaning their mess. Of course, they were generously giving them present at Christmas and birthday, even helped one of them buy a house or providing food to the poor But, it was only a social act.
Like going to the church every Sunday to the mass, helping others was always something to be publicized. Something that used to show their superior position in society. Unfortunately, their son married someone of Zulu origin, and now they had to hide her from the same community they lived. Only a few close friends were introduced to me. I was the macula in their family.
My relationship with racism was much less painful or hurtful than the millions of people who suffer around the world. White people refuse to accept it happens and is happening now in their cities, villages, institutions. If you look to the world, the white occidental world, it is easy to see how prejudices and lies have been feed to our culture from centuries. Slavery transformed humans on things. Then, after the abolition, they were left without support, becoming penniless and giving a reason to be feared. The cinema and other arts sometimes supported by so-called scientists, create the myth of the dangerous and criminal race and gave them a colour; black.
It’s time to end the concept of race. If every person in the world understands a little about genetic, it is white race is not something we should believe or use as an excuse for the act of inhumanity. Black, Asian, Native America, Hispanic people are being labelled by authorities as not human, as dangerous and criminals. That is like to say all white people are … (complete with a lousy adjective).
People are made of individuals. There are good people in all places, in all colours, speaking different languages. They are the majority. The wrong people, the ones who are criminal, they are a minority having been used as an excuse to fuel hatred and fear from an entire group of people.
Recently I was teaching my son about how sometimes the world can be interpreted in black and white, there are many other nuances and colours, different points of views. Only one I reject over and over again, racism.