Brazil is home to some of the most beautiful Black people on the planet, and the nation has branded itself as a ‘post-racial’ nation for decades.
But ask any Afro-Brazilian on the street and they have a different story to tell.
We exposed the very real racism that Afro-Brazilian’s endure in our article “Hell in the ‘City of God’”: For Afro-Brazilians, Cops Are More Dangerous Than Street Gangs, but hearing stories from our Brothers and Sisters shed a whole new light on their plight.
Gabriel Sukita asked the BuzzFeed Brazil family for the worst stories of racism they have ever experienced or witnessed. Here are 20 stories stand out:
Brincadeira inocente (Innocent joke)
“ party of the agency that I worked at in 2016. A young man volunteered to help a girl down the stairs because she was very drunk and she said, ‘I DON’T NEED HELP, SEU PRETO FILHO DA PUTA (YOU BLACK SON OF A BITCH) – exactly in those words. The next day they went to talk to her about what happened and she didn’t want to apologize, she said it was just a joke. One of the most revolting things was that the company took no action.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Mel Ruiz
Pequeno engano (Little mistake)
“It’s already has happened that cops stopped my father’s car (he’s black and I’m white with light colored eyes), they told him to get out harshly and ask me if I was okay, if I was in danger or if he was really my father. When I answered rudely (I wasn’t not afraid), I heard that “A black man with a big car and a blonde in the back” wasn’t normal.
Piada sem graça (A joke that’s not funny)
“Me, white, light-colored eyes. My father, black, Afro type hair, he wore a black power (Afro) when I was a child. I spent my ENTIRE childhood hearing from family and friends that I was not his daughter. Listening to ‘jokes’ about this, that a father is the one who creates, about how ‘an ugly black had made such a beautiful daughter’, that I was the daughter of the baker, the neighbor, the butcher… Or about what food was like at home, if we ate bananas like ‘my father’s monkey.’ I never found it funny, it always hurt me, I always cried and the more I cried, the more people laughed and thought it was funny…”
Professor de publicidade (Professor of advertising)
“I was talking to a friend in the elevator of the Mackenzie advertising building. I told her not to walk around without her RG (ID key card) because if you make any BO (police report) you may need it. A teacher overheard me and said in a tone of debauchery:
‘- She can walk around without her ID, but look at you… It’s you who can’t walk around without it’.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Kauê Nóbrega
Almoço de domingo (Sunday lunch)
“In 2011 I worked for a family as a nanny and my boss’s mother was extremely racist. There was a Sunday lunch in which I was in her house with the girl’s parents. Everyone was around the table sitting down to lunch, and my boss’s mother approached me and told me that I couldn’t eat with the family because she didn’t like blacks.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Gisele Felipe
Traumas de infância (Childhood traumas)
“My father is black and my mother is white, so I was born with fair skin and cabelo bem crespo (very curly/kinky hair). In school, the other kids liked to ask if I ‘combed’ my hair, stick things to it, sling those little rubber balls with spit… They called me monkey, cabelo de Bombril (brillo pad hair)… There was a situation in which a colleague complained a lot that my hair was getting in the way and he couldn’t see the blackboard, which if I didn’t have ‘good’ hair I should tie it down. The teacher, instead of helping me, moved me to the last row of the room (I’m near sighted) and sent a note to my mother to straighten or tie down my hair. Since then, they started straightening my hair and I’ve never been able to wear it loose again.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian A.C. Z. O.
A vida como ela é (Life as it is)
“My ex and I left my stepdaughter at my mother’s house. When I got off work I would go get her. Days after the implementation of the UPP (Pacifying Police Unit) Camarista Méier, here in Rio, I was going down my mother’s street with my stepdaughter and a car stopped us. It was very cold. The PM (Military Police) got out and told me to take off my coat and lower my shorts, throw all the things that were inside mine and in her backpack on the ground. They kicked her notebooks to see if there was anything in between the sheets, threw the juice from the lunchbox outside, opened the cookie containers, the pencil cases. They asked me what I was doing there. I said that I lived there, pointed to the building, giving the full address and my mother’s name. They frisked me a second time and decided to leave. I picked up everything off the floor, put it back in the backpacks and she asked me why they had thrown her juice out. At the time she was 5 years old. I was with her mother for four years, we separated, I’m in another marriage. Now she’s 10 years old and to this day I didn’t know how to answer honestly because we were searched so cruelly.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Avellar Paz
Racismo ao sair do útero (Racism coming out of the womb)
“They said I had to have taken milk of magnesia for my daughter to be born white. The person was had her on her lap and she had been born hours before.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Vanessa Fernandes
Pessoa horrível (Horrible person)
“I was in the salon now, and a lady came in saying that she wanted to wash her hair that was stinking like a ‘nego macaco’ (black monkey). Everyone’s embarrassment was clear. Even the hairdresser is black.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Heloísa Medeiros
Elogios racistas (Racist compliment)
“I was once in a restaurant with some friends and accompanied by a crush at the time. We were both black and, modesty apart, a lovely couple… We were having fun and there is an old lady, foreigner, looking at us and she starts saying a lot of random, but sexual things, saying that because we are black (she pointed to the skin making it very clear what she was talking about), (that) we were hot. I felt like crap, because she makes us out to be like animals at the zoo mating.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Layla Rocha
Começando desde cedo (Starting from early on)
“In reading classes, a girl looked at me and said ‘you can’t sit here, I don’t sit near gente de cor escura (people of dark color). She also didn’t let the other kids play with me either. I was so isolated that they locked me in the playground alone and didn’t realize that I disappeared from the class. Detail: the only black girl in a upper middle class school. I straightened my hair at 8 years-old because of the trauma and it took me years to accept my color”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Layla Rocha
Sempre confundem (They always confuse)
“I was once with a black friend going home. He was driving. They stopped me in a (police) blitz, asked me to get out of the car and asked if I needed help.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Thati Soares
Racismo nada velado (Racism is not veiled)
“My mother-in-law was against our dating and didn’t go to our wedding because I was black. I had never suffered racism so directly and that was what hurt the most.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Uda Pereira
Mercado de trabalho (Job market)
“I graduated in Gastronomy and I applied for a position in a big bakery here in the city (Campinas, São Paulo). The HR representative talked to me over the phone and said that he had loved my resume and my references and scheduled the interview. When I arrived and identified myself, she took me to have a corner away from the bakery and said that unfortunately I didn’t meet the requirements of the establishment. I understood what she meant and left in shock. Job interviews are a big issue even today for me!”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Airam Oliveira
Coitada (Poor thing)
“I was walking in the street and a boy looked at me and said to his mother: ‘Wow mother, look at her hair.’ And his mother said, ‘poor thing son, ela é negra (she’s black).’”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Carolina Rodrigues
Casos de família (Family incidents)
“My mother is black and I am white with light colored eyes. At age 7 I was going to another state along with her and my brothers. The driver wouldn’t let us board and said ‘these two boys may even be your children, but this girl, no. You’re kidnapping this child.’ The driver called the police and we had to go to the Tutelary Council post that was inside the bus station, because they were sure that the documents were falsified and my mother was kidnapping me.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Vanessa Amaral
Filha de médica (Doctor’s daughter)
“I went to find my mother (doctor, white woman) at her job because I was on the street and was going to hitchhike home. I catch a ride with her every week, but that day the receptionist was new, I went straight up to the room where my mother works (as I always do) and she came to ask me if I had a scheduled appointment, I explained that I was the daughter of an employee of the clinic and was going to meet my mother in the room and such.
Then she said that she was in the ENT room, so I said that my mother is the otorhinolaryngologist. She “didn’t understand”, she looked at me crooked, and I repeated. She asked my mother’s name, I said it, she asked if I was sure . Then I said that I was sure who my mother is. I got annoyed and went upstairs, she told the security guard to come along thinking I wasn’t going to notice.
Then when I was coming downstairs and passed by the reception with my mother she made a face of astonishment. My mother went there and said ‘this is my daughter, very beautiful, Karina, is her name’ (she hadn’t spoken to my mother because I know she gets upset when this happens, it was a coincidence) – then the girl said: fair enough, I almost doubted, you, ma’am, look like a porcelain doll, beautiful, beautiful, if I were to guess which employee here is her mother, I’d say that she’s one of the cleaning ladies.”
I hate when this happens, I don’t know, I feel bad for not feeling that I belong with my mother… I even made some highlights later, so my hair would not turn SO dark. “
Parece que racismo existe (It seems that racism exists)
“Ferry-Boat Passenger Terminal, August 10, 2016.
White Brazilian: Wow, how dressed up you are!
Me and my beautiful smile and few friends: Thank you?!
White Brazilian: What do you do?
White Brazilian: Really?! Of what?
White Brazilian: WOW! I didn’t know that people of color with that hair went to college, even more so.
Me: The last time I consulted, I fulfilled all the requirements to be in college. I don’t know if you know, but since 1888 (abolition of slavery) a lot has changed, including the requirements to be accused of racial insult and the last time I consulted you, I also filled them all in.
A fairy dies every time you say racism doesn’t exist. A fairy died today.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Karolina Graciano Cardoso
Uma aula de racismo (A class of racism)
“Once I was going down to the school (I was studying at night and had a considerable walk from the subway to school), I remember that I passed one side of a man and I picked up the pace, when I came to him he gave me a nudge in the stomach and said I was not going to be able to rob him.”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Pedro Henrique
Sem se desculpar (Without apologizing)
“…And the worst day was when I was shopping with my husband (who is very white) and a lady threw a tray of the store at me. I looked at her without understanding and she ‘don’t you work here? This is messed up!’ I was unresponsive to her harshness and my husband said that I didn’t work there. Then, without apologizing: ‘ah, okay, I didn’t see that she was with you. You know, you’re the darker one here and I thought you worked here.’”
— As Told By Afro-Brazilian Beatriz Novais