Being Black In Brazil & America
Being Black in the Americas has never been easy. Descendants of Africans have faced an uphill battle for centuries and at the moment there seems to be a lot more work to do before the majority of the African diaspora can truly live free without prejudice.
While Black Americans are shell-shocked by the recent mass killing of nine Black church members by a white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina, Afro-Brazilians are protesting against a proposed legislation that will try 16 year olds as adults.
And we know which demographic will be most affected by this legislation: poor, black Brazilian boys.
Brazil already has the 4th largest prison population in the world; is there a planned agenda to increase it?
Blacks in Brazil and America are the two largest African diaspora populations in the New World. So, it makes a lot of sense for these two populations to interact more. Not only for fun and leisure, but for cultural, language and economic exchange as well.
Black Americans & Afro-Brazilians Share The Same Fight
A couple of years ago, my friend Paulo took me to an Educafro meeting in Sao Paulo. Educafro is a black Brazilian organization that is fighting for the rights of Afro-Brazilians. They work to give better educational and job opportunities to Black Brazilians.
In the meeting, the leader of Educafro, Frei David Santos, laid out the current agenda of what he wanted to do that month. It was interesting to see this side of Brazil; many Brazilians shy away from race talk.
This meeting influenced me a lot because the purpose of this blog isn’t just to help men go to Rio with a better understanding of how Brazil works, but I also want to connect more Black Americans with Black Brazilians. In my daily life, I always try to convince black people to visit Brazil.
Then today, I came across this 2006 interview about the Afro-Brazilian & African-American connection.
Check it out and read about how I think Afro Brazilians and Black Americans can help each other succeed in the future.
1. Learn Each Other’s Language
Black Americans speak English and Black Brazilians speak Portuguese. English is still the universal language of the world and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon. It’s obvious why we need as many Black Brazilians as possible to learn English for more business opportunities.
But Portuguese is very important too. It is spoken by more than 200 million people. And despite Brazil’s recent economic woes, there is still a great possibility of the country to be a solid world power in the next 50 years.
2. Stop Putting Down Black Americans/Brazilians
I see this mostly from Black American guys, but I’ve heard Afro-Brazilian women say a couple things about Brazilian men too. But speaking ill of your American/Brazilian counterparts isn’t constructive and should be avoided.
Some brothas will tell Brazilian women how bad American women are and how they are the worst of the worst. Okay, that’s fine, but what does that really do besides cause more division? Not only are you increasing your negative feelings about your counterparts in America, but you are also planting negative seeds in Afro-Brazilian women’s minds.
Also, you might be hurting your own self in the long run. Women don’t like men who complain about women all the time. So, if you harbor bad opinions about American women, just keep it to yourself.
3. Black Group Economics
The great Dr. Claude Anderson has preached black group economics for years. The solution is there, but people are too selfish, lazy or too comfortable to take action. Black Americans and Brazilians have enough money to create our own businesses. It’s not about being individually rich more so than everyone pitching in what they can and build businesses collectively.
Likewise, there are more Afro-Brazilians with money than ever before. Pro-blackness is less pervasive in Brazil, so that’s where Black Americans can come in and help spread the knowledge.
Economics is the only way blacks worldwide will be able to fund the other necessities in life such as education, healthcare and agriculture. We need businesses that can keep our money, ours.
4. Forget Preconceived Stereotypes of Each Other
All Brazilian women are submissive, friendly, family oriented and love to cook and clean while all American men are better providers, less likely to cheat and are more intelligent.
Stereotypes usually have a hint of truth to them but they are definitely not 100% true. They shouldn’t be relied on and you should not visit Brazil with them in mind.
It hurts both sides in the long run because we feel a need to live up to the expectations. But usually we’ll fall short and our peers will be left dissatisfied.
Let’s remember that we are all unique people with our own personality and talents.
5. Make Your Trip To Brazil/America More Than Just Fun
I know, I know, I know.
You are on vacation! A vacation is all about fun right? But if you are on your 3rd or 4th trip to Brazil, you are feeling a desire to someday live there or you just feel a kinship to Afro-Brazilians, your interactions in Brazil should be more than just drinking, partying and getting into mischief.
Go to cultural events. Interact with Brazilians in lesser known areas of Rio or Sao Paulo. Visit an English school for Black Brazilians and speak to the students.
There are a lot of things you can do to make a connection that goes further than just partying with them.
6. Call Out Racism In Both Countries
When you visit Brazil, you will come across people who will flat-out say there is no real racism there and that everyone is equal.
According to them, it’s more about class. If you are a Black American, you know that’s BS and can see through the smoke and the mirrors.
Calling out racism not only provides moral support for Black Brazilians, but you might also open the eyes of some Brazilians who aren’t aware of what racism and discrimination really is. Many Afro-Brazilians are so used to certain social conditions they don’t realize that they are living under white supremacy.
They just think “I’m poor because my family is poor”. And if they have poor family members who are white, they really won’t understand how their country can be racist yet have poor whites as well.
You have to try to explain how racism isn’t only about who is poor, but about who is rich. And in a place like Rio, you won’t see too many wealthy Brazilians in Ipanema or Leblon who are black.
7. Take Advantage Of Each Other’s Strengths
Both countries have strengths and weaknesses that can be used strategically.
In the U.S., we have so much disposable income that we can usually look at what we buy at the end of the year and shamelessly admit that we really didn’t need most of it. We have a lot of spending power, why don’t we use it for investing?
In Brazil, there are still a lot of untapped markets and industries. There is a lot more room to grow in the future.
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are still known to be the cities where you go to make your loot, but the future will also be about developing the interior region of Brazil where there will be a huge need for more entrepreneurs to offer products and services. I really believe the best is yet to come in Brazil.
Let’s strike in these areas before it’s too late.
8. Expose Our Children To Each Other’s Rich History
Black children are the future. There’s no doubt about that. So, why don’t we shower our youth with Black Excellence on the daily?
There are many Black American and Brazilian figures throughout history that every black child should know. Similar to the United States, the Brazilian educational system is very brief on Black History.
It’s up to us to teach our children about our history.
9. Stop Seeing Ourselves As Different People
I understand how nationalism works. I know plenty of black Americans who see themselves as Americans first. And I know black Brazilians who feel the same way.
But, this type of mentality is a big reason why we are in the predicament we are in. Blacks in both countries aren’t treated as 1st class Americans or Brazilians so why be so nationalistic?
We can’t have so much faith in a country that treats us unfairly. We are black first. And we should see other blacks around the world as family.
On the other hand, some Black Americans have the habit of telling others if they are black or not. We don’t make the final decision on who is considered black. If an Afro-Brazilian doesn’t identify as black, then cool. They can hang out with the other non-black people.
But for the ones that do self-identify as black, we should respect that as well.
Let’s stop separating ourselves and realize we are the same. We grew up in two different countries, but both founded on slavery. Seeing ourselves as black people first is the only way we will make real strides in the future.
10. Stop Assimilating Into White Culture
This is the last point on my list, but it’s a big one. I see this A LOT in America, but it also happens in Brazil, especially with Black Brazilian entertainers who are quick to forget what their life was like before money and fame.
Black Americans are susceptible to falling into the “American Dream” if they are provided with a stable job and enough income to do certain extracurricular activities.
It’s like all you have to do is give a brotha a $50,000/yr job and he is no longer worried about racism or the overall well-being of other blacks. As long as he is okay, he could care less.
We need to avoid this trap in both countries. On Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, To Pimp A Butterfly, the talented rapper used an unreleased 2Pac interview on the closing track, Mortal Man. In the interview, 2Pac explained how the youth is the strongest force in the fight for black empowerment because once a black man reaches the age of 30, it’s as if he gives up.
He finally succumbs to white supremacy and accepts whatever he can get from his white employer.
This is not sustainable. Dr. Boyce Watkins explains in great detail how working for White America cannot be the end goal on his YouTube channel as well as on his website www.financialjuneteenth.com. Blacks cannot rely on whites to fund our livelihood. Sooner than later, we must stop buying into the system and change it.
We can speed up the process by working with each other.