By Samandra

Talking About Racism as a Brown Person

08 Jun 2020

Let’s talk about racism. As someone who has suffered from racism in the past, I have some things to say. However, you should also know that I don’t think that making white people feel guilty about the color of their skin–something that they haven’t chosen for themselves–is the proper way to fix anything.

So while I communicate about this, I don’t ask you to agree with what I will say, but I would appreciate it if you would try to see the love I feel for all kinds of people, and try to understand how I feel about this matter.

I have suffered a great amount of racism in Brazil– a country in which usually Americans think that everyone has the same skin color as me. However, Brazil is a very diverse country. There are a great number of immigrants from Germany, Italy, Japan, Austria, Korea, Poland, Lebanon, Russia, China, and so many other countries. So basically, the common stereotype doesn’t give justice to how all Brazilians look.

I was born and raised in the state of Santa Catarina, in the south of Brazil. I have ancestors that are German, Indigenous, and Portuguese. My grandma was white and blonde and my grandpa was tan. Because of this mix, some of my uncles and aunts are blonde, and some are tan–all coming from the same parents.

The type of racism I have suffered in Brazil mostly referred to hearing things such as “it had to be black”, “that’s something that black would do”, “that’s a black’s color (referring to when I used red)”, “blacks shouldn’t use pink lipstick”.

These people made me constantly aware of my skin color, and believe that it wasn’t desirable. So, I became a teenager that didn’t like my skin color. Because of that, I avoided being in the sun and going to the beach so I wouldn’t get any darker. I stopped wearing red because I didn’t want to be labeled “black” for wearing it. And every time I put pink lipstick on, I would think that I shouldn’t wear that color, as that would be faking a lip color I didn’t have. I stopped doing these things because I didn’t want to hear more hateful comments.

Then I moved to the USA, a country with a greater amount of whites than in Brazil. To my surprise, these people didn’t seem to care about the color of my skin. I became friends with a great number of white people, went on a good amount of dates with white guys, and in all these 7 years living here, I have never heard any racist comment coming from them. I also noticed white girls getting spray tans and becoming even darker than me. I noticed that my skin color was something they wanted to have.

As I continued to feel that acceptance, that here my skin color was something desirable and that people didn’t seem to care if I was black, brown, or white, I stopped paying attention to it–something that before, I was constantly aware of.

Recently, I went to an Indian store looking for food and I saw those skin whitening creams and it came to my mind that in the past I would certainly have tried it, but today I don’t feel the need to. I love my skin color and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! It’s just perfect for me.

Although, I must admit that there were a few times in which I felt that being brown didn’t help me much. Living in Provo I felt that girls would have their group of girl friends in which they all were white and blonde. I also applied to a job at BYU, and the person chosen for the position when I applied was female-white-blonde, just like all the other ones that have worked in this job before I applied, and just like the ones that came after that.

I also felt racism once when I went to Carrabas with some close friends in Arizona. They both are white and have four cute kids. The waitress asked them how the food was, and she didn’t look or ask me anything. She probably thought I was the nanny, but no, I was just their friend.

Those were the three situations that I felt that my color affected how I got treated here in the USA. Apart from these examples, I can’t think of any other situation where I felt that my color was an issue.

We like to talk about white privilege, but what about brown privilege? I talk about this because it’s where I fit in. I have received scholarships because of my skin color, and I have received other perks because of that. What if instead, we received these benefits because of our socio-economic circumstances? Some black/brown people didn’t need this help, while some impoverished white families have had a greater need than us. Although because their skin color may not be labeled in the category of “in need,” they may be at a disadvantage in these situations.

I just wish that we didn’t need to talk so much about race and color. This shouldn’t matter at all, just like it shouldn’t matter if I decide to wear a yellow or orange shirt. What should matter is what we do with our lives and how we treat others.

In summary, I have suffered racism by white people a couple of times, but the greater amount of them have treated me with respect and love, so how could I forget all the good deeds they have done me and label all whites as racists? I don’t believe in the “one size fits all”, and I don’t believe that all white people are racist. As I said, I have been on a good amount of dates with white guys, I have a lot of white friends, and also a lot of people from church, roommates, people that I work with, etc. which have treated me so nicely, regarding my skin color.

As I say all of this, I won’t make white people feel bad for the color that they were born with. They are not responsible for what their ancestors did, their only obligation is to do something today, and educate their children to treat everyone as an equal human being, and I like that these events lately have been helping them to be more involved in promoting color equality. We can’t do to them what was done to us in the past! We don’t combat racism with racism, but with love, education, and communication.

I am aware though, that this has been an issue throughout centuries, and that we need to fix it. A lot of damage has been done to black people and it needs to stop.

I love that we all are becoming more aware of what people of color deal with for just being themselves. I love that a lot of people are showing empathy and love towards us and that they are educating themselves, and that we the brown/black community are communicating what we deal with and giving everyone a chance to make things better.


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