“O mytho é o nada que é tudo
O mesmo sol que abre os céus
É um mytho brilhante e mudo…”
“Myth is the nought that means all.
The very sun that opens up the sky
Is a bright and silent myth…”
No one is free of racial prejudice–not you, not me, and, certainly, not my mother. Born in the mid-1960s, my mother grew up in rural Mississippi–in the same county where Emmett Till was beaten, shot and drowned. This is the county where voting rights activist, Birdia Keglar, was murdered and it is the same county which had its first integrated prom in 2009. Known as the Free State of Tallahatchie County, it is one of the many places in Mississippi where murders and kidnappings remained unsolved. It is also my home.
But this isn’t another Mississippi story. It is, however, another race story–another story about how being black in America, or being of color, in general, has its drawbacks. Yet, I wouldn’t change who I am for the world and, you,–whoever who are and whatever color your skin is–neither should you.
This is my first introductory post to Colorwise Magazine, a magazine that seeks to promote consciousness by advocating social enlightenment. Essentially, we want to you to love who you are, whether you are African-American, Brazilian, Korean, Nigerian, German/Jamaican, or Pujabi.
We want you to respect each other, and not in a superficial “yea, I like Indian food” kind of way. Respect requires understanding and knowledge. We want you to understand the social issues that affect different groups of people and be enlightened.
As stated beforehand, no one is free of racial prejudice. If you say that you don’t see color when talking with someone, you’re lying. We all have our apprehensions and our stereotypes. Racial issues and class differences are prevalent and we have to stop trying to live colorblind. There is nothing wrong with seeing the beauty of colors!
While studying in Brazil, one of our very first lectures was the Myth of Racial Democracy. The idea of a racial democracy was based on the work of Gilberto Freye, a popular sociologist during the early 20th century. Although Freye did not coin the phrase “racial democracy,” his publication suggested that class differences were the main causes of social distance and Freye expressed confidence in the social and intellectual capacity of the mulatto, as blacks were “disappearing” by merging into the “whiter” group.
The idea of racial democracy and miscegenation (or a “mixed” society) were Brazil’s response to the racial discourse that was occurring in the United States and Europe. However, it is quite interesting to discover what actual Brazilians think about the subject of a racial democracy.
During my plane ride to Brazil, two Brazilian men (one of Italian descent and the other of African descent) wanted to know what I had been taught about race and racism in Brazil. The one of African descent explained how, even though he believed there were certain prejudices, he believed that, in Brazil, there was more of a class difference (which is exactly what Freye argues). The Brazilian of Italian descent agreed but noted how at the firm where he works, there was only one black (although, very smart).
“The higher you up you go, the whiter it is,” the Italian one said.
Both of these Brazilian men were engineers. The only difference: the one of Italian descent came from a line of engineers and went to a university in Brazil; the one of African descent attended a university in America and his grandfather died slave.
Through our conversations, I learned their perspective on how class difference affects education and success in Brazil. However, to say that it is a class difference devoid of racial prejudice is delusional.
The majority of individuals that occupy the lower socio-economic levels are usually the descendents of slaves—individuals whose ancestors experienced discrimination and were forced into a particular social status because of their distinct physical differences. Although Brazil attempted to solve its racial problems with the “myth of racial democrary,” it is evident that racism, as well as its history, continues to affect the success and psyches of individuals, today.
So, as Fernando Pessoa said “myth is the nought that means all”—the nothing that means everything. This means the empty anecdotes we delude ourselves with, in order to convince ourselves and each other that we are not “racist” or “prejudiced,” are the very things that can inadvertently perpetuate stereotypes and inequalities. You are not colorblind. The influence and daily influx of media images are too potent for anyone to proclaim that.
We are here to help you, as well as ourselves, understand that there is nothing wrong with color. We just need to change our lens.
So, will you be colorwise?