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Brazil, a country with a long history of racism, continues to have issues with segregation and equality.
The Portuguese arrived during the 16th century, took lots of area and fought with indigenous people and began its reign of colonization. Similar to colonization by America, the United Kingdom, France and others, its colonization included an economy based on the African Slave trade. So many Africans were bought to the nation to build the nation’s infrastructure and serve the Portuguese.
The Portuguese had also colonized multiple African nations by this time to include Angola and Cape Verde. This of course created a boost in the population of Africans in Brazil, and led to some intermixing and complicated relationships overtime. Unlike African Americans in the United States, there was no huge movement away from racism and segregation, although throughout the years there were some activist here and there, a huge movement mirroring the American civil rights movement was largely absent.
Due to this, Afro-Brazilians remain largely invisible and ignored by the Brazilian mainstream media, government, and businesses. Many are relegated to rough neighborhoods and favelas, being left out of the job market and corporate world entirely.
Over time, there has been some progress, but current government issues with corruption has skewed this process negatively, creating backlash similar to the same backlash we are currently seeing here in America toward African Americans, women, immigrants and any increased move toward diversity. The chants that we hear and signs that we see in America such as “We Want Our Country Back” and “Make Our Country Great Again” are also common chants in Brazil.
In light of this, voices have been emerging; one particular project created by bestselling author Luciana Benton and her husband is making a huge statement. The project, “100 Meninas Negras” (meaning “100 black girls”) consists of 100 children’s books featuring black girls.
The stories are amazing, interesting, and diverse. All over the world, women in general and young black women are making themselves visible, believing in themselves, seeing themselves and each other, even if the mainstream media doesn’t.
The hope is that in Brazil, America, and other nations, minorities are able to open up as themselves, while still being seen as citizens of those nations. A diversity of viewpoints, imagery, and more are what make great nations. This fact is often overshadowed by the belief that absolute assimilation is necessary in order for a nation to be cohesive.
Nations are better made into cohesive principles, such as the right to the pursuit of happiness and progress rather than to the false notion that only one way of speaking, reading, believing, or being should exist.
Feature Image via Black Women of Brazil