Contos Reais de um Mundo Imaginário I - versão do autor (Portuguese Edition)
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The color of my skin. Boys were always the most discriminatory, the ones who were the most explicit in their racism.
São Paulo Noir
They continue to reproduce the values of the dominant class, which is the way they were raised. Imagine taking a black girl home back then, more than 40 years ago. Even friendships were questioned.
Imagine a black girlfriend. It was impossible in the world we were brought up in, in which standards of intelligence and beauty were defined by whiteness. I was afraid to speak up in certain situations. I felt like I had to stay quiet, that I had to study more, but all of that was a product of my background. If you want to achieve something, if you want to have a decent job and survive, you need to study. I write more than I speak. That was a huge barrier. You had that idea in your head without reading anything about it, simply because white people were the ones who raised their hands, the ones who were confident in their argumentative power, the ones who could say whatever nonsense they wanted in class and no one would pay any attention to it.
But if a black person raised their hand, the entire class would turn to see what they were going to say, to see if they were going to say something stupid.
That was intimidating. Artememoria : It sounds like a long process of growing conscious about racism. A process of becoming conscious about what racism is and how it relates to those who want to maintain ideologies of white supremacy. I knew all about self-acceptance because of my grandmother, so this was never hugely traumatic for me.
I lived with her until I was 27 years old. But when I went to that other world, I did start to feel that kind of discourse. But then the era of the student movement began. In the midst of dictatorship there were marches demanding that the regime be toppled, that the oppression of all different social sectors had to end. I was studying next door during one of the most intense crackdowns of a dictatorship that lasted for two decades.
There were bombs, the police were always there. And I came from the periphery, witnessing those historic events as I entered Mackenzie high school. Artememoria : Did you participate in the movement against the dictatorship at that time? Alone, too, because I was the only one who studied in Mackenzie from my neighborhood in the periphery. I would go to the marches out of curiosity, not because of ideology. I was also a student and I wanted to know what was going on with those other students and workers holding signs.
I also started to see what was going on with the civil rights movement in the United States. That really woke me up.
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Our media gave airtime to the civil rights liberation movement because it was American. And I started paying attention to these movements in the United States, since I already identified with what was Americanized. What music did I listen to? American music. Which artists did I know about? American artists. Who was the king of my generation? Elvis Presley. Of course, no one said that everything Elvis learned came from Harlem, that he went to Harlem and found rock music, but that he was accepted because he was white. My world started to open up. We were the lowest of the low in Brazil because that idea of racial democracy reigned supreme.
Now, the way the TV portrayed what was going on in the US — everything except for Martin Luther King — made black people seem like troublemakers. Television and media only represent a specific sector of society, that of the dominant class. Artememoria : That last comment is an interesting point of intersection between racial struggle and class struggle.
How did you see the dynamic between movements for racial justice and socialist movements in Brazil during the dictatorship? But we were seen as entirely communist. I thought Martin Luther King was so wholesome. He was a person with really excellent principles who believed in humanity, so much so that he was assassinated. Malcom X, who later would become one of my idols, was also assassinated. But he provoked society, he attacked society.
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He even argued for separation, a black United States and a white one, because there was never going to be equality and there was never even going to be dialogue. Here, nothing came close to dialogue because the dictatorship implanted racial democracy as public policy, and various thinkers corroborated that philosophy. So what did we have? Was it this national and international context that led you to write that piece? It was very hard for me to get a job as a journalist, and I needed to work.
I had been part of the counter-culture. When I discovered the hippie movement, I really identified with it because it was a movement about all kinds of freedom for young people. They had those beautiful clothes, amazing musicians, Woodstock.
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I started to go camping with friends on far off beaches and wore long colored skirts. We would date around because we were in favor of free love. A profession for upper-middle-class white people. I was thoroughly mistreated and was assigned the worst stories and the worst hours. Journalism in Brazil was, as it is today, an entirely unstable profession.
When there were cuts, who was at the top of the list? I was. I went to local papers and worked in revision. She does not like that she is treated differently. Girl, do you feel any sort of racism here? She was working for a boss who maybe treated her well, who paid her salary on time. My dad and I just looked at each other. That confirmed it. They saw black women as domestic workers, prostitutes, or people who would serve you.
So they would ask themselves, how could I, as a white person, me, as the owner of this newspaper, send this person out to cover a business meeting? How could I send her out to interview a doctor? I had a friend who was a photographer, one of the best, and he worked at Jornal da Tarde , the most revolutionary newspaper in the Brazilian press in the 70s.
He had to work on a piece about Erasmos Dias , who was a terror during the dictatorship. He was the man who invaded the Pontifical Catholic University. Erasmos Dias looked at the photographer and called the newspaper to say, how dare you send me this unkempt black person in sandals? Send him back. It was in this context that I identified with the counter-culture aspect of the Black Panthers. I shared their socialist views, because I wanted to change society and was not in favor of capitalism, but I also saw the new aesthetic they had, the way they did their hair, wore leather jackets, celebrated the idea of black is beautiful, you know?
It valued our culture. All of this went into my head when I was 18, 19, 20 years old. And all of it was new: I was discovering counterculture, the hippie movement, civil rights, resistance to the dictatorship here in Brazil, a movement that permeated all social classes. All of these sectors were struggling against the status quo, which was a state of exception that was arresting, killing, cornering everyone, that was censoring all of the art and writing. I thought, this is the kind of paper I need to work at. Artememoria : What brought you to Versus specifically, and what the environment of that publication like?
How did you organize that initiative? They were the publications I identified with most.