“Cores Pretas” Highlights the Struggles of Black Women in Brazil

‘Cores Pretas’ focuses on racism, colorism and empowerment of black women. (Photo: Courtesy of KöK Films)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent

Mayara Silva did 20 interviews last year.

The 26-year-old has worked since the age of 16, has been a lawyer for two years, and is finishing her first postgraduate course and has already started the second one, according to the blog, BlackWomenofBrazil, which is dedicated to highlighting the inequities, successes and other issues concerning black women in the country.

Even with her experience, Silva, a young lawyer found it a struggle to get back into the job market.

Unemployment in Brazil affects pretos e pardos (blacks and browns) more than brancos (whites). Of the 13 million unemployed, 8.3 million belong to the group – 63.7 percent of the total, or two out of three workers without a job — according to a national survey released last year.

Throughout 2017, when unemployment levels hit a record, Silva sent 67 resumes and was invited to 20 interviews. She received only one job offer.

“They called me to pay me R$1,000 (USD$308). I thought it was absurd and I didn’t go,” she said.

According to the national survey, the average remuneration of pretos e pardos is 44.4 percent lower than that of brancos.

In Silva’s assessment, the proposal of $ 1,000 per month is well below the market average for the same function, which, according to her, is around R$6,000.

Struggles like that of Silva’s are why Black Women of Brazil has pushed the documentary, “Cores Pretas,” which means “Black Colors.”

Released earlier this year, the film highlights racism and the empowerment of black women in Brazil.

Directed by journalist Stella Tó Freitas, “Cores Pretas” focuses on the perspectives of five black women who discuss their experiences coping with a lifetime filled with racism.

“Much more than a film that conceptualizes racism, “Cores Pretas” shows how these women feel that skin tone is qualitative in our racist society. From that point on, they tell how racism has transformed them and how they have redefined themselves in this process,” Freitas told Black Women of Brazil.

The topic of colorism has been a very popular theme among Afro-Brazilians in recent years and the consequences can be devastating on the self–esteem of African-descendants who live in a society in which skin color can factor very heavily on how one is perceived in a country based on a European standard of beauty, the blog reported.

Beyond the concept of race and its fluid conceptions in countries like Brazil, where skin color can influence everything from women’s ability to attain employment to securing long-lasting relationships, the comments of the women in the film also demonstrate how prejudice manifests and is displayed in everyday interactions.

“The more melanin, the more severe the forms of racism, but this only modifies the kind of racism suffered by those who are black and not retinto (very dark skinned),” Freitas said.

The documentary is certain to tackle the economic crisis that has been strangling Brazil for the past few years, the blog’s authors said. The situation has been challenging for the entire population, but when race and gender is added to the mix, the results can be devastating.

“Nowadays, Afro-Brazilian women are no longer satisfied holding down jobs that the society expects them to occupy such as maids or cleaning women. No, no, today we see a growing number of black women who are becoming dentists, doctors, lawyers, judges and even CEOs of top companies,” the authors said. “But even in this scenario, the crisis is making it difficult for even highly-qualified black women to find employment.”

Freitas hopes her film will define how racism can modify itself but still bring clarity to the topic of how it plays out depending on the various skin tones one encounters within the black community.

“Imagine this in a Brazil that basically leaves its table scraps to its black population and then those scraps are further divided up among black people depending on their proximity to or distance from the European standard,” she said.

Often times, the understanding of the dynamics of racism and colorism play an important role in how black subjects see themselves and the development of various stances in a color struck world that can eventually lead to self-affirmation and then empowerment.

“The idea of the documentary came about because I, as a journalist, felt the need to explain how a black woman’s life is in practice, how the nuances of racism work, and how it transforms that woman’s life,” Freitas said.

“This record could not begin with any place other than Campos. In addition to an indescribable passion I have for the city, we Campistas (residents of the city) are still lacking the understanding that Campos breathes black culture.”

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