Uplifting/heartbreaking aspects of Brazil

My aim is to explore Black people’s history and culture by visiting as many places with Black people around the world as possible. Coming to Brazil and specifically Salvador which has the biggest population of Black people outside of Africa has been very eye opening for me. This place is reminiscent of my country Kenya. As in Kenya, people in Brazil are outside interacting with one another. Marketplaces are loud and busy. Kids play outside, people buy food by the roadside, the streets are buzzing with activity. This is very different from Seattle. It is so beautiful and sweet to come and be so hugged and kissed by the host mom and by other people. Personal space in Brazil is minimal, people like to be close and personal. This friendliness and warmth is the same as in Kenya, except people do not kiss as part of greetings in Kenya. Although I was not able to interact with people of Brazil as much as I would have liked to due to the language barrier (unlike in my Tanzanian study abroad), I none the less learned much through observation and experience. I saw how lively and friendly the people are. From the taxi drivers to the cashiers to the street vendors to the people at the beaches. I experienced the genuine hospitality that my host family provided for me. My host mom was great. We were been able to communicate mostly via Google translator. Although communication was of a different nature (gestures and google translator) due to the language barrier, I still enjoyed my interactions with her. She really took care of me while I was sick. She went above and beyond.

Some parts of my experience in Brazil were heartbreaking and some parts uplifting. It was heartbreaking to hear concerning the cruel history of slavery and of the racism that is currently present. However, it was uplifting when we went to the Steve Biko NGO. It was great to hear of the hard work that people are doing to combat racism.

One of the things that Steve Biko NGO does that stood out to me was the class they teach that is focused on Black awareness. It is important that they are combating eurocentric education by educating the students about Black ideas, history and cultures. Eurocentric education is very damaging because it presents a skewed view that looks down on and minimizes other people such as Black and Indigenous people, giving undue emphasis on European points of view.

The difficult part of this event was listening to the experiences that people had concerning racism. The story about the black lady that was unduly asked by the boss to make coffee simply because she was black while that was not part of the job description. The other story was of the black professor who was barely recognized as a professor simply because of his color. I have had many conversation concerning race in the U.S. I knew what expect, however I will never be used to the heartbreak of these stories. Talking about race issues will never be easy. When it comes to my country Kenya, race is not an issue because most people are black (there are many Asian and Indian immigrants there now, but Kenya is majority Black people). The issues with Kenya have to do with ethnicity. People can be discriminated upon based on their tribe. I cannot elaborate much on tribalism in Kenya because I immigrated to the U.S when I was young, however, I do know that it is a big issue in Kenya. Just as in Brazil, there are organizations in Kenya as there are also in U.S that are trying to help communities overcome discrimination and help better the society.

In the future, I would like to learn if and how Brazilian history books will be corrected to present the correct unbiased non-eurocentric history. As long as people are misinformed, attempts to better the society will not work. Apart from lessons concerning slavery and colonization, Black people need to be taught about their great history and about their great contributions to society. This kind of education is necessary to act as a mirror example to show that Black people can be successful because they were successful in the past. This education is necessary in order for Black people to get a better and fuller understanding of who we are so we can be inspired to succeed more and reach to greater heights.

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