The Colonial Experience

“In short, these paintings give us a vision of a hierarchical social order in which racial difference is in sync with a whole series of other distinction. Everyone has a place in this panorama of social society but the internal grid divides one social group from another.”

Slavery ended in Brazil in 1888, an estimated amount of four million slaves had entered Brazil. Being African myself, and studying african history has made me become aware of this, but despite the fact that my roots are very much in Africa I knew very little of the slave trade, south of the United States.

And then I watched this video.

I learnt about the whitening that took place in Brazil, the cultural genocide that took place and the deep societal desire to whiten one’s skin, and I felt disgusted. Disgusted, that even today in the 21st century, over 100 years later there are still systemic vices in society to rid people of colour of their colour.

And this is not just in Brazil, it’s everywhere, in Europe, even in Africa. Even between Africans themselves, there is a hierarchy between lighter skinned girls and darker skinned girls. I myself, am a product of my own environment.

For example, I look at my makeup, the fact that I contour lighter under my eyes, the fact that I have to pay significantly more money to find a foundation shade my colour, the fact that I chemically straighten my hair every two months. I don’t believe that I do these things for fun but more as a means of survival. So that I am not judged, so that I am more respected by those around me.

When I look at the pictures, and I see people who look like me undressed, “savage” it shows me how much work has been done but also at the same time how much work needs to be done



4 thoughts on “The Colonial Experience

  1. Hi 🙂

    I agree with much of what you said. It’s sad to now that after thousands of years of existence, many don’t feel comfortable in their own skin, and even worse that others go out of their way to make those who look different from them feel inferior. However, I don’t think that that is going to change anytime soon.

    My take on it is that we should learn to love ourselves and also appreiate the differences in others. If we ourselves see our traits as something negative, then we’re just reinforcing the idea. And hopefully if we start to do this, those around us will also see the beauty in our differences. Of course, that’s easier said than done. It’s hard to love your skin color or your kinky hair when you’ve been told since you were young that they weren’t beautiful, but I still think taking the time to figure out why we don’t like some aspects of ourselves and take the time to begin to appreciate them.

  2. Danni thank you for writing this post and sharing your personal experience with race. I found it very interesting and eye opening. After all these years it seems like society’s standard of beauty should have changed and become more open and accepting of every kind of beauty, no matter the skin tone, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case.

  3. Thank you Danni for sharing this video as well as your lived experience. Clearly, the “colonial experience” is not something relegated to history books but should be taken into account in looking at how people exist today. With time, I believe the tools used to distinguish, separate, and hierarchize races have changed over time, yet their essence of control and limiting opportunities (and reproducing a rigid social archetype) is certainly oppressive and needs to be challenged.

  4. It’s really sad to see the effects of the Eurocentric beauty standards, and as it is a result of colonization, we can see this idolization for lighter skin and whiter features in the Casta paintings (as well as all over the media nowadays). Thank you for sharing your personal experience, it means a lot because I think that sharing our own lived realities helps people better understand situations which they cannot relate to and it really increases their ability to empathize and give support. I wish there was a way to overlook the importance we place on these idealized beauty standards, but it is very internalized in most people which makes it difficult. Hopefully over time we can all grow to embrace and love the parts of ourselves that aren’t deemed beauty according to this standard, it will definitely be an uphill battle but maybe with more representation of women of colour in the media we can broaden our idea of what is “beautiful”.

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