Posted in English

TFW you’re being Microaggressioned

As a result of a recent conversation about racism (following on from a book I read – there’ll be a review here in a day or two) a Brazilian guy on reddit pointed me to an account on Instagram called brasileirasNaoSeCalam. It’s basically one of these accounts that seeks to ginger people up for a particular cause by telling you how absolutely terrible everything is. In this case, quite a lot of the posts are just quotations from Brazilians in other countries recounting times they were victims of racism. The vast majority of them are in Portugal.

It’s quite interesting from a sociological point of view because of course there are racists in every country and knowing what kinds of stereotypes people have about each other tells you something interesting about the country. There is definitely racism against Brazilians in Portugal. I’ve seen videos and I have spoken to people who have some really unpleasant views about them all being thieves and whores, but I’m a bit unclear about the extent of that racism and I’m curious to know more.

But just as there is racism in every country, microaggressions (ie perceived slights which are held to be evidence of a deep seated hostility) are everywhere too, mainly thanks to the steady creep of absolutely terrible ideas from the USA. And my sense is that a lot of these posts fall under that heading. And in a way, that’s interesting in itself because learning what people see as a microaggression can tell you something about the shape of paranoia in a particular demographic. Take this for example:

(I’m doing an online course and my teacher always turns up with two video options for us to watch: one in Brazilian and one in English “for anyone who doesn’t like Brazilian”

From the comments, the reason for the complaint is that some people find the use of “brasileiro” in place of “português de Brasil” to be evidence of hatred, and the fact that she thinks some people might prefer to hear a foreign language rather than a São Paulo accent just adds insult to injury. This seems a little over-sensitive, but more importantly, I think it’s pretty obvious that there are plenty of alternative explanations for why English is being offered alongside Brazilian. For example, Portugal has a pretty good record of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine, among others. It must be a hard transition for those people to make given how much harder it is to learn portuguese than English. Of course it’s not practical to have videos in every language, but English is practically a universal esperanto these days, and it seems very likely that someone who is still struggling to learn portuguese might find it easier to follow an English language video than one that is in a strong, unfamiliar accent.

The irony is I think the teacher is being unfairly accused of racism just because they are making the course more accessible for all immigrants, and not exclusively catering to the needs of oversensitive Brazilians. Quite a lot of the quotes on the site are in the same vein: they’re minor or open to more charitable interpretation or just frankly unlikely-sounding.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some real racist incidents on there, but I get the impression it’s one of those accounts where all the followers want to tell their victimhood story and the net effect is that it becomes a huge echo chamber and everyone inside is in a state of constant fear and rage, way out of proportion to the real situation. I’d love to find some good journalism on the subject though. When I say good journalism I mean (a) uses data competently and thoughtfully and (b) doesn’t pepper their narrative with the word ‘privilege’.