Once, a wise man said, “An individual cannot step into the same body of water twice, because the composition of the water has changed and so has the individual.” – a re-quote from one of my very favorite blogs, “BarryWrites.com”.
I’ve just returned to the States from my Study Abroad Brazil trip, specifically from the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. And I state with great confidence, “I am no longer the same as I went!” I cannot say this was a “trip of a lifetime…” because that’s so cliché, but more importantly because I intend to return! Rio, we’ve all heard enough about Rio, that wondrous beach city known too for its natural settings, clubs, carnival – etc., etc, but it was Salvador that captured my heart. There were so many black people – and they came in many shades or hues – just like in my family here in the states. Salvador, incidentally, has the largest population of blacks of any Brazilian city. Salvador, rich in culture and pride, bubbles with potentialities. They have such great culture and pride, the people bubble with potentialities. Some are rich, all too many are poor, uneducated, homeless, and hundreds of thousands, living in ghettos, or favelas. I do not say “ghetto” to be disrespectful, but in an attempt to explain what I saw and what I continue to question about Brazilian political woes, current and past, that have fostered current realities there and around the world.
Naturally, there was my comparison of Brazil to our America, in fact, several of the lectures, by university professors and even the politicians, made note of how, in America, there were laws that actually made discrimination – legal. In comparison, Brazil never had such laws – but suffers racism all the same. Brazil, however, has an unspoken class problem. Brazil’s battle with racism is a difficult one as it has no face. It is difficult to address something with no name. Speaking of names, there are well over one hundred different racial classes for which the people of Brazil identify themselves by. This must be the top reason why social progress comes slowly to Brazil. This leads me to say that America, Houston, in particular as diverse a city as it is, still has its share of problems – racial, social, economic, political inequalities, religious hypocrisies, etc., is a good place to live. And I am thankful for my access to education and the opportunity to be able to work in my field, ever expanding and exercising my talents. Yet, I saw people on the street, with no hope, talents yes, but not an outlet to nurture them; a child with a bowl of couscous (pronounced koos koos) in one hand, while begging and eating with the other hand, and dirty – very dirty. I met a black city council woman, who once we arrived, couldn’t stop smiling. She spoke no English, but she smiled and she smiled. Can you understand her sheer joy – that twenty some odd students from an HBU, visiting a city where the images of blacks are – well, just go back to Jim Crow America – yes, now you understand. She was proud to see, black people, black students – and not just any type of student, but graduate students. You can never know how America, in her very worst way, has clouded your vision to race, but too in how you take much for granted at least until you leave her borders. I am happy to be an American. But I am more proud to be human. I am happy to be a Houstonian, but I am most glad to be awake. Yes, “Salvador, I waded in your waters and am no longer the same!”- Period, Case-Closed!