Words matter. Context too.
So please, don’t cancel me yet—read my words first.
Words are literally my job and I hate the way we tip-toe around them or misuse them for the sake of some aspects of political correctness.
I have tons of examples. For instance, a few years ago, I realized that many North Americans use the words “pee-pee” or “wee-wee” with kids to talk about “private parts.” No wonder so many men think women pee from their vagina…! The words “penis” and “vagina” are not dirty words, are they? It’s just… you know, anatomy.
Another example. This is the kind of conversation I’ve had with some uber-politically correct folks:
“My husband is Chinese.”
“Oh, like…of Asian descent?”
“No, Chinese. Literally. Born in China. Of Chinese parents. The entire family is Chinese.”
I know half of the world hates China right now, but trust me, Chinese people know they are Chinese and they don’t find it particularly offensive or weird. The same goes for, let’s say, Jewish people. You don’t have to lower your voice if you say “my Jewish friend is celebrating Hanukkah.” I’m pretty sure if your friend celebrates Hannukah, she is pretty okay with being Jewish. Again, it’s not a dirty word.
Now, a handful of words is not part of my vocabulary because I find them particularly disparaging, ugly and offensive. “Fuck”? No problem. I use it quite liberally, but almost never against an individual. On the other hand, I hate the words “cunt” (very harsh in American English) or “fag” (in American English), for instance.
And of course, I would never use the “N-word” or the French version. I understand linguistic reappropriation and I’m not offended if I hear it in rap music but this is not something I’d say, ever.
But Salvador is the place where the “cultura negra” thrives—in Portuguese, the words “negro” and “negra” (the feminine form) are the proper words for Black people and people who identify with Afro-Brazilian culture. It takes a while to get used to it. When I was in Libertade, my Brazilian guy was pointing to people saying things like “this negra makes the best acarajé!” and I was half expecting us to get shot for that.
But not in Brazil. Again, the word “negro” is normal. In fact, I think the alternative, “preto” (literally the colour “black”) is seen as questionable.
Another thing about Brazil—it’s pointless to go by skin colour.
To put it plainly, Salvador isn’t Brazil’s “capital Afro” because there are more Black people here. I mean, define “Black people”… come to Brazil, and you’ll see what I mean. Sure, you’re less likely to see blond-hair blue-eye Brazilian in Salvador (most “teuto-brasileiros,” Brazilians of German ancestry) and most Asian-looking Japanese here are visiting from São Paulo. Still, the population is very mixed, hence my emphasis on Afro-Brazilian culture rather than on people’s physical features.
Are we good?
Alright. Here are pictures that illustrate Salvador’s amazing “cultura negra,” originally brought by African slaves and today part of Brazil’s identity.