+June 29, 2020
"It hurts," kid sobbing. It would hurt for a while. His mom is looking in her purse. "Is everyone's blood red, mamma?" the kid is rubbing the blood on his injured knee. "Yeah, everybody ́s blood is red," his mom is opening a package of band-aids. "Are band-aids for everyone?" he's playing with the package. "Yes, at least anyone getting hurt," mom is peeling off a band-aid. "What is flesh-color mommy?" the kid is holding the package with one hand and passing his fingers on the blue words printed on the cardboard. "That it matches your skin color," mom is putting the band on her son's knee. The kid is looking at his black knee with a wrinkled light brownish pink band-aid “matching” his flesh.
In 2020, one hundred years after the creation of the first black band-aid, you can google the meaning of flesh color and it still contains the exact reference ”a light brownish pink”. The rest of non-similar-to-pink skins have been stripped of their own flesh by institutions, governments, education, slang, and banal but important dailies like makeup and flesh color crayons.
Modern society evolving and merging with the past has risen and established on a system based on structural dualisms: diptychs of white and black, good or bad, virgin and slut. Where one light-colored face of the duality perceives the glory, and the obscure face remains in disgrace. The fact that every human being has the same viscose red blood, seems only relevant to science books.
Racism has passed through undeserved and unfounded aggressiveness, euphoric protests and legal battles, police abuse, and “conventional” expressions. Injustices flow like blood running from deep systemic supremacy cuts, produced by ignorant knives, normalized knives, neglecting knives. All of them sharpened on the rock of language, on the origin of all war declarations, the source of human power itself. Words.
There are protests out there, hopeful movements that reveal themselves due to three words: I can't breathe. And they are not the only words that have been expressed on the name of equality and social justice, because as Dr. King stated : I have a dream. It's time to abandon the monochromatic and start dreaming technicolor discourses. Words are the source of our social programming, the vehicles to not only dreams but realities. Fair realities. Realities that are not only written in English, because sad but true, racism is a multilingual ideology. A Spanish voice rises from Paraguay, reflecting the presence of the rooted racism in Latin America. Her words levitate, to be inhaled with hope. “I was never taught about our existence at any moment during formal education, so I decided to go out and find my people”.
These words from Paraguayan photographer Mayeli Villalba (@yelialba) resonate on every broken heart. Hearts wounded by deficient language systems and exclusive semantics that please with expressions like white lies or the black sheep of the family. Great acts of resistance emerge as social disobedience, necessary to fight back on indifference, but our words must scream louder than our steps.
Naming is a conscious or unconscious way of qualifying, and that is what gives or detracts from many things that are part of people's identity.
With these words, Villalba calls out to the importance of what is said and the way it's expressed. She started creating a project giving life to her own identity, the fact of being called mujer negra. She started documenting her people five years ago in Paraguay, bringing afro descendants to the surface, avoiding the drowning of her own skin. By being brave enough to create self-portraits where she exhaled her voice with honest struggles, she displays her cuts wide open.
These chaotic times have shaped the way ordinary is conceived, language is part of this set of common realities that fuse in humdrumness. Its power is underestimated, is unveiled, language becomes mute when unconsciousness is behind the wheel. Having a voice is not a privilege nor a normality, it's a responsibility. Lyrics side by side are far from innocent; they are weapons seeking justice, seeking inclusiveness and hope. But humans are the triggers, and society has been shooting itself, denigrating those with more melanin in their bodies. Those bleeding wounds have to be healed in a new language, in a restructured discourse that lacks implicit stereotypes of racial bias. Just cleaning the blood won't seal the open flesh, black wounds are not meant to be relieved with white band-aids.