November 20th is ‘Black Awareness Day’, the pinnacle of a month-long period of debate about racism in Brazil.
Like the English in the United States, the Portuguese colonized Brazil using slave labor. Slave traders captured Africans in their homeland and shipped them over across the Atlantic in atrocious conditions. The ones who survived the journey were then sold off to work on plantations.
Brazil has one the most violent colonial histories in the world. It was also the last country in the Western world to ban slavery. Even now, the majority of black people in Brazil are poor and live on the outskirts of the main cities.
Blacks make most of the incarcerated population of Brazil and are much more likely to be killed by the police.
There isn’t much to celebrate on Black Awareness Day, except for the fact that, for the first time in history, blacks are the majority of students in college campuses across Brazil.
Black animals are also discriminated against
The prejudice against blacks is so deeply ingrained in the culture that even animals with a black coat are discriminated against. This sad fact was today’s topic of the animal blog on Estadão, one of Brazil’s most important dailies.
Written by biologist and animal behavior expert, Luiza Cerveka de Assis, she says that black animals are more likely to stay on the shelf in animal shelters.
“Many of them become adults before getting adopted since nobody takes an interest in them,” she writes.
For black cats, the situation is even worse. In Brazil, animal advocates take to social media with warnings against the adoption of black cats every time the 13th of the months falls on a Friday.
The hapless black cats could end up as live toys in sadistic rituals. It seems that it is the only time of the year when they are more popular.
Luíza mentions a University of California study that found that black dogs are seen as more aggressive. The study also separated cats according to the color of their fur.
The researchers did find a relation between fur color and aggressive behavior: it was orange/yellow cats who were involved in most incidents of aggression. Black cats were not even in the top five, which included grey and white cats.
In shelters all over the world, black dogs are the most euthanized ones. The Humane Society of the United States did a survey of animals who stay the longest in shelters. It found that there are three features that keeps them in shelter for longer: an average size, being 2 to 3 years of age and having a black coat.
Animal welfare specialists believe this discrimination arises from various sources. One of them is a set of myths surrounding black dogs. Pop culture is full of examples of black dogs linked to evil, such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Zoltan, the protagonist of a horror movie also known as Dracula’s Dog (1978).
Adopt a black animal
It is a sad fact of life that people will discriminate other people simply because of the color of their skin, or animals, simply because of the color of their fur. The media plays a key role in perpetuating negative stereotypes of black people and black animals, linking them to criminality, danger and aggressive behavior. That needs to change.
If you are thinking of adopting a pet, don’t look away from a dog or a cat just because they have a black coat. It is just melanin. It has nothing to do with magic, luck or any preternatural nonsense.