Billy Micard: A Frazier Thompson Award reflection

Author: Billy Micard

Billy Picture

This summer I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Brazil with the help of Frazier Thompson. Going to Brazil was a dream come true because I grew up admiring Brazilian soccer stars such as Ronaldinho and Kaká. As a young child in Haiti, I was never really aware of the poor conditions of my country, but whenever the Brazilian national team would play I would be glued to the TV and in a way they inspired me to  dream. Going to Brazil was just something that had just made sense to me; I wanted to visit the country that helped me so much as a child. I  have never felt so drawn to a place like that, and I am so delighted to say that Brazil did not disappoint.

From the moment I stepped foot in the country I felt welcome. Brazilian people are some of the nicest people I have ever met, they truly embraced me as one of their own. Many actually thought that I was Brazilian, which was truly an honor. The trip allowed me to see the many sides of Brazil, the good and some of the bad. The course I took in Brazil was called, "Brazil: A Social Mosaic" and it gave me an in depth look into the history of Brazil from its colonial past to its waves of migration. Learning about Brazil’s history allowed me to compare Brazil to the United States (where I live) and South Africa (where I went for my sophomore study abroad trip) in terms of progress and especially in regards to race. I found it interesting that Brazil is such a mixed country and many people think that racism doesn't exist because of this mixture or what Brazilians call Mesticagem. This pales in comparison to the United States where most things are racially classified as black and white for the most part. I found these nuances on race and how it differs from country to country interesting, however I found the Brazilian myth of a Racial Democracy to be dangerous because in Brazil the elites and those in power did not look like most of the people that I encountered. So what worries me is that in countries that say they are color blind or too mixed to be racist, the injustices that happen to people of color go unnoticed because there is no name by which to call out these systemic inequities.

Aside from the new perspectives on race that I gained, the most meaningful part of my trip to Brazil was getting to interact with people who founded Non-Governmental Organizations that helped out those in the favelas or those of lower socioeconomic status. It was touching to see the founders of these NGOs working with such empathy and fighting to change the way people in the favelas are treated and providing opportunities for them that wouldn’t exist otherwise. It really solidified that I want to someday be able to give back to those who are overlooked in society, and maybe even establish my own organization for doing so. I was given a chance to be something in my life, but that wasn’t always the case so I want to be able to give that chance to others like myself.