Note from BW of Brazil: The origin of how today’s article came out is quite intriguing. In 2013, I was contacted by a London-based Nigerian writer who was doing research on a book he was writing about Islam, race and Brazil. The author’s name was Habeeb Akande and the book he would eventually release was called Illuminating the Darkness: Blacks and North Africans in Islam. Habeeb had been following this blog for some time, was coming to Brazil and wanted to know if we could meet and discuss my perception of race in Brazil. We agreed to meet at São Paulo’s Shopping Light shopping mall one day in 2013. As we purchased a few drinks during our conversation, fate would have it that another brotha, this one from Angola, happened to be walking by when he saw me and heard Habeeb refer to me as Marques. The brotha introduced himself and I discovered that it was filmmaker Aristoteles Kandimba, who was preparing the release of his documentary Afro-Cariocas, a film about perceptions of blackness in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Needless to say, the conversation was well worth the few hours the three of us conversed. Three non-Brazilian black men discussing the question of race in Brazil.
The thing that all three of us noticed (among other things), and that I would later note that numerous other non-Brazilian black men and women who had extended experience with Brazil also noted, was the apparent obsession Afro-Brazilian men, as well as women, seemed to have for guaranteeing that their families would be white or whiter in the future through relationships with whiter or white partners. Kandimba, who filmed his documentary in Rio after spending several months there, would later reveal to me his bewilderment with how many beautiful black Brazilian women he saw in the streets and on the beaches of Rio with just average looking European men. He wasn’t saying he saw this pairing here and there, but rather emphasized that everywhere he looked he saw drop dead gorgeous black women with white, European tourists. He highlighted the story even more when he mentioned a discussion he had with a French guy he was acquainted with. He had seen the man with different black beauties from time to time and was curious as to how it seemed he always had a different model type black woman every time he saw him. The Frenchman went on admit that he knew that he was just an average looking guy, but in Rio, these women just flocked to him. The way Kandimba laid out the story reminded me a lot of what filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo depicted in his documentary on sexual tourism in Brazil’s northeast.
In regards to Habeeb, he and I would stay in touch periodically, and he would keep me updated on his latest research on the ‘Brazil thing’. He even gave me a shout out in his book Illuminating the Darkness. As I wrote above, it seems that all of us non-Brazilian blacks are amazed at how widespread this obsession with whiteness seemed to be among black Brazilians. It’s pretty amazing (shameful?) to watch especially with a small group of black Brazilians now promoting the idea of ‘Black Money‘. In this case, I think ‘transfer of black money’ would be a more appropriate title. I won’t get into that theme right now, but given that today I’m featuring yet another piece of the whitening of Brazil, many of my non-Brazilian black readers will pick up on the contradictory ideologies going on here.
Anyway, Habeeb recently reached out to me and revealed that he had recently finished a piece on the trend he noticed among black Brazilian futebol players, and was picking up where I had left off in an article I did during the last World Cup about the types of women Brazil’s World Cup team seemed to prefer. Again, it ain’t hard to tell! Needless to say, Habeeb sees the same thing I and other black visitors of Brazil can see. I guess somebody forgot to tell the futebol stars that they are doing EXACTLY what Brazil’s elites predicted and hoped they would do over 120 years ago! Anyway, below is the piece Habeeb sent to me for posting. Keep this in mind as Brazil’s black, brown and beige players hit the pitch in the 2018 World Cup…
76% of Brazil’s World Cup Stars Marry White Women, Is Love Really Color-Blind?
By Habeeb Akande
Why do most successful black men marry white women in Brazil? Are black Brazilians conditioned to desire whites for marriage? Can interracial relationships cure racism? Where are the black WAGs?
As Brazil’s best players around the futebol world are getting ready to compete for sport’s ultimate prize – the World Cup. Off the pitch, the players’ glamorous WAGs (Wives And Girlfriends) are receiving just as much media attention, as their partners prepare to avenge their country’s humiliating defeat in the previous World Cup. As we prepare for the showpiece tournament of “the beautiful game,” this article investigates the black World Cup stars and their women.
I vividly remember watching the 1998 World Cup in France when Brazil’s Ronaldo burst onto the world stage. His electrifying performances and silver boots to match brought the futebol superstar worldwide acclaim. At the time another Brazilian received just as media attention as the man known as O Fenômeno (The Phenomenon). It was his girlfriend at the time, Suzana Werner who was a “big hit off the pitch.” During Brazil’s matches, the cameraman would constantly cut to the white blonde model as commentators would remark “how lucky Ronaldo was to score such a beautiful woman.” Whilst in the UK, I also remember listening to a British radio broadcaster speaking about how inspirational it was for black boys to see “a poor favela kid get a white blonde model.” Although still relatively young at that age, I understood what was being communicated regarding the ‘alleged’ superiority of white women – ‘black men, if you become rich and successful, you need a blonde white woman’!
Brazil’s predilection for white women is well known, especially amongst prominent black players who have exclusively married white women; Pelé, Romário, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, the list is endless. Recently it was reported that the popular former Brazilian player Ronaldinho is preparing to marry his two girlfriends at the same time! Whilst the polygamy of the Brazilian legend raised a few eyebrows, the women did not – both were predictably white! However, with the rise of black consciousness growing in Brazil and an increase in black couple representation in the media, I wondered whether attitudes were changing towards black women amongst Brazil’s futebol stars.
Lack of ‘black power couples’
In several interviews I carried out between 2014 and 2018 with black Brazilians for my book and an upcoming documentary about race and religion in Brazil, the issue of interracial marriage frequently came up. It was interesting to notice that whilst most black women I spoke to saw it as an issue, a number of black men claimed that there was no preferential treatment shown by them towards white women.
Carla, a black Brazilian woman and native of Salvador, informed me that “70% to 80% of black futebol players and famous music artists have white wives or girlfriends.” According to Carla, these men see white women as a representation of high status and success which they believe will help them further their career. In response to people who say that the interracial relationships are because of love and affinity, she questions, “it’s funny to see a lot of affinity (between black men) and white women but none with black women!”
76% of Brazil’s World Cup WAGs are white
I wanted to test Carla’s 70% – 80% estimation, so I undertook a research study of Brazilian WAGs over the past three World Cup squads to determine whether it was true that most successful black Brazilians do not date or marry black women. I also wanted to see if there has been any improvement of black players publicly dating/marrying non-black women. I gathered the information from online sites listing World Cup WAGs, as well as by trawling the players’ Instagram accounts. Carla was right. On average, over two-thirds (76%) of Brazil’s black players were with white women. In the last (2014) World Cup squad, 5 out of the 23 players were with black women. In comparison with the current 2018 squad, only 1 player is with a black woman. It does make you wonder whether love is really color-blind? I guess not, if you’re a famous black jogador de futebol (soccer player) in Brazil.
Where are the black women?
From the images I came across of the “most beautiful” and “hottest” WAGs of the World Cup, one thing I couldn’t help but notice was the lack of dark-skinned black women. Although the skin complexions of the players range from pale white to very dark, by and large, the featured women were all white, very slim and had long straight hair. Even Nigeria’s most desirable WAG is a white woman! So much for diversity! It’s like black women do not exist. Why the lack of appreciation for black women?
The images brought to mind the Brazilian adage, “white woman to marry, mixed-race woman to fornicate, and black woman to cook.” A mixed-race Brazilian model whom I spoked to about this said that the promotion of white skin and Eurocentric features as the epitome of female beauty shapes men’s preferences and influences their marital choices. Originally from Salvador but now based in São Paulo, Aline Monaretto, said men in Brazil are taught by society and the media to value white women and “the sexualization of black women is greater in comparison to white women.” She continued, “men are more disrespectful (to black women) in their approach than when they talk to a blonde white woman.”
This is something I have personally witnessed from my trips to Brazil over the past few years. For example, whilst staying at a hotel in Salvador, a first division Brazilian futebol team also stayed there. Speaking to a couple of the players at the lounge, as men, the topic of women naturally came up. One thing that did surprise me were the players’ repeated comments about how beautiful white European are, and how they would love to travel to Europe and marry a white lady. The vast majority of these players were brown/black from predominantly impoverished black areas. When I questioned about black women, they were not as enthusiastic. I found this extremely strange in all honesty, as growing up watching American hip-hop music videos, I was led to believe that black/brown Brazilian women were the most desired women on earth. Clearly this was not the case for many black Brazilian men.
To be fair, it’s not only black men who commonly marry whites in Brazil, as BBC Brasil and others have reported many successful black women have done the same as one of the players pointed out to me, “but we, black men, get all the blame!” Some have argued that black women have also been conditioned to seek white validation and acceptance. An example of this can be found in the reaction of ‘black Twitter’ to the self-identifying biracial actress Meghan Markle marrying Prince Harry of England. According to some media outlets, the engagement “offered hope to black women.”
‘Purifying the blood’ with interracial marriage
According to Afro-Brazilian YouTuber Ad Junior, black Brazilians are socialized from a very young age to prefer white people as marital partners. As black Brazilians start to climb the social ladder, they tend to marry white, Rio-based African-American journalist, Kiratiana Freelon, observed. The infamous Redemption of Ham painting from 1895, showing a black grandmother praising God that her mixed-race daughter conceived a white child, is an interesting illustration of Brazil’s whitening ideology, miscegenation and black aspirations to marry white.
After the abolition of slavery in 1888, Brazil’s government was an advocate for scientific racism and wanted to ‘whiten’ its predominately black population by importing white Europeans to lighten the country by way of interracial marriage. Europeans were paid to move to Brazil, but black immigration was banned. These effects still impact the country today as explained to me by Abdul Karim, an Afro-Brazilian teacher living in Rio de Janeiro, “my black grandmother told her daughters to only marry white men to ‘purify our blood’ from our African ancestry. Other black families I spoke to also have the same mentality of ‘purifying the blood’ by interracial marriage.’” If miscegenation really solved the problem of racism, Brazil would be a post-racist society. This miscegenation plan obviously has not worked. Nowadays, many black Brazilian activists are calling for “black marriage” in order to preserve black families and build black communities.
Love, respect and marry black women
Personally, I couldn’t care less who a black futebol player is dating or married to, as long as he does the business on the pitch. However, I am well-aware of the huge influence that they have over people, particularly the young. Black sportspersons like musicians are lauded in black communities and are imitated from the way they style their hair, to the clothes that they wear, to the women they deem as beautiful. The trend of successful black futebol players with white women is a global phenomenon, particularly amongst men living outside of Africa, Uche Nworah writes.
The fact that in a majority non-white country like Brazil, the majority of successful black sportsmen exclusively date and marry white women, it raises questions about the impact of social conditioning and the media’s lack of black couple representations. Speaking about this, film director Joel Zito Araújo says, “there are very few examples of love between two black people [in Brazil]. The expectation of Brazilian society is that the black person does not have pride in being black and looks to escape blackness with a white partner.”
That being said, hopefully we will see more black Brazilian World Cup couples when the next tournament comes around. In the meantime, it is important that we continue to raise the self-esteem of black girls/women by constantly reminding them how beautiful they are, how wonderful their brown skin looks, and in addition we should encourage our black boys/men to love, respect and marry black women!
 By ‘black’ I am referring to a non-white (i.e. black/negro, brown/moreno) Brazilian in this article.
 Olga Diyachenko, the wife of Nigerian futebol player John Obi Mikel, is Russian.
 ‘Black Twitter’ is a cultural identity consisting of “black” Twitter users from around the world on the Twitter social network focused on issues of interest to the black community, particularly in the United States.