Note from BW of Brazil: The struggle continues…and voices demanding change, equality and representation also continue to grow! The fact that I have documented for the past five years is that black Brazilians are extremely under-represented in countless areas of Brazilian society. The media is a near complete whitewash. Politics is the home of white supremacy in which very few black aspiring politicians manage to enter the game. The toy market is yet another area in which more and more black voices are calling for more representation. If any of us care to think about it, very few of us can remember having had the opportunity to play with black dolls. In the world of the child’s imagination, how is a black child supposed to dream of seeing him or herself in the place of the superhero action figure or model doll when the overwhelming majority of these dolls are characterized as white, often with blue eyes and long blond hair?
Although this applies to girls and boys (I remember having played with Superman, GI Joe and Six Million Dollar man action figures), I believe this issue is perhaps more important to little girls, many of whom learn very early on that the Barbie doll represents a beauty that is generally accepted worldwide. In a Brazil that enforces this ideal with its ultra-white media, everyday racist discourse that demeans African characteristics and a culture in which racial mixture is promoted within the black community with the objective of the embranquecimento (whitening) of descendants, this issue can have devastating consequences on the racial identity of black children. So what conclusion should we draw when we learn that only three percent of dolls sold on Brazil’s online toy stores are black? In reality, this issue goes far beyond simply the choice/availability of black dolls, but extends into a continued imposition of the European standard of beauty from the time children are very young as well as the neutralization of any dissent against this imposition through the massacre of black identity.
It is an issue that BW of Brazil has discussed for some time and the demand for diversity in the toy market continues to grow. Bahian singer Larissa Luz recently added her voice to the struggle with a powerful new music video calling for black dolls, black representation with a challenge to standardized aesthetic values. Luz can certainly relate to the issue. In a previous article, Luz spoke on being a big fan of blond TV host/singer Xuxa and her very blond Paquitas group on a very popular kids TV program, but that there weren’t any black girls in the group.
Below, the Hypeness and Todos Negros do Mundo websites weighed in on the powerful new video. And be sure to check out the full video at the end of this article. Translation of the song’s lyrics are also below.
“Bonecas Pretas”: Larissa Luz video calls for representation for black children
Courtesy of the Hypeness newsroom
If you still do not know Larissa Luz it’s time to resolve this issue. Owner of a powerful voice, the baiana from Salvador became known when she fronted the bloco afro band Ara Ketu. However, it was when she decided to leave for a solo career that the singer was able to explore new styles for her music and began to address important themes in her repertoire.
In the music video for “Bonecas Pretas” (meaning Black Dolls), released in late 2016, Larissa criticizes the representativeness that is denied to black children when it is almost impossible to find a doll similar to them for sale in stores. Although people don’t always attach importance to this fact, it is also part of one of the invisible faces of racism in Brazil and in the world.
The video begins with the singer playing the role of a reporter telling about the unprecedented decision of a store in downtown Salvador to include black dolls among its items. The news highlights that the demand was so great, that the products sold out quickly.
Black Dolls”: music video calls for representation for black children
By Amanda Sthephani
“Bonecas Pretas”, meaning black dolls, Bahian singer Larissa Luz’s new video, begins with an alarming news item in Jornal Luz (Luz News Journal): black dolls being sold in stores in Salvador, Bahia. During an interview with a journalist, a father says he has not been able to buy the toy, due to the great demand of those seeking representation. He also says he expects, by the end of 2018, to get a doll that looks like his daughter.
Larissa Luz’s criticism of the oppressive aesthetic in the clip comes from the occupation of the shop windows, while at the same time alluding to the representativeness that black dolls bring, when three black girls approach and are immediately impressed by the proximity between their features. One of the girls places her hand in the same direction as Larissa’s hand – which represents a doll – separated only by glass that can’t annul everything they have in common.
Through the lyrics, the singer also mentions other means of standardization that exclude blacks: newspapers, magazines, virtual media. With the refrain “procuram-se bonecas pretas, procura-se representação”, meaning “’looking for black dolls, looking for representation’, portrayed in the video by emptyin theg of boxes in search of the dolls, Larissa Luz reiterates the absence of products that generate self-acceptance.
Larissa Luz, who was nominated for the 2016 Latino Grammy, demands in this new sound the end of aesthetic standardization based on the slave system, which still today reflects on black skin. Including on the pele preta (black skin) of children.
Bonecas Pretas (black dolls)
By Larissa Luz
A contestable case
Necessity to occupy
Invade the shop windows, main shops
Accessible references is power to imagine
Exchanging oppressive aesthetics
For transforming identification
Looking for black dolls
Looking for representation!