Black people as a product: “We are not holders of black money, we are circulators of white money”
Note from BW of Brazil: Whenever dealing with any particular topic, you should be willing to dealing with the realities of the topic whether you like what you discover or not. I’ve learned over the course of many years that it is often difficult for many of us to deal with certain facts about certain things. When I began to look into what many would call “alternative history” a few decades ago, I came to learn that in order to really learn, I first had to “unlearn” all of the half truths, sort of truths, interpretations of truths and flat out lies so that I could get closer to the truth. I had a friend say to me a few months ago that there were facts and there were truths and sometimes the facts don’t jibe too well with the truths that people have selectively accepted. I find this to be very much true.
It’s from this perspective that I present the short piece below. It would be a lie to say that things haven’t changed substantially for the black Brazilian community in the 21st century. Things have changed and I attest to it because this evolution has coincided with own documenting of the black Brazilian experience in that same period of time. But while I celebrate some clearly exciting advances, particularly in the past decade, I must also question some things and put them under a more critical analysis. I try to apply this critique to just about everything. I’d rather know something even if it’s something that I may not like rather than assume something that I wish to be true. And other voices are doing the same.
Understand, the piece below is not meant to come across as a hit piece, an attack or a slander against an idea. It is simply stating some real facts that I have actually already spelled out in previous posts (see here and here) when the topic is what many label as “black empowerment“, “black money“, “black independence”, “black capitalism” or any other ideal connected to the black community. If anything, it should serve as an analysis and acceptance of the position of the black population in society and how far behind centuries of slavery and institutional racism have left our community as a whole.
Black people as a product
By Bianca Melo
These days, in a working group, a link to an article about the creation of a company that had as its proposal “to bring together black consumers and brands” emerged. The discussion in the group started from the fact that those responsible for the company were two white women, and that those who could (and should) talk about the black consumer in Brazil would be other blacks. In other words, black companies that would have authority on the subject and could speak “in depth” about the reality of this target audience.
And that’s where the banana peel is. Because, on the one hand, we see a population that moves about BRL 1.7 trillion a year (data from 2018) being mapped and having its demands considered by the market, through the development of products and services aimed at this audience. In terms of the market, it is considered by many to be of extreme importance and brings the feeling of “at last we are being heard”. But by whom? For whose final profit? This decoding of the black people’s way of consuming made for companies and brands whose owner of the pen is white benefits who ultimately? Where is this annual trillion reais going? Who in the end is being contemplated?
People mobilize, inside and outside large corporations, in large communication agencies, produce studies and content, all to show the owner of the pen that blacks have value. It’s not very different from the black academic, who takes black knowledge and juggles to fit the ABNT norms (see note one), assembles theses, seeks the “role” to finally have “authority” to talk about any subject. Seeking the validation – be it academic, professional or financial – of whites. Companies are created that produce research aimed at black people, who receive an average remuneration of US $ 1 per research (if it fits the profile, which happens in 20% of the cases) and sell this data so the whites can profit more. In this joke, at most the owner of the company that sold the data wins his share. Do you remember the capitão do mato (black slave hunter)? Laughter.
In this game, we are not a market, we are merchandise. Because in the end, this trillion is only a passing through the hands of blacks. The white man pays, the black man takes that money and buys from the white man and so the money returns to the white man. We are not holders of black money, we are circulators of white money. Not only that, we use the concept of black money as a pretext to support ventures that may even have black owners, but serve white interests. That profit from the black discourse but don’t return that money to their peers. Economic palmitagem (see note two) needs to be approached in the same way as affective and intellectual palmitagem. Because until we turn that key around, we will continue to be a product.
- Associação Brasileira de Normas Técnicas (ABNT or Brazilian Association of Technical Standards) is the body responsible for technical standardization in Brazil, providing inputs to Brazilian technological development.
- The expression “palmitagem” was created by mulheres negras brasileiras (black Brazilian women) to identify heterosexual black men who are in relationships with white women. In recent years, increasingly, black men have also applied the term to black women romatically involved with white men. For many, the term also refers to those who not only have white partners but that seem to have a preference for whiteness in long-term relationships.