”Sit down over there, macaca” – Black reality show participant is called a ‘monkey’ on live TV; the guilty party may or may not suprise you
By Marques Travae
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m not a fan of television reality shows. I didn’t watch them in the US and, as I have limited time to watch TV as a whole, I certainly don’t watch Brazil’s reality shows. But every now and then, I’ll hear something that catches my attention from one of these shining examples of the human decadence. In Brazil, two long-running reality shows are Big Brother Brasil, known as simply BBB, on the Globo TV network and Record TV’s A Fazenda. Even not being a viewer or fan of either series, incidents that made headlines from these two shows have been discussed on this blog and a recent incident on A Fazenda is the topic of today’s post.
I first learned of A Fazenda participant Sabrina Paiva a few years ago when she won the right to represent the state of São Paulo in the Miss Brasil contest. That year, 2016, was record-breaking. Not only were six states represented by black women, but Raíssa Santana, representing the state of Paraná, became the first black woman to wear the crown since 1986. The following year, another black woman took the title, thus giving Brazil the distinction of having more black winners in a period of two years than the previous 62 years combined.
Today is the second time that Sabrina Paiva’s name as a participant on the reality show has come up, and for the second time, it’s due to a question of race, this time even worse than the first time. Paiva recently experienced a cruel example of Brazil’s racist tendencies when she heard the most popular racial insult levied against black Brazilians coming from behind one of the windows of the headquarters, where some employees of the reality show are usually stationed.
In a video broadcast live and being shared hundreds of times by the public online, the participants of A Fazenda were seen sitting in the living room, waiting for the first live contact with A Fazenda’s host Marcos Mion.
Sabrina was seen getting and putting a glass on the coffee table, when one of the men, Guilherme, asks her to pass him the water. At this moment, a voice is heard in the room (due to the quality and volume of the audio, it is not possible to determine the exact content of the speech) coming from behind the “window” and some of the participants looked at each other with a look of disbelief. Sabrina asked:
”Did you hear that?” “I heard it, but I didn’t understand anything,” Guilherme replied. “I heard it all,” Sabrina adds. While some remained silent, others wanted to know what she heard. “It’s heavy,” she replied.
The subject became the talk of the night with members of the program showing their indignation with the situation. “I think that was for me, really,” Sabrina pointed out in conversation with Hariany and Andrea. “I think so too… you were the only one standing,” agreed the former BBB participant. “I was the only one standing. Did you hear that? At the time I was drinking water, everyone was sitting. Then I just heard a, ‘sit down there, monkey’ and a curse word,” Sabrina said. In Portuguese, the exact words being ‘‘senta aí, macaca’. Caralho.’’ Although the term ‘caralho’ can mean a few things, it is sometimes used in a manner equal to the ‘f-word’ in English.
“He said, ‘Sit down, monkey,'” confirmed Hariany. “I swear, from the window. I’m not deaf, I’m sure, Hari heard it too,” continued the former Miss before the broadcast cameras were cut to another room.
Sabrina’s boyfriend Rodrigo Phavanello, who is also one of the participants, commented to the others that he also heard someone offend her. Colleagues even raised the possibility of there being some sort of misunderstanding, but after the controversy of the situation hit the public, Record TV itself confirmed it and announced the firing of the employee. The episode, of course, caused outrage on social networks. On Twitter, the phrase “Sabrina deserves respect” came to be among the most talked about subjects.
‘’Sabrina deserves respect… racism is a crime… we want justice’’ #ProvaDoFazendeiro, read one comment online in reference to the incident. ‘’Sabrina suffers racism at Record, Brazil’s second most watched tv network,’’ read another. Still another wrote, ‘’It’s not possible that in 2019, a broadcaster of the size of Record will make an episode of racism as explicit as this..sad and disgusting to see a woman being called a monkey on a national network.’’
The comments are featured below.
Early the morning, Sabrina’s official Twitter account made a public announcement. The statement read: “We, the advisors of Sabrina Paiva, will be in touch with the production of the program and we will DEMAND clarification. Let’s not remain silent for Sabrina and everyone who suffers from any kind of racial prejudice. ENOUGH! SABRINA MERECE RESPEITO’’, meaning ‘Sabrina deserves respect.’
The model’s advisory team had already filed a request for clarification at the Public Prosecution office of São Paulo in order that Record TV take a stance on the controversy.
“Seeking to ensure the rights and individual guarantees of Sabrina Paiva and all Brazilians who today, in the 21st century, suffer from prejudice or racial violence, which are often spread in a veiled manner, we will be communicating with the São Paulo State Public Prosecution Service to adopt all appropriate judicial measures to punish the offender,” read the statement.
Immediately at the end of the show, producer Teleimage (that provides services for Record TV and is the camera operator’s contractor) identified the author of the offense. He was reprimanded and had his work contract abruptly ended.
So, who exactly made such a humiliating comment on live television? The answer is perhaps worse than the incident itself. It was later divulged the offender was himself black, which was confirmed with two sources very well positioned in the case.
Teleimage identified the offender but didn’t disclose the name of the employee, who apparently surprised with his termination. His name will only be passed on to Sabrina if she decides to take legal action in this regard.
Commenting via his Instagram, the program’s host, Marcos Mion, sympathized with Sabrina: “I saw the video [after the end of the show]. The guy spoke behind the scenes so loud that it leaked into the participants’ microphone. I left enraged and ashamed. Everyone [went out like this],” he said.
In the end, as I’ve followed these types of incidents for years, I can’t be surprised that something like this happened. If you search this blogs archives, you will find so many incidents of black Brazilians being called ‘macaca’ or ‘macaco’ that you’ll probably lose count. And these are just a few of the examples that have made it to the public’s attention. You can imagine that if these few make headlines, it probably happens thousands of times per day throughout Brazil within the general population. All of this in a country that swears up and down it’s not racist.
Should anyone be surprised that the perpetrator is actually black? Unfortunately, the answer to that question would also be no. As in any situation in which an entire people has been victimized by dehumanizing treatment for hundreds of years, in Brazil, we’ve seen how the racist actions and attitudes towards black Brazilians has manifested in the way that black Brazilians treat themselves.
A few months back, two black men provoked outrage across the country after a video of them whipping a naked black teen that reminded many of the slavery era was shared on the internet. In 2016, it was discovered that a black man had referred to singer Ludmilla as a ‘disgusting nigger’. Another twist to that story exemplifying the racial confusion that is everyday Brazil, it wasn’t clear if the offender even saw himself as black. In a notorious incident from 2014, we discovered that black futebol fans also hurled racial taunts at black goalie Aranha, along with the young white woman who was caught on film.
These are just a few examples of how victims of racism often take on the attitudes of their racist oppressor and reproduce the very abuse of which they are also victims. It fitting to mention the whole recent discussion of the existence of black slave hunters during the slavery era, both in the US and in Brazil, where these men were known as ‘’capitães do mato’’.
I can imagine that some people will look at this incident and conclude that accusations of racism can no longer be directed as white-skinned people, for, as we can see, black people oppress their own people. My question in case would be, who is that created the association of black people with the monkeys, gorillas, etc.? It certainly wasn’t black people. As such, when black people reproduce the racist tendencies to which they continue to be subjected, it makes no sense to simply look at the manifestation of racism.
We must look at the source.
I will get into that in another post….