“Brazilian television doesn’t portray blacks”, says journalist Luciana Barreto: TV remains far from a “racial democracy”

Journalist Luciana Barreto speaking on the invisibility of Afro-Brazilians on the airwaves
Journalist Luciana Barreto speaking on the invisibility of Afro-Brazilians on the airwaves

Note from BW of Brazil: It is a common theme among activists and also on this blog. Foreigners such as African-American activist Angela Davis, Mozambican writer Paulina Chiziane and African-American filmmaker Spike Lee are among the critics who have criticized the whiteness of Brazil’s airwaves as well as a number of Afro-Brazilians. In the coming days we will provide an excellent reason for why a Brazil of a 51% non-white majority looks as if it were an extension of Europe in South America. But for now, here is a brief analysis of the situation by one of the few well-known Afro-Brazilian journalists. 

We are far from a racial democracy on Brazilian TV

By Maria Frô

Racism is so powerful that it criminalizes the victim and victimizes the executioner, from poorly elaborated interventions of professionals in the school when a child is beaten by others and doesn’t receive help to the biased criticism of those who do not overcome racism and, on the reaction of victims, argues that Brazil “is annoyed with its politically correct.” We see a good example of this argument in the animated cartoon of Maurício Ricardo (translated subtitles below video).

Note from BW of Brazil: The video is very typical of the attitude of many white Brazilians who accuse Afro-Brazilians of seeing racism in everything now that this population is more conscious of racism and more likely to stand up to this type of behavior, an about face from widespread passivity of the decades before the 1990s. 

Because times change

Blond: Nowadays everything is racism! It’s exaggerated, understand? I saw some videos on You Tube! In the 1970s Didi called Mussum tição, crioulo, urubu, macaco (1) and it was very normal.

Black man: As, the 1970s! The cuckolded man killed his woman and didn’t go to jail with a basis in the thesis of “legitimate defense of honor”!

Blond: Really?

Black man: If the guy would affirm that his wife did marry as a virgin, she could be submitted to a gynecological exam and the marriage annulled!

Blond: Huh?

Black man: And the father had the right to disown his dishonest daughter!

Blond: Daughter…a thief?

Black man: No, dishonest was the daughter that lost her virginity without marrying and ran away from home to live with someone!

Blond: That was being “dishonest”?

Black man: In the law, because Brazilian society of the 1970s they were called sluts, vagabonds and whores.

Blond: But I was speaking of the humor of the 1970s!

Black man: I am speaking of the 1970s! Do you want to go back then to laugh?

Estamos muito longe de uma democracia racial na tv brasileira

“The one who has to overcome racial prejudice are not blacks, victims of this sordid prejudice,” says journalist Luciana Barreto, host of the journal Repórter Brasil in Rio de Janeiro, interviewed on the Ver TV program on TV Brasil, hosted by the professor Lalo Filho.

Luciana makes pertinent criticisms mainly at the monopolized media that instead of fighting racism gives still greater voice to racists.

“When I was a kid and saw TV and saw myself excluded from Brazilian TV, as well as the poor child seeing themselves excluded from the market, see themselves excluded from everything, see themselves excluded from the presence of the country at home because they are working, see themselves excluded from a quality education, because he studies in shabby schools without a quality education (..)”

Imagine what it is to be a poor black child in Brazil…

Imagine the role that television would have in the construction of a positive identity for this poor black child in Brazil. Poor, black, indigenous, northeasterner.

Imagine what role television would have on the construction of this positive identity.

Imagine the potential that Brazil would have of growth with young people who had early on a construction of a positive identity.

But what we see today is a Brazil, is a television, is a public concession that excludes the majority of Brazilian children. This is what we see today in Brazil and the exclusion has serious risks to society, we are seeing here.”

Luciana touches on the center point of how the TV is harmful in the formation of the identity of black and white Brazilian children, incapable of representing the diversity of the Brazilian population, incapable of creating positive representations of the black population, making difficult the creation of a positive identity for black children, black women and black youth.

The Repórter Brasil host argues that Brazilian television denies, distorts and devalues the figure of blacks in Brazil while it should celebrate black culture as an integral part of the identity of the country.

The journalist talks about her own experience as a journalist and reveals that the lack of black references occupying important positions on television made her disbelieve that that a career as a host was appropriate for her.

“We are especially hurting the identity of black women that can’t see themselves being represented in any position that requires a high level of education,” she explains.

The journalist believes that the acceptance of black culture and diversity as an essential pillar in the country’s identity is a key element for growth of Brazil as a whole.

Luciana reflects on the potential that the TV, it is worth remembering, a public concession, has in constructing a positive identity, but refuses to do so.

Your personal statement should convince parliamentarians, governments, educators of how to democratize Brazilian communication, how constructing a real communication in the country is vital for the proper development of full citizenship, not just for blacks, but for everyone because Brazilian society without overcoming racism will continue backward regardless of how many steps the country progresses economically.

It’s worth listening to each of Luciana’s arguments.

Source: Portal Portal Fórum


1. Didi and Mussum were characters of the popular Brazilian comedy group and television series Os Trapalhões that ran from 1977 to 1993 on the Globo TV network. Antônio Carlos Bernardes Gomes, known as Mussum on the series, was the black member of the quartet. The term “tição”, loosely meaning “soot” means black smoke, is a term used to describe a dirty or very dark-skinned person. During the slavery era the term “crioulo” referred to Africans born in Brazil. “Urubu” means vulture and “macaco” means monkey. For some, usage of term crioulo can be very pejorative depending on its usage, while urubu and macaco are very offensive insults with the latter being the most common racist insult used against Afro-Brazilians. Although tição has been commonly used for many years, it is increasingly seen as an insult in modern times.


About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. How many times have we heard laments such as “women are 50 percent of the population but only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs” and, as the Justice Department recently found, “blacks are 54 percent of the population in Newark, New Jersey, but 85 percent of pedestrian stops and 79 percent of arrests”? If one believes that people should be represented socio-economically according to their numbers in the population, then statistical disparities represent injustices that demand government remedies. Before we jump to conclusions about what disparities mean and whether they are indicators of injustice, we might examine some other disparities to see what we can make of them.

    According to a recent study conducted by Bond University in Australia, sharks are nine times as likely to attack and kill men than they are women. If sinister motivation is attributed for this disparity, as is done in the cases of sex and racial disparities, we can only conclude that sharks are sexist. Another sex disparity is despite the fact that men are 50 percent of the population and so are women, men are struck by lightning six times as often as women. I wonder what whoever is in charge of lightning has against men.

    Another gross statistical disparity is despite the fact that Jews are less than 3 percent of the U.S. population and a mere 0.2 percent of the world’s population, between 1901 and 2010, Jews were 35 percent of American and 22 percent of the world’s Nobel Prize winners.

    There are other disparities that we might acknowledge with an eye to corrective public policy. Asian-Americans routinely score the highest on the math portion of the SAT, whereas blacks score the lowest. The population statistics for South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont show that not even 1 percent of their populations is black. In states such as Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, blacks are overrepresented in terms of their percentages in the general population. When this kind of “segregation” is found in schooling, the remedy is busing.

    There are loads of international examples of ethnic disparities.

    During the 1960s, the Chinese minority in Malaysia, where Malays politically dominate, received more university degrees than the Malay majority — including 400 engineering degrees, compared with just four for the Malays. In Brazil’s state of Sao Paulo, more than two-thirds of the potatoes and 90 percent of the tomatoes produced have been produced by people of Japanese ancestry.

    Blacks are 13 percent of our population but 80 percent of professional basketball players and 65 percent of professional football players and among the highest-paid players in both sports. By stark contrast, blacks are only 2 percent of the NHL’s professional ice hockey players. Basketball, football and ice hockey represent gross racial disparities and come nowhere close to “looking like America.”

    Even in terms of sports achievement, racial diversity is absent. In Major League Baseball, three out of the four hitters with the most career home runs are black. Since blacks entered the major leagues, of the eight times more than 100 bases have been stolen in a season, all were by blacks. In basketball, 50 of the 59 MVP awards have been won by black players.

    If diversity worshippers see underrepresentation as “probative” of racial discrimination, what do they propose be done about overrepresentation? After all, overrepresentation and underrepresentation are simply different sides of injustice. If those in one race are overrepresented, it might mean they’re taking away what rightfully belongs to another race. For example, is it possible that Jews are doing things that sabotage the chances of a potential Indian, Alaska Native or Mexican Nobel Prize winner? What about the disgraceful lack of diversity in professional basketball and ice hockey? There’s not even geographical diversity in professional ice hockey; not a single player can boast of having been born and raised in Hawaii, Louisiana or Mississippi.

    Courts, bureaucrats and the intellectual elite have consistently concluded that “gross” disparities are probative of a pattern and practice of discrimination. Given all of the differences among people, such a position is pure nonsense.

  2. Boycott television! I studied in Brazil in the 1980s and have recently visited in 2013 and 2014. I think the only way to make Brazilian TV change is to TURN IT OFF. Boycott any show that has no representation of “afro-descendentes” or blacks. I don’t watch TV in the U.S. any more but I did watch it in Brazil. I think it is slightly better now than it was a few decades ago–at least blacks are shown as more than maids and slaves these days. TV stations make their money from ads and companies that put ads make their money from products. If nobody watches the show, they don’t see the ads and the companies will withdraw their sponsorship. This would be a hard thing to do since a lot of Brazilians love their novelas–I like them too!

  3. O interessante é que a televisão brasileira importa programas da família negra estadunidense,mas não valoriza os seus negros nacionais como merecem.
    E tudo isso de olho no ibope.

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