Note from BW of Brazil: I’m not even gonna spend much time on this one. Believe me, there are already thousands of people who have weighed in on this issue, each side arguing the validity of their case. The only reason I’m even presenting this material is that, in Brazil, macaco (masculine) or macaca (feminine) are the favorite terms for whites to use to insult and dehumanize a black person. But I always wondered, have any of you really made the comparison? I mean, black people generally don’t have thin lips. Generally, black people aren’t covered in body hair and the hair they have is usually not straight. And beneath that hair, the skin of a monkey is not brown or black. I could go further with this, but you get the point. I’ll let Brazilian journalist João Ubaldo Ribeiro go in a little more on this…I found the Ribeiro piece courtesy of the Catorze de Maio blog that introduces Ribeiro’s piece as it appeared in the May 4th, 2014 edition of the O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper.
Who looks like a monkey?
Courtesy of Catorze de Maio
Back and forth, comes the wonderful fruit of the ideology of domination of racism, the comparison of the black with the monkey. Already in the 50’s, I was “taught” that I was inferior because my “ancestors were taken from the trees and brought to Brazil.”
Unfortunately, it marked my existence, and to this day I have to work with myself on the fact that we are equal. In making contact with the news I see a case of racism in (the state of) Alagoas:
“Alagoan student called ‘macaca’ in post on social networks”
I won’t even comment on the racist and prejudiced act that followed. Every human rights defender and activist of the movimentos negros (black movements), is uncharacteristic, is placed as racist, vitimista (one who plays the victim) or spiteful. It is considered “mimimi” (whining) on social networks. There is a wonderful text by João Ubaldo Ribeiro, from May of 2014 that clarifies this similarity with the monkey:
“O negro e o macaco” (The black and the monkey)
By João Ubaldo Ribeiro
One of the most clamorous – and to me enervating – manifestations of the backwardness of the human species is this business of race. The importance we attach to race, to the point of hating, killing and dying because of it, inevitably leads to the commonplace: it would be ridiculous if it were not tragic. It is difficult to find a subject of which such nonsense is said as this, always ignoring not only anthropological evidence such as data of the daily reality itself. And it is also quite difficult to talk about or discuss it. Many people lose control, foam from anger and drown the debate in screams and denunciations.
It begins with the connection, which is always made here, between slavery and race. Speaking of slaves, speaking of blacks. But most of the slaves in the history of humanity were not blacks, whatever that is. Slavery, to be reasonably generalized, was the fate of the vanquished of any race that was not exterminated. In fact, of course, because otherwise, they would not be human, those of the black race defeated by others of the same race, in the case of the slaves sold to Brazil.
The notion that “black is black” is common, as if countless black ethnicities considered themselves the same. That is equivalent to understanding that a German is equal to a Polish, a Swede equal to an Italian, or a Spaniard equal to a Russian. There can be no greater-and, if well looked at, racist-than to think that in a gigantic and diversified continent like Africa, all blacks are the same, and, more foolishly, brothers. Brothers in Christ and, even so if they weren’t Muslims. They will ask whether the black minorities massacred by black nations consider themselves sisters of their tormentors, or these of those. Or the black slaves of other blacks, a situation that still exists in Africa. There are even those who are scandalized by wars and genocides among black nations. Really, and (what about) war of white against white?
Sorry if I trample over arguments, but it’s the subject that makes me nervous too and gives me some exasperation. Now it occurs to me to interrupt what I have been saying to remember another unnerving practice: to speak of African culture. There is, and cannot be, an African culture in any sense. A grotesque reductionism applies, which – and I remember again the size and complexity of Africa – thinks that there is only one black or African culture. Again, it is an argument that, if well looked at, can be considered racist. There is the African culture of the peoples to which belonged those who were brought to Brazil as slaves, which is very different from saying that it is “cultura africana” (African culture). Try to invite a Zulu to dinner and serve him Yoruba food, as in Bahia. Defending the existence of a single African or black culture is insulting, ignorant and racist.
Applying American sociological standards to the problem in Brazil is another difficult practice to put up with. And I make the provision always demanded that of course there is racism in Brazil, and so on. But Bahia is not Alabama. Just in the sixties, a couple, in one of the Virginias of the south of the United States, was condemned to two years of prison because it was interracial, that is, one of the two was black. The Armed Forces were only integrated in the Korean War, and anyone who has lived in the United States knows that there is a difference and we either create our own categories to examine our reality, or we will continue macaqueando (aping) even the racism of others.
I wrote “macaqueando” up there, without beginning to remember the allusion to macacos (monkeys) in recent incidents of racism in futebol. But it comes in handy in this salad I’m serving today. It is curious how we don’t stop to think and note that, by subject matter, some black racist would have reasons to allege that a monkey is white rather than black, that can be seen as far more distant from a monkey than a white. If it’s true, I don’t know, it does not matter at all, but think about a couple of things here. Imagine, for example, an intelligent being from another planet, therefore not subject to our conditioning, to whom we were responsible for clarifying which of the two races is closest to the monkey. To do so, we would put before him a naked white man, a naked black man and a chimpanzee, our nearest cousin.
The first impact might be color, and in fact, the chimpanzee’s hair, as well as the skin of the negro (black), is preto (black). But the good observer wouldn’t let himself get carried away by that appearance. Let’s make a careful examination and a list along with it. The monkey is all covered with hair, the body of the black is glabrous (devoid of hair), the white could be (actor) Tony Ramos; The monkey’s hair is straight, the hair of the white is also, the hair of the black is crespo (kinky/curly); shave the hair and the skin of the monkey underneath is revealed to be white and not black; the lips of the monkey are thin, so are the lips of the white, those of the blacks are thick; the monkey doesn’t have an ass, the white has a flat butt, the black has a cushioned butt; really – excuse me, ladies – the renowned attributes of the black are further from the monkey. As you can see, you just have to choose what you want to take into account and, at least in this perfectly plausible example, the alien could conclude that the white is much closer to the monkey than the black.
All nonsense, discussion that leads to nothing, only to hatred and intolerance. Let’s stop looking for models, at least in this we are not so colonized, we do not allow more trash to contaminate our thinking. Americans have an obsession with race (there, we Brazilians, we are “Hispanic”), (what) we have is the glory and privilege of being the only country in which men and women of all races have mingled and blended and where race, God will be served, will still have the place it deserves, that is, none.”
João Ubaldo Ribeiro, O Estado de S.Paulo – 04 May 2014
Source: Cartorze de Maio