Did an argument on a popular reality TV show demonstrate an underlying lack of unity between black Brazilian men and women?

Note from BBT: In the new season, the 21st of the ever popular reality show Big Brother Brasil, there have been countless moments that demonstrate the existing conflicts within the Afro-Brazilian community. When the program first presented the largest number of black participants in the program’s history, it was a cause of celebration in the Afro-Brazilian oriented media and social networks. Some people starting referring to the program as “Black Brother Brasil”. But we must remember, whenever we take a cup and take out a few ounces of water out of a pool, we are simply getting a specimen of the contents of the entire pool.

Some viewers have called the popular reality program ‘Black Brother Brasil’ due to the number of black participants

This to say that black folks that were chosen for this edition of show would inevitably demonstrate all of the confusion, contradictions, vulnerabilities, lack of unity and issues of a community that have consistently had its humanity, psychological and emotional state, as well as its very existence undermined, objectified and demunanized by a very sophisticated form of racism and white supremacy. BBB 21 is simply presenting the scars that we’ve known have always existed.

One of these scars that has been the topic of hundreds, if not thousands of debates in social networks, is the lack of unity between black men and black women. This lack of unity is exacerbated by accusations by black women that argue that they have been abandoned by black men who, in social ascension and even those in the lower classes, pursue white girls and women as soon as the opportunity presents itself. The ironic thing is that we often see this same behavior among black women (see a number of posts on what has been called palmitagem). Of course, black women consistently claim that they date across racial lines because of their loneliness that is a direct result of the abandonment by black men. I’ve said before, I can partially buy this argument but I also know that it would be serious error to simply believe that there are no black women who are also palmiteiros (swirlers).

We have to remember, both black men AND black women are victims of Brazilian social engineering that convinced the black community as a whole to purse white partners and thus whiten their offspring. Let me just say, among Afro-Brazilians of clear middle class status, I rarely see couples consisting of a black man and a black woman. And from what I’ve seen, BOTH black men AND black women are responsible for the gradual whitening of the Afro-Brazilian community.

This debate has been a major point of contention between black men and black women. There are so pretty thought provoking arguments on both sides, but the point for me is that it is the black community as a whole that loses in the end. On one side, a battle cry of black women for years is that they have been ones who have maintained and battled to keep the black family together even losing her husbands, uncles, sons and nephews to the ongoing genocidal policy of the Brazilian state and the country as a whole that violently eliminates the lives of black males. On her side is the argument that it is the black woman who is the base of the socioeconomic pyramid. And after all of her struggles, she is seeing the black man abandon her in an endless pursuit of white women.

On the other hand, black men respond that 1) black women are also ‘down with the swirl’, 2) black feminists are throwing black men under the bus for white supremacy, labeling black masculinity as ‘toxic’ while ignoring the facts that 3) it is the black male that is most often the homeless one no one wants and 4) it is the black male that is far more likely than the black black female to be murdered in the street.

Is this environment, is it even possible for black Brazilian men and women to put aside their differences and come together? It’s hard to say. I’ve long said that all of this talk of ’empowerment’, ‘black money’, etc. means nothing if both sides don’t see the necessity of the black family.

A recent discussion/argument I think touched on this problem of the two seeing eye to eye. The participant Lucas, who was an important figure in the 2015 and 2016 student protests in São Paulo, shared the idea of unifying black people on the show to eliminate the white participants, but also expressed his disapppointment in not attracting the eyes of white women, sat down and had a conversation with one of the black women in the house, the psychologist Lumena, on his idea of revolution. It didn’t go too well.

Lumena reacts to Lucas’ thoughts on ‘Big Brother Brasil 21’

BBB 21: Lucas and Lumena talk in the early hours of the morning and end up getting into another fight: “I didn’t come here for you to make a stage of me!”

By Izabella Arouca

After getting involved in a fight with participant and comedian Nego Di and another with Lumena when trying to explain his revolution in the early hours of February 3rd, Penteado went to the outside area of the house. Then Lumena arrived and the two began to talk again, this time about militancy and the attitudes of both in the confinement of the program.

The participants kept talking at the same time and ended up cutting each other off. While they were talking, the psychologist questioned the “brother” about his attitudes. “Do I need to do that again?” she asked. Lucas then defended himself and went into a long speech about machismo and militancy. “In this place here that we are, you don’t need to. In this place here that we are… I wanted to bring a context, for us to understand something here, as the militants that we are,” said Penteado. “It is obvious that machismo for the black girl, it has a place completely, because on a scale, from what I understand, it is the last of all issues,” he continued.

The psychologist then corrected Lucas’ line. “She’s the bottom of the pyramid. The black woman,” she stated and the “brother” agreed, and then continued his reasoning. “But there are other bases, other pyramids. The pyramid of mortality, the pyramid of academic opportunity, and among other pyramids. We have to understand that when we bring it to this side, we understand that the black girls are saving their children, their brothers, trying to save their husbands,” explained Penteado.

The next moment, the actor stated to Lumena that he still doesn’t understand that other side of the coin. “[That] is a very delicate place and I don’t understand. I don’t understand that side, because I’m not a black girl. But I am a black son, of a black woman, who is breaking herself to save the three of us in this big world. That saved her husband too. What I understand about this is that this black girl, there is a time when she also needs to be saved, as a matter of fact she needs to be saved all the time,” Lucas analyzed.

The sister then wanted to know: “And who saves the black woman?” Lucas answered: “This is a question you are asking a black man who is deconstructing himself. I believe that it is the black man, together with the black woman, saving each other,” he said.

At this point, Lumena said that the attitudes of the “brother” inside the confinement have not proved to her that this is the way the actor thinks. “You still haven’t managed to give me a materiality, to prove it to me here [in the house]. That’s why I’m in this place. Of defense, you know?” she said.

“So, I came here to understand that when I got here, how did I get here? I’m honest, I came here in the ego, thinking ‘awww shit,’ but that’s not it,” Lucas said, hinting that when he arrived at the BBB, he had thought he was on another level. “I just had the realization that it’s not that because all the black people here are (like) ‘awww shit!’… I just recognize it,” he said.

“I have my mistakes. I have my problems. The first point of the black man and black girl, is to always try to deconstruct themselves, strengthen themselves, help themselves, and be in the presence of themselves, right? And then after that, we have the accompaniment and the companionship of militancy or if we go there by the quilombo, a fellow fighter for life,” continued Lucas, then saying that the other brothers were warring against the revolution, while the “sister” said she already knew all this. “Because a lot of people when they hear ‘quilombo’ they think it’s war. No, for us, quilombo is the fight for life. The war was for them [the other participants]. They were fighting against evolution, you know?”, pointed the actor.

Just for context, the history of the quilombo or maroon societies, are a very important idea for black Brazilians. These were communities of refuge constructed by fugitive slaves during Brazil’s slavery era that lasted three and a half centuries. Today, the idea of quilombo remains a strong image of black resistance.

Lucas then explained that there are people who are listening to him talk, referring to the public outside. It was at this moment that, showing irritation, Lumena lost her patience and exploded. “I’m here to exchange an idea, a straight talk with you. The problem for me, Lucas, is that I don’t want to be a stage for you to be Zumbi dos Palmares,” said the psychologist, referring to the greatest black leader in Brazil’s history and head of the largest quilombo in history, Palmares.

Confused, Lucas says he didn’t understand Lumena’s statement. “What would it be to be Zumbi do Palmares? I don’t understand,” he asked. Without explaining, the sister continued repeating that she is not on the program to be made a stage. “Get the vision, I didn’t come here for you to make a stage of me,” she repeated. Then the psychologist got up and continued attacking the brother: “You want to make a fool of me, Lucas!”

As Lumena’s explosion left Penteado alone on the lawn, and, confused, he vented to himself. “Man, I’m really lost,” he stated. (See the discussion between two in the video above from the 00:00 point to about 01:30)

Note: Of course, there could be various interpretations of this exchange, but what came to me is the question of ego. A reality show is most def a place to see egos come out. Obviously, everyone wants a chance to win the bag worth BRL 1.5 million reais, but my question is, Lucas was the one speaking of the concept of revolution, not Lumena. Why did she immediately take that as a way for him to upstage her or use her as a stage? Maybe it’s just me, but if someone came to me to share an idea, if is made sense to me, I would think I would sit, listen and then offer my feedback. Why hate on someone who had an idea that you didn’t necessarily have?

Lucas expressed the idea that he at least partially grasped the idea of the battling black woman, which is in fact necessary to recognize. For me, it is the first step in reconciliation and unity, but, based on her comments and rejection, Lumena didn’t see it that way. Lucas spoke in calm, relaxed explaining his thoughts, understandings and the necessity of going further in his comprehension of the relationship and struggles of black women. On the other land, Lumena didn’t seem to be willing hear him out. How can these little conflicts between black men and women be ironed out with a first step when there is no willingness to interact and go beyond that first step? What makes this even worse for me is that she is supposed to be psychologist. 

The conversation, in my view, is indicative of how black men and black women, particularly in the conscious community, can’t seem to recognize their common experiences of oppression and put these differences aside in order to move forward for the collective good. In this particular conversation, it seemed as if a black woman wasn’t trying to meet a black man halfway. Some could argue that black women have a right to react, but what I saw was a black male extending his hand, wanting to understand and a black woman slapping his hand away. I wonder, if she had come to him and presented the exact same idea, how she would have expected him to react?

Just wondering. 

Source: Hugo Gloss

About Marques Travae 3696 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. Damn. This is sad. This seems to be a problem in the diaspora when we (Black men and women) are supposed to be part of the same team. I can’t help to feel that this problem is much deeper that I thought and may be difficult, if not impossible, to fix.

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