Disgraceful! TV program satirizes the sale of slaves using white actors in blackface

Still from recent episode of Globo TV’s' Tá no Ar' program
Still from recent episode of Globo TV’s’ Tá no Ar’ program: “Escravas Bahia: Total servitude to you!”

Note from BW of Brazil: Why don’t we just make it official? Blackface is and has been for many years part of Brazil’s historical catalog of “comedy”. There’s simply no way to deny it. Recently we covered another story on a controversial blackface skit as well as a Carnaval group that regularly dresses up as black maids. I continue to see nothing humorous about this, and in fact, I now see it as an open challenge to black activists to attempt to shut it down! ‘It’s satire’, they’ll say. ‘It’s all in fun’, they’ll say. But making fun of something as painful as slavery simply shows, once again, the place black Brazilians hold in society. And we see this everyday in the ways Afro-Brazilians continue to be treated today, nearly 127 years after the inhumane practice ended, at least in wide practice. 

Casas Bahia appliance store: "Casas Bahia: Total dedication to you"
Casas Bahia appliance store: “Casas Bahia: Total dedication to you”

Before we get into this latest controversy, a little background. Brazil’s top TV network Globo broadcasts a comedy program Tá no Ar, meaning ‘it’s on the air’, that recently aired a skit in which it satirized the sale of black slaves in a satirical skit using the Brazilian retail store Casas Bahia as the backdrop. Casas Bahia could be translated as ‘Bahia houses’, referring to the northeastern state of Bahia. But the skit changed the name of the retail giant to ‘Escravas Bahia’ meaning ‘Bahia Slaves’. It’s also no coincidence that the state of Bahia was a port of entry of African slaves shortly after the colonization of Brazil and today has one of the largest black populations in the country. Below is how activist Douglas Belchior broke down Globo TV’s latest display of ‘non-racist racism’. 

(See the full video below)

Note from BW of Brazil: We have been informed that video below is not available for viewers outside of Brazil. In this case, please access the following link. The material in question begins at about the 00:35 mark. 

"Don't buy slaves today!"
“Don’t buy slaves today!”

Globo TV’s Tá no Ar or ‘How many do you want to whip?’

By Negro Belchior

“We interrupt this program to present a commercial of the nineteenth century:

Extra, extra, attention! Don’t buy a slave today!

It’s that tomorrow is a day of a mega promotion here in “Escravas Bahia” (Bahia Slaves)

Cabindas, Guineans, Angolans (1)! The overseer’s gone crazy!

How many do you want to whip?

That’s right! Buy two plantation slaves and take a wet nurse entirely free!

Come check out our new affiliates: Pelourinho and Pedra do Sal (2)!

Escravas Bahia: Total servitude for you!”

By Douglas Belchior

"Buy two slaves"
“Buy two slaves”

This was the script interpreted by Marcius Melhem, in a program skit from Tá no Ar, which aired on Thursday (February 12) by Rede Globo, where the actors “make plays on TV commercials.”

We’ve already discussed several times in this blog the debate on the limits of humor, by the way, a recurring theme. Just to mention one case, remember the unfortunate “Baú do Baú do Fantástico”, in November 2013, when Bruno Mazzeo brings life to a reporter who is covering the abolition of slavery in Brazil. Sad!


I need to repeat here the “clichê” – true to my view – that the Globo television network is indeed a produce of ideologically committed contents, always in the service of certain political and economic interests and its art, most of the time, always has the intention of reinforcing stigma, stereotypes and values, all with two fundamental motives: to sell products of its advertisers and to shape collective opinion.

"Take a wet nurse: free"
“Take a wet nurse: free”

The program Tá no Ar, a creation of Marcelo Adnet, Marcius Melhem and Maurício Farias and that has other major players such as Danton Melo and Maurício Rizzo, since his debut in 2014, has been celebrated by critics precisely because of the acid mood and in large part for the criticism of the programming itself of Globo TV traditional TV. I know that many will respond to this text with arguments for freedom of expression, criticism of the politically correct, and accusations of “coitadismo negro” (black victimization) or error in perception, since the program’s intent would have been exactly the opposite: to criticize and denounce how TV displays blacks. One mistake. And I will explain:

“The overseer’s gone crazy”

I borrow the thought of black professor and activist Adriana de Cássia, when the controversy over the content of the cartoons of the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the sad murder of several artists, with no intention of disproportionate comparisons, but relevant:

“The idea of race that organizes the understanding of what racism is established from a social constant, non-biological, which relates certain phenotypic an traits to an expectation of cognitive development and determined social behavior, in this way, as much the place of social groups in the structure as the expectation that people have in relation to these groups.”

"Mega promotion"
“Mega promotion”

Even if the intention of the Tá no Ar comedians had been to criticize racism on Brazilian television, one has to ask: Do groups who demand rights for the black population make fun of slavery? Does the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) do this? It’s possible to also argue that the program uses the strategy of irony to express an anti-racist idea, however, the image must speak for itself, it could not give room for other interpretations. If, by observing the image, a racist interpretation is possible, the task was, in this regard unsuccessful. Two other issues: Was there research directed toward the black population to assess how they feel, having its image and its history lampooned on national television? I, as a descendant of enslaved people did not feel comfortable with the joke. Nor was I amused to hear the “mega-promotion” in which a wet nurse comes free, after the purchase of two male slaves. After all, it’s impossible not to associate it with my mother, sister, daughters and all black Brazilian women, principle victims of racist and sexist violence at all levels. Thus, the theatrical piece, the way it was constructed, reinforces the racist logic of representation.

And I repeat what I’ve already written here when it was an analysis of the Fantástico humorist: A slavery regime of slavery that lasted 388 years; What was the cost of the kidnapping and murder of approximately 7 million African humans and so many other millions of their descendants; and that was widely denounced as one of the greatest crimes against humanity ever seen, should or can be the reason for jokes?

How many scenes of “intelligent humor” are related to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; or the victims of the World Trade Center or – to stay on Brazil – the victims of the fire in the Kiss nightclub (in Santa Maria, Rio grande do Sul), we will see as a fruit of the good intention of writers who don’t know what they are saying or cynicism of the mass media? Ah, but men and women put on sale and were always reminding us that they were – black men and women – treated as a commodity, dehumanized and objectified, on national television and at the mercy of collective laughter, this can! And with the right to status of critical and intelligent humor.

If it is true that criticism and self-criticism are concept elements of Tá no Ar and the network’s initiative, they fail at the moment in which they don’t break with the logic of manipulation of representations and reinforce racial stereotypes, placing themselves in this way as a communication vehicle that, through such content, strengthens and promotes racism.

It’s necessary to be alert. To escape the rule of racist cognition is one of the most difficult tasks. If the mission is to combat racism, one cannot use the same structural logic that organizes racist thinking. Therefore, no jokes about slavery, please!

Tá no Ar ‘Escravas Bahia’ skit

Source: Negro Belchior


1. All natives of African lands with Candimba (also spelled Kabinda, formerly Portuguese Congo, known locally as Tchiowa) being an exclave and province of Angola.

2. Pelourinho is an historic region in Salvador, Bahia, where slaves were publicly whipped. Pedra do Sal is a historical and religious site in Rio de Janeiro, in the neighborhood of Saúde. The site was originally a quilombo village. An association group still lives there: Community Descendents from the Quilombos of Pedra do Sal. Source.  Quilombo refers to historic maroons or runway slave societies, the most famous of all being Palmares.

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


  1. OK, this probably is related to IP. I was imprecise, the video was not removed, it is “blocked on copyright grounds”. I’m not in Brazil, that’s probably the reason.

  2. For the racist behavior of white Brazilians , as Brazilian I do not know sometimes I am ashamed to be Brazilian! When I see these disrespectful attitudes against the black Brazilians ,these racists who do not have heart, why do they go to proclaim to the world that Brazil is a mixed country and where racism does not exist? The Brazilian people is a people ignorant and racist!
    Não há palavras para sua vergonha!

  3. I usually have a lot to say, but I am truly stunned by this one. I cannot watch the video either, and that is probably a blessing in disguise. This story seals it for me in showcasing the level of racism black and brown Brazilians are subjected to in the media. That a national network would see fit to broadcast this mess nationally and even globally, with not one thought that it is offensive material tells me all I need to know about the media in Brazil.

    I feel for the little ones coming up who do not have one positive image of themself to look at on tv in their own country. They have to go to school and deal with the racist teachers, go out in public and deal with the racist public, and then even in their own homes they have to deal with the racist images of themselves on tv. It is so important for the parents to be on top of things to instill in them self-worth and value from a young age. Black Brazil, please do all you can to protect the minds of your young ones, do no let the system get them!

  4. It’s difficult for me to understand why a country with a history of enslaved people allows commercials like this to be aired. I understand that it is done for the sake of satire and to get some laughs, but like the blog stated – there is nothing really funny about the inhumane treatment and sale of human beings. There are millions of things that could be used for comedic effect, but it really confuses me that a nation such as Brazil prefers to poke fun at something that is so serious. To this day, people are oppressed because of the color of their skin and to have white actors in blackface, I think adds more insult to injury. From previous blog posts on this site, I have noticed that blackface for comedic reasons is prevalent in Brazil, as a person from the outside looking in, it really astonishes me and I’d like to delve in deeper and try to understand why that might be the case. Especially considering Brazil’s history regarding enslaved peoples.

  5. I’m most surprised that a country with a strong history of enslaved people would broadcast shows about slavery and use blackface. I think that their excuse to use blackface as a joke is not right at all. Slavery is a horrible event that happened in the history of Brazil, and to make a joke out of something that has happened to Brazil’s people and so many people, I think it’s a low blow to their image via broadcast. Shows like these are some of the reasons why there are negative stereotypes and stigma still in society. I like how the writer states, “A slavery regime of slavery that lasted 388 years; What was the cost of the kidnapping and murder of approximately 7 million African humans and so many other millions of their descendants; and that was widely denounced as one of the greatest crimes against humanity ever seen, should or can be the reason for jokes?” The part about the wet nurse that comes free after the purchase of two male slaves was disturbing to me as well. I think that this brings up the topic of many Afro-Brazilian women who were victims of racist and sexist violence. Another issue in my eyes that should not be made into a “joke.”
    I feel like none of these past actions that made life for Afro-Brazilian’s tough and made them suffer because of the color of their skin should be in any sentence or idea of “joking around” and “making people laugh.” The material is offensive. I’m surprised that Brazil would broadcast show(s) like this, I understand you need to think of “creative” episodes to continue the show, but you can be creative without bringing race, sexism, and blackface into it.

  6. I see this as having two big issues at play here. Firstly, the reenactment of the sale of slaves isn’t a new occurrence. We have seen this over time in movies, theatre, etc. but to make a tasteless reenactment in a comedic effort is what transforms it from being art to what it became. Secondly, this show further displays why I have a overwhelming contempt with blackface. Not only is it disrespectful to misrepresent these people by painting your face, your not allowing these people to play themselves. My thought process is, if your going to make fun of these people and make them look devilish and unhumanlike, pay them. Let them play themselves. Let them make the decision whether they would rather humiliate themselves for a paycheck or stand up against the constant nuances of oppression.

  7. Wow. I have to strongly agree with the author of the article, If the idea was to criticizes slavery and racist stereotypes, than this was a huge failure. I could not see the video but if what was described was accurate than it seem like the writers and performers of this skit, either did not use their brains when doing this skit or just wanted to use shameful racial stereotypes to get some viewership. Either way you cut it, this is one skit (or show in general) that should not have been broadcasted.

  8. I’m going to entertain a more pessimistic stance and say, so what? Yes, racism should be called out in all its forms and denounced articulately, directly, sometimes even violently, yes that’s necessary. Negro Belchior does this very very well. But aside from sharing yet another example of the pervasiveness and resilience of racism (of which racial humor by definition must always be situated), I’m not exactly sure what the blog post accomplishes. I’m left underwhelmed. If we’re supposed to be surprised that black denigration in white cultural and consumer production still persists, quite unfortunately we’re not. If we were supposed to be particularly incensed at the use of humor and entertainment to perpetuate racialized imagery, sadly we’re not. If we are to have been devastated by this miscarriage of irony and social commentary on a popular television program, “Ta no ar” hasn’t brought the bar down any much lower. So we don’t really gather anything constructive or informative beyond the reminder that racism, in its slick, underground and pliable ways, is still out there, lurking at times, barking at others. But we know that already. And while we should clearly be concerned with the reproductions of stereotypes regardless of the social arena from which they emanate, I’m not convinced that such a “calling it out and slamming it down” discourse in itself provides the most productive path towards alleviating the racial inequalities (psychological and physical) which make such horrendously racist skits which satirize the past era of slavery even that much more egregious today.

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