Note from BW of Brazil: The past few weeks have spoken volumes about how racism is maintained in Brazil all the while presenting a façade making it appear as if the question is being actually being addressed. In the course of a few weeks, we’ve seen a popular TV host refer to a black female dancer’s hair as “witch’s broom hair”, the murder of a dancer on a popular TV variety show followed by a “homage” that avoided the true cause of his murder, a ridiculous publicity stunt starring a banana in which we were led to believe that everyone calling themselves “monkeys” is a way of fighting racism and a comedian who was found innocent of insulting someone by offering him the same fruit. Top all of that off with the debut of an official World Cup commercial showing a nearly all-white Brazil and one gets a clear snapshot of the everyday in a country that still cannot deal with its dehumanizing, second-class, murderous treatment of its African descendant population. The title of this post in fact sums up the truth of the matter.
We Are All Racists
By the Coordination Team of Blogueiras Feministas (Feminists Bloggers).
It seems that April 27 was the day of the Veiled Racism in Brazil. A day for all to shout out that they are not racist, exalt the Brazilian racial democracy and of course, take a selfie.
The genocide of black youth blacked out by the dove of peace
First, the Esquenta! program on the Globo network, presented by Regina Casé, did a special in honor of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, known as DG, 26, the program dancer who was murdered on April 22nd. All very lovely. A lot of requests for peace, a lot of white (clothing) and very little mention of the policy of the extermination of black youth that occurs in the periphery of the country. As reported by Mariana Assis at the Blogueiras Negras blog:
“A well enlightened soul that tried to save the chicanery that was the “homage” that Esquenta! tried to do for Douglas, saying the wise words “nothing is more dangerous than being young, black and poor in this country” and presenting data about the genocide of black youth in Brazil. But from our viewpoint dear Regina has difficulties with interpretation of text and even after that glimmer of common sense on the part of the production, still doesn’t understand that putting tearful young rich, blond girls holding signs with the phrase “eu não mereço ser assassinada (I do not deserve to be assassinated)” and singing for peace means nothing, says nothing to us who are murdered, silenced and made invisible daily. But it speaks of them, it speaks of the aims and interests of that kind of space they are offering us in the mainstream media. A black frame for the white party, our pain and the blood of our young people serving to justify the fear of the masters and encourage their desperate search for safety itself, this is what I saw on that spectacular of sensationalism and opportunism.”
Clip from April 27th episode of Esquenta!
I’m not racist, I even have black employees
Second, in the same station, TV host Faustão responded to accusations of racism against him, for having said that a black dancer who was on his program in the previous week he had “cabelo de vassoura de bruxa (witch broom hair)”, with the following comment made live:
“I played with her hair as I do with the Ivi (Pizzott, one of the black dancers the Faustão show), with my own clothes. She had a red and voluminous hair, I said it looked like a witch’s broom. Some people began to think that that was racism. It was not. Really because no one more than I say every Sunday that character, competence and talent has nothing to do with skin color, sexual orientation, religious or political party,” said Fausto Silva. I joke a lot with those who work with me. And here people of the black race work with me, more than half of my career. For more than 20 years. Would it be that they would be if they were so disrespected? Mara, Michael Jackson (imitator), has come here every Sunday for 25 years, if she were disrespected, would she be here? Fabio Porchat even wrote about this. The country is losing grace for serious matters. Don’t come clowning around with this.”
Of course, after that speech, he was applauded. Just as all white, heterosexual, rich, cisgenders with no physical or mental disabilities are applauded in this country when they decide to say “truths” on television (a widely democratic space, only that it’s not) and complain about the politically correct, of the patrol. If anyone still has doubt that Brazil is an extremely racist country, Faustão’s response to the accusation of having offended a dancer is very illustrative.
He, a white man in a position of power, gives the “non-conviction record” of how cool a guy is. He mentions black people with whom he’s already worked, as if the relationship of power was balanced and these people could always choose not swallow sapo of racist, rude people in the name of bills to pay. And finally, Faustão says the country has more serious issues to deal with – and are serious matters are those that he, a white man in a position of power, says they are. Obviously, the dignity of a young black dancer and all persons that empathize with her did not fall into this category.
We are all monkeys until the selfie separates us
Third, in the Spanish football championship game, fans threw a banana at Brazil’s Daniel Alves, in another overt act of racism. In front of television cameras, quietly, the player picked up the fruit, peeled it and ate it, sending a great message to his aggressors. In an interview with the newspaper Marca, the right back said: “It has to be like this! We will not change. For 11 years ago I have lived with the same thing in Spain. We have to laugh at these morons.”
Because of this, many declared all support to Daniel Alves. He suffered an injury, reacted and deserves solidarity. The problem is that many people, especially famous, decided to show their support for Daniel Alves using the hashtag #SomosTodosMacacos (We’re All Monkeys) on social networks. And send photos of white people holding or eating a banana and thinking that fighting racism is like this.
Only on Monday, it was reported that (surprise!) there is an advertising agency, the Loducca behind this campaign, backed up with a video explaining the move, saying that prejudice is like a nickname, it only gets you if it irritates you. Get it? And, Luciano Huck was already selling T-shirts, which cost R$69 (US$31) with the hashtag #SomosTodosMacacos on his website with blonde, detached models and publicizing them.
Many people have said: “ah, but I prefer white people doing protests with bananas on instagram than silence.” Mind you, a simple hashtag (like) #TodoApoioDanielAlves (All Support Daniel Alves) does not represent silence and doesn’t show racism. Seeing famous people like Luciano Huck, Angélica, Claudia Leitte or Michel Teló with a banana on social networks, saying “we are all monkeys” we are just making mockery of everyday racism that pervades every crevice of our society. This attitude does not minimize the horror of racism, whether in football or outside of it. We are not all monkeys, because only some people are referred to as monkeys in our society, and in all of these moments, the reference that one makes is negative. As Camla Pavanelli said: “there is no point in holding a banana on Instagram, white friends, when no banana, real or metaphorical, was ever thrown in your face.”
Of course the majority of the people making their selfie against racism want to demonstrate empathy. However, generalizing the word “monkey”, the white person is not putting him/herself on the same social level as the black person, he/she is making racism in our society invisible, reproducing the false and perverse ideal of racial democracy (1) existing in Brazil. And before they come saying our color doesn’t matter, know that the police know exactly the color of who should be stopped, humiliated, harassed and even murdered. Public services know exactly the color of who should be called Sir or Madam and who must wait longer for care. Bank and commercial establishment security officers know exactly the color of who should be prevented from entering or monitored. You may want to believe that in Brazil it is impossible to define the color of someone, but know that every day these colors are very well defined in social spaces.
Would it be too much to think: are these people who are angry with cases of racism in futebol also resent homophobia? Or are the first ones to call the opposing team player viado (faggot)?
In the end, the question that remains is: Will Daniel Alves eat all the bananas that are thrown at him? Because they will continue to be thrown. Racism is a problem that will only be fought when people assume they are racist, that our society is racist. Nothing will happen as long as we keep denying that, individually, we are not racist, that we even have black friends that were murdered, but it’s not the fault of the police, neither of the society nor of the police, it’s of the lack of peace to walk quietly on my sidewalk.
1. Brazil’s famous “racial democracy” myth is mentioned in several articles on this blog as it such an important ideology to understanding how race and racism functions in the country. See a brief discussion here.