How to pretend to discuss racism without discussing racism: Variety show Esquenta avoids real talk


Note from BW of Brazil: The following story may make reference to a situation that happened over eight months ago but it remains relevant because it speaks to how the Brazilian media doesn’t approach the topic of and its complicity in maintaining a racist hierarchy. In April of last year, a regular dancer on a popular Sunday afternoon variety show (1) was killed by Rio’s brutal Military Police. In the show’s dedication to the slain dancer, there was no mention of racism, how racism figures into the genocidal murders of thousands of black youth every year, or the show’s rubber stamping of the heavily militarized occupation of Rio’s slums.

As such, the show’s host could not speak on this because as a host on the nation’s most powerful network, her job is in fact to occupy the public’s attention from such misery. Last November, the mother of the slain dancer, Maria de Fátima Silva, criticized the host and the show’s manner of censoring her from saying what was on her mind during the taping of the show. The host, Regina Casé, responded to the criticism last November saying that Maria’s accusations were “cruel” and “unjust”. Her response went as follows:

Mother of dancer DG, Maria de Fátima Silva and host Regina Casé in tribute episode last April
Mother of dancer DG, Maria de Fátima Silva and host Regina Casé in tribute episode last April

“In recent days I was sad and perplexed following the impact generated by the words and accusations, many of them cruel and unjust, of Maria de Fátima, DG’s mother,” wrote Regina Casé, citing the dancer’s nickname. According to the host, the program in honor of the slain dancer was made from “the heart”. She continued: “Perhaps the only difference was that we still gave more attention to Maria de Fátima and her family. We were united in the same feeling, because her pain is the pain of many mothers who live with violence.” The host concluded by saying: “My story has always been to combat prejudice, inequality and social injustice, but it’s always also about transparency and truth.”

Very interesting her use of the words “transparency and truth”; to dedicate a show to yet another black male victimized by violent police that she in fact endorsed on her show when activists in the community speak against its violent nature and then not speaking on why so many black males are victimized is not truthful and has no transparency! This would explain a recent episode of the show in which it refused to have a legitimate conversation on racism while pretending that it would try. The host opened this segment of the show by saying that she would talk about “a very serious problem, that affects many people…52% of the Brazilian population is black or brown…When people suffer because of prejudice of color.”

Episode of Esquenta! on January 18th: How to pretend to discuss racism without really discussing racism
Episode of Esquenta! on January 18th: How to pretend to discuss racism without really discussing racism

The segment continued with various people speaking of their experiences with everyday racism, being confused for a babysitter or futebol player, etc., without speaking about the depths of racism and white supremacy that Globo TV itself (and other networks) perpetuates everyday with its absence of and stereotypical presentations of black Brazilians. In the segment, Casé spoke of how many people always associate the black population with poverty but of course said nothing about these representations on her own network! The bottom line is, as long as people continue to associate racism with only “someone call me a monkey” or “someone asked me to park their car” without an analysis of systematic white supremacy, these type of programs accomplish nothing! Which is of course the precise objective! Typical Globo TV-styled media manipulation! But what can you expect from a country where no one is racist, but knows people who are? Or the best way of reacting to a racist incident was to join a staged “campaign” called “we are all monkeys”?

Below is how blogger Aline Ramos saw the same program.

Esquenta! discusses racism without looking at itself

by Aline Ramos

Host Regina Casé in the January 18th episode of Esquenta!
Host Regina Casé in the January 18th episode of Esquenta!

Sunny Sunday, Sunday of Esquenta (meaning ‘heat up’), samba and racism. The theme chosen for the attraction of Regina Casé was the prejudice against blacks, but the discussion did not come out of the commonplace. The guests present reported sad stories of discrimination that they have gone through in life, but no one remembered Douglas da Silva Pereira, known as DG. The dancer was part of the regular cast of the program and was murdered by the Military Police (MP) in April 2014. At the time, DG’s body was found in the back of a nursery in the Morro do Pavão-Pavãozinho region in Copacabana (RJ), with a shot in the back and abrasions.

Despite the apparent good intention proposing the discussion of a matter of utmost importance and that afflicts half the population, the edition of the program sounded like an attempt to clean the scratched image of host Regina Casé. Several times, the host has been informally accused of having stardom attacks and not liking the poor due to the treatment given to fans. Today’s Esquenta  was unedited, but its recording took place in December, a few weeks after Casé saw herself at the epicenter of a number of criticisms questioning her behavior and credibility of her Sunday afternoon attraction.

Maria de Fátima Silva, mother of the late dancer DG, blasted the show's producer and host last November
Maria de Fátima Silva, mother of the late dancer DG, blasted the show’s producer and host last November

Maria de Fátima Silva, DG’s mother, made serious allegations of the host. During “Ser Negra” (being a black woman), a commemorative event of the Day of Black Consciousness, Maria said that her participation in the program in honor of her son was limited by production of Esquenta and Casé. “I should only answer what they asked me. When I tried to talk about police violence, I was cut,” said the dancer’s mother, who called Regina, “a farce, an artist, a liar.” The case gained wide attention from the press and, despite the defense of the host, it divided public opinion.

What we saw on Sunday was the exhibition of the story we already knew: blacks in Brazil suffer prejudice because of their color. Part of the audience believes that the choice of the subject for a program with strong popular appeal like Esquenta is advancing the debate on racism. After all, Rede Globo finally assumes that Brazil is not the country of a racial democracy and that discrimination is part of the daily life of the population. However, addressing racism and not mentioning the deaths of DG, Amarildo and Cláudia, victims of police violence, is, in a way, condoning the genocide of the black population in the country, because their death is not the exception, but the rule.

The silence about police violence, DG’s mother’s accusations and the January 20, 2013, edition on the state of Rio de Janeiro after the pacification carried out by the UPP shows that the position of the Esquenta, and Rede Globo, is ideological. Throughout the program this Sunday, Regina Casé didn’t say the word racism, but referred to it only as “preconceito de cor” (color prejudice). The term was used only by the guests when reporting their experiences. What we saw were blacks assuming their roles as victims, but unable to discuss the reasons for the violence they suffer.

Alexandra Loras, of the Consul of France in São Paulo
Alexandra Loras, of the Consul of France in São Paulo

In the debate, the subject of theoretical analysis was done by a white, journalist and cultural producer Alê Youssef, as if the guests themselves were unable to do it alone. The only one who escaped the rule was Alexandra Loras, of the Consul of France in São Paulo, which indicated how racism is present in various structures of society. “Imagine yourself as white in a country of only blacks, where all the marvelous things done in aesthetics, the architects, the philosophers, the revolutionaries and the kings were all black. Even the Supreme Being, God, was black. Jesus Christ was also black. And you, being white, the only time the school system begins to speak of your ancestors places two pages in the History of Brazil book saying that your ancestors were slaves and doesn’t tell you anything more,” provoked Loras.

And in so many sad stories, Regina Casé sympathizes and says he understands well what racism is because her parents always had many black friends who frequented her house. As if co-existing with blacks exempts anyone from being racist. In the case of the host, believe in this is becoming even more difficult.

Source: Que Nega É Essa?Notícias da TV


1. In itself, the program Esquenta already has its share of problems, as we discussed here.

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


  1. Likewise, on the news they’ll report a soccer player being “a victim of racism,” as if racism is always a concrete event, like a car jacking. I have conflicted feelings towards Brazil’s laws on racism (giving jail time to those found to be racist) for this very reason — it ignores the structural racism and makes it seem that racism is only when a white person calls a black person a monkey.

    That said, I do feel it’s a tough position for Casé. Her show, with all its faults, is quite unique in showcasing so many people of color, yet with it being on Globo, she can’t bite the hand that feeds her.

  2. Well, they did the show so that nobody can say they have never addressed the issue. Another pr stunt is all that it is.

    The truth is, nobody is going to give up anything for black and brown people. Institutional racism has its rewards, who is going to give up their opportunities to get good jobs even without education or experience, ability to live in good neighbourhoods, easier access to loans, better dating prospect, better treatment in healthcare, more attention given to in simple everyday errands. Racism is profitable for those who it profits, and so nobody is going to give up their rewards for the sake of blacks and browns. Black and brown people will have to band together and work together, building their own businesses and supporting them, getting the best education possible so that they can get in and help another up the ladder. Marrying each other and circulating their money amongst themselves. It is a process, but it will require commitment on each person’s part. Just like that lovely article you did on the social clubs that blacks and browns had for themselves way back when. If was possible then, it is possible now.

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