Note from BW of Brazil: Very, very important text here! In numerous past articles, we’ve touched upon the very sensitive issue of the solidão da mulher negra, or the solitude of the black woman, in a number of thought-provoking, personal pieces in which Afro-Brazilian women express their frustration, confusion and anger over an apparent abandonment on the part of Afro-Brazilian men. In these articles, these women call out what they see as the black man’s preference for white women. Along the way, some of our readers have expressed disappointment in what some see as an assassination of black male character in only speaking on interracial relationships from the perspective of black women. On my part, I would like to point out the fact that there have also been a few replies from black men and groups who point out the fact that an apparent adoration of white skin is not unique to black men of Brazil, but black Brazilians as a whole, which includes the black female population.
In reality, the idea of ‘palmitagem‘, a term that refers to black men who seem to have a preference for white women, actually can be applied to both sides, as was pointed out in an article that took black women to task for crucifying black men when black women are just as guilty. It’s true and there’s no reason to deny it. This writer has lost count of how many times I’ve seen prominent Afro-Brazilian women involved with white men, be they politicians, models, athletes, actresses, what have you. The difference here is that it has been black women who have consistently spoken on an issue that DOES need to be discussed. If you’ve read any of these posts over the last few years, it should be well-known that white Brazilian elites stated an open goal of making the black population disappear through the encouragement of embranquecimento (whitening) and the progressive amalgamation of black people with white partners. That was in the latter part of the 19th century as the ending of slavery became inevitable and elites wondered what to do with a population that was about 2/3 non-white. What we are seeing today is the fruit of this plot that had a strong ally in a most unlikely source: the black population itself.
As written in the past, the policy here would be that any Afro-Brazilian man who wanted to speak on this issue would have space here so that we can see a more balanced dialogue as well as initiate a conversation that needs to take place if black Brazilians are ever to move forward as a people. Below, we bring a short, but honest and personal piece (a follow up, of sorts, to another piece by the same author) that acknowledges how this facet of white supremacy plays out in the minds of many black Brazilian men.
Hyper-sexualization and the self-esteem of the black man
By Fala Pretinho
The book Pele Negra, Máscaras Brancas (Black Skin, White Masks) by Frantz Fanon (1) was a watershed in my life. It’s amazing how even being written in another country and in another time, it reflects the quite well the way black people deal with issues racial issues in society. Chapter 2, entitled “O homem de cor e a mulher branca” (The man of color and the white woman) brought in the first two paragraphs words that fell upon me like a bomb (see a review of the chapter here). It was the part that made me understand why black men prefer, in general, white women, but also brought me many questions later.
I remember a few years ago, I considered my love life as part of my activism. The fact spoke in terms of me having relationships and dating white women made me feel equal to white men, as if I were also capable, also a man. It didn’t matter what the reason was for the girl being interested in me, I accepted and made of it a “victory against racism.”
It is a matter to be reflected because for us, black men, for years, we had as our only advantage in relation to white men, the sexual issue. Men are very competitive with each other in the amorous/sexual question and basically all black men that I know in life – including me – have boasted as some time of having a big penis and being “more of a man” in bed.
We accepted this hyper-sexualization (2) like a lullaby. It was that or nothing. We were not princes, magazine models or colírios da capricho (magazine heartthrobs) (3). We weren’t the men with whom the girls dreamed of marrying, dating etc., but at least there were some white girls who used us when they wanted to try something different. And that really massaged the ego. And even with our knowing this, it was if as it was some kind of reward. That, for some, was the elevation of self-esteem. For me, strangely, it was the combat to racism.
Today I understand that relações afrocentradas (afro-centered relationships) are, first, for the appreciation of black women, but also for the abandonment of this acceptance of the fetish that was given to black men. When we go on to see ourselves as whole men beyond the sexual issue or performances of porn films, we will stop being enchanted with the fetishization made by white women. We will cease to be the “negão” (big black man/stud)” in order to be the black man. And from then we will cease to understand relations as trophies, and we will value more those with similar experiences as ours, who will love us as men and not as objects of pleasure. And until that happens, we continue deconstructing.
Source: Fala Pretinho
- Over the years, many Afro-Brazilian militants, university students and bloggers have referred to Fanon’s Black Skins, White Masks and realizing how pertinent the work is in understanding the situation in Brazil.
- A stereotype that is very well known throughout Brazil. See here.
- Capricho magazine is a teen-oriented magazine that discusses issues of this female public and frequently the hot male actor, singer, model or boy band of the month, almost always white. The magazine has popped up in a number of previous posts.
WE HAVE BEEN SO BRAINWASHED IN BELIEVING THAT LIFE OUTSIDE OF BLACK RELATIONSHIPS WORKS BEST WITH OUR ENEMIES WITHOUT MELANIN THAT IT’S HARD TO PART FROM IT NOW WHEN WE LEARNED THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT OUR SAD FEELINGS!!
Let’s not forget that as this blog underscores so faithfully daily, black people in these western societies (or anywhere) do not exist in a vacuum, and we are bombarded with negative and destructive images and narratives we continually internalize, making the challenges of self-affirmation and self-love, and resistance, that much harder. It happens from the time we’re born to the time we die, in Brazil, in the US, all over. This is not to excuse the situation Fanon or this writer outlines, but to contextualize it.
It also underlines why another topic this blog talks about, the politics of representation, are such more important than many people think. It’s not the place we have to keep fighting and pushing forward, but it’s a crucial one–of many.
Great read! Would love to study any data analyzing black men’s internalization of the hyper-sexual stereotypes as a basis for their sense of self-worth.