Note from BBT: I’m not a person that can’t recognize positive changes when I see them, I just tend to look a little closer into the overall situation before I start celebrating. As this is the exact manner of which I deal notable changes from the norm. It’s not that any given situation shouldn’t be seen as positive or an improvement, it’s just necessary to further explore what’s really going on and asking some important questions. What’s causing this change? What is the goal? How long will the change/improvement last? Is there an ulterior motive?
I’ve approached this topic in numerous previous posts such as when I saw two black women win the Miss Brasil competition two years in a row. Or when I noted an increase of black faces in advertisement photos. After one visit to a mall, I discussed what I saw in a previous post.
There is a change underway in Brazil in terms of the black population. As someone who has followed the situation for two decades now, I can attest to this. I am seeing a type of black visibility in numerous areas that just a few decades ago simply didn’t exist. Now, don’t get me wrong, the changes I see going down right now are so visible now because back in the early 2000s, it was just a step above non-existence. And because black Brazilians were so invisible for so many areas, the advances that have been made in recent years seem like leaps and bounds.
The advertising industry is just one area that I note a marked increase in the visibility of black Brazilians. Two weeks ago, I walked around on various floors of two shopping malls located on São Paulo’s north zone and was surprised by how many black faces I saw featured on enlarged photos and store billboards. Again, to be real, the black faces I saw still represented a small percentage of the standard white faces plastered in every direction, but still a noted increase from even a decade ago.
Simply put, there’s nothing wrong with noting positive changes, but it’s always necessary to remain vigilant in order to see the full picture. A 5% pay raise at your job may seen like a cause for celebration, so much so that you don’t even notice that inflation is forecasted to increase by 7% over the year.
Black Brazilians have long been demanding representation is various areas of Brazilian society in which they were consistently excluded, and in many areas, these changes can be noted. The world of social media has driven many of these changes and I’ve seen a number of black Brazilians being rewarded for their talents. Contracts, product promotion, important positions and advertising revenue are just a few of these rewards. Cue applause, but let’s not forget to look at whole picture.
From what I see, influential influencer Ricardo Silvestre sees it the same way. Check out what he has to say below.
Ricardo Silvestre, from Black Influence: ‘We are late on the agenda of diversity’
Courtesy of UOL
Although many brands have awakened to the importance of anti-racist communication, the advertising market is still lagging behind in terms of representativeness and diversity. This is the opinion of Ricardo Silvestre, considered one of the most relevant voices in the influence market. The advertiser, who has already worked for large agencies, opened his consultancy company specializing in black influencers a little more than a year ago, to build bridges between different voices and brands.
“After a history of 100 years of racist advertising, only in the last five years has the market started to talk about representativeness and diversity. This reflects in our daily lives how late we are on these agendas,” says the publicist. In the day to day of his work, he seeks to open paths to advance. He says that his agency works collectively with clients, understanding communication needs, helping to align briefings and mapping talents. In addition, through special proactive projects, prospect allied brands.
According to him, even brands opening to representativeness still slip into racism when they invite black people only to talk about themes related to blackness. “One of our challenges is to show the market that black influencers talk about everything, about all themes, they work in all areas, at any time of the year. Not only in November.” (see note one)
An example of an influential partner of Black Influence is Jaqueline Goes, the Brazilian scientist who gained notoriety for participating in the genome sequencing of the new coronavirus. “One of our great pleasures is to work with people who inspire us. This is the influence that we work on, a representative, positive, responsible influence.”
Trends for 2021
For Ricardo, in the wake of major mobilizations carried out in 2020, such as Black Lives Matter, the public should continue to pressure brands to position themselves as anti-racists this year. “I see greater pressure from consumers who are more active on social media. And they tend to no longer consume brands that do not represent them. The person who does not see him/herself in the advertising and in the product doesn’t buy. Brands see this movement and are concerned with mass boycotts.”
There’s no question as to the changes that companies appear to be making. Last year after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we saw a protest that was divulged with the name of “Black Out Tuesday” and we saw various social media platforms presenting their logos in black backgrounds. Originally initiated by the music industry, we saw Brazilian branches of record labels support the protest.
Marcelo Soares, the general director of the Som Livre record label, voiced his support saying he stood “in solidarity with the artists, musicians, collaborators, and fans who are victims of racism rooted in Brazil and in the world.”
It Soares’ opinion, the protest was “a good sign that all competition among companies is now in the background, but this Tuesday’s stoppage is very little in view of the size of the disregard that has been shown to the life of the black and poor population.”
All noble comments, but my question would be, will there be any real impact or is this all just something ‘Pra inglês ver’, or window dressing? Last year, after all of the chatter about changing the system, defunding the police, I read numerous messages in one of my social networks from people who really seemed to believe, ‘this time the change is gonna be for real’. I disagreed and said, let’s wait a year or so and we’ll see that nothing will have changed.
Well, Tuesday, May 25th markedone year since George Floyd’s murder, and since then, in the US, we’ve seen a continuation of the murder of numerous black people caught on camera. In Brazil, May 18th marked a year since 14-year-old João Pedro was savagely murdered in a police operation in Rio. Similar to events in the US, Brazilians also took to the streets to protest not only Floyd and João Pedro, but the ongoing genocide against black Brazilians. Since João Pedro’s death, 11 other children have been killed in Rio by stray bullets. And then there was the brutal murder of João Alberto in Porto Alegre last November at the hands of mall security agents.
My point is, we have to be careful with a very deceptive game that’s being played. Historian, musician and culture critic Nei Lopes also sees this. In an interview in 2019, Lopes opined that this ‘’great movement that black artists and intellectuals have been having lately has been reflected in the media. But this, in my opinion, has more to do with consumption than with representation. The market is discovering the potential of black people.’’
Silvestre is also not too quick to jump on the positive bandwagon, even with a push by the media to further the discussion of black people’s lives.
“I don’t know if advertising has become more conscious, but I can say that we have noticed a greater concern on the part of brands, especially with regard to the black movement and the black Brazilian community”, details the publicist. For Silvestre, this moment has opened up the possibility of discussing a topic that for the longest times was seen as ‘’taboo by many people and by many brands.’’
In his view, this media spotlight on violence perpetrated against the black community have made “brands expand their efforts to demonstrate greater commitment to the theme and show that it is indeed something relevant to them.”
Referring to Lopes’ comment, I don’t know that brands showing interest in the situation of the black population is necessarily a move toward any real change rather than a manner to simply earn the trust of a long-ignored community and increasing their profits. In terms of advertising, Silvestre looks at this from the perspective of potential for black professionals.
“Just showing concern for the cause will not solve the problem that we noticed in the dynamics of hiring black influencers, for example. I think that this event should bring about the whole need to rethink the way in which black and non-black influencers are hired and remunerated in such discrepant and different ways, unfortunately,” reflects Silvestre.
The Floyd murder as well as that of numerous other African-Americans and Afro-Brazilians has definitely brought this issue more to the forefront, but, as I warned last year, let’s not get carried away into thinking this is some sort of revolution in the making.
“This revolution, in quotation marks, that Floyd’s death caused cannot be put to sleep, it must resist. These big brands also need to understand their fundamental role in this transformation of society. One year after Floyd’s death, what has changed? Here in Brazil have we achieved anything positive since this episode? These are the questions we always ask on a daily basis and usually the answer is no. Unfortunately, nothing has changed,” Ricardo said. (emphasis mine)
And this is the point I’m making. Certain improvements or the appearance of improvements may even be legitimate, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect any real change. So, at the beginning of this piece when I mentioned an increase in the number of black faces on display at a few malls, this may actually be true as a whole, it just shouldn’t be interpreted for more than what it really is.
In terms of the influence market, Silvestre sees a productive change in the contents, which are more in-depth. And this is likely to intensify this year. “The future of influence is about being relevant in the message and not just in the image. Consumers and followers have been demanding quality content. And I see this as a super trend.”
- With this reference to November, Silvestre speaks of the Month of Black Consciousness in which themes related to black Brazilians and history are highlighted all over Brazil.