Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s post is somewhat of a follow up from an article from yesterday and another post from a little over a week ago. Yesterday we brought you the latest in the ongoing enigma that surrounds the racial identity and politics of futebol superstar Neymar whose silence on race issues puts him on par with the legendary Pelé off the futebol field as well.
In one of our last posts of 2015 we brought you the story of the shock of the fans of a popular You Tuber when they discovered that her boyfriend was black. As we’ve documented time and again here, Brazil has an obsession and adoration with whiteness and, as such, in the minds of many people who followed the popular woman, the “Prince Charming” of such an interesting woman just had to be some muscle-bound, handsome white guy. As the guy had kept his image a secret, when people finally saw him, it was a huge disappointment to say the least. What makes this story all the more fascinating and very Brazilian is the fact that the man in question, like millions of other Brazilians, never saw himself as black.
The story isn’t new. As we’ve seen in numerous posts on this very blog about racial identity, Brazil’s sophisticated form of racism through the very denial of its existence and promotion of racial mixture toward a goal of a whitened population, for much of its history functioned as a sort of “racial neutering” of millions of persons of mixed African descent who experience acts of discrimination in similar but often different ways from their darker brethren. As such discrimination is often brushed away as not existing or being labeled as class prejudice, millions go through life seeing themselves as simply Brazilians, mixed, brown or not black/not white. Caio’s story alone is intriguing for the simple fact that it does apply to millions of people just like him. What’s really great was hearing him (and seeing him) (1) speak openly about this confusion and coming to terms with the fact that he may need to re-visit the issue.
Neymar, Jout Jout’s boyfriend and blacks who do not know they are black
By Marcos Sacramento
Neymar would be an important name in the fight against racism had he positioned on the offenses he suffered, but he can’t be crucified just because he’s famous. Like him, there are millions of blacks who ignore their condition and existing racial gaps in the country.
Taking consciousness of this battalion of the anonymous would be more effective against racial discrimination than any statement by Neymar. Many who have lighter skin, such as the Barcelona player, don’t recognize themselves as black. An example of this was the testimony of Caio, the 24-year old boyfriend of Youtuber Julia Tolezano, known as Jout Jout.
Late last year photos of the guy who Joit Jout’s fans had previously only known by voice were leaked. Caio is a kind of young production assistant and sometimes gives suggestions behind the camera.
Comments of a racist tone followed after the discovery:
“Caio in my imagination is blond, tall, blue eyes and muscular,” wrote one web user.
Another spoke out as if she had seen Freddy Krueger: “I prefer not believe this. I will forget those images and pretend to never have seen them.”
Jout Jout’s boyfriend decided to record a video to discuss the controversy and proved to be surprised because until then he didn’t consider himself black. “I was there in the middle, not knowing what to say because I consider myself…pardo (brown/mixed) I considered, I don’t know anymore,” he said at the beginning of video.
“For me to consider myself black in Brazil I have to have experienced some form of racism (…)? (2) Who decides that? It is the American who says that I look like Barack Obama or is it my mother’s husband who is African and said that I’m not black? (2) Is it my two black grandmothers who married my two white grandparents? Is it my features, my hair?
(Is it) I that decides? How is it? If I had these doubts, if I didn’t have these discussions early in my life, I imagine that many people must have the same problem as me. Not conversing, not arguing, and not knowing how to define yourself,” he continues.
Caio didn’t know that according to the IBGE the definition encompasses the “pardas” (brown/mixed people) and “pretas” (black people). Regardless of what he declares himself, his phenotype would not raise doubts if he were approved by quotas in the Itamaraty (Foreign Ministry) Competition.
Similarly, the guy’s features may expose him to embarrassing situations such as being confused with employees in some fancy party or even risky situations, as in a police raid at dawn.
Caio probably grew under the protection of a middle class environment where black people can go through life without receiving a violent police stop. He may have suffered some subtle discrimination, have been the subject of looks from security at malls and not perceived it. The not so dark skin may have contributed to him not feeling black.
Like Caio, there are several blacks who ignore their own condition. Many come to be against racial quotas, calling racist manifestations simple misunderstandings and reject the influence of the slave past in the country’s social problems.
In the video, the Jout Jout’s boyfriend of said he is discovering himself, questioning, searching to know his own identity. If more people do like him, there would be no absurdities such as calling blacks calling black militants “vitimistas” (those who play the victim) or the need for half a dozen words from Neymar words condemning racism.
- In our first post on this topic we took the liberty of slightly editing Caio’s photo as it appeared that he didn’t want his image spread. But as it’s great to see that he has decided to “come out” and openly discuss the issue.
- It’s worth pointing out here that neither experiences or lack of experiences with racism nor the affirmation or denial of blackness in the opinions of others are not necessarily enough for a person to define him or herself as black. In Caio’s situation he has probably heard from whites, as well as other blacks that he is not black but rather pardo or moreno or even branco (white). Add ed to this confusion is that fact that his African stepfather also says he’s not black. So, as he asks, which criteria applies? The first thing we must point out is that Brazil is not Africa, where the vast majority of inhabitants have very dark brown to black skin. The other thing is that white Brazilians are infamous for telling persons of visible African ancestry that they are in fact not black. But yet these same people will quickly attempt to insult the same people by calling them negro, neguinho, neguinha or other derivatives of the term in a moment of conflict. As we’ve seen in Caio’s case, he never had an idea that he was black. But as soon as Brazilians saw that the “mystery prince” of a white woman they admired wasn’t the blond “Prince Charming” they had in mind, he was outright rejected by some and referred to as black by others. These hints while revealing that black identity is not necessarily based on experiences with racism but it does show that Brazil picks and chooses when it wants to “elevate” people as non-black or “denigrate”them as black whenever they choose.