Brazil: One big, happy mixed family? Not exactly…The shame and dehumanizing of its black population


Note from BW of Brazil: OK, so by now, you must already know the story. Brazil, the great melting pot where everyone is a mixed blood in a country where they don’t have racial problems, everyone lives harmoniously and lives happily ever after, right? Well, not exactly. The problem in Brazil is much more complex than the average Brazilian wants to admit. In some ways, it almost seems that Brazilians are programmed to automatically deny the existence of a racial problem, particularly if in the presence of an American. If a non-Brazilian ever gets into a conversation about race with a Brazilian, the person is sure to hear the typical, “we don’t have that problem as you (fill in the nationality, especially Americans) do.” The truth is that race IS an issue in Brazil; people just don’t know how to deal with it. It’s as if admitting the existence of a race problem is somehow bringing shame to the country by breaking an agreed upon unwritten rule in the “How To Be Brazilian” handbook. Well, beyond all of the denial and the “we’re all equal” rhetoric, more and more people are speaking out about the dirty little secret that everyone wants to continue sweeping under the rug, or worse, skirting the issue (or worse, slipping on it) with a banana peel! But just so know, today’s writer, Charo Nunes, is not one of those people!

All together and mixed? Not so much…

by Charo Nunes @ acharolastra

Brazilians have experienced an intriguing situation. With the advent of the World Cup, the eyes of the world have turned to here. And what image does this world have of us, Brazilians? Some myths need to be problematized, such as our so illusory “racial democracy.” The idea that our social relationships are so harmonious on racial grounds.

Some characteristics mark racism as an ideology, among them, we can cite the animalization of the other and naturalization of social hierarchies. The animalization almost always happens by means of the joke, or ridicule, and internalizes a thought of inferiority of this other.

Model/TV host Fernanda Lima performs the song "Cada macaco no seu galho" on the TV program "Amor & Sexo"
Model/TV host Fernanda Lima performs the song “Cada macaco no seu galho” on the TV program “Amor & Sexo”

Cada macaco no seu galho (each monkey on its branch), as the song says and ironicized on her weekly program, Fernanda Lima in the context of her nomination as the official presenter of the draw for the World Cup at the end of last year. According to rumors, Camila Pitanga and Lázaro Ramos (blacks) had been banned by FIFA as event presenters. The model and host, alongside her husband, Rodrigo Hilbert (blond) were supposedly chosen for their replacement. A day after the controversy, the song was the opening theme of the weekly program, Amor and Sexo, on the Globo TV network, in which Fernanda Lima is the host of the program.

Singer Alexandre Pires and soccer star Neymar on the set of the video for the song "Kong"
Singer Alexandre Pires and soccer star Neymar on the set of the video for the song “Kong”

Another case of animalization of the image of the black in the media is the music video “Kong” by singer Alexandre Pires with participation of Mr. Catra and futebolista (soccer player) Neymar (all black), in which the image of the protagonists make allusions to monkeys. In 2012, comedian Danilo Gentili, known for his jokes with racist content, in an argument on Twitter with the writer Thiago Ribeiro (black) gave the following response: how many bananas do you want to let this story go?

Popular TV host/comedian Danilo Gentili (right) offered a black critic of his jokes bananas. A judge later ruled that offensive intent couldn't be proved in Gentili's comment
Popular TV host/comedian Danilo Gentili (right) offered a black critic of his jokes bananas. A judge later ruled that offensive intent couldn’t be proved in Gentili’s comment

The three situations mentioned above, in Brazil, have their questionable racist character when pointed out as such by the Movimento Negro (Black Movement). In other words, the Brazilian does not understand such situations as being empirically racist, they are seen as ‘jokes’, as in the comedian’s case, or as victimization, in other cases, of the social movement.

The racist behavior of the Brazilian is curious and requires full attention to their mutability when understanding its role in Brazilian society comes into play.

As already pointed out some theorists, among them Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães (2009), racism as a social phenomenon needs to be understood by its historicity. The eugenic theory [1] worldwide in the early twentieth century, abhorred the intersection of “race”, ie, miscegenation. According to them, such a process would cause the degeneration of our species. In Brazil, this view has been abolished, or relativized, since its population, the vast majority was composed of Africans or their descendants. Miscegenation was implemented as a policy by the Brazilian State by means of a (white) European immigration program in order to “embranquecer (whiten)” the nation.

We have seen, systematically, several episodes in which our futebol players have received racist abuse (always with reference to the monkey) in international fields. However the problem is disguised by the media. A strong mobilization by social networks occurred when the player Daniel Alves, Barcelona’s lateral back, ate a banana thrown on the field when he prepared for a corner kick, against Villarreal on April 27.

Brazilian Barcelona star eats a banana that thrown at him during a game
Brazilian Barcelona star eats a banana that thrown at him during a game

In the European vision, in which racism has a legacy in the eugenics research, in which mestiços (persons of mixed race) would be degenerate beings, yes, we really are all monkeys, independent of our physical characteristics. While in Brazil, racial discrimination is closely connected to phenotypes.

In such situations the media shows its sensationalist and opportunistic character. A campaign to support the player emerged in social networks and sought to “topple” the understanding that we are all monkeys. Supported by various sectors of Brazilian society, such as artists and politicians. President Dilma Rousseff positioned herself in the following way on the Twitter social network: “The player Dani Alves gave a bold and strong response to racism in the sport. Brazil in the Copa das Copas raises the banner of combating racial discrimination. Let’s show that our strength, in futebol and in life, comes from our ethnic diversity and take pride in this.” Such a campaign was not even alluded to when, in the Final Draw ceremony of this same World Cup, FIFA vetoed those that would show the real mestiço face of the Brazilian people.

This animalized image of the black subject, that dehumanizes him, has been one of the battle fronts of the national Movimento Negro. Because this racism in Brazil kills and it kills black youth.

The survey conducted by IPEA, published late last year, points out that, in our country, about 60,000 people are murdered each year, of which about 70% are pretos (blacks) and pardos (browns) [2]. According to research, the possibility of blacks being victims of homicide in Brazil is even higher in groups with similar educational and socioeconomic characteristics. The chance of a black teenager being murdered is 3.7 times higher compared with whites.

Fighting racial discrimination in Brazil should start by the denial of this animalized image of blacks and of any human being. It’s not by ridiculing racist concepts that we will combat the harmful effects of racism in Brazil that is the genocide of young black people.

Some cases of death gain national repercussion and the press makes use of these as spectacles, as what happened with the death of the dancer Douglas Rafael da Silva, know as DG, from the Globo television variety show Esquenta. But this is a discussion that needs another approach. The Brazilian needs to understand that racism is fought with education, but not this education imposed on our children that is still disguised as a racist ideology, but an education that is not afraid to name and shame, which can print all the letters to the word RACIST but not between the lines, but in the title of some characters in history in order that such an attitude will never repeat itself.

“Brazilian racism is like this: faceless. Disguised in illustrated, universalist clothing, treating itself as if it were antiracism, and denying, as anti-national, the full presence of the Afro-Brazilian or Indian-Brazilian. For this racism, the racist is that that separates, not what denies the humanity of others; in this way racism, for it, it is the racism of the neighbor (American racism).” (3) – Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães – Racismo e Antirracismo no Brasil, Editora 34, 2009, p.60

Source: Blogueiras Negras


1. Eugenics is a term coined in 1883 by Francis Galton (1822-1911), meaning “well born.” Galton defined eugenics as “the study of the agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally.”

2. Available at:

3. In this passage, respected sociologist Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães refers to the popular Brazilian belief that racism is not a problem in Brazil but rather a thing of the United States. As this blog has pointed out in numerous posts, for the greater part of the 20th century, Brazilian elites promoted the country as a “racial democracy”, a nation that managed to avoid the racial conflicts of other racially diverse societies, notably apartheid era South Africa and especially the United States. One of the principal objectives of this blog is point out the fact that, as countless studies and social scientists have shown, Brazil has many of the same problems of the aforementioned nations. The difference is simply in how these problems are perceived and the reactions to these facts.

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

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