Open Letter to Neymar about becoming black

Open letter to Neymar
Djeff Amadeus (left) and Neymar

Open Letter to Neymar about becoming blackOpen letter to Neymar

Note from BBT: Open Letter to Neymar about becoming black: With the recent controversy surrounding futebol star Neymar apparently having been a victim of racism, a number of black Brazilians have been articles revealing their open personal journies into becoming black. There’s irony in this whole situation in which Neymar says he was called a monkey on the soccer pitch. About a decade ago, a young Neymar said in an interview that he had never experienced racism either on or off the field because he wasn’t black

The issue of Brazilians of salient African features not knowing they were black was always fascinating to me. ‘How is it possible that so many people don’t know they are black?’ I wondered. But then as I starting digging into the topic and visiting the country year after year, I started to understand.

You see, Brazil’s particular brand of racism, in its goal of making the country’s black element disappear, indoctrinated black and would be black people to the degree that millions of people simply couldn’t acknowledge that they were black. In Brazil, as in other countries, being black was something frowned upon. It was dark, it was ugly, it was poor, it was stupid and for many, it wasn’t even human.

Whereas in the US, they created this stigma and preached segregation so that whiteness maintained its “superiority” from a distance and to maintain white “purity”, any mixture happened between black and white, the offspring was automatically classified as black. In comparison, Brazil, after imposing a strong sense of inferiority on black people, they offered a different solution: mixing with white people so that the offspring can have a chance of avoiding such a terrible stigma

The result of this policy after centuries of mixture is an enormous population of people with mixed ancestry, many still with visibly African features and still others who simply can’t be classified with one racial classification. As so many black people have bought into all of the negativity associated with blackness, they have created a large population of people that may face racial discrimination everyday but don’t know it because they don’t see themselves as black. 

In the past few decades, with exposure to books, lectures and groups that discuss how racism functions in Brazil, many have written about looking back on their lives when they saw themselves as just Brazilians and coming to realize that they in fact they had experienced racist behavior. It’s just that now they know what it is.

Open Letter to Neymar about becoming black: I don’t really know how and if Neymar, Jr. has changed his views and his relation to blackness, or if all of those experiences (his and that of others) in European soccer stadiums slowly started to open his eyes. Or if this recent incident was Neymar’s “ni**a moment” as many of us call it. Whatever the case may be, many Brazilians know exactly how that feels. In the piece below, Djeff Amadeus shares his own experiences in an open letter to Neymar.

Open letter to Neymar
Djeff Amadeus (left) and Neymar

Open letter to Neymar about becoming black

By Djeff Amadeus

Dear brother Neymar Jr. Stokely Carmichael tells that, as a boy, he saw the white Tarzan film and celebrated when he hit the native blacks. He shouted, “Kill these beasts, kill these savages, kill them.” One day Stokely looked in the mirror and felt the biggest shock of his life, brother. Do you know why? Because he realized he was shouting: kill me! [1]

That is why the psychoanalyst great Neusa Sousa Santos named her book Tornar-se negro (Becoming Black). [2] By that, brother, she meant that we are not born black, but we become black. It’s a process, you know? That’s why I understood you when you, much younger, said in an interview that you had never suffered racism, because you were not black.

I also thought I was white, brother. I’ll tell you a secret that I never said publicly. It’s the first time that I’ve talked about this. A relative of mine used to rub leite de rosas (see note one) all over my body in order to lighten me up. She said it would “help” me. She also rubbed hot candle wax on my nose to make it thinner. I was young, brother, I didn’t understand anything, but she did this.

I remember it well: we heated the candle wax, molded it, and I pressed it over my nose and kept pressing, pressing with my fingers and breathing through my mouth. For a long time…! I also straightened my hair, bro. And I colored it blond. It’s a reflection that speaks, right? I did all of this, brother! Ah, I also have a compulsion to scribble my books that stems from racism …

And for us, blacks with lighter skin, due to the fact that we have more “passability” (in other words, less rejection among whites) we also ended up wanting, unconsciously, to enjoy the privileges of branquitude (whiteness). By whiteness I am referring to the ideology that violates us symbolically, wanting to become something we are not: white. This happens, according to master (professor) Adilson Moreira, because whiteness offers a series of privileges that, later, will be masked by the discourse of meritocracy. [3]

That’s why we hated each other, bro. Malcolm X and so many others, who gave their lives so you could be out there playing futebol (football/soccer) and me here, advocating, asked: “Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the color of your skin…? ” Now, hating everything that deviates from the standards imposed by whiteness, in addition to hating ourselves, we end up having great responsibility for the solidão da mulher negra (loneliness of the black woman).

Understand, brother: this letter is not for you to create hatred for all whites, not least because, as Master (Professor) Sílvio Almeida taught: “there is no white essence imprinted on the souls of fair-skinned individuals that would lead them to design systems of racial domination.”[4] The problem, then, as the aforementioned philosopher and lawyer teaches, is not white as an individual, but whiteness as an ideology of domination.

Bobby Seale and Fred Hampton, both from the Black Panther Party, said that Huey Newton taught “not to hate a person for their skin color, but to hate what the ruling class does to us, what they do to us, black people.”[5] This is so true that there are white allies; including those who will send this letter to you is one of these.

For this reason, to paraphrase Eldridge, I am not proposing that you “fight racism with racism, not least because fire is not extinguished with fire, but with water”. [6]Therefore, I don’t propose to you, with this letter, the beginning of a racial war. On the contrary, I propose that you join the struggle initiated by our ancestors, first against the end of slavery, and then continued against structural racism. As Master (activist/community leader) Preto Zezé says, “Enough resisting, let them now resist. We grew up enough to want power, not resistance.”

I conclude, therefore, by asking you to recognize yourself as black, brother, as a form of gratitude to our ancestors who, with their struggles, made it possible not only for us to be here, but, above all, made our existence possible. Gratitude to everyone who is no longer here, and to those who came before us and are still here.

From where they are, I take the opportunity to ask them for protection. We will win.

* Djefferson Amadeus is a criminal and electoral lawyer. Director of the Institute for the Defense of the Black Population (IDPN), master in law and philosophical hermeneutics, postgraduate in philosophy from PUC-Rio, postgraduate in criminal proceedings from ABDCONS-RJ and member of the MNU and IANB.

[1] TURE, Kwame. Stokely Carmichael. Do Poder Preto ao Panafricanismo. Editora Diáspora Africana, 2017, p. 55.

[2] SOUZA, N. S. Tornar-se negro: As Vicissitudes da Identidade do Negro Brasileiro em Ascensão Social. Rio de Janeiro: Edições Graal, 1983.

[3]MOREIRA, Adilson José. Racismo Recreativo. São Paulo: Sueli Carneiro; Pólen. Feminismos plurais – coordenação Djamila Ribeiro, 2019, p. 58.

[4] ALMEIDA, Sílvio. Racismo Estrutural. São Paulo. Sueli Carneiro; Pólen. Feminismos plurais – coordenação Djamila Ribeiro. 2019, p. 73.

[5] Todo Poder ao Povo. Artigos, discursos e documentos do Partido dos Panteras Negras. Editora Raízes da America. São Paulo, 2017, p.68.

[6] Todo Poder ao Povo. Artigos, discursos e documentos do Partido dos Panteras Negras. Editora Raízes da America. São Paulo, 2017, p.68.


  1. Leite de Rosas is a cosmetic product that Brazilians have used for decades. It is promoted as “a good cosmetic product to stop the pimples because it helps to clean and tone the skin, removing the excess oiliness, promotes a light hydration and also helps to combat the spots caused by the pimples due to its whitening action.” Many people say that the product can lighten the skin and a quick Google search with the words “leite de rosas” and “clarear a pele” (lighten the skin), you’ll find several articles discussing the subject.

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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