Participant of A Fazenda reality show says that for her “there is no racism, skin color”
Before I get into today’s short post, I must admit that I don’t watch reality TV. This is not to say that I’ve never watched it, but I can’t remember the last time I did. I just really don’t have the patience to watch people who are willing to do and say anything for their 15 minutes of fame. OK, wait, I know that there have been some people who have been able to parlay their appearance on some reality show into a successful career, but for me, these reality shows speak volumes for where our society is. Even though I know these programs can be a gold mine for someone like me who likes to study society, I just can’t. When I do stories on these programs it’s usually because I happened to catch some news of some incident that happened on the show. That applies to today’s post as well.
According to reports, on the Wednesday, September 18, episode of Record TV networks reality show, A Fazenda, the participant Jhenifer Dulz, known as Bifão, complained about militancy in social networks and the new behavior standards. According to her, the current mood has lost much of its strength because it has to worry about racial and social agendas.
At one point, she said that “people victimize themselves through little things” and completed her comment. “Para mim não existe racismo, cor de pele (For me there is no racism, no skin color). And there are people who take advantage of certain kinds of situations, so we limit them to certain types of moods and in what we talk about,” said the blogger. (Participant of ‘A Fazenda’ reality show says that there is no racism)
According to her, she has a certain intimacy with Phellipe and Sabrina [participants of the current edition of A Fazenda], who she calls ‘meus pretinhos’ (my little blacks). “It’s in a loving way. Eu chamo minha mãe de preta, minha avó (I call my mother black, my grandmother). There are people who end up taking offense. The person is prejudiced and sees it in others. Everything is racism, everything is feminism, I can’t say anything. A lot has to be limited,” she regretted.
A few things to discuss here before I get to my main point. Phellipe is actor Phellipe Haagensen, probably best known for his role as Bené in the blockbuster hit film Cidade de Deus (City of God). He is the brother of actor Jonathan Haagensen, who also had a memorable role in the same film. Phellipe was recently eliminated from the A Fazenda program after having given an unsolicited kiss to one of the women on the show.
Sabrina is Sabrina de Paiva who is best known for having won Miss São Paulo in 2016. She went on to represent the state in the 2016 Miss Brasil competition in which there was a record six black women representing various states in that year’s contest. Raíssa Santana eventually won that year and became the first black woman to wear the crown since 1986, becoming only the second black woman in more sixty years of the contest to become Miss Brasil.
Now, gettng back to the participant Bifão. In reality, there’s not a lot I want to say here, so I’ll get right to the point. It often amazes me when people say things such as racism and skin color don’t exist. Saying that ‘skin color doesn’t exist’ is pretty much subscribing to the idea of ‘not seeing color’, which is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, if she’s saying thast skin color doesn’t exist, are we to also believe that hair and eye color also don’t exist? If this woman were to ever be a victim of crime and the police asked her to describe the assailant, would she honestly not be able to define that person as black, white, Asian, mixed or whatever? I don’t think this is the case.
When people claim to not see color, they usually want to dismiss accusations that they can be racist themselves, as well as professing their belief that ‘we are all equal‘, as is so commonly heard in Brazil when the topic is racism. And speaking of racism, I won’t even address her claim that ‘racism doesn’t exist’. Ain’t got time for that. Simply put, just because you claim that something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean this is actually true, especially when we see examples of it all around us.
What is really ridiculous in this specific incident is the fact that, after claiming that she doesn’t see color, Bifão goes on to define both Phellipe and Sabrina as ‘meus pretinhos’, meaning ‘my little blacks’. Logically, the next question would be, how can she define the two as pretinhos when she claims to not see color? Now, if we really wanted to consider this absurdity, one could argue that she also claimed to refer to both her mother and grandmother, both of whom I would assume are white like her, as pretas. Along this line of thinking, the idea here is that, if she sees all four of these people as pretos, and two of them of them are white and two of them are black, perhaps she actually doesn’t see color, right? (Participant of ‘A Fazenda’ reality show says that there is no racism)
Naw, it’s not quite that simple. First, consider the fact that she specifically refers to the two black participants on the show as pretinhos. Coincidence? The other thing is, when dealing with Brazil, you also have to deal with this thing of appropriating the terms pretinha or nega and applying them to anyone in an affectionate manner.
This phenomena has gone on for some time. In terms of the term ‘nega’, meaning ‘negra’, Professor José Jorge de Carvalho explained that the term can be used for non-black women also. According to Carvalho: “When a man calls a woman of fair skin nega,…this means she is able to preserve for him…something of the sexual mystery attached to the real other.” In other words, if a non-black woman can provide the same sexual satisfaction of a black woman, she symbolically becomes a black woman in the sexual sense.
We also see examples of the usage of the term pretinha applied to people who are clearly not black or that most people would not see as such, especially if people see the term as defining dark-skinned black people. Actor Rafael Zulu annoyed quite a few people when he referred to his girlfriend as pretinha.
We have also seen futebol superstar Neymar refer to his on again, off again girlfriend, Bruna, as ‘pretinha’. In Neymar’s case, this is intriguing in itself, as one, according to Brazilian standards, Bruna Marquezine is clearly not a black woman, and two, Neymar himself made it clear that he doesn’t consider himself to be ‘preto’.
Following this same line of logic, if I were a guessing man, I would assume that, as Neymar doesn’t see himself as black, it is highly unlikely that he sees Bruna, whose skin is clearly lighter than his, as black either, but yet and still he calls her pretinha. (Participant of ‘A Fazenda’ reality show says that there is no racism)
It’s stories such as these that make Brazil so interesting to study in terms of how race functions in the society. In the terms preto and preta, we have terms and racial categories that, for decades, most people would do anything to avoid. The evidence of this is that in the last few decades, persons defining themselves as pretos have consistently been around the 5-6%, although we know that people with medium to dark black skin is clearly above this range. In fact, it’s only been in recent years, with constant campaigns by black organizations about black identity that we’ve seen increases in percentages of people defining themselves as such [see here and here].
To get the full gist of what’s going on here, I must also point out that black Brazilians demanding respect for their race and cultural practices has risen to the degree that there have been some very heated debates online as to what people define as cultural appropriation and the complaint that Brazilians are quick to appropriate blackness while rejecting the actual black people responsible for a given cultural item. Whether that means holding ‘black’ parties using the afro hairstyle as the promotion attraction even when Brazil as a whole continues to reject afro textured hair, featuring black bodies in the background of a music video, white rappers reaching higher heights of success without any of the struggle that comes with it, or applying a term to white people when these people will never have to carry the burden of actually being black, Brazil seems to be content with the idea of participating in blackness as long as it doesn’t actually have to be black. In this context, it makes total sense that someone could say that ‘there are no black people’ or skin color don’t exist because both of these statements give us perfect examples of the mythologies that make Brazil Brazil.
Information courtesy of Catraca Livre