Note from BW of Brazil: One can gain quite a bit of insight into how race plays out in many minds by simply analyzing something as relatively trivial as a beauty contest. Put another way, if you pay attention to the details, you can discover quite a bit about how a nation sees itself (or wishes to see itself) by looking at beauty pageant winners, contestants, ethnic representation in comparison to percentages in the population and any controversies that do or don’t make the headlines. As Brazil’s dream of whiteness has been a goal since at least the end of the 19th century, it’s not surprising when the women it considers the most beautiful are the ones who most fit into the European standard. We see this ideal of whiteness in the TV anchors, magazine covers, political ads, job postings and all sorts of contests. Let’s not forget that in over 60 years of Miss Brasil contests, there has still only ever been one black winner.
Today’s story simply a continuation of a historic pattern. Santa Catarina is a one of three southern states that prides itself in being one of the whitest, most European states due to not only cultural practices but also the overwhelming majority of its citizens that identify themselves as branca, meaning white. In 2013, the city where today’s story takes place was featured here after a newspaper published hiring preferences for companies seeking “white men, aged 25-35”. With this brief intro let’s take a look at today’s story.
Persecuted as the only black woman in a beauty pageant, Carolina Pinheiro dos Passos says: “I represent blacks!”
By Douglas Belchior, with information from Iconoclastia Incendiária
The photo above brings the candidates participating in the competition for the Concurso para Rainha da 77ª Festa das Flores (Contest for the Queen of the 77th Festival of Flowers) of Joinville, Santa Catarina. There are 18 competitors and only one is black, the young Haeixa Carolina Pinheiro dos Passos, who reported in her social network profile that she’s experienced “the most turbulent week, full of questions, doubts and many negative critiques.”
The fact of being a black woman competing with the hegemonic ethnic group in the city for the post of queen aroused hatred of some groups that began to question the origin of the candidate and the fact of her not having been born in Joinville. “About me not being from Joinville, the regulations didn’t request that I be from Joinville, it only requested that I reside in the city for at least 1 year. I have resided there for 4,” revealed the young woman.
A racist Facebook page called “Orgulho Branco” (white pride) initiated a campaign to “spoil her plans,” and requesting votes for another candidate – white, of course.
The city of Joinville is really beautiful. According to the description of the FanPage Iconoclastia Incendiária, it’s “full of encrusted forests in focus of the city and shell mounds that preserve the history of the ancestors.” But the text continues, “it is also one of the most racist in Brazil, with a nest of Nazis, integralistas and separatists.”
In fact, there’s no lack of situations and denouncements of racism and intolerance against blacks since the founding of Colônia Dona Francisca, in the first half of the nineteenth century by Luso-Brazilian families and dozens of enslaved Africans, and also massive German colonization, with Swiss and Norwegian participation, up to our present times, where there is no shortage of reports of racism, as in the case of university student Luana Vilma da Rosa, in the case of the complacency of Univille to Nazi organizations in the city, or the remnants of Nazi organizations in the state in addition to registers on Blogs and in academic papers.
Given this historic background, there’s no wonder about the reaction to the presence of the only and courageous black candidate as pre-selected to dispute in this contest.
Haeixa: “I represent myself, I represent those who believe in a better world, I represent the “pretos” (blacks), I represent Brazilian miscegenation, I represent the South, the North and the Northeast, I REPRESENT BRAZIL!”
The A Notícia newspaper decided to organize a poll that although informal – as it doesn’t determine the winner – has served as controversy booster. The newspaper said the survey will be up until the eve of the definition of the contest, which will take place on November 18, at 8pm, at the gastronomic square of the event.
Note from BW of Brazil: So yet another story that provides valuable insight into Brazilian-styled race relations. What we see here is an apparent rejection of one of the women who doesn’t seem to conform to what a citizen in the city is supposed to look like. Out of the 17 women in the photo, only one of them is non-white and thus it is assumed that she doesn’t qualify as a contestant or representative of the city. Let’s not be fooled by the rhetoric here. Any one of the other girls in the photo could have been born in another city yet no one questioned their qualifications. Could there possibly be any other possible reason? The other thing we must consider here is another beauty contest in another state. Of the contestants in the Joinville, Santa Catarina contest, only 5.9% is black. 2000 census figures of Joinville place the branca (white) population of the city at 90.8% with the combined preta/parda (black/brown) population is about 8%. In other words, the black representation in the contest is slightly less than that of its representation in the contest.
In comparison, in a controversial contest featured here in August of 2014, in Bahia, a state whose population is 76% preta/parda, we saw a contest in which 75% of the contestants were branca. And this wasn’t the first time we saw this. Perhaps due to the controversy of under-representation, a black girl ended up winning in 2013, but only after the storm caused by the color of the majority of the contestants in a state known throughout the country (and the world) as the African center of Brazil. So here we have a situation where a majority of a non-white state is vastly represented by white women and a state/city that is overwhelmingly white but there is still objection to even the minuscule presence of a non-white woman. It is this stance that suggests an acceptance that whiteness should be all-encompassing regardless of the situation and that makes accusations of ‘reverse racism’ on the part of blacks absurd.
In situations in which whites already dominate nearly every genre that exists, it’s very common that these same whites will attempt to turn the tables in the discussion of racism with a seemingly innocent question of “what’s wrong with having a white girl?”, as if things were somehow even from the beginning. In positions of numerical superiority across the board, the non-recognition of this privilege is what’s so shocking about the debate, if we can even call it this.The FACT of white supremacy/over-representation never comes into the discussion (in terms of white acknowledgement) and as black under-representation is equally a fact, if white Brazilians want to see a ‘racial democracy’ in fact rather than just fiction, why is it that we rarely, if ever, hear of white people arguing for the inclusion of more black people in every realm of society? All I’ve ever seen is the rejection of more black presence in universities, rejection of black weather girls, the rejection of black dancers, a rejection of black politicians and much, much more. In fact, in recent years we’ve even heard rumblings that white women are slowing moving into the territory of Carnaval that has traditionally been the one area where black women have played a prominent role year and after (see here and here).
In terms of the whole orgulho branco (white pride) thing, as a general idea, I have absolutely no problem. All people on this planet should be able to have pride in whatever and whoever they are. The problem is that, often times, expressions of white pride come simultaneously with expressions of white superiority. Without a history of violent domination of other peoples in defense of white supremacy, white pride in itself would be equal to any other sort of pride. But white pride under a context of annihilation and subjugation of other peoples is a factor that any sort of white pride cannot simply side-step. When white pride is combined with white domination of economics, politics, media, culture, aesthetics, etc., the concept cannot be seen as simply a pride in one’s racial background. It often comes with an adherence with the crimes against humanity committed by people who look like them. And any expression of white pride simply as a means of ‘getting even’ with other groups that they feel are ‘taking over’ is simply a denial or misunderstanding of the facts in world history. The silence in regards to this issue is what makes the expression of white pride problematic.
My argument, based on the deafening silence on this issue, would be that they, white people, in fact KNOW that they have this privilege and advantage and want to maintain it, but must pretend to pledge allegiance to the long-held mythology of diversity. If there is another possibility, I would love to hear someone else’s explanation.
Source: Negro Belchior
The “white pride” you’re talking about above is better understood as “white supremacy,” which is to say, a system that seeks to foster and maintain a belief in and power relations that enforce white racial domination in every aspect of economic, political, social, and cultural life. There can be individual non-white tokens and favorites, preferably these days on a neoliberal model (think of the myth of the successful nonwhite individual who triumphs over challenges, while the structural and system racist system remains in place), but “white pride” linked to “white supremacy” essentially degrades all who are not white (and ultimately degrades white people as well, by sustaining their mediocrity at the expense of everyone else).