Note from BW of Brazil: Nothing really shocking about this incident or another one that happened about a month ago. The difference is the chosen insult and the two countries involved. As we have seen numerous times on this blog, derogatory remarks about persons of visible African ancestry are just as much the norm in Brazil as they are in other parts of world. The reason for today’s post is to show, once again, that there is very good reason why Brazil’s so-called pretos (blacks) and pardos (browns), or better, negros and mulatos, are combined into one group as representative of the Afro-Brazilian community. Just as common as it is to hear racial insults tossed around Brazil directed at those who cannot “pass” for white, is the argument that claims that pardos are not negros. I will agree that if a person of mixed race is of a primarily indigenous appearance, one could argue that that person should not be defined as black. But Afro-Brazilian scholars have long lumped blacks and browns together because socioeconomically speaking, they are in the same situation of disadvantage in relation to those who define themselves as brancos (whites). They also both face experiences with discrimination based on physical appearance that denotes African ancestry.
To get to the point, let’s report the two incidents both involving futebol players. One happened recently in Mexico while the other happened about one month ago in Argentina. One of the players is Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Brazilian, two-time winner of FIFA’s player of the year award, a former member of Brazil’s national team (the seleção), in Spain as well as Brazilian teams. The star recently signed a new contract to play in Mexico. The second incident involved Colombian player Teófilo Gutiérrez.
México: Ronaldinho is a victim of racism
By Luiz Nascimento, September 14, 2014
Irritated with traffic caused in the city of Querétaro because of the presentation of the new signing of Ronaldinho Gaúcho with the local team, last Friday, the Mexican politician Carlos Treviño, former Secretary of Social Development of the city, wrote a racist message against the Brazilian player in a social network.
“Really, I try to be tolerant, but I hate futebol, and the idiotic phenomenon that it produces. I hate it even more because people flood the streets making it take me two hours to get home. And all this to see a monkey…Brazilian, but still a monkey. This is a ridiculous circus,” wrote Núñez.
Despite having deleted the message then the politician shouldn’t be get away with the episode. The Secretary of Government Jorge López Portillo said that Núñez could be prosecuted.
“Racial discrimination is not the spirit, and in no way represents the way people of Querétaro think. We are all very respectful. Naturally, it can be denounced and we are aware of everything,” he said.
Racist comments radio announcer causes controversy in Argentina
August 13, 2014
On Wednesday, The Instituto Nacional contra a Discriminação, a Xenofobia e o Racismo (Inadi or National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism) of Argentina condemned the racist slurs uttered by a broadcaster against the Colombian futebol player Teofilo Gutierrez, of the River Plate team, in full transmission of a futebol match played on Sunday.
Alberto Raimundi, a commentator for Radio Revolución, unleashed a major controversy by calling the attacker “negro de merda” (black piece of shit).
“Let the River fans forgive me. I’m sick of this guy, to me, he is a negro de merda (black piece of shit) that has incredible luck,” said the broadcaster after a goal scored by Gutierrez, in the match that ended with a score of 1-1 for the first round of the Argentinian first division.
“It makes me angry that guys like this, of bad character, have this sort,” he added.
The racist comments generated numerous reactions on social networks, with several River fans defending the player, who also posted a message. “Que lindo es ser negro” (Spanish)/”É tão lindo ser negro” (Portuguese) (“It’s so beautiful to be black”, in English), the Colombian published on Twitter.
Raimundi has already apologized on his Facebook page. “I apologize fundamentally to Teófilo Gutiérrez and to all those who I may have felt offended,” said the journalist, before emphasizing: “I am not racist in any way.”
On Wednesday, however, Raimundi caused further controversy when trying to justify the insults.
“I was wrong for using a word, here in my country, we use four million times a minute, throughout the national territory, usually to mean ‘someone who we don’t like’, and not by explicit racism,” he explained.
Considering that the insults had a higher endorsement by being cast in a medium of communication, INADI resolved to notify the commentator to appear judicially next week. A DAIA, the largest political representation of the Argentine Jewish community, also condemned Raimundi’s statements, considering them “racist and discriminatory”.
“The words of a racist nature referred to the Colombian Teófilo Gutierrez are unjustifiable and don’t admit explanation,” denounced the entity. Gutierrez, 29, is one of the most famous players of the Argentine championship. In the last World Cup, he was a starter on the Colombian national team that reached the quarterfinals.
Note from BW of Brazil: So here we have two incidents, two racist comments. Ronaldinho was insulted with a term that dehumanizes persons of visible African descent around the world: “macaco” or monkey. Gutierrez was a called a “black piece of shit”. Pretty crass comment but also not rare. What one should note here is that both of these players in Brazil could be classified as pardos. Although Gutierrez is Colombian, one could easily find his phenotype in any state in Brazil. Neither Ronaldinho nor Gutierrez has jet-black skin; neither is a so-called preto-retinto, or “ink black”. Gutierrez’s hair texture looks quite straight while Ronaldinho has a loose type of curl pattern. Both have brown skin and both have obvious signs of racial admixture. But yet and still, in both cases, these players were insulted with words meant to demean them due to their African ancestry regardless of how much European or indigenous ancestry they may have. In the the case involving Gutierrez, the radio announcer tried to downplay his insult by claiming it’s a term that is commonly used in Argentina, which I wouldn’t doubt. But I’m quite sure he doesn’t refer to people who don’t appear have any African ancestry with the term ‘negro’.
Neither of these incidents happened in Brazil, but rather in two other Latin American countries. So the question here would be, is one to believe that Brazil’s system of racial classification works in a completely different manner than those systems in other Latin American countries that have similar understandings of race and histories of miscegenation? Not really. There are plenty of books that show the similarities in racial classification and even uses of racial terminology throughout Latin America. The stories involving race across Latin American borders are reminiscent of one Brazilian woman’s understanding of how the people of Peru also saw her as black although people in her own family in Brazil always complemented her on her fair skin. The bottom line is, in Brazil, whether people like to admit it or not, if one’s blackness is “too visible” (regardless of how ‘mixed’ they are), said person can be subjected to discrimination or strange treatment based on understandings of race, as singer Preta Gil recently learned. As such, people can forever claim not see players such as Ronaldinho or Teófilo as not black, but their insults say otherwise.
As numerous personal stories on this blog have shown, Brazilian society is infamous for persuading persons of visible African ancestry to ignore these physical characteristics, try to “pass” for white, or at least “not black”. This type of “racial schizophrenia” wreaks havoc on the identity of some persons when these same people who are taught that they are “not black” either face racist sentiments or comments about their appearance that signal that people don’t necessarily see them as white. In such a case that is the Brazilian reality, my conclusion is this:
In a country in which race truly doesn’t matter and racism truly doesn’t exist, one’s racial identity and classification would not and should not matter. But as racial characteristics subject persons to discrimination in Brazil as in any other country, the denial of the factor of race, racism and identity as a means of consciousness for those who are subjected to such treatment is an extreme disservice for those who are the victims. But it also keeps the dominant group in control as the oppressed group cannot fight this oppression of which they are victims due to a lack of knowledge of self; which is the very objective in the first place!