Racism as a mark of Communications: An official Gov ad to TV
Note from BW of Brazil: As I often say, I’m never surprised when examples of Brazil’s allegiance to the idea of white supremacy are clearly shown, but it does amaze me that so many Brazilians continue to put up the facade that they believe “we are all equal”. Examples of the belief in white supremacy are quite abundant, as I have documented for a number of years now, whether we look at common, everyday people, or people in some sort of position of authority or influence. Take for example when a city councilman, Cid Ferreira, of Campinas, stating that he was handsome and had blue eyes, while he said the man with whom he was arguing with, a black man, was ugly. The councilmen also pointed to his nose, showing how thin it was. Then there was the infamous beach incident in Rio that made headlines when one woman berated a black woman, and even screamed, “next time be born white!” Then we have the media and the public’s fascination with white people falling into situations of homelessness or drug addiction. We see this preference for whiteness even in scenarios in which the situation’s very existence would “prove” the non-existence of racism: interracial families. Yes, Brazil’s adoration of whiteness is quite obvious and it plays out everyday in ways that are so common that most don’t even notice it. A recent comment made live on television makes this sort of racism as clear as negro (black) and branco (white).
From an official government advertisement to TV: racism as a mark of communications
Commentary of TV host and MEC advertisement reflect racism as part of the institutional structure of the media
Speaking live, Alterosa TV “Alterosa Alerta” program host Stanley Gusman said, “I know who owns Ibope. The guy’s name is Montenegro. If he was good, he would be called Montebranco.” (see note one)
If the intention was to criticize the president of Ibope, Carlos Augusto Montenegro, what the host of the Minas Gerais station did was offend the almost 116 million black Brazilian people (self-declared pretos/blacks or pardos/browns, according to data from the Continuous National Household Sample Survey of IBGE), approximately 56% of the country’s population.
After all, for Gusman (who, amazingly, is president of the Commission for the Defense of the Rights of the Child, Adolescent, Youth and Elderly of the Lawyer’s Guild of Minas Gerais), black people, for the sole fact of being black, are not “good people” and represent everything that is negative. If the host was able to make this reference to a white man who has “negro” in his name, what he does not think about people who have “negro” in their skin, hair and aesthetics?
Although by different language and platform, Stanley Gusman’s commentary comes close to a Ministry of Education (MEC) publicity piece from June of this year. In the material, disclosed in the social networks of the ministry, a young black girl, after earning a scholarship and graduating, her skin became white. Thus, a part of the girl – without a college education – is black, while her hand holding the diploma – that is, after being able to “win in life” – is white.
Targets of expressions of repudiation – from the Union of Journalists of Minas Gerais (in the case of Gusman) and of the Committee of Culture of the Chamber of Deputies (in the case of MEC advertisement) – both Gusman and MEC issued later statements trying to deny racist intentionality.
In a statement on the motion of repudiation of the Chamber’s Culture Committee (CCULT), Federal Representative Aurea Carolina (PSOL/MG), a member of the Commission, said: “A campaign like this of the MEC reinforces imagery of racial superiority, our colonial slave-owning past. We will not tolerate the promotion of the symbolic whitening of the black population or the erasing of the racial identities. We want to affirm them. There can be no selectivity in educational policies and any official government communication must be in line with these principles.”
MEC campaign on Prouni accused of racism
More than discursive elements, it should be emphasized that the words of the Alterosa TV host and the advertisement of the Bolsonaro government are reflections of racism as part of the institutional structure of the media in Brazil, raised, as the journalist and professor of the UFRJ Muniz Sodré says, by four articulated factors: denial (when one tends to deny the existence of racism); recalculation (when, in their different modes of production, the media re-press identity aspects of symbolic manifestations of black and indigenous origin, for example); stigmatization (when the media construct identities fed by a tradition of prejudice and rejection) and professional indifference (when, being companies that aim for profit, the media is guided by market dictates and have little interest in issues like discrimination).
In addition to the racist nature, in the debates on the examples in question, one cannot lose sight of the aggravating fact that we are talking about an advertisement of the Federal Government, that is, financed with public resources, and of a comment made in a public television concession, which, as such, has a series of determinations and limits to be fulfilled – such as the prohibition of promotion of a discriminatory campaign of class, color, race or religion, according to article 53 of the Brazilian Telecommunications Code.
According to Muniz Sodré, it is worth mentioning that racism in the media operates and permeates aspects such as representation and visibility in the various contents, production and direction of programs and ownership of radio and television vehicles.
In more objective terms: what do we have in the programming that values characteristics of Afro-Brazilian culture and history? How many children’s television programs in Brazil deal with ethnic-racial diversity? How many independent producers have contracts and partnerships with television stations so that their production reaches Brazilian households? How many black women and black men are in the presentation and leadership spaces of the Brazilian media groups? What public communication policies, throughout history, have established affirmative measures so that representative groups of the black population could create and develop communication media with the capacity to influence public opinion?
The answers to these questions lead us to only one certainty: almost twenty years after filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo entitled his documentary about the stereotypical and negative representations of black men and black women in national novelas (soap operas) A Negação do Brasil (Denying Brazil), we continue to see the constant negation of the black population and of ethnic-racial diversity in Brazilian communications.
Source: Carta Capital
- In Portuguese, negro means black, while branco means white. Although the last name Montenegro isn’t as common as names such as Silva or Santos, it isn’t rare. Thus, the host’s comment of the owner of IBOPE’s name is a direct manner of equating the terms negro and branco with negative and positive meanings respectively. IBOPE is the company that measures television ratings of programs on Brazil’s television airwaves.