Note from BBT: In recent weeks, with the elimiantion of several of the black participants on the Big Brother Brasil reality show saw a sharp decrease in the number of comments in the black Brazilian social networks. For the first few weeks, I swear it seemed that BBB 21 was all people wanted to talk about. From a coverage standpoint, this was good for me. I wasn’t trying to post material about the show every other day and since things have calmed down, I can discuss my thoughts on the goings on without being in a rush or having to devote too much space to the show.
Regardless of how little I connect with reality shows, some of the things I’ve seen and read about in this season’s edition speaks to so many issues that affect Brazil’s black community. Jealousy, envy, rudeness, aggressiveness, anger and belittling attitudes are all over the place and these clashes, unfortunately, show why and how there are such a lack of unity within the Afro-Brazilian community. This doesn’t make black Brazilians better or worse than any other community. Being African-American, I can attest to the fact that, due to our differences of opinions, backgrounds, class, consciousness, religion and so many other factors, we are also not able to unite as a single, cohesive group.
When it was announced and then celebrated that BBB’s 21st season would have a record number of Afro-Brazilian participants, these differences are facts that I don’t know if anyone really anticipated. The postures presented by the black participants provoked strong reactions from black Brazilian viewers, many of whom posted comments saying something along the lines of, “I, as a black person, don’t support the attitude of ________.”
It was as if people felt that the behavior of some of the participants would reflect as representative of how black Brazilians were as a whole. The reality is that, society often does hold such views. White persons can act as individuals and be assured that they will be judged as simply individuals while with black people, the behavior, attitudes or acts of one person can and often will influence the how the society sees all black people.
What viewers have seen has subsequently led to black Brazilians themselves calling for the elimination of certain black participants on the program. This should be expected. As I wrote in a previous post, black Brazilians are just as complex a group as any other. What we are seeing on BBB 21 simply confirms this. The problem starts when Brazil as a whole takes a handful of people and believes their antics apply to millions of people in the country’s black community.
Below, Nathália Geraldo takes a look at this with while I interject in some areas for purposes of clarity I will weigh in with further thoughts on the topic at the end of this post.
How racial issue affects Lumena, Conká and Lucas
By Nathália Geraldo
Just over a week into its 21st season, Globo TV’s hit reality show Big Brother Brasil (BBB) had already an edition marked by placing at the center of conversations topics such as mental health, racial issues, “cancellation” and disagreement between what the participants say and how they act at different times. From the outside, the practical effects are also seen: rapper Karol Conká, for example, had her performance suspended from the annual Rec-Beat music festival (held in Recife, Pernambuco), on the grounds of her conduct on the reality show.
On social media, Conká’s stance, accused of psychologically torturing actor Lucas Penteado, also generated a lot of negative repercussions on social networks. The rapper even expelled the actor from the table so she could sit down to eat and, in the dynamics of the “Jogo da Discórdia” (game of discord), she labeled her BBB brother a “canceller”. Anonymous and famous people, like actor Lázaro Ramos, sent messages of support to Lucas and his family through social networks.
Later, she and Lucas talked and she said she wouldn’t attack him anymore. “I’m not an angry person, I was angry,” said the sister to the actor. The conversation happened a day after the host Tiago Leifert put on the agenda whoever are the people who “canceled” the others in the house, in the “Game of Discord”.
“Karol’s change is the analysis process that we do all the time. When Tiago Leifert spoke of the ‘canceler’, you could see in her face how she saw herself in his speech”, analyzes the psychoanalyst Jaqueline Conceição, who teaches the course Psychoanalysis and Racism, at Casa do Saber, and is a doctoral student in social anthropology from the Federal University of Santa Catarina.
Negative views of Conká’s behavior subsequently lead to her elimination from the program with the highest voting rejection percentage in the history of the program.
Another participant who was intensely involved in the situation between Conká and Lucas was the master in psychology and DJ Lumena Aleluia. Because she was seen as conniving with the rapper’s attitude, she even lost followers on Instagram – by the tens of thousands. The crisis took on such a proportion that Lumena’s page administrators published a statement saying that they don’t agree “with the things that are happening in the house”.
“We are not abandoning the ship, on the contrary, we are positioning ourselves because we believe that just as it is possible to get lost in a game and make the wrong readings, it is also possible to find yourself again,” says an excerpt from the post on Instagram.
For the psychoanalyst, there are many tools to analyze the scenario that links the trajectory of the three. One of them is raciality, a concept that explains how the construction of oneself and the other takes place in relation to race. But you can’t take it out, says the expert, the personality of each participant and the fact that BBB is a program in which “discord is part of the game”.
But between disagreements and drama, what is behind so much public mobilization in relation to the posture shown by these participants?
Those who follow the most watched house in Brazil saw the first conflict to divide the house in less than three days of the show. Lumena Aleluia starred in a conversation with Caio and the other brothers about the fact that the men had put on makeup and did a parade. She said the joke could be offensive to trans people. On the internet, the opinion was endorsed by trans women, but it was not unanimous.
Content creator Bianca Fernandez, who is a Twitter user and comments about the reality show on the social network, told Universa that she “embraced” Lumena at first. “Her strong speech was the main reason for generally embracing her at first, apart from the color factor. Our unconscious yearns for representation, regardless of the situation”, she explains. “Lumena proved to be such a lucid person when talking about the makeup thing and Caio’s performance, you know? It was by no means unnecessary, she knew how to speak.”
Despite this, the discussion went beyond the walls of the BBB. There was no shortage of tweets saying that “she made a storm in a teacup” or “being militant in the wrong way”, with opinions that she had reacted in an unnecessarily incisive way.
For the junior consultant of the company B4People, Camila Santos, who works with an inclusive culture in companies, in this case, Lumena was associated with the stereotype of the “mulher negra raivosa”, meaning “angry black woman”.
“Lumena positioned herself politely and in a good way. I wanted to alert the participants who have no contact with the reality of trans and transvestite people about the importance of that. It was only seen as aggressive after Juliette and Sarah, white women, validated this opinion that she was angry. Then, any opinion that Lumena expresses falls into this stereotype” – Camila Santos
After the repercussion of the transphobia case, Lumena started to have a different position in the game, which made the public think she was conniving with Karol Conká’s criticisms of Lucas.
The attitude was seen as disappointing for some, like Bianca. In the official BBB post on Instagram, however, there are also supportive comments for her to find herself back in the game. “She agreed, with the discourse she has. OK, we all have moments of mistakes, but it was pretty inconsistent. And also for not giving Lucas the benefit of doubt and forgiveness”, says the content producer.
After the scene in which Conká tells the actor to get up from the table, it is worth saying, Lumena talked to him in the bedroom. “The blacks themselves in the house want you on the (elimination) wall. Look at that shot in the foot. Connect yourself with your entity,” the psychologist told the participant.
In the opinion of the psychoanalyst Jaqueline Conceição, it’s possible to observe Lumena’s trajectory up to that point, bringing the racial issue as a background. “One of the places that whiteness, which is a system of thought, pushes us is that of a militant black woman. We joke that it would be the ‘place of Martin Luther King’, the one who is intellectual, who speaks beautifully. This doesn’t mean that this place is in the process of identification of that person”, she analyzes.
For Conceição, Lumena acted like this in the question of the makeup done on the men of the house, but didn’t support the same speech in the question between Lucas and Conká, allying herself with the rapper.
For Bianca, the discord created by this episode and the developments so far, in the edition with the largest number of black participants, can be an important lesson to show that black people are not all the same; reducing them to the same way of thinking is more of a stereotype.
“We are singular beings. The struggle is one, but we are thinking beings and have our own opinions. In addition, the ‘game’ factor influences the opinions given in there,” she analyzes.
In a later argument, we saw another example that spoke to the stereotype that all black people are and think alike. In a disagreement from an episode during the third week of February, Konká accused another black woman participant, the social influencer Camilla, of supporting Gilberto, a black man (well, for some people, not quite black), in an argument between the two. In a dispute that made headlines the next day, Karol and Camilla went at each other.
“You better not talk because you won’t be able to take the blast. You wanted this, a dispute between two black women,” Karol threatened.
“You want to play the militant. I have no obligation to have affinity with you because we are black women,” Camilla replied.
“You’ll be mad Karol out there; there’s another mad one here too. I’m a native of Nova Iguaçu,” added Camilla in reference to her native town, which is located in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
I hope Lumena stops to really think about what she did, because she lost herself completely in the character – Bianca Fernandez
Lucas x Karol Conká and the relationship with racism
Jaqueline, who is also the founder and director of Coletivo Di Jejê and a UN consultant for issues of raciality and gender, considers that the dynamics of relationships within the game, such as that of Conká and Lucas, is the reproduction of what happens in society and can affect black people.
“BBB is taking to the public a debate that black people experience in the private sphere. If there is any gain in this, it is that the debate about mental health, racism and self-hatred will open up”, she reflects.
The psychoanalyst comments that the racial issue fell on Lucas in that he is seen as the undesirable black man who was not wanted around.
Black men who watch BBB say that what he experienced inside the house is repeated on the outside. “That’s why black people tried to distance themselves from him; (Comedian) Nego Di says he was upset that they tried to equalize them,” she assesses. Nego Di was eliminated early on the program, like Conká, with a very high rejection percentage. “And the rejection of the black man happens in society, when he goes through school and suffers racism, when he’s stopped by the police.”
For her, it’s not possible to pinpoint the origin of what Conká feels about Lucas, to the point of putting psychological pressure on him, even though details about the rapper’s authoritarian personality are being revealed, as some producers who worked with her backstage made known.
“What psychoanalysts who study racism point out is that one of the things it creates in black people is this self-hatred, which creates in the unconscious and then, in the conscious, the idea of rejection, and the desire for the white world, which is recognized as a place for white people, like fame, to be on the cover of a magazine.”
Despite understanding that Karol’s behavior is part of the racial dynamics of the relationships, Jaqueline also considers that “there is no way to push under the rug” the rapper’s posture.
“What Karol feels for Lucas is hate. You cannot say that it is a reproduction of racism, nor that she is being racist towards him. But the fact is that we grew up hearing that black people are less and for people to be able to live in this world, we either become alienated, or we learn to love and desire the white world, even if we have to psychologically violate a black man, or we adopt the posture of rupture,” she comments. “Karol is a woman sickened by racism.”
Note from BBT: So, as you can see, BBB 21 has turned out to be much more than just a reality show. In many ways, this season is a sort of window into the effects of Brazilian society on the psyche, emotions and mental health of the black population. In about a month’s time, we saw a number of issues come to the fore just watching these episodes and interactions. Just a few of the issues I saw come out were:
– The disqualification/questioning of someone’s blackness (Participants discussing Gilberto)
– Vitriol of a black woman toward a black man (Karol Conká vs. Lucas)
– Mental and psychological trauma (Lucas)
These are just a few of the issues I noted. This doesn’t even cover the whole question of Lumena being accused of reverse racism because of how she addressed one of the white girls on the program. I’ll get to that in another post.
The dynamics, stereotypes and imagery going on here is would be enough to write a dissertation on. There has long been a stereotype of black Brazilian woman being mad/crazy (“maluca”), or a troublemaker (“encrenqueiro”) so it would be quite easy to pin such adjectives on Lumena. Regardless of her other attributes, as this stereotype already exists, she will labeled in this manner. The Carnaval caricature of the “nega maluca” partially stems from this label.
When speaking of the issue of a lack of black unity, I found it intriguing that we saw two very memorable incidents involving two black women on the show rejecting, humiliating or not wanting to be overshadowed by a black male. As pointed out above, it was Lucas, a young black male who was projected as undesirable in the first few weeks. Although feminism has long argued that it is black women that are on the bottom of the social hierarchy, some black men have taken issue with this when considering it is the black male who is most murdered in the streets and also the dark-skinned black male whose percentage of homelessness is far above his representation in the overall population.
Besides the dispute we saw between Conká and Lumena against Lucas, we then saw an example that not all black women will be on the same team simply because they black when Konká and Camilla had words. We’ve known this for years and this should serve as an uneccesary example that black people come in all shapes, colors, sizes and thought.
In terms of self-hatred, I’ve seen too many examples of this in my own life to not be aware of this. In our own world, while we often speak of the disdain we feel for the way we rare treated by non-blacks, when we are among our own, we sometimes treat in each in the same manner that we hate when it comes from people outside of the community. I think of this every time I find out that a black Brazilian male was murdered by a black Military Police officer.
No, we can’t say that someone like Karol Conká was racist against Lucas, but racism, that she has admitted she’s experienced, DID play a role in how she belittled a male of her own color. It’s like, black people don’t have the power to oppress any other group, so we take this anger out on the only people with whom we can get away with it: ourselves.
All of this is the result of mental colonialism. For most black people raised in the West, we are indoctrinated from the time we are born to idolize things from the white world. Even without anyone actually saying to you “white is better”, this sentiment often penetrates are psyches and becomes so natural that we don’t even know it’s there. If we stop and think about it, we’ve all experienced this at one time or another. The difference is, some of the behavior that we’ve seen on BBB 21 is, unfortunately, a very public example.