Note from BBT: I haven’t been able to adequately address or break down what the elimination of rapper Karol Conká from the Big Brother Brasil reality show really meant. Not only was the native of Curitiba (southern Brazil) eliminated, she was eliminated with the highest negativity rating in the 21 seasons of the program, 99.17%. After her first few weeks on the program, it became clear that viewers were very dissapointed with her attitudes, postures and treatment of other participants, particularly Lucas Penteado who ended up voluntarily leaving the program after being the victim of psychological abuse.
For many viewers, particularly black women, Conká’s behavior seemed to be a complete reversal of the person she presented in her music. I didn’t even bother to do a follow up report on Conká after my first report, but many viewers, the things I reviewed after those first few weeks were enough for people to come to a conclusion: Karol Conká has got to go.
Then, there was the baiana (Bahian woman) woman, psychologist and DJ Lumena Aleluia. Lumena, like Conká was black and while she didn’t get eliminated with as high of a rejection percentage (61.31%), social networks were calling for her head pretty soon after the 21st season started as well. It didn’t start off that way. In the beginning, many viewers stood with Lumena on her stances but as time went on, the prevailing attitude seen to say that she was a little too militant and also militant at times when it was totally not necessary.
One of the main issues I had with Lumena in the beginning also had to do with an attitude she also took Lucas. Her reaction to Lucas made me wonder if I would want her on my team in whatever endeavor. I mean, would she not be willing to be a team player if she couldn’t be the star?
Both Conká and Lumena both seemed to strike a nerve with the viewing public, even among black viewers of the program. In reality, to a certain degree, this point shouldn’t even be an issue. While it may be true that black Brazilians celebrated after learning that this season’s BBB would have the largest number of black people in the reality show’s history, disagreements are just as normal among black Brazilians as they are with any other group.
Regardless of the fact that this parcel of the population must endure regular experiences with racism, which one would think would unite them, at least to a certain degree, the fact is that, even if racism didn’t exist, people are people, have their own values and beliefs, which leads to different reactions to any given situation. And this was clear early on in the show in the manner that people rejected Lucas. If we had any doubt that black people aren’t obliged to like each other simply because they share the same race, the participant Camilla, another black woman, made this clear in one episode in which she checked Conká, telling her that she wasn’t obligated to like her simply they were both black women.
In past seasons of the reality show, there have been other personalities that struck a nerve with the public in a negative manner but we didn’t see them get rejected with such high elimination percentages. Why is this? As we know, after decades of denying the influence of race in the way Brazilians see reality, no one would admit, and perhaps a significant percentage of people don’t consciously know, that race could factor in how people react to each other in everyday interactions.
It would be foolish, for example, to believe that people don’t see an association with poverty and skin color. Some years ago, we saw blatant examples of this with the public sympathy toward two white people who had gone through bouts of homelessness and drug addiction. Although there are tens of thousands of preto (black) and pardo (brown) people living on Brazil’s streets, but people the public seems to treat these people as if this is where they somehow belong. On the other hand, persons with white skin, light colored eyes and straight hair in the same condition seem to solicit a certain sympathy from people, as if they don’t deserve to be in these situations because of their physical appearances.
More proof of this is when we constantly see black children being harrassed when they enter places of business because it is automatically assumed that they don’t belong there (see here, here and here). In November of last year, we saw yet another incident like this. In the city of Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, security agents at the ViaShopping Barreiro shopping mall approached two black boys who were eating their lunch in the mall’s food court.
According to witnesses, the boys did nothing wrong. They, like tens of thousands of kids throughout Brazil, earned money by selling sweets and snacks in the streets and simply came in the mall to eat like any other customer. What we see nowadays is that black people have been fed up with this type of treatment by society. People defended the boys, telling security that they boys paid for their food. As one of the witnesses put it, “This type of attitude will no longer be accepted.”
On social networks, people called for a boycott and post messages saying that “vidas pretas importam” (black lives matter) and “racismo nunca mais” (racism never again). Of course, representatives of the mall issued the typical response saying that they repudiate “any and all type of discrimination suffered in (their) spaces.” But let’s get real.
We KNOW that if a pair of boys entered a business establishment, two black, two white, which pair would probably attract the attention of security guards if there were such a reaction. The question is, could this same sort of reaction have been at play in terms of the public’s views of Karol Conká and Lumena? The public reaction to these two black women can only be understood from a historical perspective.
Brazil, being the country that received the most enslaved Africans in the Americas, not only enslaved black bodies, but it molded and enforced an expected docile, submissive behavior from Africans and their descendants in order that they serve the white population. With the ending of the slavery period, there was a necessity to maintain the existence of docile and obedient black bodies. thus the brutally murderous Military Police was created. To this day, black and brown bodies are the ones that most fall to the ground due to police bullets.
Karol Conká and Lumena didn’t fall due to police bullets, but they were taken down by a public that, historically, doesn’t accept black women or black people in general who don’t show a certain submissiveness when this type of behavior can be accepted if coming from bodies that are wrapped much lighter skin tones.
Filmmaker Sabrina Fidalgo weighs in on this subject in the piece below.
“Unsubmissive black women are the terror of Brazil”: Black filmmaker Sabrina Fidalgo comments on black personalities that Brazil doesn’t tolerate
by Sabrina Fidalgo
The whole of Brazil stopped to watch the night of the fourth wall of February 23, when the singer Karol Conká was eliminated from Big Brother Brasil 21 (BBB 21) with an incredible 99.17% of votes. An absolute record of rejection. From my house, I myself heard some distant, but intense roars and screams of celebration at the time of the announcement of her departure (see note one). At that very moment, the internet was congested with such a horde of haters and intensity of posts, comments, memes, analysis, epistemological analysis, videos, jokes, curses, offenses, announcement of prizes, raffles and bets in all possible and imaginable forms of expression channels existing on social networks, platforms, news sites, information portals, etc. Not to mention the great mobilization of businesses and brands that made open bets on the result of the elimination wall in which Karol participated.
But, after all, what made Karol Conka, the great villain of the current edition of the reality show (and perhaps all editions of the program) so serious?
Dangerous, the Curitiba rapper is a black woman with a dominating personality, but also with an acid humor, beauty and great charismatic appeal. Karol has stepped on the ball countless times over the four weeks she was on in the “most watched house in Brazil”. She starred and antagonized, at the same time, all the big turns and twists in the house. Not to mention that she committed small, large and medium evils, she reproduced oppressions that she probably suffered throughout her life, above all, against the participant Lucas Penteado – the great scapegoat of this edition – and also with other members of confinement. However, the greatest “crimes” committed by the “mamacita”, was “daring” to have “flirted” with the hottest boy in the house (read: “white man”).
Brazil went into a collective outbreak when it saw the empowered black woman literally “falling” on top of the heartthrob of the edition (and he did respond, by the way). In her “suicidal crazy life” style of play, Karol had fun, drank all at the parties, danced, laughed a lot, created a lot of fake news, manipulated the whole house as she pleased, fought left and right, and then spread discord, created tense moments, spread gossip, in addition to causing a lot of confusion. All of this, always wearing a more fashionista look than others, not to mention the shoes, hair, makeup and equally amazing accessories. A full plate for the audience meter, which on the day of her departure marked peaks of 38% of the audience in the Greater São Paulo area and peaks of 40% in Rio, an absolute record that is “huge” for the program in the last eleven years.
On the other hand, Lumena Aleluia, a black woman from Salvador, psychologist by training, candomblecist (follower of the candomblé religion), bisexual, screenwriter (we met during the first edition of the “Laboratório de Narrativas Negra” – Black Narrative Laboratory – organized in Rio de Janeiro, by Flup and Rede Globo, in 2016) , DJ and lecturer (not necessarily in that order), quickly went from “great public promise” to one of the most hated participants on the reality show.
In her enrollment to participate in the BBB21, Lumena – who, unlike the camarote team composed of the already “famous” Karol, Projota, Fiuk, Nego Di, Carla Dias, Pocah, Rodolffo and Camilla de Moraes, was a mere unknown selected through selection process, that is, one of “popcorn” team members – promised a lot of dancing, laughter and relaxation during her participation. But what we saw was the girl becoming more and more incisive, taciturn and discursive in defense and, even, the imposition of her identity agenda, to the despair of the public who felt “intimidation” as a blow and, of course, didn’t like it. Lumena acted as a “militant” rather than an “activist” and that was her mistake. This is the difference between “charme and funk”. Get to know (the difference).
The reality is that Brazil is not prepared to watch an “angry black woman” distilling truths and condemning whiteness for all the misfortunes and evil committed by it over the more than 530 years of invasion of indigenous territory. White fragility doesn’t tolerate spiteful accusations and the answer was immediate: the cancellation of Lumena before she even left the program. And, in addition to being canceled, the Bahian woman became a joke on the networks for using academic vocabulary to explain prosaic situations. Catchphrases like “Lumena did not authorize” are part of the “Lumenês” (Lumena memes), a subtle form of mockery and punishment for daring to point her finger at the real enemy. This, Brazil does not forgive.
Now, such “slips” committed, both by Karol and Lumena, have already been seen in other editions of the program in the personification of former participants who acted in a similar or even much worse way. None of them suffered such a cancellation from the public and, almost all, went much further in the game. Some even won the final prize. But what differentiates them from Karol and Lumena, then? Simple; they were all white.
Brazil really likes to see black people who are nice, humble and, above all, victimized. Participant Lucas Penteado, for example, only reached unanimity and obtained compassion from the public when he began to suffer all sorts of contempt, persecution and humiliation in the house. Black, poor, peripheral and bisexual, he won the heart of Brazil by embodying the colonial imagery that Brazilian whiteness has of the “victimized black”.
Obviously we are not analyzing (and we will not analyze) the complexities and subjectivities of this case in more depth, but the fact is that Brazil is not prepared to see a black, wealthy and domineering woman like Karol Conká not needing anyone’s benevolence. In that country, a black person is always expected to need the help of others. Black people, here, are only legitimized and validated before the “blessing” of the branquitude salvadora (whiteness savior).
And Karol Conká not shedding a single crocodile tear during her tour or not mentioning, at any time, that he desperately needs to help the family with the final prize of the program, it’s serious, very serious, to paraphrase Lumena. Everything suggests that Karol, one of the most successful female rappers in the country, host of a GNT TV program and ex-poster girl of the cosmetics line that sponsors the reality show, only accepted the invitation to participate in the program for; 1) bluster or 2) egotrip.
“Not needing” and villainy are unforgivable. Especially because the exercise of villainy is linked to the idea of power. And Brazil is not prepared to have this conversation. Yet.
For this reason, each “black-abused” person in the program will be eliminated, one by one, consecutively. If it can’t be eliminated every 23 minutes like in real life, let it be every week. Every Tuesday.
Source: W 15 Magazine
- This also happened in my neighborhood where I heard screams and fireworks go off as if one São Paulo’s futebol team had just won an important game.