Note from BW of Brazil: Yes, it’s a topic that’s been frequently addressed here on this blog. And it’s an ongoing debate, discussion and even argument, but there is still a lack of open dialogue on the issue. “Palmitagem“. The preference of black Brazilian men (and often women) for white skin for romantic relationships (Most posts on this blog deal with the general topic of interracial relationships). Perhaps one of the principal reasons is that it has been an issue overwhelmingly brought up by black women. This writer has viewed countless forums, comments, social network debates, etc. and it is notable how one-sided the debates often are. This is not to say that there aren’t black men who are discussing it, but their participation often comes in the form of denial of the accusations or the usage of the over-used cliche that “love has no color”.
But recently, there have in fact been a few black men who have stepped forward and written well-articulated articles either dealing with their own recognition of the way black Brazilians are indoctrinated to prefer white skin, recognizing how this indoctrination affected them personally in their relationship choices or pointing out the fact that black Brazilian women have been equally conditioned on the adoration of whiteness. We will be bringing forth some of those pieces in coming posts, but for now, here is a very short piece that simply declares that black Brazilian men need to come clean and face the facts. Let the discussion continue!
We need to recognize our palmitagem
By Caio Cesar dos Santos
Much has been discussed about the solitude of the black woman and the term “palmiteiro” (black person who prefers white people for romantic relationships) (1). Many women had, at last, the courage to expose their feelings after years and years of being passed over and devaluation. I particularly think that’s great, what really bothers me is the same bad character of us men in addressing the issue.
We are palmiteiros. All of us. Some in deconstruction, others not. I believe that recognizing this is the first step we can take. In the affective world of the man reigns the idea that the more women you have, the better you are, the more respected (you are) among friends, the more popular. And in this basic math, the black woman has no value. In a country where the female standard of beauty is so stressed and reinforced in all media outlets, relating one’s self to black women was not the first choice of men. Just look at the numerous reports of black girls who were hidden in their entire lifetime in relationships, while men insisted on parading their white women.
Don’t deny this, men. You well know how things work. And bringing the profile of the black man, which includes me, adds to it the racist structure of our society. For the black man, relating one’s self with a white woman, gives him the same value that a white man has in society. Frantz Fanon talks about it in his book Pele Negra, Máscaras Brancas (Black Skin, White Masks), in Chapter 3 titled “O homem de cor e a mulher branca” (“The man of color and the white woman”). The following excerpt:
“Out of the blackest part of my soul, across the zebra striping of my mind, surges this desire to be suddenly white. I wish to be acknowledged not as black but as white. Now—and this is a form of recognition that Hegel had not envisaged—who but a white woman can do this for me? By loving me she proves that I am worthy of white love. I am loved like a white man. I am a white man. Her love takes me onto the noble road that leads to total realization….I marry white culture, white beauty, white whiteness. When my restless hands caress those white breasts, they grasp white civilization and dignity and make them mine.”
I see in the passing over of black women and “palmitagem” another of the faces that racism brings. As such, it is necessary that we debate this with honesty and understanding. We men, particularly black men, need to make this reflection, this self-criticism. We live in a racist and sexist world, with an established white standard of beauty. Reducing these problems to “personal taste” doesn’t make sense, it’s dishonest.
Finally, I want to make clear here that I don’t want to speak for black women. I don’t have this right and not even at the least could I do that. There is a lot of information being done on this subject, and I only want that my text be another, without becoming more important than the accounts of the women. As you read this text, I ask not only for your reflection, but that you also read – honestly – the accounts and texts already done by who, in fact, suffers from it, the women.
- In fact, when used, the term is usually in reference to black men