Note from BW of Brazil: One of the main questions that have been asked on this blog over the past several years is, “What is it to be a black woman in Brazil?” But as I have explained in other pages and the “about” page, to understand the position of black women in Brazil, we must also delve into other aspects of Brazilian society to truly understand and be able to respond to the question adequately. Other aspects include racism, social/racial inequality, black representation (or lack thereof), whiteness, white supremacy and European standards of beauty, among other topics. Another subject that we must analyze to get a full assessment of the experience of black women in Brazil is understanding the experience of black men, whose situation is inextricably connected to that of black women.
I find it sad that both sides have been slinging mud at each other for a number of years over topics such as who is more of a palmiteiro/palmiteira, referring to black people who seem to have a clear preference for having romantic relationships with white partners. From what I’ve seen over the years, sometimes it seems that both sides are trying to “outwhite” the other with neither caring about the project for a whiter Brazil that has been going on for more than a century now. It seems that neither side seems to understand that without their counterpart, the demise of the black community as a whole is imminent.
Today, I present a piece on the situation of black Brazilian men and the question of black masculinity. In Brazil, today and for the nearly the past five centuries, black men have been stereotyped as criminals, drug traffickers, samba musicians, street sweepers, doormen, futebol players and sexual studs to the detriment of any other qualities they may possess. It is the other side of what it means to be black in Brazilian society. And a conversation that desperately needs to happen. Let’s begin…
What is it to be a black man in Brazil?
By Henrique Restier da Costa Souza
“Black Man In A White World” 
As the title of the song of the English singer (of Ugandan origin) Michael Kiwanuka says: somos homens negros em um mundo branco (we are black men in a white world) (see note one). But what does that really mean? What are the implications of this sentence? This is what we propose to bring in this text in an introductory and unpretentious way, but with the suggestion of bringing some elements to help us think about these issues.
Currently, there is a great debate in Brazil that articulates different social markers such as: race, gender, class, LGBT, etc. The intention of this small text is to make some notes about two of these markers, namely, race and gender, through a masculine lens. I think it is very appropriate for the moment such a theme, since, in general, the black masculine is not debated in these cuts and when it appears it’s usually presented in a disqualifying way, while “privileged” and oppressor in relation to the feminine sex, nevertheless the thing is little more complex.
Before entering properly in the terms of the subject, it is necessary to initially emphasize that this is not a prescriptive, self-indulgent, blaming text and even less, a request for forgiveness from anyone. It is simply a look of criticism and empathy with all the black men in the Brazilian Diaspora, who like me, are each in their own way, living in a “mundo branco”.
O Masculino Negro desde dentro (O Black Male from within)
It is as a heterosexual black man that I manifest the reflections proposed here, it is through this place (that is many) that I direct my eyes on the black masculinities, therefore, it is clearly directed towards the dialogue with this socioracial group and, of course, with all those who seek to understand a little more about us and, therefore, about themselves.
The black man is that ambiguous being, for if on the one hand he is a man, and thus would receive patriarchal dividends because of this condition, on the other he is black, and many of these masculine prerogatives are forbidden. Racism, with its artificial mechanisms and barriers, prevents black men from playing important roles in Brazilian society.
As the ethnologist Carlos Moore (see note two) states, “its central function from the outset would be to regulate modes of access to society’s resources in a racially selective manner as a function of the phenotype.” A delicate situation, since it puts us in a place of “men without so many powers of men like that”, that is, men emasculated socially, therefore emasculation is one of the most central processes of the construction of black masculinities. So, where is the black man?
Most of the hegemonic representations of homens negros (black men) fall upon our bodies, in the hypersexualizing, dehumanizing, that is, depriving us of the prestige, resources and prerogatives of being “human-men.”
The penis (its size and performance) emphasizes relations between men in general, but especially among black and white men. If on the one hand a deforming representational apparatus is created around the sexual virility of the black man, lowering him to an almost animalistic corporeity, on the other, this creates resentment on the part of the white men who see their manhood threatened.
Nevertheless, a penis is not synonymous of phallus (phallôs of the Greek), because this is understood as a sign of power, resources, prestige, status and access. That is why the obsession to portray black man as a macrophallic is a fetish, as Frantz Fanon puts it: “The black represents the biological danger … To have the phobia of the black is to be afraid of the biological. For black is nothing but biological. It’s an animal.” (see note three)
The representational investment in the black man in social stereotypes and stigmas is recurrent in the media conglomerates of the Brazilian cultural industry, such as: a hoodlum, the vagabond, the boy in the street, the drunk, the rapist, etc. Now this makes perfect sense, since the white man’s great rival for socially valued masculinity is the black man.
This process is part of a clash between hegemonic and subordinate masculinities, in which the former requires, in order to remain hegemonic, to subtract from the subordinates the symbols of masculinity valued by society in order to monopolize them. In this way, the mature, autonomous, owner of oneself, responsible, honest, father, and adult black man, although he exists in profusion, is not represented (or as little as possible), since he offers danger to hegemonic masculinity in a covert, resentful and often open confrontation.
Obviously, I speak here from a structural, systemic and historical point of view, but as far as interpersonal relations are concerned, there are multiple ways of interacting between blacks and whites, sincere friendship, the most acute enmity, and therefore the multiplicity of the social world doesn’t ignore certain regularities.
The anthropologist Rolf de Souza [see note four], specialist in studies on masculinity, maintains that:
“The representations of black and white men cause these two groups to place themselves in an antagonistic position for the dispute for the prestige of masculinity and that due to this clash a black man who stands in the way of the white man of his mission of civilization must be discouraged and if necessary, physically eliminated.”
This placement is fundamental, for one of the great fears of black men is their physical annihilation. The elimination of black men destabilizes the entire black community. The logic of the state and private security operates through racist stereotypy, so much so that homicide statistics demonstrate a true “undeclared racial war”, which is often called “genocídio da juventude negra” (genocide of black youth), or as the title of the Abdias do Nascimento book, O genocídio do negro brasileiro (The genocide of the black Brazilian) . In any case, the depth with which this affects the psyche of black men and their relations with the various social groups is still a field to be investigated.
The black man in movement
Despite the picture presented, there are millions of black men who do not fit into the assumptions and negative representations perpetrated by branquitude (whiteness). Dividing to conquer is basic in any system of domination, the formation of solid, healthy, happy and conscious black families of their agency and responsibility towards themselves and their community is the last thing the Brazilian racial structure wants.
However, closer communication between us in a conciliatory and constructive manner is ongoing. I notice a greater interest in the themes about masculinities and how much patriarchy and machismo don’t contemplate us. I perceive and participate in networks of black men aware of their role in the anti-racist struggle, overcoming introjected stereotypes and reaffirming this struggle in other terms, as present parents, loving children, caring brothers, dedicated husbands and confident men in all their human complexity.
This is one of the favorite places I see these men and want to see more and more.
Henrique Restier da Costa Souza holds a degree in Social Sciences from the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), a Master’s Degree in Ethnic-Racial Relations from the Celso Suckow Federal Center of Fonseca (CEFET-RJ) and a working on a Ph.D. in Sociology from the Institute of Social and Political Studies (IESP/UERJ).
 Título da música de Michael Kiwanuka; “Homem negro em um mundo branco” (tradução livre).
 MOORE, Carlos. A Humanidade contra si mesma na busca da sustentabilidade integral: Diversidade, Diferença e Desigualdade no Jogo Social. 2008.
 FANON, Franz. Pele negra máscaras brancas. Salvador: EDUFBA, 2008.
 SOUZA, Rolf Ribeiro de (2013). Falomaquia: Homens negros e brancos e a luta pelo prestígio da masculinidade em uma sociedade do Ocidente. Revista Antropolítica, n.34, p. 35-52.