“White girls never look at me!” Recent incident on Big Brother Brasil reality show raises questions about the self-esteem of black men
By Marques Travae
A few weeks I announced in a post that this new season of the ever popular Globo TV reality show Big Brother Brasil would have the highest number of black participants in its now 21 seasons. With calls for representation in every realm of Brazilian society, seeing nine black faces on a highly successful program that usually only features a few was the talk of black media.
On social networks, everyone was posting photos of the cast members with some christening the new BBB season as Black Brother Brasil. Needless to say, Afro-Brazilian expectations were high, especially with the victory of last season’s winner, the doctor Thelma Assis.
Well, after about a week, the show hasn’t failed to attract a lot of attention, but that’s pretty normal for BBB. Every season, social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and now Instagram are always full with posts and comments in the hundreds of thousands by people who are glued to their sets watching every development on the show.
But the excitement about this season’s show is attracting attention in ways that many probably didn’t expect. With some of the attitudes and comments being hurled around for all to see, many viewers, including celebrites have expressed a clear disappointment with the shenanigans going on on the show.
As I’m wwaayy behind on my coverage, let me first get into one of first hot topics that became a subject of debate and discussion about a week ago. The situation involved one of the black males featured on the program, the actor and human rights activist Lucas Penteado.
The discussion centered around one of the most popular topics on this blog. Hmmm….What could that be? Well, let me set it up this way. Some years ago, a black man from Rio that was working on his Ph.D in Europe wrote an intriguing text admitting that the phenomenon of palmitagem indeed existed because he had always been an example of it.
While regular readers are surely aware of this term, as it is still not a term that non-Brazilians (and in fact, many Brazilians) have never heard of. Palmitagem is a term that was created probably about 7-8 years ago to describe Afro-Brazilians who have a near obsession for choosing white partners for relationships. In the beginning, the term was generally applied to black Brazilian men who are believed to break their necks and run over 100 black women just to get a shot at the white girl, preferably a blond.
In my view, the term could be applied to both sexes, but there’s no need to get into this now. In terms of Lucas, in the early phases of the new season, he had already lamented about his experiences in affair of the heart as well as the difficulty of being black in a clearly anti-black country like Brazil.
The 24-year old actor also wondered if he might hook up with one of the various women on the show. Although at first, it would have been reasonable to think he could have been talking about any of the ladies, regardless of race, soon a not so subtle streak of palmitagem soon exposed itself.
“I have never been with a white girl in my life. It’s not because I didn’t want to, it’s because it never happened, they don’t look at me very much,” Lucas revealed.
Now, oon the one hand, such a comment may not have been such a big deal, after all, Afro-Brazilians, men and women, often opine about the difficulty of securing long-term relationships in a country in which the standard choice for a romantic partner, apparently among black and white Brazilians alike, are the white woman and the white man.
Even last year’s eventual winner, Thelma, revealed her difficulty with someone accepting her for more than just an affair. It’s common complaint of millions of black women of Brazil.
On the other hand, Lucas lamenting, not that he had never been with a woman but that he had never been with a WHITE woman speaks volumes to the way that white girls and women are placed on a pedestal by Afro-Brazilian men and the lengths they are willing to go to get their hands on one.
The thoughts of Lucas as well as Thelma expose the scars that have affected perhaps millions of black Brazilians in the arena of love. Although Thelma never expressed having any preference for white men, interestingly, she is married to a white man in real life.
Tens of thousands of posts in comments sections and in books and dissertations on the topic reveal the sense of hurt that so many black Brazilian women feel over being consistently passed over by black men in pursuit of their European queen. Sure, he may hook up with her for a few nights, but often times, he won’t want to be seen in public with her.
It’s not me saying this, these are the words of countless black women who have shared this same story over the last several years.
On BBB21, the whole thing started when Lucas started asking participants about their dating preferences and who they might catch their eyes among cast members. Lucas and one of the women on the show, Sarah, soon began to take on the role of Cupids.
Then, when he approached another one of the women, Kerlin, she asked him point blank: “What if I want to catch cupid?”. The question was frame in a way that suggested she might be interested in Lucas, who quickly picked up on the hint. But then, when the young actor tried to make his move, Kerline, a white girl, told him she was just joking, putting him in a rather embarrassing situation in front of millions of viewers.
How did Lucas feel about this? Well, I would imagine that, as he had already expressed the idea that white girls didn’t give him the time of day, this just added tom his insecurities and feelings of neglect. I can’t really say that I feel for him. I mean, if he’s looking for love and women who look like him don’t seem to measure up, I have no sympathy for this.
One of the main problems that I see in the Afro-Brazilian community is the lack of value that black people seem to have for each other. One of the most powerful weapons of Brazilian styled racism is undermining the desire and value of their peers among Afro-Brazilians. I see this over and over, and as I speak, either the day before or day after the incident involving Lucas went down, popualar Bahian singer Leo Santana announced his plans to marry his girlfriend. Care to guess her color?
To top all of this off, Kerline made it pretty clear that she wasn’t really interested in hearing about Lucas’ disappointments in relationships. So, here you have a white woman not only rejecting a black male’s expressions of affection, but flicking him off like a dead fly.
Don’t get me wrong, this is part of the game, but the point that I’m making is that it is symbolic of the hierarchy in Brazil in which any common, everyday white girl can command the affections of any black male she might be interested in while, for the most part, black males aren’t on equal par…unless, of course, he had fame and money.
As I wrote in a recent post about comedian Yuri Marçal, it is rare to ever hear an Afro-Brazilian make say he prefers to date black women. Most will say that “love has no color“, which if coming from a black male in Brazil, often times simply means “I prefer white girls”.
Whenever palmiteiros (swirlers) are questioned about their dating choices, if they don’t utter the cliché that love has no color, they will flip the question and make those asking the question appear to be ‘reverse racists’ by asking “can blacks only date blacks?” Of course not, but on the other hand, a better question would be, “Why do 98% of rich or famous black Brazilian men only date/marry white women?”
It’s a question that contradicts and undermines any demands for black power. The lack of desire to form afrocentric couples and families touches on the fact that many black Brazilians have never learned to love themselves and, in turn, have difficulty loving people who look like them.
The Lucas situation exemplifies the huge interest that many black men have for white women. They seem to have a need to attract this attention. Lucas didn’t say that he had any problems dating black girls, but it is apparent that this isn’t the love he seeks, which in turn subjected him to quite an embarrassing scenario for all of Brazil to see. But it’s not just Lucas.
In successful Brazilian productions like “Era Uma Vez”, the song “Patricinha do olho azul” and “Sou Favela” (see note one), we see situations in which a black male goes through humiliating racist situations to earn the love of a white woman.
And if black men as well as black women cannot feel this value, admiration and appreciation for their own, any talk about black power or black representation cannot be taken seriously. Because, at the root, this mentality confirms that one is comfortable and accepting with/of the very racial hierarchy that demands that he/she worship the dominant representatives in said hierarchy.
1. “Patricinha do olho azul” can be loosely translated as rich/uptown/valley girl with the blue eyes’ while “Sou Favela” means ‘I am favela’ (slum).