Note from BBT: I came across today’s post courtesy of the Pais Pretos (Black Parents) Instagram page I just had to share. “Why?”, you might ask. Well because the post brought forth something that I pointed out several months back. In the ongoing debate on what black Brazilian women labeled as “palmitagem” several years ago, the debate over why so many prominent black Brazilian men choose white women for long-term relationships has raged on this at least about 2013 or 2014. In reality, it’s gone on longer than that.
The debate originally focused on black Brazilian men but then somewhere along the way, I, black Brazilian men started to notice that a large percentage of prominent black Brazilian women also chose white partners for long-term relationships. It was true. Similar to how every time I looked into prominent Afro-Brazilian athletes, musicians, celebrities, professors, businessmen, etc. and nearly every time saw them booed up with a white woman, this was equally true when I looked into the lives of black women in Brazil.
What was the response of black women when this was pointed out? Generally, the response was always the same. Black Brazilian women have white male partners because most black men pass them by in their mad dash to settle down with blonds and brunettes, particularly when they come into a lot of money. I was willing to give this explanation the benefit of doubt because it did seem that about 98% of well to do black Brazilian men were with white women. The logic continued that if this was in fact the case, black women would have to open up their dating options if they wanted to have any chance of getting married. Fair enough.
I still found it a bit strange to find so many black women with white men. Beyond the celebrities and those with college degrees, with the rise of social networks, I started noticing numerous black women who had constructed their social media platforms by speaking on the need for black representation in all areas of Brazilian society. Yet and still, it was becoming very common to find that some of these black women spokespersons who were talking about “black this” and “black that” were sharing their beds with white men. Make no mistake, I have seen so many Afro-Brazilian male militants who “talk black and sleep white” that at a certain point, it was no longer even surprising.
My question was, how many black women also had a certain fetish for white skin that they weren’t willing to admit? Sure, there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of black Brazilian women who say that they are single because black men don’t want them but was I really to believe that NO black woman actually preferred white men as well? It would be foolish to believe that many black women weren’t themselves seduced by the image of the white prince riding in on his white horse to rescue her from a life of solitude. It would be just as foolish to believe that there weren’t tens if not hundreds of thousands of black women who secretly or openly desired a white partner so that her children could come as close to white as possible with “good hair” and fair skin.
An Angolan friend of mine who had lived several years in Rio de Janeiro had worn weary of seeing the endless stream of beautiful black women pursuing and in relationships with the most basic looking white men. He would always say, “Keep that mixing over here, don’t bring it over to Angola!” This same friend made an interesting observation that I had never thought of.
At the end of the 19th century, when Brazil was encouraging and subsidizing millions of European immigrants to come to Brazil to ultimately whiten the country not only throught their sheer numbers but also by having sexual relations with black Brazilians, most black Brazilian men didn’t have the status or resources to mate and marry white women, so who was it in the black population that was participating in interracial sexual unions with these incoming immigrants? It was black women.
Sociologist Florestan Fernandes described the phenomenon of white males in the early 20th century having sexual relations with black women and then abandoning them and the mixed children produced from these relationships. A post from December of 2018 serves as an example of this.
In a story from that post, a black Brazilian woman recalls the history of her family in which her Italian immigrant grandfather came to Brazil and married her mixed race grandmother. The family history revealed that her Italian-born grandfather hated being married and having children with a woman identified as non-white but that there was a reason for this:
“The exchange worked more or less like this: the condition for him to be able to immigrate to Brazil, with a lot of land and a house, was to marry a black woman and reinforce the Brazilian miscegenation plan,” the woman said.
I would imagine this same scenario played out over and over between the late 19th and early 20th century in Brazil. Other studies have pointed out how many black women in fact did hope to enter relationships with white men for the aforementioned reasons. As such, the fact is, both black men and black women have or are participating in the whitening of the country through their choices of white partners with black men recently taking the brunt of the blame for their choices of white women.
But getting back to the point I referred to at the top of this article, since about 2018, I’ve noticed how numerous black Brazilian women celebrities or social media personalities have come out as lesbians and soon go public with their new white women partners. Noticing this, my question was, how is that black men are pointed to as “palmiteiros” when I see that black lesbians often choose white women as their partners?
For years, black women blew up the internet with discussions of the “loneliness of black women” mostly due, in their opinions, to being passed over by black men. But how is that black women, who one would assume would know the pain of loneliness, pass over other black women in lesbian relationships? Something ain’t adding up here. The post below, courtesy of Pais Pretos, seems to confirm what I said in that article.
“The black woman IS down wth the swirl!”: The loneliness of the black lesbian
Courtesy of the Pais Pretos Instagram page
The phrase “mulher preta palmita sim” (“the black woman is down with swirl, yes”) was said by a lesbian black woman in a commentary on one of the texts written by me about interracial relationships.
She said she was tired of being invisible within black feminism, even though she was a black feminist, because she couldn’t speak of her neglected by other black women.
Her voice was silenced, since the debate about affective-sexual loneliness (the emphasis was this, although the loneliness of the black person is more complex) of black women centers on heterosexual relationships, clouding the nuances of the problem.
Below her comment several black lesbiana agreed with her comment.
Saying that black women não palmita (aren’t down with the swirl) (this term ‘palmita’ being used here as a popular synonym of “being in an interracial relationship with a white person”) generates invisibilization and reinforces the myth that all affective-sexual problems of black women are the responsibility of black men who are, according to them, with white women.
However, who would be responsible for the black lesbian’s neglect and who is responsible for the neglect suffered by homosexual black men and trans people?
If only heterosexual black women experienced affective loneliness we could conduct the debate in a heterocentric way.
However, the fact that all other genders and sexual identities of black people also denounce their loneliness points to homolesbian-transphobia at the center of the debate “the loneliness of (heterosexual) black women.
I don’t want to deny that the loneliness of black women exists, I want to bring out the fact that all genders and sexual identities of black people experience loneliness of affection, dengo, care, family quality, etc.
The debate in emphasis on the loneliness of lesbian black women needs to be moved to think about why black women pass over other black women, to propose interventions that guide changes in this reality and contribute, with less heterocentrism, to the debate on the loneliness of black people in our community.
That is why it is the loneliness of black PEOPLE (and not just black women).