Actor Érico Bras talks about black love: “It’s important that black men unite with black women”
By Marques Travae
In a Brazil that hides it’s complex of white superiority through the promotion of interracial unions, speaking of the necessity of black men and black women coming together can be seen as revolutionary. What do I mean by that? Interracial unions are supposed to be one of the greatest symbols of racial harmony that a nation can have, aren’t they? Not necessarily. In the case of Brazil, the promotion of interracial unions has long been promoted as a means to eventually erase the black population. Conspiracy? No. FACT. And generally speaking, when one meets prominent black Brazilian men or women, more times than not, their partners will be white.
I started to note this standard back in around 2005 after having read a string of comments several Afro-Brazilian women had made in reference to an Afro-Brazilian singer/songwriter who had recently married a white woman. Surely they’re exagerrating, I thought. But then, year after year, the more familiar I became with Afro-Brazilian entertainers, the more this started to seem true. This really began to sink in after I started spending more time in the city of São Paulo. After a few years, I really began to ponder: where are the black couples? And was I the only one noticing this?
In my interactions with black Brazilians, it was a difficult discussion to even start. One reason was because, if you get into this discussion, even in a circle of Afro-Brazilians discussing strategies to improve the situation of the Afro-Brazilian community, it would be highly likely that some of the folks participating in the conversation would also have white partners. I thought I was tripping at some point. ‘Is no one seeing what’s going on here?’, I often thought to myself. How can so many of these people be speaking of black empowerment with such force on the one hand with such a high percentage of these successful black people not choosing to construct black families and pass this success on to the next generations of black people? It baffled me.
But then some time around around 2013 and 2014, a number of Afro-Brazilian women started addressing the topic. They argued that the persistent choice of prominent and even everyday Afro-Brazilian marrying non-black women was leaving tens and thousands of them alone with no prospects of ever securing long-term relationships. I was meeting black women who had spent most of their adult lives single. And with some of them, their mothers and grandmothers were also single. Black women took the issue to the internet and soon it became a hot topic of discussion. The ‘solidão da mulher negra’, meaning the ‘loneliness of the black woman’ became an endless debate in Afro-Brazilian-centered social network circles with black men and women constantly debating over who was to blame for this generational solitude that black women were experiencing.
It was so strange to me. At a time when Afro-Brazilian celebrities were openly discussing the need for black people to be able to have access to elite, middle and upper class circles and lifestyles that, in Brazil, were ALWAYS dominated by white or near white people, it seemed that 90% (or more) of these people seemed to be “talking black, sleeping white”, as was often said in the African-American community. It seemed to be that contradiction that everyone just casually co-signed on as if to say, “This is how we get down here”. Time and time again, I listened to black Brazilians de-cry racism, racist white people, racial exclusion, etc., “black this” and “black that”, but follow them home and you’d discover that “black this/that” often didn’t apply in their private space.
This phenomenon led me to a conclusion: Any talk of black empowerment in Brazil cannot be taken seriously as long as black Brazilians aren’t willing to marry and pro-create with other. The reasons for this fissure between black men and black women are various, but it starts with the Brazil’s goal of eliminating black people through generational miscegenation.
After having read the best of debates between black men and black women over which side fiends for white skin more, I’ve reached another conclusion: Regardless of which side is to blame, white supremacy has been very successful in undermining the love black men and women have for each other in Brazil. Even rapper Djongo was honest enough to admit that black Brazilians “ended up preferring these (interracial) relationships because we’re used to thinking white is prettier, cleaner.”
A few months ago, I saw this photo online of four African-American men wearing black sweatshirts with white words that “BLACK WOMEN ONLY”. In the late 80s and early 90s, it was common to hear Afrocentric black men and rappers speaking of the necessity of black men loving, honoring and appreciating black women. But since then, we’ve seen a more or less overt attempt of the media machine to do a complete 180 degree turn from America’s racist, segregationist past and start to promote more “diversity” in the form of interracial unions. On YouTube, people have noted this, creating video collages of endless streams of TV commercials that featured interracial couples over the past decade or so. Was America turning into Brazil or attempting to steer Americans in that direction?
Whatever the case, some in the African-American called out what they clearly saw as an attempt of social engineering to make “swirling” even more acceptable than it had already become, at least considering America’s Jim Crow past. Four black men wearing sweatshirts that read “BLACK WOMEN ONLY” seemed to a be a response that some (many?) in the black community weren’t buying the “cream in the coffee” strategy that America seemed to be increasingly promoting.
In Brazil, I would argue that it would be nearly impossible to find black men who would be willing to pose for a photo to be divulged on the internet in which they they were wearing a sweatshirt with such words written boldly across the front. Even if there were black men who thought this way, to openly proclaim and divulge this slogan was a no-no in a Brazilian society that consistently points to America’s historic ban on interracial marriage as the “trump card” that “proves” that the United States is far more racist than Brazil could ever be.
As a general rule, most black Brazilian men are much more likely to proclaim, “amor não tem cor” rather than “black women only”. Which is why I was struck by recent comments made by actor Érico Brás. In interviews a few months back with the people over at the Notícia Preta and Mundo Negro websites, the actor openly spoke about the importance of Afro-centric relationships. I wasn’t even aware, but the actor and his wife, producer, social media influencer and UN Women representative, Kenia Maria, had actually split up for a period after being married for seven years and then gotten back together. Kenia was one of the producers of the recent Globo TV Christmas special, Juntos a Magia Acontece.
The couple had made a name for themselves with a series of video skits posted on YouTube featuring themselves and their black children calling for more black representation in the media and advertising. Brás was quick to speak of the joy of getting back together with the woman of his life, but also knows of the importance that there be more couples like he and Kenia.
For Brás, “It’s important for black men to unite with black women to generate black families and ensure that we are alive, as bodies present in society. But also, to maintain the fluency of black consciousness within the family.”
Brás clearly sees the formation of black couples as more than just a black person falling in love with someone of their own color, and seems to echo the sentiments of his wife from a few years back. After seeing the manner in which many black Brazilian men seemed to break their necks to get with white women, Kenia concluded that marriage between black people in such an environment was more than love and, in fact, a “political act”.
For Brás, Afrocentric couples maintain and construct black families that are conscious of their their blackness and “the struggle”:
“Families formed by black men and black women still leave a hope of preserving black consciousness capable of keeping us alive. An interracial family will never commit to discussing these issues because there, within the family, there is a legal representative of sovereignty, supremacy and non-black ideology.” Brás further stated that “The interracial relationship, it’s detrimental to our existence”, “a factor that destroys the continuity of black people.”
In the black American context, Brás’s words are nothing shocking, but in the Brazilian context, it’s a bold statement. Even when I come across black couples in Brazil, I don’t get the sense that marrying black was a high priority that brought them together. Most of the time, what I see, is two people who got together, liked/loved each other and just happened to be black. I sometimes wonder if some of the black couples I do meet ended up together because neither succeeded in landing a white partner.
After seeing just how deep this generational erasure of dark skin goes, particularly in São Paulo, I started to wonder if the slogan “love has no color” should be altered to say “love has no color (as long as it isn’t black)“. Brás also opined on this worn out slogan. Speaking on the idea/phrase that love has no color, the actor said black people need to be careful with such ideas as, in some ways, they seem to also legitimize the acceptance of black inferiority:
“We need to be careful with people who use the right not to get involved with racial issues, not to militate and spread racist ideas as if it were something banal. An interracial marriage interrupts the flow of the race in its continuity and reinforces the miscegenation. In fact, miscegenation is responsible for the separatism that insists on affirming that there is an inferiority in the black people,” the actor said.
Obviously having given some thought to the topic and what he sees happening in the black community, Brás expressed views that I have never heard a famous black Brazilians say: “Having a black family, afrocentric, is the certainty that we will continue discussing the black conscious within the family. This is important for the family and for society. When we have a black family we are contributing directly to the preservation of black consciousness in Brazilian society,” concluded the artist.
Yes, he said it. Again, it’s one thing coming from the so-called “racist” black American, but hearing a black Brazilian say this openly is almost shocking. Makes me wonder what all of the so-called “palmiteiros” think of this.
It’s great to know that Érico and his wife Kenia are back together. Not only are they a great reference for black Brazilian couples, but they are both active and very open about their committment to black issues. The couple made the list of 100 most influential blacks in the world, organized by Mipad, linked to the United Nations (UN). Hmmm…that’s a little suspect, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Besides Kenia being a defender of black women’s rights in UN Women, she’s been active in the struggle for two decades. Brás has been involved in Bahia’s black movement for a number of years and this militancy often comes across in his work.
Continued success to this couple. Good to see you back together!
With information from Notícia Preta, Mundo Negro and TV e Famosos