Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Dear white people: wearing an anti-racism t-shirt won’t change the system of white supremacy – TV host seems to have forgotten the years of whiteness on her show


TV host Xuxa at left with anti-racism t-shirt. At right, at the height of her career with her co-starsThe Paquitas

TV host Xuxa at left with anti-racism t-shirt. At right, at the height of her career with her co-stars, the song and dance group, The Paquitas

Note from BW of Brazil:This always amazes me. I won’t attempt to point out all reactions and types of white people in terms of the race question because there are simply too many to name. But I will list a few. 1) Those who never even thought about the issue because it simply doesn’t register in their thoughts. 2) Those who that the issue of race is simply a problem of non-whites who complain too much and do nothing to improve their lives. 3) Those who claim to be “color blind”, don’t see race and see everyone as equal. 4) Those who know racial issues exist but don’t see themselves as racists and that they have nothing to do with things that happened in the past. 5) Those who know persons with white skin and European features have clear advantages and they have no problem with it, admit it, love it and take full advantage of it. 6) Those who consistently taken advantage of their whiteness but pretend to care about racism/racial inequality while doing nothing about it. 7) White people who truly ‘get it’ and actually try to tell the truth and/or do their part to end it (in whatever way they feel comfortable doing).

As I said, there are too many to list here and the seven listed are hardly an exhaustive listing. 

I opened today’s text because of something I actually saw sometime back in March or April. I looked at the photo quickly, sighed, rolled my eyes and went on about my business. The photo featured a one-time immensely popular children’s television host who is said to be one of Brazil’s richest women: Maria da Graça Meneghel, better known by her stage name, Xuxa. Meneghel after disappearing from the spotlight for a few years and subsequently departing from the TV network that made her a megastar, Rede Globo, is slowly making more appearances after having signed a new TV contract with one of Globo’s competitors, Rede Record. Xuxa says her new TV program will be modeled after the American TV host Ellen Degeneres. Now to be clear, I have never been a fan of Xuxa’s because I was never part of her target market which was mostly young girls, but I DO find intriguing how her image and career fits into the racial issue. (See here how Xuxa and singing group taught one black woman about racism)

As featured in a previous article, Xuxa’s popularity in the Brazilian media affected all kids, regardless of race, but her whiteness and blondness, as well as her popular co-starring song and dance group, the Paquitas, had devastating affects on the self-esteem of millions of little black girls who never saw their images represented on Xuxa’s stage. Over the years, numerous black Brazilian women, famous and everyday people, have admitted how they grew up watching Xuxa’s various TV programs and dreaming of being a Paquita. Brazil’s continuous denial of a racial problem often wouldn’t allow many to accept that they could never be Paquitas because they were black, but years later, many black women are expressing their consciousness of the reality, including today’s author. Interestingly, Xuxa herself recently appeared on the internet wearing a t-shirt that read “You don’t need to be black to fight against racism”. Hmmm.

2014 presidential candidate seen wearing a

2014 presidential candidate seen wearing a “I’m black” t-shirt

Do tell Ms. Meneghel because I am curious to know what you’re doing to fight this social disease. Surely you can’t believe that simply wearing a shirt with this phrase will do the trick. Perhaps in a climate in which more and more Afro-Brazilians are beginning to understand how white supremacy works you felt the necessity to appear to be a “friend of the negro”. Perhaps you need to attract a large fan base for when you return to television and as black folks are so accustomed to seeing blondes all over the TV, you can deceive them into believing that you’re one of those “good white folks”. I mean, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think that wearing a t-shirt could be as powerful as your three decades on TV in which the extreme whiteness of your programs helped to destroy the development of positive self-images of your millions of black fans, right? The whole t-shirt thing reminds me of another photo I saw online last year. Before the 2014 presidential election season went into full swing, the tucano candidate Aécio Neves was seen wearing a “sou negro” (I’m black) t-shirt. And true to form, when the presidential debates began, he, like the other major candidates, had nothing to say about the racial question. If anything, what I see here is that with the rise of black consciousness, powerful white folks have figured out that they should at least pretend to have concern for a group that have blatantly ignored for decades (centuries?) and that they continue to ignore to this very day. Neither Xuxa or Aécio fool me, but it’ll intriguing to see how many black faces pop up on Xuxa’s show in more than a role of a stage prop. Don’t hold your breath for any changes!

Xuxa, can we talk about the absence of black Paquitas?

by Luciana Bento

Xuxa posted a photo on her Facebook wearing a t-shirt of a campaign against racism. It’s not today that she’s questioned about the absence of black Paquitas. I, that never thought I would talk about Xuxa here, am writing an open letter to her.

Can we talk about the absence of black Paquitas?

TV host Xuxa surrounded by The Paquitas

TV host Xuxa surrounded by The Paquitas

I grew up watching your programs. I grew up dancing to your songs. I grew up thinking that having cabelo longo-loiro-liso (long, straight, blond hair) was one of the most marvelous things in the world. I grew up thinking that those girls with the long, straight, blond hair from your program were the prettiest and the happiest.

I grew up seeing how different I was from that. I grew up black, with cabelo curto e crespo (short and kinky/curly hair).

You and the image that your program always passed on contributed much to my formation. You helped to develop the low self-esteem of thousands of black girls. They were important for black girls to perceive that our place was not on TV.

Now you dress in a t-shirt, making a face of indignation and saying that you don’t need to black to fight against racism. It must be easy for you to fight against something that you helped to construct for so many years.

The Paquitas

The Paquitas

At the same time that I grew up learning “my place” in society from you, a bunch of non-black people grew up learning how to discriminate against and exclude us from you.

I don’t know what led you to dress in this t-shirt and take this photo, but more than this will be necessary so that all the generations that were negatively influenced by your programs can get this message.

Besides this, your power of influence is less and less. Only a photo with t-shirt against racism will not delete what years and years of the daily programming on free TV constructed.

Can we talk about the absence of black Paquitas?

“Xuxa attributes to Marlene Mattos the absence of black Paquitas”

In a conversation with some fans, you were asked about this and you attributed the blame to Marlene Mattos. Xuxa, this was very ugly. You are a woman. A lady. You were an adult woman most of the time that you hosted your programs. Don’t try to make us believe that you didn’t agree with all of this. You were not simply a puppet in your director’s hands. Don’t try to attribute exclusively to a black woman the blame for the show of racism that you presented on TV. Assume your attitudes and don’t hide behind a black woman because every time you have the opportunity to make choices to change. If you didn’t do it was because you didn’t want to. (1)

Besides that, each time that you respond with irritation and harshness to this type of question and attribute the blame to a black woman, you try to re-enforce the idea that the blame for racism is of blacks themselves. Is this how you plan to fight racism?

Black dancer Adriana Bombom appears in yellow dress

Black dancer Adriana Bombom (yellow) was later added to the show but was clearly not a Paquita

“Look, we aren’t racists, I even have a black slave stage assistant!”

Ah, but you put a black woman on your program. Can we talk about what that was putting a black woman on your program but not as a Paquita?

Because of this is very important. In an attempt to appease the criticism your program started including the participation of a black woman that couldn’t be considered a Paquita and clearly was made differentiated by her clothes, her treatment and in the attributions in the program. In status. A black woman that every moment was shown in a sexualized way, stereotypes, that was exhibited all the time to “prove” that you all are not racists. “Look, we aren’t racist, I even have a black slave stage assistant!” (Adriana) Bombom was put there to be a “silent one” on this issue. And it worsened the situation.

It’s not only the image of a public person that matters, it’s also that person’s attitudes. Maybe because of this, because of this distance between image and attitude, various people that grew up watching you on TV didn’t let their children come near anything that bear your mark.

Image of black girls dressed as Paquitas that circulated online

Image of black girls dressed as Paquitas that circulated online

We can try to say that everything that you were or represent doesn’t matter and today it really doesn’t matter to the new generations. But for the children of the past various initiatives of representation were necessary so that the image that you created were deconstructed. Last year, for example, in an exposition of photos about black identity, the photo of the black girls dressed in Paquita clothes was one of the most divulged.

I can’t let my daughters grow up influenced by the excluding and racist reality of your programs, films and DVDs. I am proud to say that the girls don’t even know you are or were.

You are a lady. You already have the maturity to know if it’s suitable or not what they tell you to do. The excuse that it was the assessor/director/entrepreneur that decided this doesn’t cut it. You can alone perceive the ridiculous role that you played participating in a campaign against racism being the symbol of racism against black girls from 1980s to the 2000s.

Not that your opinion of today is as important as it was before. But, wanting to or not, you were part of my childhood and the childhood of thousands of black girls that today are mothers and other black girls and boys. Can it be that it’s not the time to accept your fault in all of this? Can it be that it’s not time to speak openly about the issue? Your denial and irritation when someone brings up this theme only makes us perceive how much you always agreed with the absence of black Paquitas on your program.

Do you really want to fight racism? Do your part.

From a mãe preta (black mother).

Source: A mãe preta

Note

1. I would have to agree on this point. I simply don’t believe that if Xuxa, who was earning millions and making millions for Globo TV at the time, wouldn’t have really wanted to increase racial diversity on her program, it couldn’t have been done. The Brazilian media is dominated by a “dictatorship of whiteness” and black people who work in the media know this. Having had discussions with persons who work in Brazil’s advertising market, I can attest to the fact that the power structure, product makers and entrepreneurs don’t want to see too many black people representing their products. As such, I’m more inclined to think that if Marlene Mattos wanted to continue working in this environment, she would have to “get with the program”, which was and continues to be almost completely white. In reality, this could also apply to Xuxa, who could have been faced with the choice. If she truly wanted racial diversity on her show (which I don’t believe), she could make a fuss about it and possibly be powered out of her position or kept her mouth shut and continued earning multi-millions.

5 comments on “Dear white people: wearing an anti-racism t-shirt won’t change the system of white supremacy – TV host seems to have forgotten the years of whiteness on her show

  1. wjrevere
    June 2, 2015

    Whites built Brazil and America.
    The Irish Catholics were enslaved at a higher rate than African slave blacks in both lands.
    Blacks have their OWN Nations and continent in Africa and look at the state of them! Look at every inner city in America that is 50% greater black populace for heaven sake.

    YOU call it white supremacy, but whites built that land and nation.
    blacks cut suger cane and picked cotton but they sure as hell didnt build it.
    And now you have the audacity to bitch about the system when you have the most mineral rich continent in the world that is still 3rd world with illiterate blacks living in mud huts?
    Whites are teaching blacks to catch rain water in the rain forest aka Haiti. You cant make this stuff up. Black people Are funnt, though.

    • gatasnegrasbrasileiras
      June 2, 2015

      Ridiculous! The state if black communities throughout the Diaspora is a lack of control of their own resources. In the US, numerous cities had vibrant communities that were self-sufficient until whites decided to destroy them! Read your history! Black America hasn’t bee the same that these communities were destroyed and the exploitation of the black dollar hasn’t ended since! The US continues to segregate black people but the integration of the black dollar has led to its demise! I won’t debate this because when you’re ignorant of the facts, a debate isn’t worth it!

      • JHT
        June 3, 2015

        I agree with you in part. I actually desperately want to believe whites are to blame. Some days I simply need to believe because the alternative is too painful. But which cities and when exactly are you referring to? When did whites destroy them? I am ignorant of these facts,. please share!

        The difficulty I have is that no matter how we put it, we also had the chance to develop technology to fight and we didn’t. Was it innocence? Ignorance? Incompetence? The fact is that blacks let to be attacked and conquered by technologically superior societies (European) and the effects will be felt for the next thousand years.

  2. Heg
    June 2, 2015

    “Don’t try to attribute exclusively to a black woman the blame for the show of racism that you presented on TV.”

    Exclusively certainly not, but it was common knowledge Ms. Mattos called the shots in Xuxa’s program. And than, not hard to believe she was able to climb the ladder acting as “capita do mato”.

  3. Mouschi
    December 10, 2015

    I want to point out that Xuxa had a black Paquita on her USA show in 1993 (Natasha Pearce, she went on to become a successful actress and singer, she’s performed with Diana Ross and Lionel Richie). She also had the Garotas do Zodiaco from Planeta Xuxa who were similar to the Paquitas but more diversified. Unfortunately these gestures didn’t make up for the overall lack of representation and diversification in her programs.

    I am a fan of Xuxa, but I agree that a small move such as having a black Paquita would have been an invaluable statement to her viewers. However, I don’t think it’s fair to hold her solely responsible. Since her show went on the air in 1986 she expressed her frustration over lack of creative control, so the story about Marlene Mattos not allowing a black Paquita is not far-fetched. Marlene was very controlling over the selection process for Paquitas and went on record at the time as saying that she refused to hire an overweight Paquita, and Paquitas who gained weight were put on suspension until they lost it. I’m not saying that Xuxa is blameless, she absolutely could have done more, but I place more weight on her attitudes and actions now rather than those from twenty years ago.

    There is a book “Xuxa: The Mega-Marketing of Gender, Race, and Modernity” by Amelia Simpson which discusses the issue of race, Xuxa and Brazil at great length. It’s a really interesting read.

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