Note from BW of Brazil: Social networks these days are just as fast at sharing/reporting on the latest news as the mainstream media. And more, these same social networks have the power to make any particular story or the online community’s opinion on that story a news item in itself. I’ve seen this happen too many times than I can remember. A perfect example is the story that blew up like a fire cracker last Monday.
I was sitting in a restaurant in downtown São Paulo when I took a look at my WhatsApp messages and first saw a message from a friend on this particular topic and in following, I saw that people in one of my WhatsApp groups also talking about the same subject. As it turns out, popular rapper Karol Conka had published a photo via her Instagram showing her with boyfriend, a white man, who was a member of her band.
The story was so hot that Karol Conka’s name became a hot trending item on Twitter in Brazil for day. And judging from the shear quantity and tone of the comments, it was apparent that many of the rapper’s followers were none too pleased to see an artist that they considered one of their representatives being hugged up with a white man. “There goes another one” sums up one of the sentiments of some of Conka’s fans as they begrudged the fact that yet another prominent black entertainer was “down with the swirl”.
A similar thing happened back in April when actress Erika Januza posted a photo with her new flame on Instagram back in April. So, if you’re new here and are not quite understanding what’s going on here, fasten your seatbelt because we’re about to get into it. Just to put you in the know, as I explained in a recent article on the terminology, words deriving from the root word “palmito”, meaning ‘hearts of palm’ have become the chosen terms that black folks that may be defined as Brazil’s black consciousness community use to define black people who apparently have a predilection for white skin when the time comes for them to choose a romantic partner. When someone is actively participating in swirling, they are said “to palmitar” (verb), while “palmitagem” defines the phenomenon, with “palmiteiro” and “palmiteira” being the terms used to define a black male or black female who is believed to have a fever for white skin or is in a relationship with a white person. In the piece below, I will weigh in with my thoughts with “notes” from time to time. Now that you’re up to snuff, let’s get into this.
Rapper Karol Conka faces accusations of hypocrisy and “palmitagem” after going public with her relationship with a white man
With information from M de Mulher, E Online and Hypeness
Karol Conka is being heavily criticized on social networks. Karol, who made a single in honor of slain rapper Sabotage, went public with her dating music producer Thiago Barromeo and received criticism for their differing skin tones.
After posting a romantic photo next to her beloved, who is also a guitarist for her band, last Sunday, 4, on Instagram; and ended up being called a “palmiteira” by some web users. The term “palmiteira” (feminine) or “palmiteiro” (masculine) is used by some black Brazilians to define when a black woman or man is in a relationship with a white person.
“I confess that she was one of the last black artists I expected to be a palmiteira. Disappointment consumes me, especially now that I am cleaning out palmiteiros from my Insta(gram),” wrote one user.
“This palmitagem really surprised me,” said one follower. “We left the senzala (slave quarters), but the senzala did not leave us,” wrote another. “What power is it that whites have to capture the best blacks??? The status it attracts, right?”, wrote another user. “And the ideal of the race ideal is in full swing…”, wrote another.
The comments led to the topic becoming one of the highest trending discussions on Twitter of that particular day.
“I give it five months for some scandal to come out in the media involving aggression and he’s on TV crying saying he’s sorry,” wrote a follower. “If it’s to palmitar, I palmitarred,” commented another follower, as if it were the singer’s song “Tombei”. ”What is that smell? The smell of Hypocrisy!” another fan judged. Still another of her followers wrote, “My God, the racial concept in Brazil is just blah blah blah. Is it really impossible to see empowered (?) artists giving continuity to our race? You have the scream and you don’t scream. I wish you luck, but what force this is that you’re weak in these moments.”
The comments questioning Conka’s mate selection were posted in numerous social networks. Below, is a sample of what some of her disappointed fans wrote on the rapper’s Instagram profile.
Translation of Instagram comments above
Zulu: All peoples relate to each other, including ours. But only ours finds it immoral to prioritize this. Hehehe Jews marry whom? And Asians? Oh yeah, but black people always have to give space to distribute the little we have with the colonizers. We left the senzala (slave quarters), but the senzala didn’t leave us.
The Prince: I SMELL A PALMITEIRA
Lucas: She’ll give birth to another branco mestiço (white baby of mixed race)
Toma: Karol Conka, palmitar, (singer) Glória Groove, palmitar, (philosopher) Djamila (Ribeiro), palmitar, people…the list should decrease, not increase.
Chooco: And with the discourse of “love has no color” we continue to whiten and lose our identity…
Cleber M: I’VE ALREADY STOPPED FOLLOWING (HER). YOU CAN STAY CALM.
Cleber M: YOU SHOW YOURSELF OFF BIG TIME AS AN EMPOWERED BLACK WOMEN, YOU MAKE SPEECHES FOR THE FREEDOM OF THE BLACK WOMAN FAVELA (SLUM) INHABITANT, THEN YOU BELIEVE AND GO ON THINKING: I THINK I FOUND A BLACK LEADER OF THIS GENERATION, SHIT, THEN YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND THERE’S THE EMPOWERED WOMAN NESTLED IN THE ARMS OF THE OPPRESSOR, I GIVE UP, AND LONG LIVE LÁZARO RAMOS AND TAÍS ARAÚJO.
Bru: Oh people! (If) you don’t want to be disappointed, follow the black Americans!!! LOL
Eduardo: She’s the Nega of Borel lol. Then I want to see them calling black men palmiteiros lol. Love has no color lol.
Fabi: It doesn’t even surprise me anymore…because every famous black really only dates a white.
Karol, however, was keen to rebut the comments with an indirect one. Without speaking directly about the subject, the rapper made it very clear that even though she is a public figure, nobody knows everything about her life, especially as a black woman.
“Good morning to you who work, take care of your own life and do not depend on other people’s opinions to be happy. Ah, good morning to you too, who preaches freedom but doesn’t know its meaning, I wish you the light of wisdom. I know the pain and delight of being who I am and no one will ever know. I don’t waste my time waiting for what doesn’t come, I just LIVE MY LIFE”.
In terms of the topic itself, one can sense various viewpoints, but there were two in particular. Those who see amor preto (black love) as a political act and defend Afrocentric couples. And those favorable to interracial couples and who don’t consider it an aggravating factor in the fight against racism.
The search for relações aforcentradas (Afrocentric relationships) is, to some extent, for defense against racism. Julia Bispo told Cult Magazine that she was barred at the birthday party of her boyfriend, who was white.
“They said that a black woman catches the eye of a European. Sometimes I think I’m rejecting my roots or cheating on the black movement for liking a white guy. Do you know Sam White from Dear White People? I find myself in the same situation as her,” she says.
By contrast, black women have suffered and still suffer from black men who, as they ascend in life, appear publicly with the stereotype of the branca loira dos olhos azuis (white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes).
To be sure, Conka also received much support from other fans who rejoiced in her finding love and saw the issues raised by detractors as senseless. Below are just a few comments of support that appeared on Twitter.
Translations of Twitter comments above
taiane: karol conka is dating a white guy and everybody went there to get on her case the debate on palmitagem (if you can call it a debate) is QUITE complex and I consider it a delicate matter. BUT MY GOD, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? there’s a black woman feeling loved, that’s enough
carine: ”because a black relating to a white it’s palmitaring, popopo pipipi” they have rebelled so much with the movement of segregation that without noticing, they are doing the same, with this standard of black being with black and white with white
daniele: How is a black woman going to date a black guy if the black men are all after the white girls?????????????
Nanay: She’s right. The solidão da mulher negra (loneliness of the black woman) sent memories!! She’s being loved and that’s the main thing. Let’s not forget that black men when they rise socially (or not), they are the first to palmitar!
Patricia: That is the problem, it seems that society does not accept a black woman feeling loved. We must wait for the black guys being the vast majority who don’t accept us. Amor não tem cor (love has no color) when it comes to black man with a white woman, otherwise we are criticized.
Note from BW of Brazil: So, let me put the above comments into their proper context. First of all, when I first received news that Conka had gone public with her relationship, I was asked what I thought when I heard the news. At the time I expressed my view that, similar to the Erika Januza situation, in the back of my mind I already knew that Karol would likely connect with a white man. Why? Well, one, as so many previous articles on this topic have pointed out, one can count on a few fingers or a hand the number of prominent Afro-Brazilian entertainers that have black partners. It seems to be the rule for not only entertainers, but also among educated and upwardly mobile black Brazilians, male or female. Two, when I saw her coming on strong with a white male in her music video for the song “Tombei”, I imagined that she would probably end up choosing a white partner.
Now, you could ask why I felt that way when it was just a music video. After all, in TV shows, films and music videos, artists are simply playing roles, right? I didn’t see it that way. I justify my viewpoint by my first point (most upwardly mobile blacks partner with whites) and the fact that in most of the aforementioned genres, black artists usually emulate the interracial romance portrayed on TV, film or music video in their real lives (see here, here or here). Very rare are the cases when you see a black entertainer paired with a white partner on screen and not following suit in their personal lives. The only black Brazilian artist that I consistently see regularly feature black actors and relationships in her music videos is singer Luciane Dom. While Dom has made clear her black identity politics in her videos, the overwhelming majority of artists don’t and even when they do, it doesn’t necessarily mean that AREN’T “down with the swirl”.
The third reason why I simply wasn’t surprised by Conka’s new boyfriend is that it is simply easier for black artists to hook up up with white partners. Brazil’s history has long promoted the idea that a black Brazilian experiencing social ascension should choose a partner that signals their “arrival”, and as Brazil’s middle-upper classes are almost exclusively white, that in turn generally means the choice of a white partner. Most of the classic studies in the field of social sciences pointed this out over five decades ago. Even in an area of music that one would assume black artists would have an upper hand, Hip Hop, whites often, if not usually, have an easier path to success. Choosing a black partner in Brazil can actually be seen as a “political act” when the norm is to choose white, especially when one reaches a certain level of success. I noticed this years ago, but it has only been in recent times that a parcel of the black community began to voice their concern over the issue.
The debate over Karol Conka’s new love and the issue of the so-called “palmitagem”, Brazil’s historic desire to whiten its population through miscegenation, as well as a rising discourse among young black Brazilians on the need for black men and women to start favoring themselves in romantic relationships has been a popular theme for a few years now. The above comments are just a sample of endless debates that have been going on in online Afro-Brazilian communities for more than a decade, going all the way back to the defunct Orkut, Google’s entrance into the world of social networks.
The above comments really say it all. In their words, one can note a certain “there goes another” reaction as well as a specific disappointment in seeing an artist such a Karol Conka, who has spoken on black empowerment and representation in interviews and in her work since her debut, seemingly contradict this stance by involving herself with a white man. The reaction to Conka’s new love shows that many black Brazilians are starting to question why there seems to be a problem with black Brazilians having relationships with their own. It is a legitimate question considering Brazil’s eugenics experiment and open proclamation of the desire of a whiter Brazil in coming centuries.
Another opinion that I’ve noticed becoming common place in this discussion is the idea that opposite from Brazil’s long-celebrated embrace and promotion of miscegenation, many who have followed this issue for some time and notice how many black Brazilian public figures seem to be “down with the swirl” (again, such as Nego do Borel in the photo below) are seeing African-American stars as better models for black representation as it is still the overwhelming norm to see African-American male and female public figures marry other African-Americans.
We also see a rising identification of the idea that other races/ethnic groups practice in group pairing while for blacks, there seems to be an expectation that they open themselves up to miscegenation. It reminds me of the some of the reactions I read to a TV commercial featuring an all-black family around this time last year.
In terms of the support for Conka, I found one of the comments to be problematic. Enough black women have expressed disappointment in being passed over by black men for white women to simply dismiss the phenomenon as isolated incidents, but I disagree with the comment that read “Amor não tem cor (love has no color) when it comes to black man with a white woman, otherwise we are criticized” because black women have made it clear that they don’t believe that love doesn’t have color and it is the thousands of comments and blog posts of black women calling out an apparent practice of abandonment of the part of black men when it is black women who are responsible for making this an issue in the first place. What I see here is that black men, and even some black women, are pointing out the fact that it is also possible for black women to palmitar.
To address these issues, on Facebook, as reported here a few years ago, a community known as AfroDengo was created for black Brazilian men and women who were interested in finding love within the black community. In response to a Brazil that has long presented itself as a country of racial harmony without the pitfalls of racial tensions of other countries, particularly the United States, a new consciousness that sees the other side of the dynamics of miscegenation, racial genocide, is emerging.
While it is true that the cliché of “amor não tem cor”, meaning ‘love has no color’, continues to be the dominant viewpoint of Brazil’s black population, the fact that a rebuttal to this ideology has appeared signals a change in the thinking of a certain parcel of the community that is no longer buying into what some see as one the strongest pillars of the racial democracy myth (see here and here).
Over the past two decades, a number of factors have awakened black Brazilians to begin questioning the mythology on racial issues that has long maintained Brazil’s image both within the country and abroad. A few of those factors include affirmative action policies which have given hundreds of thousands of black Brazilians the opportunity to achieve a college education which, just a few decades ago was nearly impossible. The debate over quotas, the rejection of the system by many Brazilians, and the entrance into a mostly white environment, have awaken in black Brazilians an understanding of racial issues in a Brazil whose racism is at times more complex to understand than that practiced in the United States.
The rise of black businesses, black events, specifically black consumer products and a supposed black middle-class have also played a huge factor in the rise of racial identity politics. And with the rise of the influence and importance of social networks, more and more Afro-Brazilians are participating in the conversation.
But alongside this rise in black consciousness and the demand for black representation in a country that has historically excluded black people from nearly every realm of society, has also come a seemingly contradictory rise in interracial relationships, with statistics showing that black men were increasingly seeking, dating and marrying white women. This rise in black men seeking love across racial lines left tens of thousands of black women feeling abandoned and not having options for long-term relationships and reproduction. Taking their disappointments to the web led to the popularization of the term the “solidão da mulher negra“, meaning ‘loneliness/solitude of the black woman’.
On social media, blogs, YouTube, websites, etc., black women were flooding the internet with their gripes about not being able to secure relationships, with black men often being the target of their scorn. For the first few years, it seemed that the conversation was dominated by the black female voice. With the passing on time, black men, who were largely been silent on the issue, began to jump into the conversation, which led to a debate. The responses of black men who decided to discuss the issue could be broken down into a few perspectives. 1) Love has no color. 2) Black women are just as guilty of swirling. 3) Black men pursue white women after having been rejected by black women. 4) ALL black Brazilians swirl (see here and here). 5) Admission of the indoctrination process of palmitagem.
What is intriguing about the discussion today is that it is becoming increasingly common to see black men and women analyzing their romantic choices on a deeper level and coming to an understanding that perhaps Brazil’s racist culture has played in role in manipulating them into a preference for white partners, white people and whiter children, thus leading to an active participation in the desired erasure of the black population through successive generations of interracial unions. Indeed, love DOES have color and that color is white, as a number of people have concluded after developing a deeper understanding of Brazil’s eugenics project.
Below is a sample of what the conversations in the Afrodengo community look like these days. The debate went down a few weeks before the Karol Conka controversy came to light but is very revealing in how a growing number of black Brazilians are thinking in terms of interracial unions. I will weigh in with comments along the way.
Py: Please, I am a little confused by the history of such palmiteiros. Can anyone explain me to such a situation? I’ve seen a lot of controversy here.
Carolina: Palmiteiros are the pretxes (black men and black women) who neglect their own blacks and curl up with the colonizer. There are a lot of issues on this subject. The black man’s palmitagem is part of the construction of structural racism and with it comes the solitude of the black women. There are some amazing texts talking about both. I recommend the site Geledés.
Carolina: Dude, palmiteiro is as known as the night of Paris.
Carolina: Funny that the one who uses the stage name “NEGO do Borel” but I never saw him with one for blacks to see
Teka: Carolina, Pink Money and Palmitar is what he knows how to do
Teka: Carolina, ah but isn’t it he who praises even the white woman’s feces?
Note: Nego do Borel is a funk singer who has been taking a lot of heat in the past year or so. Besides becoming the target of the “there goes another one” debate over palmitagem, he was also criticized for apparently attempting to exploit the so-called “pink dollar”, the buying power of the LGBT community, by appearing as a very effeminate character in one of his music video and kissing a male model. The term “nego”, which is part of his stage name, is another form of saying “negro”, with Borel being the name of the community in Rio from which he is from. Thus, his name would be translated as “Negro from Borel”. In a previous comment, someone labeled Conka as “Nega do Borel” not meaning she is a black woman from Borel, but rather accusing her of following the same dating standard as Nego do Borel.
Carolina: Tamiris, YYESSS … But I really think the palmitagem of the black woman is more a consequence than imposed like that of the black man, sis. I don’t know, there are several black women over 30/40 who are stranded waiting for their Deuses de Ebano (Black Gods), and there are those who refuse to die alone and what they have left are the colonizers
• Tamiris: Carolina, there I disagree, black girl … I’m stranded and don’t use it as an excuse to palmitar … I prefer to be alone in this case
• Carolina: Yessss, sister. But each his own, right.. I’m not saying that black woman don’t palmitar, I love it myself but all my ex boyfriends are black
• Mariana: Tamiris, I don’t, dear! I have no need to palmitar, what happens is that the everyone wants either a black man or black woman like (actor) Michael B. Jordan or (singer) Iza, or a deconstructed black person forgetting that we started this process a short time ago…For me, love does indeed have color! It is a political act and whoever likes to palmitar, can!
• Tamiris: Mariana, I agree with you black girl….I only wanted to emphasize because the woman wants to throw it in the face that a man palmitar and woman doesn’t palmitar and do get with white men because they are neglected and the only way out is to get with him …. I don’t believe this. Black men and women get with whites because they want them for status. I’m alone but I don’t fool around with white men
• Cristina: Motivations are infinitely misplaced when it involves palmitagem/gender. What “drives” a woman to get involved with a white man is completely different using the collective as a reference. What involves personal motivations doesn’t change the structures
• Ariane: Oh people, I’ll talk about myself now. I’ve never had a serious relationship, and I’ve always preferred to be with black men (And look how much I’ve heard from the black man the famous phrase “I don’t want a serious relationship” and soon after they show up with a white girl, it’s extraordinary). Actually I only got with a white man once, and I’ll tell you, I just don’t see myself alone for the rest of my life. So if black men don’t want to take on a relationship with me, I’m just not willing to sit for the rest of my life just in order not to palmitar.
• Michael: Mariana, You said exactly what I think about this subject
• Janaina: Ariane, exactly what I’ve been thinking for some time!! I’m tired! I will not be planted waiting for them!!
• Erika: A dark-skinned black woman spends her life alone and being replaced by a white girl. Then comes a new light-skinned standard, usually with the son of a white wanting to back up black men saying that black woman palmita. Ahh so that everyone has realized the tactic.
• Natália: A black woman does not palmitar precisely because of the loneliness of the black woman. This text elucidates this very well.
• Aline: It’s like this.. are you a defender of “love has no color” why are you joining an afrocentrado (Afrocentric) group?
• Suh: Every second that passes I see that there are a lot of people in the wrong group, who just came in here to get likes is not possible. Every comment I see such as love has no color, as the group name is Afrodengo. For God’s sake!”
• Cacau: The thing is simple, since you were a kid you turn on the TV, there is the white, being the main, being a model, being stylish, you open the magazine, there is the white with a nice house, nice clothes, car of the year, you watch the movie there is white, in the fairy tale, there is the white … We grow up in the illusion that hooking up with a white partner will guarantee you safety and social ascension, you grow up dreaming that a white prince will appear, the black man grows up dreaming that he will get a car of the year, a great house and a blonde… We dream about them at certain stages of our life, they don’t dream about us. When we talk about a close relationship, we are running into a structure that places black women always associated with bondage and easy sex, and black men with animalistic behavior, lack of sensitivity and gross sexuality (the black man is seen as being without sexuality only sex as Fanon already said). To be Afrocentric is recognizing your beauty by loving your equals, resisting a society that doesn’t want you to exist, to love or strengthen you, to help your partner goup on a podium with you because you know his/her walk has been as arduous as yours. But to palmitar is easier, generates fewer questions, less questioning, the family thinks it will lighten, society looks and thinks: “this black guy has done well in his life, he/she is already with a blonde”. We have to think about who put in us this desire to just feel accepted with a white partner, who taught us to hate our features?
• Anderson: She said it all.
• Bruno: Cacau, I wish other people had this consciousness
• Cacau: It’s hard, I usually say that unfortunately in Brazil, racism is a more than perfect crime, as a person has (no) notion of the violence that is afflicted on her if she has no notion of who she is and why all this is so.
• Moab: Cacau, Japanese marries Japanese, Italian with Italian, Jew with Jew and blacks have to mix?
•Janaina: I’ll stay here seated, waiting.
• Cacau: Moab, I don’t know if you understood me well, in my text I explained how a system that is forcing black people to compulsorily whiten ourselves… I am not advocating palmitagem, quite the contrary, I think the need for some to palmitar is just another tentacle of Brazilian racism.
• Cacau Borges I am from a mixed family (unfortunately), my white relatives made me sick, I would not want my children to go through this. And it’s my right!
• Claudinho: No need for more. She nailed it.
• Rosangela: Moab, Dear, outside Brazil, there are also mixes destroyed, and you think you’re not a mix of races also??? Hahaha all of us are, sad to know this now then, my dear wakes up with this little speech that people are forced to relate to people of the same race came too late and experiences the diversity lol and without mimimi (whining)…let’s let people be happy and free to relate to anyone they want in the 21st century… this blah blah… Jesus Christ..
• Cacau: Rosangela, No one is forcing anyone, my dear, Moab, you only spoke of ethnic groups who do not like to mix, and questioned why is our choice of not doing questioned and theirs not! Just that. Now I’m not going to your house at 6 am on a Saturday with Malcolm X’s book explaining why assimilation can end a culture, or stick a gun in anyone’s face, that’s an individual decision.
• Moab: Cacau, exactly!
• Rosangela: You all are a joke with this talk
Note: These types of conversations on this topic seem to pop up in Afro-Brazilian online communities at least once every few months, but in reality, they probably happen even more frequently. As I don’t always have time to follow social networks, there’s no telling how often these conversations go down. In the above comments, taken from one of the Afrodengo communities, we saw a number of different views come to light. Many black women argue that, in fact, black women in Brazil don’t palmitar due to preference, but rather due to necessity, as many waiting for a black man to come along end up giving up and in order not go on being single for the rest of their lives, open up their dating options. I don’t deny that this in fact happens, but I am also aware that more black women palmitar than will actually admit it. As I’ve written previously, white supremacy and the white standard of beauty affects ALL black people and it isn’t realistic to believe that black women aren’t affected by this imposition. We also see that some black women refuse to date white, even risking being alone.
Another intriguing perspective that I’ve noted to be common among black women is the idea of people becoming “deconstructed”. In the case of black women dating white men, often times the woman will declare that, although racism/white supremacy clearly exists in Brazil, their particular white partner has deconstructed any racist views he may have had. I don’t think this is always the case as, over the years, I have seen many scenarios in which whites can maintain racist views while dating and marrying black partners and having children with them. This idea of deconstruction is also applied to black persons who see themselves as awakening, “breaking the spell” and freeing themselves from the Eurocentric standards of which their minds had been held captive for many years. Often times, this leads to such persons joining groups such as Afrodengo in an attempt to continue the “cleansing process” by connecting with a person of their race.
Another common experience among black women alluded to above is when black men hook up with a black woman for a casual fling or just sex, claim not being ready for a relationship but then proclaiming his love for a white girl soon after. Many black women have expressed this experience online and I’ve also had numerous black women personally share this experience with me. One of these women recently got involved with a French man spending time in São Paulo, doing research.
In following these discussion, I’ve often expressed the fact that, although the numbers of those seeking Afrocentric relationships is growing, it still represents a very small minority of black Brazilians. I guess we could say that millions more need to be “deconstructed” in this sense. But the frustrating part for those in deconstruction is when they find others in Afrocentric groups (with the declared objective of helping black people who want to get together meet) still coming with the perspective of “love has no color”. The obvious point here is, if one still feels that love has no color, perhaps an Afrocentric group is not the place for them. Put more bluntly, one is free to palmitar if they so choose, but do it elsewhere.
So much can be said about the rising anger of many in the black community when the topic is palmitagem. But what I found particularly strange in the past week since the story went viral is the silence of Afro-Brazilian media on the issue. There are a number of important, popular online black media outlets that I follow daily and NOT ONE OF THEM discussed this issue this week. I noted that one of these sites in fact posted a piece on palmitagem but the article didn’t specifically address the Karol Conka situation. The fact that this became a top trending item online and no black media outlet addressed the topic is very revealing in the way that this issue is still difficult to address in a Brazil that continues to proclaim miscegenation as one of the factors that “proves” the country is free from racial conflict.
What explains this silence on the part of the black Brazilian media? Is there a fear of being labeled radicals who are attempting to bring American style racial politics to a Brazil where (they think) it doesn’t belong? During the 2018 March of Black Consciousness, one group marched among the participants with a huge banner that read “Miscigenação também é genocídio”, meaning ‘miscegenation is also genocide’. The banner was roundly criticized in media reports and essays that accused those who marched with the banner of being radical, reverse racists.
In the numerous conversations I’ve had with activists of the Movimento Negro, I rarely meet anyone who is willing to speak on how the various ways that widespread miscegenation can undermine anything that black Brazilians are attempting to achieve on a collective level. Truth be told, many of these activists themselves have children who are mixed or nearly white, which is a possible reason for why there is such a silence on the issue. In Brazil’s social environment, it would seem impossible for the moderate, integrationist Movimento Negro to discuss the negative side of interracial relations in the same manner as a number of black, United States-based activists have proclaimed since early in the 20th century. While it may be true that many Afro-Brazilian activists and leaders look to figures such as Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey for inspiration, they all seem to stop short on addressing the miscegenation issue, even as so many voices in social networks are actively discussing it. From my perspective, if no one with an influential voice is willing to discuss this huge elephant in the room, all of the protesting against racism, the demand for more black representation in all areas of society and the call for the practice of “black money” is a huge waste of time as every generation of black people comes closer to the very white phenotype that this social movement is protesting against.
But even with this clear shortcoming, there does seem to be a hint of light at the end of the tunnel. Although I have read of very few Afro-Brazilian activists speak on the long-term effects of widespread miscegenation, a number of black Brazilians in social networks are beginning to point out the effects of high rates of miscegenation and interracial marriages on black identity and also sharing their experiences with racism within their own families of different racial backgrounds. Essays and studies found in the posts “Cirilo’s Syndrome II: Psychological damage on a child when white parent in interracial marriage is racist“, “The final pillar of the debunked ‘racial democracy’? Post-doctorate research project exposes racism and racial hierarchies within interracial families” and “When racism starts in the family: One woman’s memories of a racist hierarchy within her multi-racial family” provide proof that racism can and often does exist within families of different racial backgrounds. How common this is is difficult to estimate, but given the fact that white superiority is such an accepted belief and openly declared on a daily basis, I would assume that this racial hierarchy exists in many families across the country.
Comments by the Afrodengo member Cacau and other black women who come from families of different racial background suggest that they have come to recognize racist sentiments that signal a belief in white superiority within these families whose very existence would suggest these sentiments cannot possibly exist. Cacau’s powerful breakdown of how black Brazilians are manipulated into pursuing whiteness is a comment that all black Brazilians need to read and come to terms with whether they are also victims of this ideology and social engineering. She correctly defines this indoctrination into the acceptance of whiteness as the ideal and the relations that emerge out of this process as “another tentacle of Brazilian racism”, something that she doesn’t want her own children to have to experience. But until black Brazilians as a collective are ready to deal with this issue in a more critical manner without dismissing the analysis as some sort of “reverse racist” thought, the dream of a lighter, whiter Brazil will continue full steam ahead.
Updated on August 13, 2019