Note from BW of Brazil: Ya know, this has been a topic that has received ample attention on this blog. And the reason is actually quite simple: people are discussing it. In recent years there has been rising momentum of calls for more Afro-Brazilian representation in the media, more opportunities for Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs, black dolls and even the necessity of “black money”. With such topics being seriously debated and discussed, it should only be natural that there should be a more open and honest discussion about black couples or African-centered relationships within Brazil’s black community. I thought of this once again today as I watched popular singer/TV host Gaby Amarantos reveal details about her life on the Globo TV television program Tamanho Família.
Today’s program certainly struck an emotional chord with Amarantos as she watched her father, brother, sister and son take the stage in song. But in Brazilian society what is seen as quite normal is seeing how the melanin of black families go through a process of embranquecimento (whitening) over the course of generations. Gaby’s case also fits this mold. Dark-skinned black father, lighter-skinned Gaby and still lighter-skinned son.
Well, as family is family and, as no one doubts Gaby’s love and affection for her very white boyfriend, the progressive whitening in progress from grandfather to grandson becomes a mere observation. But if one looks at millions of black families throughout Brazil, the pattern is quite obvious. And it becomes even more noticeable when we look at the vast majority of Afro-Brazilian celebrities. So what’s going on here? Is it really hard to tell?
Ask this question to any black Brazilian and one will surely get the typical “love has no color” response, but have this discussion enough and certain truths begin to come out from beneath the rhetoric. What I have come to realize is that Brazilian mythology often won’t allow persons to be completely honest about their dating/marriage choices when the topic is race. And as so many myths are such an intricate part of how the nation sees itself, why wouldn’t this mythology extend to matters of the heart? I mean, if we know that the idea of Brazil being a ‘racial democracy’ is a lie, and we know that only 1.3% of Brazilians admit to being racist although 92% admit racism exists and we know that Brazilians are in fact NOT “all equal”, would it be a stretch of the imagination that little ‘white lies’ aren’t told when the topics are love and relationships?
Over the years, I’ve figured out that adults are far more likely to lie about such subjects, while children and teenagers are more likely to speak what is exactly on their minds. As such, I remember having a dialogue with a teenager that I knew back in 2013 in a periphery neighborhood of São Paulo. I will refer to the young man as “Davi”. “Davi” was 17 years old and a light brown-skinned “mulato” who I would often run into on a bus as he was returning home from a school in which he was studying English. “Davi” always made sure to sit right next to me even when the bus was mostly empty because he wanted to practice his English with a native speaker. Davi and I would speak on a number of topics, TV shows, music, films, religion and, of course, girls. Davi would often share his challenges in dating the young women in his church and neighborhood. Over the course of numerous conversations, one day I asked the teen what type of girls he preferred and with no hesitation, he looked and said, “Oh, I like the white girls.” With that response, I asked him why he had this preference. The normally quick-responding teen was stumped and paused for perhaps 15 seconds before finally saying, “I don’t know.”
Similarly, three months ago, I had another dialogue with a 15-year old in this same periphery neighborhood. A very articulate, curious teen, “Pablo”, got good grades, worked a part-time job and loved to ask questions that were quite impressive considering his age. “Pablo” considered himself to be “branco” (white) although his facial features and hair texture clearly denoted African ancestry although he is quite light-skinned. Pablo is interested in history and loves watching American television series on both cable TV and Netflix.
One day, in the same conversation in which Pablo declared himself white, he also shared his belief that Brazil is a great country for black people (especially compared to the United States) and that Russia has the most beautiful women in the world. When I asked why he thought that way he said that all of the Russian women he had seen online were blond with blue or green eyes, which for him, represented beauty. When I showed him a photo of a dark-skinned African woman who had recently set the internet on fire for her beauty, Pablo nonchalantly looked and said, “I wouldn’t get with her.”
I’ve had this type of dialogue with numerous preto (black) and pardo (brown) teens over the years and the responses are usually the same. Perhaps the most honest response from a black male adult I’ve ever heard was in a discussion I had with a 40-something-year-old advertising agent who I shall call “Gabriel”. I had been introduced to “Gabriel” via a mutual female friend, also black. Gabriel’s wife was white and his two sons are, for all intents and purposes, white too, at least in Brazil. Like the previous teens, Gabriel and I had a number of conversations over the course of two years and I learned quite a bit about Brazil from just talking to him. Gabriel schooled me on some of the best players and teams in Brazil’s futebol history and gave me his personal insight on the vast corruption in Brazilian politics. And as with any conversation between men, the topic of women would also come up from time to time.
Although Gabriel had told me on numerous occasions that he didn’t choose women for their skin color, in one candid moment last year he spoke of the how he grew up within a tight-knit group of about 7 male friends, of which only he and another guy were black. These guys partied together, got drunk together and played futebol together for years and during this one particular conversation, Gabriel explained that he believed his taste in women was also most likely influenced by these friends, most of whom were white. As all of those guys were married to white women also, draw your own conclusions from this revelation.
Again, people choose who they choose, and happiness should be a right for any person. But one does have to wonder if any of these people notice the progressive whitening of the Brazilian population over the past century and how a group can speak seriously of “black money” when there seems to be little concern for black couples and black families.
Just a thought…
African-centered relationships, black solitude and the preference for whiteness
By Eli Belizário
“Afro-centered relationships are those involving choice between and among black partners, and may be of different sex orientations and genres.” (Stephanie Ribeiro)
I confess that I have no intimacy with the subject, because I have never been involved in a loving relationship. I researched and read some articles before coming to write, as I always do. I confess I am afraid to speak of this.
The idea of this text resurfaced after reading a text from a social network friend, where she said that she would not submit to a relacionamento afrocentrado (Afro-centered relationship and that she admitted to being quite happy with the interracial relationship (between individuals with different ethnicities ).
For some blacks (and ironically, for some whites who like to dictate what racism is or not, too), Afro-centered love is referential and the ideal to be achieved is the vital goal of relationship. They also think that all blacks should think so. To think that this love is the ideal is not wrong, but the analysis of experience is of great value.
The cis woman and the black trans in society are victims of racism, machismo and are not contemplated in large part by feminist movements (feminism of whiteness pseudo good vibes) out there. For this and other reasons, there is the thought that the best thing to do in order not to suffer so much, is to relate to another black.
I don’t say in all cases, because there are apparently happy couples who have never reported abuse from either party, which is good. But there are cases, where the Afro-centered relationship is not like the conto de fadas do mundo negro (fairy tale of the black world), a striking example was the aggressions that singer Rihanna suffered from singer Chris Brown. In the outer eyes, everything was beautiful and prosperous and there were still those who cheered them on so that they would resume the union. You can’t cheer for something that is unhealthy to the next one, machismo is serious and one should stop romanticizing it.
Rihanna is not the only one, and it’s not just physical aggression that counts. I had the opportunity to hear (albeit virtually) several black women who had an abusive relationship, disguised as a bed of roses.
I speak of a black man who feels inferior for dating a black woman while his best friend dates a kit woman: consumption dream (aka, branca – white woman).
I speak of a black man who thinks that his woman does not need as much attention as the white one, since a negra (black woman) is treated as a synonym of strength and resistance (who said that a black woman is so strong that she has no moment of weakness? Who is tough and therefore does not need support?), but for those who do not know, this comes from the slave inheritance (wow, didn’t you know?). And that for that reason, he ends up letting his partner suffer affective loneliness, where she sees herself alone, fighting for the prosperity of the relationship.
I speak of a black man who exalts the beleza branca (white feminine beauty) and diminishes or denies feminilidade negra (black femininity).
I speak of a black man who exalts beleza negra (black beauty), but doesn’t commit to a serious relationship with a black woman and values and prefers involvement with the white woman: this is the famous palmitagem. Palmiteiros, there are a bunch of them around (including media icons)!!!
I speak of a black man who only recognizes the black woman as his friend, even before he has the opportunity to meet her. A homem negro (black man), who feels himself at the height of society only at the side of the branca.
The Afro-centered relation, is not synonymous of romanticism from the colonizing slave period. Since the black woman was (and is) inferiorized in all possible ways, and some of the most striking signs were (and are): an object of sexual satisfaction and an instrument for performing service activities (and what man wants to be next to a woman like that?). So standing next to a white partner, for the black man is an act of feeling “tão bom quanto ao homem branco” (as good as the white man) (I hate to have to say that, you don’t know how much!).
Faced with all these and other facts, at some point in life, the black woman comes to think that she is doing something wrong and that she is the problem. I have already thought and I still think this in some moments, although it is in the process of deconstruction and self-recognition. And as indifferent as I may seem, when I hear some sincere compliment, unfortunately it’s hard to believe. It was so many years of aggressive disqualification of the black female image that makes it difficult to have access to confidence.
Don’t think that I am declaring the white woman an enemy (I would be a pseudo-feminist, and I am not, although I don’t trust in such sorority between black women and white women), really because, a man it is not a gift for a competition to happen in your favor. In fact, women should not compete with each other for any reason.
The black woman should be able to enjoy a full life and be able to make choices that are healthy, vitally. The affective solitude of the black woman is real and present.
And if one relates to a black woman, but to hide and avoid the debate about racism and machismo, for me, it doesn’t count. It’s not a healthy relationship. Hiding the fact does not make it disappear, the thorn will still remain there, sticking in everything that is part of the heart, annoying.
It’s not every black relationship that will have the happy ending. The subject is broad and complex and I think it must still be studied and debated (by voices that have dignity and mastery of speaking on the subject).
Finally, relating to a black woman (or man) is an act of resistance, since it comes to live with systematically structural racism and the process of erasing black identity. It is necessary to know how to resist and denounce. There must also be respect between the parties for cultural differences (but this, regardless of the relation)!
The right to love among ourselves was taken away from us blacks. The right to love among blacks was taken away. This happens from the moment it was more important to survive in slave society than being. (Stephanie Ribeiro)
A relationship is healthy when it is constructive. And for this, many prefer solitude.
Given all that has been said, it is good to know that there are still relacionamentos afrocentrados that are great. …
Note: I should not have to clarify but … the goal, at no moment, was to make Afro-centered love inferior (I sincerely think it’s a marvel) and to exalt interracial love (even less, the predominantly European). The ideal relationship should not define ethnicities, but sadly, for society, love has color and gender. May thirst for revolution and resistance, never be absent from our day! I wish that above all things, love prevails!
Source: Cubo Urbano