Note from BW of Brazil: Ah, Brazil Brazil! At it again huh? Yet another Brazilian adds to the recent obsession of wearing blackface to make jokes. As this surge in blackface usage as been such a phenomenon over the past few years, this story is not really shocking at all, but it offers several points upon which to gauge how Brazilians deal with, or as we’ve shown in several other instances, can’t deal with accusations of racism in a serious matter. Or prefer to brush it off as ‘just a joke’. Here’s the thing. We know that only 1.3% Brazilians consider themselves racist. We’ve seen people shed crocodile tears and deny being racist after being caught on video yelling a racist epithet. And we’ve seen people attempt to hide their faces when caught in the act of racially insulting another person. It is this type of behavior that makes the issue of racism so difficult to address. How do you discuss racism with a people who consistently deny being racist, making racist jokes or insults even when caught in the act? There is yet another important detail to today’s story that we must touch upon to continue the dissection of a very Brazilian style of racism. For now, here’s the story.
YouTuber’s blackface and the difficulty of the Brazilian apologizing for being racist
Youtuber cries after blackface and justifies herself: “I am the daughter of a black father”
By Marcos Sacramento of DCM with information from Pragmatismo Político
To fend off criticism, a You Tuber who performed wearing blackface accompanied by the title “Neguinha de Paraguay” argued that she has a black father and “african hair.” Later, despite the crying, she recorded a statement which only made the response worse.
The reaction of a YouTuber after being criticized for making a “blackface” on Instagram leads to the question: why do few people admit the mistake when they commit insults or racist gaffes?
With over 300,000 subscribers on YouTube and 95,000 followers on Instagram, Renata Meins posted a picture characterizing herself as black after recording a video parody of the song “Hello” by Adele. Meins is known in social networks for her postings on the ‘feminine universe’, as she defines it.
The photo with the caption “Neguinha de Paraguay” (little black girl of Paraguay), caused a number of comments accusing her of racism. To defend the You Tuber has argued that she has a black father and “african hair.” She further declared that she is from a black family and “therefore I am negra (a black woman)”, which would exempt her from the possibility of being racist in her opinion.
Later, she recorded a statement which only made the response worse, despite the crying, the apology and revelations that she went through financial difficulties as a child and her father dying of alcoholic cirrhosis.
“I always characterize myself with various types of characters and there was NEVER a problem, I went to be black now and this happens? Blacks seek equality so much and is offended by a characterization?,” Renata opined.
The case of the YouTuber closely resembles the controversy surrounding the Africano character, played by comedian Eduardo Sterblitch on the Pânico na Band program. The character was portrayed as someone who ‘receives entities’, that does not communicate in a civilized manner, and was treated as a primitive being. The high level of rejection made Sterblitch apologize and to distance himself from the program, claiming to have been depressed by the controversy.
“I had never seen heard of blackface, I know right, right, that by the black community it’s forbidden to paint oneself, characterizing oneself as black. But this is not a law, I am not obliged to know why it is not a law, you know. I did it in all innocence as I already have characterized myself as so many other characters, black would be just another character so for not being a law, I am not obliged to know that by lei negra (black law) this is interpreted as racism.”
With a quick Google search, you would discover that blackface is not a “black law”, but a way of ridiculing blacks in circuses or comedic performances that emerged in the United States during the nineteenth century.
It may even be considered “a form of art,” as she said in the video, but it has deep roots in racial segregation.
Renata could be basing herself on singer Michel Telo’s response after his posing in blackface in a protest against racism. The singer also apologized and admitted he didn’t know of the existence of the resource, but didn’t dwell on the subject and suggested that prejudice was in the eye of the criticized.
In fact, the norm is to play the victim and appeal to the cliche answer that it was all a misunderstanding, as Fausto Silva (of the Domingão do Faustão variety show) did after saying on TV that the singer Anitta’s dancer had “witch’s broom hair.”
“I joked saying that the hair style was a ‘witches broom’ because it was a big hair red. Some people who want to turn the internet into a potty begin to think that it was racism. (…) This country is already losing grace and joy by many serious problems. Then come doing this buffoonery for something that’s not there,” he protested.
Gymnasts Arthur Nory Mariano, Santino Arakawa and Henrique Medina Flores used the same policy when the video they appear offending black gymnast Ângelo Assumpção went public.
“Hey guys, we would like to publicly sincerely apologize to our friend Ângelo Assumpção. The joke had a very large proportion, negative. It was a moment for a joke, and you got it wrong.”
And yet there are people accusing blacks of making themselves out to be victims…
Only Faustão and gymast guys can say why chose those shameless answers, but the formula for avoiding them is relatively simple and was the subject of the lecture by consultant in diversity Verna Myers on TED.
For Myers, the way to combat racism and other forms of discrimination goes through the ending of the tendency to deny the existence of prejudice.
“We have to get rid of the denial. Stop trying to be good people. We need real people. (…) Go search for your prejudice. Please abandon the denial and seek data of divergence that will prove that, in fact, your old stereotypes are wrong. ”
The advice is valuable, because one of the main reactions of whoever gets into trouble as did Renata Meins is to vehemently reject the label of prejudiced. It’s just not easy to put the idea into the heads of these people.
Note from BW of Brazil: So there you have it; the latest in the bizarre form of denial that is racism in everyday Brazil. But referring to the introduction, what other detail should be approached in reference to this case? Well, as in the case dealing with the black gymnast who was the target of a racist joke by his teammates, one of his colleagues had a black father, similar to the You Tuber in today’s story. Although both could be considered white in the Brazilian context, their African ancestry clearly didn’t have any influence on their decisions to participate in behavior that could be considered racist. I don’t personally know Renata Meins but I seriously doubt that she defines herself as a black woman in her day to day life nor do I believe that she defined herself as black (either preta/black or parda/brown/mixed) on an official census form. The fact is, there are millions of “white” or near white Brazilians who have recent or distant African ancestry, but as Brazilian society continuously proves that whiteness is the desired racial classification, most of these people will see themselves as branco/branca/white.
Renata Meins happened to make a joke that people didn’t find funny and was perceived as being racist. In a poor attempt to deflect criticism away from her faux pas, she played her “black card” to try to minimize negative public reaction. This writer has already discussed this issue of blackface in numerous posts and accepts the possibility that there are genuinely people out there who may not know that blackface is a no-no. But as in so many other cases in which people are caught saying/doing something racist, why not just accept that it was bad judgement, think it over and apologize? Attempting to justify your acti0ns simply shows that you still don’t ‘get it’ and don’t want to take responsibility for it. If you notice, Renata Meins never actually apologized for what she did. And like entrepreneur Zica Assis, not admitting the mistake makes the situation even worse. If you don’t understand how some people may not like a particular joke that you do/tell, simply imagine how you would feel if someone said something disrespectful or made fun of a particular attribute of someone you love. You would most likely want to hear an apology and that the offending person assume full responsibility for their actions. I mean, is that really that hard to understand?