At one of Brazil’s top TV networks, groups of journalists use WhatsApp to share racist comments against black colleagues; refers to one of them as “Daffy Duck”
By Marques Travae
I often marvel at how racism and racist sentiments lurk in so many realms of Brazilian society. As a black foreigner living in Brazil, I can say that I have never personally experienced anything blatantly racist, but running a blog on the topic for more than 8 years, it’s obvious that it is a serious problem.
Even with modest efforts to address institutional racism throughout the nation, everyday we see examples of how racist thought is still dominant in a country in which white people continue to be judged as and see themselves as the superior group. The world of journalism is no different. We know the objective of journalists is to, supposedly, present news without any sort of bias, but we know this isn’t really the case. And if Brazilian society is racist, what should we expect of its journalists?
A recent incident at the Rede Record television network provides an example. Sure in November, Brazil’s Month of Black Consciousness, Record broadcast a five-part series on the situation of Afro-Brazilians featuring an all-black team of eight journalists, but this clearly doesn’t exonerate the station from racist behavior or presenting problematic images of black Brazilians.
Reporting on a recent incident, black workers at the network reached out to Mundo Negro, a leading website in presenting news that is important to Brazil’s black community, to share their discovery of some unflattering text messages being spread through the WhatsApp phone app.
The group of black Record workers shared print screens of WhatsApp conversations between some of the network’s journalists, one an international correspondant, in a group calling itself “Resistência”, meaning ‘resistance’. In the group, pejorative comments and “jokes” were made about a young black employee working at the network’s affliate station in the nation’s capital city of Brasília.
The comments compared the young man’s thick lips to his anus and made questionable comments and “jokes” questioning the employee’s sexual orientation.
In another example of the dialogue going on in the group, another journalist working for the affliate station in Brasília made racist jokes about another black female colleague whom she referred to as “Patolino”. Patolino is the name given to the Looney Toons character on Brazilian television that is known in the United States as Daffy Duck.
I wondered why I wasn’t able to find this story on other news sources online, as usually, this sort of story can be found on various news outlets. But with such racist overtones, I saw this as example of black people wanting to confide only in other black people to divulge such dreadful experiences with racism.
Fortunately, with the rise of the internet, blogs, social networks, YouTube etc., there is an endless source of media outlets to report such incidents. In fact, nowadays, I often learn about stories through social networks first, and eventually, the big news outlets end up picking up the stories.
The employees reporting the details of the facts preferred to remain anonymous, but the directors of the journalism departments of Brasília and São Paulo as well as the Human Resources Department already knew of the existence of such groups sharing racist comments and jokes, but have yet to take any action on such behavior. Up to the present moment, the network has also not issued any comments on the situation.
I often point out the noticeable changes going down in Brazilian society in terms of the racial situation. For example, some weeks back, I mentioned how I’ve seen an increase in black represention on magazine covers and even advertisements in the nation’s economic engine, São Paulo. And as mentioned previously, during the Month of Black Consciousness, Rede Record itself presented a news series on the Afro-Brazilian population that featured a team of all-black journalists. Considering the comments made through WhatsApp, one has to wonder what members of the group ‘Resistência” thought about the network’s production featuring a team of all-black journalists.
What we see with this and numerous other racist incidents is evidence that just because we’ve seen some improvement of the situation of black Brazilians in society, this doesn’t mean that everyone openly accepts these changes. In fact, it seems that, the more advances black Brazilians make, the more the nation as a whole expresses its disapproval of such improvements.
It will be intriguing to watch how racial relations will change or stay the same in the country, particularly with such a controversial, extremist figure such as Jair Bolsonarobeing the president. Bolsonaro himself, as we know, has a reputation for making racist and sexist comments.
Stay tuned. Things are bound to get even more interesting.