Note from BW of Brazil: By now many people around the world are familiar with the problem of racism in European soccer stadiums. For the past decade, media outlets from various European nations have reported that black players from wherever in the world they are from have been consistently targeted by racist fans with monkey chants or are targets of bananas hurled in their direction. In a story previously reported a few days ago here, Brazilian player Daniel Alves who plays for the Barcelona team in Spain, along with fellow Brazilian superstar Neymar did something that has been celebrated all over social media ever since. In the middle of game, before a corner kick, he picked up a banana that had been thrown at him, ate it and then kicked the ball into play.
Hailed as a brilliant reaction against racism on various websites, Alves’s act provoked a “campaign” initiated by teammate Neymar supposedly meant to strike back against racism. The “somos todos macacos” slogan, meaning “we are all monkeys”, exploded all over social media as Brazilian and international celebrities posted photos of themselves posing with or eating bananas. As ridiculous as this action was in itself, the story descended even more into the realm of stupidity when it was discovered that the whole thing was a publicity stunt orchestrated by Neymar and his publicity agency. In retrospect, it’s actually not surprising considering the problem Brazil has always had in dealing with the question of racism and white supremacy in a serious manner. The situation is infinitely more ludicrous when we consider the personality responsible for the whole thing. Let’s analyze this.
The objective of this blog has always been to provide another media outlet that focused on the existence and experiences of black Brazilian women specifically and the black Brazilian population in general. And as racism and racial inequality are the principal mechanisms that marks the experience of difference in Brazilian society, examples and reports of Brazil’s “dirty little secret” are abundant throughout posts on the blog. In covering topics from a racial perspective, it’s important to understand the particularly potent brand of racism that is practiced throughout the country. In general, a large segment of the population continues to deny or downplay the effects of racism in the lives of persons of visible African ancestry.
Well, perhaps that’s not exactly true.
Afterall, in 2014, as in 1995, the vast majority of Brazilians will freely acknowledge that racism exists but that same majority can never admit that they personally harbor racist sentiments; which is one of the first steps in unraveling a very Brazilian way of approaching this most recent attempt of dehumanizing someone as well as the Brazilian superstar who initiated the response. Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior has made quite a name for himself over the past five years becoming the latest heir apparent of the great soccer king, Pelé, whose home team, Santos, is also where the latest superstar started out before taking his futebol skills to Spain. In a previous piece on “The King’s” deafening silence on the question of racism in soccer, as well as a recent piece on a television host’s dealing with the murder of one of her dancers, we saw the latest examples of how public figures often become silent on controversial topics. In the case of Neymar, the superstar has once again proven that his gift on the soccer field is only equaled by his lack of social/racial consciousness off the field.
Neymar thinking that it was a good idea to react to racist acts by initiating a campaign in which he encouraged everyone to say that “we are all monkeys” in a country (and world) that has historically insulted African descendants with such an association, shows an extreme lack of responsibility and understanding of the issue. But again, this is Neymar. You know the guy who said he wasn’t black; the guy who continues to straighten his hair and once dyed his hair AND facial hair blond. And also the guy who thought it was cool to dress up in a gorilla suit in the music video for a song called “Kong”. Considering the latter, maybe Neymar doesn’t see anything wrong with the association between black people and monkeys. Who knows? Maybe at the time of the recording of the video, he had never been the target of such insults although he must have friends who had been insulted in this manner. Even if he were to claim this had never happened to him in Brazil, he was conscious enough to make an accusation of this association in Europe when he thought someone threw a banana at him. Or recently when fans directed monkey chants at him.
With all of this in mind, could even someone like Neymar really believe that starting a social media campaign saying “we are all monkeys” would strike down something as potent, evil and dehumanizing as racism? Even if one were to believe that he could be that naïve, the subsequent discovery that the whole event was pre-planned shows that it was simply a means of garnering more attention for one of Brazil’s most popular marketing figures. Neymar earns more money in a few hours on a soccer field than a large proportion of Brazilians will earn in an entire year, so why would he concern himself with something that his money allows him to ignore? He’s paid to score goals and win games and for marketing agents he is safe because, although he is of African ancestry, he, like Michael Jordan and Pelé before him, is a “safe negro” who will never “rock the boat” with any “controversial stances” about racism, that for most of them, is a problem in the minds of those who suffer from it. Why, the very existence of Neymar, Pelé and Jordan is proof of this, right?
Wait a minute….Did I say negro? Maybe not. Neymar, after all has made it clear that he’s not black despite his straightened cabelo crespo (curly/kinky hair) and his clearly black father. Maybe, like another heir to the “King”, Ronaldo, Neymar also thinks he’s white. Jouralist Marcos Romão considered this as well. Below Romão composed a piece based on Neymar’s past actions and what his white self might say if it were to speak freely.
Neymar’s monkeys: You black Brazilians are all monkeys. I, the great Neymar, am white.
By Marcos Romão
Brazil needs to stop and think about how racism is ingrained in the minds of each of us and how it manifests and reproduces itself like wildfire, with the declarations of a racist asshole that the FIFA machine maintains.
After the bold attitude of Barcelona player Daniel Alves, eating with anger and contempt for the racists, a banana thrown by Vila Real fans, the moron player Neymar and his advertising agents jumped onboard and reversed an act against racism made by the player Ivair, and transformed this courageous action into a racist attack on black Brazilians, screaming like a ventriloquist of racism: #somostodosmacacos
Many will laugh at the “little joke” of this kid, even many blacks, thinking that with this campaign we will all become equal in Brazil. Many don’t know or don’t want to know, that every black kid that is insulted, lynched and killed hears until his last breath this insult: macaco.
The next dead kid will say before the last bullet, but I’m Neymar…
This is an example of “educational guidance” given by Neymar and his minions, to young black Brazilians. You are nothing!
He could not have been more “clear” in his despisal of blacks in Brazil and the world. This kid Neymar is the best example of how perverse the playful and cordial racism with death and genocide that is happening in Brazil is.
Behind this joke hides his possible thought. Here are some possible racist fantasies of an increasingly lost boy on the banana peel of racism.
Possible racist fantasies of Neymar
“I wasn’t born to be black…You black Brazilians are all monkeys. I myself, the Great Neymar, am white. You black Brazilians like to get your ass kicked by the police. You black Brazilians don’t even have any money to watch the little white boy Neymar in Maraca (stadium). You black Brazilians don’t have mothers; they are the shields to protect you from the bullets behind the stadiums, there in the favelas (slums). You Brazilian blacks and those of the world are not more than a band of confused ones, jealous of my whiteness. If you wish I’ll order a truck of bananas for you all, after my presentations for my trainers from the FIFA Circus.”
Note from BW of Brazil: To re-iterate before someone misunderstands, no, Neymar didn’t actually say this. But Romão’s imagination of what the racist “would be white” Neymar might be thinking according to his actions are a perfect summary of a guy who simply doesn’t get it. But again, is Neymar to blame for his stance? Or is he simply a victim of Brazil’s effective marketing of the “racists who are not racists”? As a number of posts on this blog have shown, Brazil’s potent brand of racism and mythology makes the adaption of a black identity a challenge for the vast majority of Brazil’s African descendants. So strong is the “we’re all equal”, “we’re all mixed” ideology that, in some ways, Neymar may not even be to blame for his actions and opinions on race/racism.
Clearly, he couldn’t have thought through how backwards and devastating a slogan such as “we’re all monkeys” could be for black or would be black Brazilians who are subjected to such insults. I can already imagine how such a scenario could play out. Somewhere in Brazil’s 26 states or its Federal District, a 12-year old black kid is insulted by a white classmate, who calls him a “macaco”, as a group of other white kids surrounds him and participate in the taunts, finger-pointing and laughing. The 12-year old, who may or may not even know he is black, responds by saying, “we’re all monkeys”. The white adversary huffs, looks at all of his white friends as they are all dying from laughter, stares at the black kid with an evil sneer and blurts out: “No neguinho (little black), YOU are the monkey!” With incidents like this happening across Brazil everyday is it surprising that some kids learn early on how society treats black people and would prefer not being black? Would it be any wonder that Neymar and all of his (would be) black teammates on Brazil’s World Cup team would have white wives? Oh, I forgot, that’s strictly about love, right?
And what about all of those famous Brazilians who joined in on Neymar’s “we’re all monkeys” campaign? Surely they had good intentions, right? Again, who knows? But the fact is that, such a gesture doesn’t affect their standing in public opinion. It doesn’t affect them like such a slogan would the black kid in the previous example. White Brazilians aren’t subjected to being called monkeys. Thus, holding a banana is simply posing with a piece of fruit for them. After all, according to Brazilian racial ideology, one day in the near future, maybe these black monkeys will sufficiently mix their blood until they also look human, that is, white. It is also not by any sort of coincidence that none of those white Brazilians seen eating or holding bananas would ever become activists in the fight against the very racism that bestows unearned privileges upon them.
Xuxa, a blond, very white woman of German descent who is rumored to be Brazil’s richest woman, was the idol of a great many black Brazilian girls who grew up watching her children’s TV show dreaming of being one of the girls in her widely successful dance troupe, the Paquitas (see here, here and here for just a few examples). Most never realized it could never be. All of the Paquitas were blond like Xuxa. The same is true of Angélica Ksyvickis, another of Brazil’s popular blond TV hosts who has hosted a number of television programs over the years. Or how about Angélica’s husband, another TV host, Luciano Huck, who supported the monkey “campaign” so much that he almost immediately released a T-shirt complete with the slogan and bananas on the front along with the slogan “somos iguais”, meaning “we’re all equal”. As quick as this thing happened (banana thrown, Neymar photo w/banana, Huck t-shirt) I wouldn’t be surprised if the fan at the stadium was connected somehow! This slogan is perhaps one of the most dangerous beliefs in Brazil. As highlighted in another post, yes, it’s true; as human beings we ARE all equal. The problem is that, socially/racially, how we are all treated is clearly NOT equal.
Anyone who has followed the issue of racism in Brazil for a while may note that, often times, when black Brazilians are the victims of racism or a racial insult, the first thing out their mouths is, “somos iguais” or “somos todos iguais” (we’re all equal). In other words, the belief in the idea that “we’re all equal” is the modern version of the long-time Brazilian myth of “racial democracy”. This is the success of Brazilian styled racism: promoting itself as equal for all, all the while practicing racism and convincing those who are victims of it that the myth is true. As such, it wasn’t surprising that recently the player whose action initiated this whole thing, Daniel Alves, revealed that he rejects the slogan “we’re all monkeys” because we’re all human beings. True. But then he followed that up by saying “somos iguais”. Unfortunately, we are NOT all treated equal and after this whole thing blows over, black players will continue to be the target of bananas and the racial hierarchy will continue as it has always been. But it’s incredible how well propaganda works!
Also posing with bananas were singers Cláudia Leitte and Ivete Sangalo. Again, no threat to their careers because posing with a banana doesn’t require either of them to take a stand against white supremacy, a system in which both of them benefit. Black Brazilians took their disapproval of Leitte’s appropriation of an Afro-Brazilian cultural production online and Sangalo annually benefits from huge sponsorships during Carnaval in 76% black Bahia while her black counterparts rarely attract such sponsorships or prime-time TV visibility.
Then there was singer Alexandre Pires, who not only posed with a banana in his mouth, but also bananas on his head while holding a stuffed monkey doll that also had bananas on it. Well of course. Lest we forget that it was in Pires’ video for his song “Kong” in which he, Neymar and funk singer Mr. Catra all dressed up as gorillas. Accused of inciting the racist association between blacks and monkeys by elements of the Movimento Negro, Pires denied any racist intent asking: “Should we treat each and every joke with monkeys and gorillas as a reference to be erased from our memory? King Kong, Cheetah, Monga, weren’t they all characters with some reading that wasn’t genuine entertainment?”
Do we have any other proof to show that this ridiculous publicity stunt is indicative of how Brazil deals with such issues? Well, as a matter of fact…Last December, we covered another story that also involved associating black people with monkeys. In that case, well-known comedian Danilo Gentili offered a Thiago Ribeiro, a black man, bananas in a Twitter response after Ribeiro challenged the comedian over the racial overtones of some of his jokes. Ribeiro later took Gentili to court over the jokes. At the end of last month, a Judge Marcelo Matias Pereira found Gentili innocent of offending Ribeiro because he did not see in the Tweet from the comedian the purpose and intention of offending the victim. According to the online news site O Dia the judge said:
“This animus was unproven, there is no need to talk about crime against honor,” ruled the judge, who held that “the approach with his followers, even though aggressive, had the intention of making one laugh.”
For the court, “something more than a rude and unfortunate joke with the intent of really offending the victim, disqualifying him by the color of his skin, would be necessary, which did not occur in this case.”
The offense was not recognized by the courts because, according to the judge, Thiago Ribeiro already self-titled himself “King Kong” on Twitter. “There are at least three messages that the victim claimed to be a ‘King Kong’, and that would make the defendant pay for supposed crimes committed,” said the ruling.
So what is the bottom line in this latest proof that Brazil doesn’t take the question of racial discrimination/racial insults in a serious manner? Actually, it’s quite simple. As part of the twin pillars of Brazilian propaganda (futebol and novelas), Neymar attracts more attention on a weekly basis than Movimento Negro activists who have been in the trenches of the struggle for decades ever have or will. With so much money, media attention, product association and money connected to Neymar’s image, it would be pointless to think that he would risk all of that over an issue that he, as a “would be white boy”, doesn’t even identify with. In Brazil’s mass production of “negros de alma branca” (blacks with white souls/oreo cookies), Neymar is not the first and clearly will not be the last off of the factory line. So be it. Just one request to Neymar the Great: Keep doing what you do best, kicking soccer balls and helping to sell products. But when it comes to issues that affect regular black people, keep your bananas and thoughts to yourself!