Note from BW of Brazil: Wow, just…WOW! Ya know, I heard about this story from my friend Daniela Gomes’ Twitter feed. At the time I didn’t know what she was talking about. I was like, “Huh? Where’d you see that?” Before she even responded I did a quick search and all I could do was shake my head, like, “Really?” So, let me get this straight. Some brilliant advertising agent came up with the idea of promoting black tissue paper and selling it with the slogan “black is beautiful”? Before I even did any real research I already imagined that representatives of the toilet paper company were already creating some weak, nonchalant, typical denial of any racist content. “Oh, we didn’t mean it that way. Our company policy is to respect all races, ethnicities, and religions…After all, ‘we are all equal.’” Very textbook response that we’ve seen plenty of just since this blog’s beginnings.
But can we get real? Did someone really believe that it would a good idea to appropriate a 60s/70s battle cry that sought to help an oppressed people see themselves as beautiful in a world that didn’t even want to respect their humanity to advertise something that people wipe their asses with? In other words, “black is beautiful” enough to clean your excrement. If this company had decided to just promote a black toilet paper, that would be one thing that could possibly catch on simply for being a novelty item. But in the context of a Brazil in which black Brazilians are generally associated with all sorts of negative attributes, including the belief that they are “dirty”, “have a bad smell”, have “bad hair”, this clearly represents another form of disrespect.
It’s fitting here to remember that one of the worst phrases in Brazilian society in reference to black people is the one that goes: “If a black doesn’t shit coming in, he shits on his way out.” As I said, very fitting in an article about toilet paper. Brazil continues to believe that its black population belongs in the lower rungs of the society, always in a position of servitude, an attitude we’ve seen again and again when black people are seen in any place they aren’t expected to be in (nice restaurants, country clubs, universities, nightclubs, job interviews, for example). On the other hand, the country has no problem seeing them collecting trash, cooking, cleaning, taking care of babies, etc. As such, the choice of a white model for the ad also speaks volumes in a country that still has longings for the time when these same black people were literally property (also see here).
Historically, black people did everything for their white masters. They did the field work, they carried their masters, they breastfed their masters’ children, they provided the master and often their sons with extra or initial sexual pleasure. In such an environment, would it not be some sick extensive of this privilege if the slaves were also required to wipe the master’s ass? The toilet paper didn’t mean it in a disrespectful manner? Really? So, no one thought that by associating the phrase “black is beautiful” with toilet paper would literally be a way of shitting on the phrase and the memory, people and movement it references?
Welcome to B where racialized disrespect continues to find ways to re-invent itself.
Racism: Black is beautiful is used as hashtag to release black toilet paper
Campaign to launch the new product comes accompanied by the slogan used to characterize the movement created in the 1960s against racism.
Courtesy of Revista Forum with additional info from Huff Post Brasil
The release of a new model of toilet paper has caused controversy in social networks for its opportunistic and racist content. Personal launched a black toilet paper on Monday (23) and the company decided to use the hashtag #Blackisbeautiful, a term used to characterize the movement created in the 1960s by artists and intellectuals against racism.
Several netizens accuse the company of cultural appropriation and of making racist propaganda. Writer Anderson França was one of those who criticized the brand for the use of the slogan and explained why he considers the campaign racist: “Santher – Paper Factory Santa Therezinha S/A, owner of the brand Personal, decided that here in Brazil, this expression must refer not to the history of black American leadership and other struggles throughout the world, but Santher, in a racist and irresponsible, conscious and deliberate attitude, decided that this expression should refer to toilet paper, whose function any person knows. This is one of the most serious racist attacks practiced by a Brazilian company,” he said. “People have died so this expression has been revered to this day. People are still dying and that expression is more important and vital than ever,” he continued.
Collectives linked to the black movement also spoke on the subject. The Coletivo Sistema Negro wrote: “DISRESPECT HAS NO LIMITS!! When we blacks create a phrase (Black is Beautiful) it is to empower and enable our existence, since our lives are worthless in the daily life of a racist society. … It is not and will never be to sell toilet paper! Have respect!”
In social networks, the reaction was also blunt. “The problem is not the color of the paper, but the ignorance in using the #BlackIsBeautiful tag, which is a movement against racism,” said one web surfer. “In the wrong close of today, a famous brand uses the name of a movement against Racism to promote a #Blackisbeautiful toilet paper brand,” pointed out another. “Using #Blackisbeautiful to advertise toilet paper is undercutting a whole history of struggle,” ratified another Twitter user.
In general, the questions were related to the fact that in the 1960s, the clenched fists accompanied by the phrase “black is beautiful” wrestled with the fact that the natural characteristics of black people – such as skin color, facial features, and hair – were associated with the ugly. And that by associating this with a toilet paper, the company fulfills two roles, to throw this fight deliberately in the trash can. And associating it with a type of product that the company knows very well what it’s for.
Actress Zezé Motta used her Instagram account to talk about the controversy surrounding the Personal toilet paper. The use of the slogan ‘Black is Beautiful’ – coined by the US black movement in the 1960s – was criticized and accused of racism.
“I’m not here to judge an actress who is campaigning wrapped in black toilet paper. Each one does and accepts the work that suits her best,” explained the actress, referring to Marina Ruy Barbosa. She recalled a trip to the United States that made her better understand the movement, which criticized her for staging a play in which she wore a straightened wig.
“A group of black militants was shocked. It was the heyday of ‘Black is Beautiful’, and we had to keep the original characteristics of the race,” she said. She also said that the coexistence helped her to accept herself as a black woman and to reflect on her behavior and racial issues in Brazil.
“I noticed that the black Americans were walked with their heads high. They didn’t have this subservient posture that I felt in Brazil and in myself. This trip had the importance of making me see my country from outside. I returned to Brazil. And I came to think: Now, no one holds me,” she said.
“For some it may sound silly, but for me and for thousands of black women who lived in the mid-1970s, ‘Black is Beautiful’ was something extraordinary, we came to accept ourselves, to empower ourselves. And I cannot find a black toilet paper campaign interesting (ok, no problem, because black is a color, so far, no ‘creativity’ like that shocks me anymore), being SOLD AS BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL. RESPECT, PLEASE,” she added.