Note from BW of Brazil: Ah, the race question in Brazil! Really, you just can’t make this stuff up! File the following story under the file of “how Brazil doesn’t know how to deal with the issue of race”. Let’s get right to details. A few days ago social networks were on fire after actress/model/TV host posted photos of her black babysitters on her Instagram profile. So what’s the big deal, right? Well, before we get into this, there are a few things we need to explain so that readers will have a proper context of why this incident exploded in the first place.
First, Brazil has a long history of the enslavement of Africans and their descendants that still plays a huge role in current day race relations. Second, this slave history plays itself out on a daily basis in the relationships between white households and their maids, cooks and cleaning people. Third, the privilege of whiteness is such a dominant force in Brazilian society that is naturalized to the point that most Brazilians don’t even notice it. Fourth, harking back to the slavery era, the woman at the center of this controversy has been referred to as a “sinhá“, which was the term black slaves used to refer to the slave master’s wife.
Fifth, the same woman involved in this controversy had previously raised eyebrows when she and her husband were chosen to the 2014 World Cup Final Draw ceremony over a pair of black actors. Questioning all of the fuss, the model/host asked if it was just because she was a branquinha (white girl). Sixth, for many, persons who work in positions of service should be required to wear white uniforms when on duty; another sort of display of class distinction. And seventh, the blond at the center of this controversy performed a song called “every monkey on its branch” after the controversy. Many took the performance of this song as a racist reaction to people calling out her white privilege, especially since ‘macaco’, meaning monkey, is the most commonly used insult used against Afro-Brazilians. Was this her subtle manner of saying, “everyone should know their place”?
With this brief intro, let’s take a look at what happened.
Fernanda Lima publishes photo of her nannies and is called ‘sinhá’ in social network
‘The saddest thing in this country is not the fact that they were dressed in white or not, it’s the fact we always look from the slavery past whenever we see this kind of photo’, criticized a follower of the actress.
Courtesy of O Dia
Fernanda Lima didn’t imagine that a picture would cause so much controversy. “Here at home there are no nannies dressed in white! Look at the level of the girls!” wrote the actress in the image caption posted by her on her Instagram account on Monday. The photo brings nannies Angela Dias and Tayane Dias, who take care of the twins João and Francisco, the actress’s children with Rodrigo Hilbert. Period. It was enough for Fernanda to post it to receive a barrage of criticism. There was an internet user who even called her “sinhá” in reference to the slavery period.
‘The saddest thing in this country is not the fact that they were dressed in white or not, it’s the fact we always look from the slavery past whenever we see this kind of photo’, the white sinhá saying ‘look, my negras don’t live in the senzala (slave quarters), they’re in the house’. She may even treat them well, but unfortunately they will always be the babysitters and the sinhá will always be the good girl, like Princess Isabel. One day, in this country we will see blacks in power and not just underlings like this photo,” commented a follower of the actress.
Fernanda immediately countered the criticism. “Dear, these girls are the daughters of a great friend and didn’t work. When I had my boys, I called her asking if they wanted a job opportunity because I was willing to teach them, since I gathered that, although difficult, the profession of nanny can be very profitable. Since then they’ve lived with our family, we eat at the same table and conversed and exchanged confidences as friends and I even pay them very well. No complaints or crises on anyone’s part. Good afternoon to you too,” said the post, concluding: “I’m kind of tired of these discussions and interpretations of hallucinated text on the web. And I also cheer for the alternation of power. It would be wonderful a black president. At least we agree on some point.”
The Internet didn’t accept Fernanda’s response and made an issue of fighting back. “As I am a polite person and before the followers of sinhá Fernanda start cursing me, saying that I want to show off and won’t understand, because talking about this with no black people is the same as talking to an atheist about the wonders of God,” she said.
To end the discussion, Fernanda said, “I find the dialogue rich and pertinent especially if there were no offenses. We can keep on like this or stop here. Kisses and don’t fight, please.” From over 1,100 comments that the picture received, there were those who defended and those who criticized Fernanda and the Internet user who called her “sinhá”.
Fernanda Lima poses with security guard at to stifle accusations of racism
By Fabiola Reipert
Fernanda Lima, who always comes to parties and events with the face of few friends and without looking in anyone’s face (she has such a large beak that it looks like a trunk), used a security guard to ease a controversy that was created about her in social networks.
At a party held in Rio late on Tuesday (4), the model posed for pictures next to the guy faking sympathy, because the day before she had been called racist (and her image is not the best before the public). She stayed with him. Maybe he realized he was being used…
The confusion took place on the internet after Fernanda posted photo of her black nannies with her children and wrote: “Aqui em casa não tem essa de babá vestida de branco.” (Here in this house there are no nannies dressed in white)
At once comments rained down with people calling the girl racist. A follower even called her “sinhá”, recalling the days of slavery. But here among us, Fernanda Lima has not done anything wrong or at least didn’t intend to. The people exaggerated a bit, right?
Racism and hypocrisy go hand in hand
On being an idiot
Courtesy of the Preta & Gorda page
The news spreading on the social networks today was that of Fernanda Lima exhibiting her two black girls, nannies of her children with the following phrase: “Here there are no nannies dressed in white! Look at the level of the girls!”….”
The fact is that Fernanda Lima played the role of sinhá that to her is peculiar, of exhibiting the “criadagem” (servants/the help) with the differential of not wearing a uniform. But for me it’s the same thing.
I understand that our relationship with racism from our experiences today but also from the experiences of the past. Moreover, it’s against the experiences of the past that we raise ourselves to fight – we feel and know every day that things are recurring. Everything repeats itself. Like (Afro-Brazilian actress) Tatiana Godoi clashing with Fernanda Lima illustrated, it was a practice of whites to exhibit their black slaves as another tool of the fixation of power and dominance, just like today the madams in the middle of the conversations, in a false attempt of demonstrating humility, call their maids (and also we know that statistically they are in the MAJORITY black women) “friends”, “secretaries”, “helpers” and declare that they maintain a real relationship of friendship with them and that they are (part) of the family. And they exhibit them also.
The fact also is that I found funny Fernanda’s declaration saying that the girls are friends of a friend of hers. And that she offered the job of nannies to the girls, because she pays well…Could it be that she would offer a nanny job to a child of one of her white friends? Or could it be that she would suggest an vacancy at Globo TV?! And why are we always exaggerating in the demands of black people to the point that, saying that they are the ones that are being racists in pointing it out?
It’s worth remembering that when Lázaro Ramos and Camila Pitanga were scheduled for presenting the (World Cup ) games and they preferred to put her and her husband in their place…And the Movimento Negro (black movement) complained, she sung a little song called “every monkey on its branch”. It was an explicit response. The problem is that here in Brazil, racism is naturalized…Whites talk their shit and when we point out their errors they say it was a joke, putting dubiousness in the comment and in the end think that were the ones who were wrong. A supremacist society is like this.
After all….Uncle Google doesn’t mind right? The most we have are her photos with her nannies dressed in white. Now, tell me….What would be the reason of the sinhá exhibiting the photos of “her nannies”? for everybody to see?
Note from BW of Brazil: Wow, so much going on here but again, nothing surprising; as written in the intro, it’s simply another example of how Brazilians still don’t know how to deal with the issue of race. We’ve seen examples in talk shows, variety shows, ridiculous “anti-racism campaigns” (here, here and here) and the fact that Brazilians still cannot admit to being racists. Looking at how this whole incident went down, Lima strikes as a white person who, due to her unconscious privilege, is probably racist, even not wanting to be. She’s probably the type who only sees racism as being legally sanctioned segregation or calling a black person a monkey. I would argue that proof of this is the absurdity of her grabbing a black security guard who she didn’t even know and posing for photos with him as if to say, “See! I’m not racist; I’m standing with black guy. I’m even touching him!” She most likely doesn’t see that in Brazil, security guard is a job/place that most Brazilians associate with Afro-Brazilians while they see her as the epitome of beauty and status.
More proof would be the fact that Lima accepted the opportunity of hosting the World Cup Final Draw even knowing that she and her blond husband would be replacing the black pair that was originally suggested. If for some reason she saw herself as some sort of example of racial equal opportunity, why didn’t she consider stepping aside or standing up for the original selection of the two black actors. The same black actors who are already vastly under-represented in Brazil’s ultra-Eurocentric media while persons who look like her (white/blond/straight hair/light colored eyes) are vastly over-represented in a country that declares itself a black/brown majority.
To respond to the article above by Fabiola Reipert, I don’t necessarily believe that Lima intended to set off sparks and accusations of her playing the “missus” role, but I don’t think reactions were exaggerated. The problem here is that racism and white privilege stretches its tentacles into nearly realm of Brazilian society. And this power is such that even when black people point it out, those who consider themselves white use this power to dismiss the reasons for these feelings clearly assuming while denying its role in white supremacy but also using this privilege to undermine those who struggle against it. And as Fernanda Lima is part of that group, I wouldn’t really expect her to “get it”. The difference is that we won’t be silenced on calling her out on it.