Brazil’s most important newspaper stirs controversy with commercial against affirmative action policies starring a black woman

Model Carol Prazeres in anti-Affirmative Action ad by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper
Model Carol Prazeres in anti-Affirmative Action ad by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper

Note from BW of Brazil: OK, so here we go again! But I must say that this type of strategy is at least a little more original than the typical arguments over the years. Well, maybe not. Black people who work in the service of a racist system of oppression have long been a secret weapon in the arsenal of elites. Perhaps the most visible examples on the Brazilian end would be the long-time disappointing “King of futebol”, Pelé, to the current idol of the pitch, Neymar, although there have been countless examples over the years. The argument here is once again the ten-year plus debate about the institution of racial quotas to increase the number of black students in Brazilian universities.

Politically conservative and powerful, influential entities throughout Brazil, such as the Globo TV network, Veja magazine and the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper (among many others) have long promoted their anti-affirmative action stances. No surprise there. But last Friday, Folha de S. Paulo, the nation’s most influential and important newspaper, caused quite a stir and reaction within Afro-Brazilian circles when it released a 30-second commercial starring black model Carol Prazeres presenting the paper’s stance against quotas adding that she herself was opposed to the system as well. 

Here’s the commercial with the text translated into English below the video. 

“There should not be reserved places based on racial criterias, be they in education or in public service. Welcome, however, are experiences based on objective social criterias, such as income or school origin. Folha is against racial quotas. So am I.”

No one can deny that black people have a diversity of thoughts and ideals, even as the nation’s top media outlets continuously portray the community as rather one dimensional. The problem here is that Folha is the nation’s most influential paper and thus has the platform to widely divulge its views while those in support of the system don’t have the same dominant outlet to present the counter argument. And the newspaper knows this. As this new ad created such a stir throughout black circles in social media, there have been a number of articles and comments devoted to analysis and opinions of the commercial. Below is a piece by University of São Paulo Communications and Arts professor Dennis Oliveira. 

Folha, quotas and the marketing ploy

By Dennis de Oliveira

The Folha de S. Paulo newspaper launched an ad campaign last week, and among the various pieces, there is one that highlights the positioning of the newspaper against racial quotas. A position shared by a black model. This piece of newspaper advertising sparked the revolt of several leaders of the black movement, especially in social networks.

Generating controversy is an old strategy of Folha de S. Paulo. In this case, there is a very clever montage that was ended up transferring the controversy to within the Movimento Negro (black movement). And this was exactly the goal of the newspaper marketing strategy. And how was this done?

1) Using the controversy of racial quotas. That the newspaper is against racial quotas, even in the mineral world (like the journalist Mino Carta used to say) you know. This has been expressed in editorials. By itself, this is explosive because it is a subject that still generates huge controversy. If there is a consensus that there is racism in Brazil, there still many resistances to confronting racism through specific public policies. This is because there is an ideological appropriation of the sense of racism as a mere occasional manifestation of deviant behavior. Thus, racism is someone offending or racially assaulting a person, but not an institution (such as the public university) hindering the entry of black men and women in their ranks.

2) Using a black woman to be against quotas. There comes Folha’s big smart move: putting this out, it sends the message that the defense of quotas is not a consensus among black men and women and that it, Folha, is above the “racial divisions” and represents also the opinion of black men and women that are against quotas. In other words, that Folha is “more racially tolerant” than the Movimento Negro itself that “would not admit” black men and women against the quotas (1)

And it was precisely this that it achieved when observing the radicalized controversy on social networks, reaching the level of personal offense, with regard to this matter.

The same strategy the paper used in the issue of the massacre of the State of Israel in the Gaza Strip. It published an article by Ricardo Bonalume, who advocates the creation of a single multiethnic state in the region, with Jews and Palestinians (which would imply the end of Israel) and this generated heated controversies among readers in the ombudsman’s column and finally was crowned with an article-response from the consul of Israel on Sunday.

Imagine how the newspaper was discussed in all this time. This is exactly the goal.

In this whole debate, it’s always stressed such a right of opinion, freedom of expression, etc. It is very positive that the demand of rights is present in the debates. However, I think at times, “right” is confused with “desire.” Not every desire is configured in a legitimate right. You can wish that a certain person does not express his/her opinion, but you have no right to silence her. Or you may want everyone to agree with you, but you have no right to offend people who disagree or still distort information to support a position. This is especially important for those who publicly expressed positions via the media or social networks.

In the case of Folha de S. Paulo, the newspaper has every right to express its positions. It doesn’t have the right, however, to present itself falsely as a plural newspaper when one realizes the priority given to certain sources, certain guidelines, angling matters through editorialized headlines.

And we, of the Movimento Negro, it is important to understand these marketing strategies of media companies. Precisely in order not to make the moves they want us to make.

Notes

1. I would also add that if Folha wanted to promote itself as being unbiased, it could have featured a black woman who supported the system of quotas as the newspaper has long demonstrated its own position against it. This would have also presented the “balance” it claims to present. But obviously that wouldn’t work in their favor.

Source: Revista Forum

About Marques Travae 3222 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

3 Comments

  1. This is so remarkably similar to what we are experiencing in South Africa.

    In fact, at the University I went to (University of Cape Town), we have spent the best part of two years discussing and debating the continued use of “Race” as a proxy for disadvantage.

    If you haven’t heard of this debate on the UCT Admissions Policy I recommend a quick Google search, there are clearly lessons we can learn from one another one how to address this.

    This persistent desire to dive and squash the efforts of movements like “Movimento Negro” and it’s equivalent collectives across the diaspora are marching on in real time.

    How much more will we have to suffer because of the White Man’s poor understanding of Structural Racism?

    • “How much more will we have to suffer because of the White Man’s poor understanding of Structural Racism?”

      The White Man and his female counterpart understand it just fine. Your suffering and frustration comes from you not understanding that and what it truly means.

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