From black skin to blue eyes: Why did the social network of a popular black hairstylist celebrate the whitening of his family on Black Consciousness Day?
By Marques Travae
It was a few days after the November 20th Day of Black Consciousness holiday that I stumbled across an online discussion that was garnering hundreds of comments. On November 20th, there are usually, literally thousands of declarations and comments, links divulging festivities connected to the day, photos and flyers being posted, not only for the November 20th, but throughout the month of November, which is considered the Month of Black Consciousness or Novembro Negro, meaning Black November. So, when I saw how hot this particular post was, I wondered what all the commotion was about.
I’ve been aware of hairstylist Fernando Fernandes for years. When I first started using the internet to educate myself about everything having to do with Afro-Brazil, I would frequently come across information about Fernando. What I most remembered about Fernando was his look. We all know this look. The bald, black man with either thick mustache or a black/graying goatee look. How many black men have you known with this look? I often think of men like Kwanzaa creator Maulana Karenga or the musician Teddy Riley’s manager Gene Griffin, but I’m sure you can think of a few on your own.
Fernando Fernandes’ salon, Stúdio Fernando Fernandes, is located in the neighborhood of Santana in São Paulo, and has specialized in cabelo crespo, or kinky/curly hair since 1983. A reference in wavy, curly, frizzy and kinky hair, I would come across information about Fernando often in my internet searches.
At Stúdio Fernando Fernandes, people with afro-textured hair can choose from a number of different treatments for their locks, including straightening, permanente afro, which is quite similar to the infamous jheri curl, relaxing braiding, hydration, texturizing and special cuts.
Taís Araújo, Paula Lima, Sheron Menezes, Pathy Dejesus and Isabel Fillardis are just a few of the stars who have trusted Fernando with their hair over the years. In 2008, Fernandes stated that straightening of the hair was still preferred among Afro-Brazilians. In his opinion, the best system was the American one, which has a different technique. The popular escova progressiva technique or those in ‘fashion’ were not so effective, according to Fernandes. In 2019, with the rise in popularity of more natural hairstyles among black Brazilians, I wonder what style is most popular in Fernandes’ salon these days.
But on that particular day that people were leaving hundreds of comments on Fernando’s Stúdio Fernando Fernandes Facebook page, his talent as a hairstylist had nothing to do with the discussion. On the November 20th Day of Black Consciousness, the Stúdio Fernando Fernandes posted the following message on their Facebook page:
In a few generations the color of the skin can change: meet the family of our beloved @femando.paolo – his grandfather, his father, him and his daughter – which shows that regardless of the color of the skin, we are all equal, children of the same Father and we must love our neighbor as ourselves. November 20 is a day of celebration of the history and culture of blacks that must be respected by all human beings to thus combat all forms of prejudice, discrimination and exclusion. Feliz Dia Da Consciência Negra (Happy Black Consciousness Day!)
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In the photo posted along with the text were four photos. At the top left was Fernando’s father, a dark-skinned black man, what people in Brazil call “preto retinto”. At top right was Fernando, a few shades lighter that his father, but still clearly a black man. At the bottom left was Fernando’s son, Fernando Paulo, several shades lighter than his father and at the bottom right was Fernando Paulo’s son, who looks, for all intents and purposes, white, with blue or green eyes. So, in this photo collage what we saw was a real-life example of the famous 1895 painting entitled the ‘Redenção de Cã’, meaning the ‘redemption of Ham’. The painting has been referenced and discussed in numerous previous posts of this blog and portrays the whitening of a dark-skinned black woman’s family within a period of three generations.
The issue with the post was why Fernando’s salon saw it as fitting to post such a collage of photos showing a family going from black to white within four generations on a day that was reserved to celebrate black consciousness. Obviously, the administrators of the page had Fernando’s permission to do so, which leads to the question of if Fernando himself is proud of this whitening process or if he’s one that believes in the notion that “color doesn’t matter”.
As I’ve discussed in numerous previous texts, Brazil’s leaders of the late 19th century concocted the idea of promoting widespread interracial unions with the goal of all traces of blackness disappearing from the midst of the Brazilian people within a period of about 100 years. Obviously, as this goal was announced somewhere between 1911 and 1912 and there are still millions of black Brazilians in the country, the goal didn’t come to fruition by the 2012 forecast. But as I’ve argued before, it is still a work in progress and as most black Brazilians subscribe to the idea that ‘love has no color’ and many are progressively participating in what could be defined as ‘racial genocide’, we are actively seeing the diminishing of brown and dark-skinned black Brazilians throughout the country.
The agenda was never a secret, even outside of Brazil, as we are reminded by a July 1965 cover story by EBONY magazine entitled “Does Amalgamation Work in Brazil?” The subtitle of the article read, “Absorbing Negro through interracial marriage is their answer to race problem”. A section of the article on the first page lays it all out:
“The marriage of Portuguese men to colored women and the marriage of white women to colored men is Brazil’s way of solving a race problem before it begins. As the processes of amalgamation advance the darker elements of the nation’s population continue to disappear. With no Negro there can be no negro problem.”
Whenever I read things such as “solving a race problems before it begins”, I always have to laugh as Brazil has had a race problem since the first enslaved Africans began to arrive on the land that would later become known as Brazil in the first half of the 16th century.
But I digress as the topic at hand is the established goal of whitening the darker elements of the Brazilian population, avid black Brazilian participation in the process and then the lack knowledge of the goal, denial of the goal or defining the goal as some sort of “conspiracy theory”. I personally LOVE conspiracy theories. But the difference between myself and most people I know is that when I can piece together enough evidence of a so-called conspiracy theory, that theory for me becomes an actual conspiracy. People act as if such possibilities existing are equal to believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny without ever taking a serious look at the evidence.
In terms of the conspiracy theory of the policy of embranquecimento (whitening), we have numerous pieces of evidence that this was in fact a goal of Brazil’s leaders. First, there was the “Redenção de Cã” painting itself that gave an image to the goal. Then we have the fact that Brazil’s government created a policy that stimulated massive European immigration to Brazil while prohibiting the immigration of any more Africans. Then we have the open discussion and debate among Brazilian intellectual elites, formed by scholars, politicians, scientists and businessmen, who were so anxious for the disappearance of the Afro-Brazilian that they expressed revolt in scientist João Batista Lacerda’s prediction that the process could take up to 100 years, which they thought was an absurdity of time and that black people would be erased in a much shorter period.
The support of this idea, accepted in many intellectual narratives, was widespread by governments and national elites. The openly stated goal was for Brazil, on the international stage, to eventually becoming identified as a white country by ridding itself of the stigma of its population being composed mostly by sub-races. This ideology was supported by numerous influential voices including people like politician/journalist Joaquim Nabuco, lawyer/historian Silvio Romero, the aforementioned Batista and professor/sociologist Oliveira Viana, writer José Veríssimo, folklorist Couto de Magalhães, botanist Ladislau Netto, engineer Barbosa Rodrigues, philosopher Tobias Barreto and diplomat Oswaldo Aranha, among many others.
Thus, what we have here is the art that puts a visible representation of the goal, the policy to make that would guide the whitening process and the open declaration of the need to eliminate non-whites from Brazil by numerous leaders. As a conspiracy can be defined as “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful”, the ideology of embranquecimento could qualify as a conspiracy. As most people don’t see interracial unions as a means to eliminate an entire race, in some ways, the ultimate goal remains a secret that masquerades as a method of “improving” the Brazilian people.
Today, as we close in on the end of 2019, for the most part, most Brazilians continue to see the idea of the disappearance of the black race through the process of miscegenation as absurd, even as there is an increasingly number of people, many of whom are seeing this process take place in their own families, are beginning to acknowledge the validity of the plan.
We saw this debate on the Stúdio Fernando Fernandes Facebook page as some sounded the alarm on what they clearly see as a policy for black genocide while others continue to dismiss the idea, with others continuing to express the idea that ‘we are all equal’, ‘there is only one race: the human race’ and still others seeing the very questioning of widespread miscegenation as Hitleresque.
Based on the many conversations I’ve had with Brazilians over the years as well as my studying of the typical arguments people make when the issue of whitening through miscegenation comes up is that, for a person whose ancestry includes Europeans, Africans and/or Indians or any combination of the two or three, it seems to be difficult for such people to grasp the concept of how extermination and genocide can be possible when people freely mix across lines of color or race. But when people of mixed ancestry DO manage to see through the deception and see the objective of whitening for what it is, they are often argued down by those who still don’t “get it”. In the comments I translated below, I see that people like “Luh”, “Shayla”, and “Andréia” “get it” and try to break it down for others, but, more often than not, to no avail. I have to admit, I was about done wth reading the comments when, after so many people suggested that black people need to read their history to understand all of this, someone actually responded with, “What does knowing your story have to do with it? Do you care about love or a fact 500 years ago?”
I also see people all arguing how mixing black and white simply creates brown or mixed people. The problem that I have with this argument is that, in Brazil, the goal is not to reach “mixed race”, the goal is to reach whiteness. Thus, as we see in the case of Fernando, the whitening doesn’t stop at brown and rarely does it ever reverse and go back to blackness, but we DO see endless cases of black families becoming white or something close to white after a number of generations of mixtures with lighter/whiter partners. (And this is often times the desire of the black family itself)
I proved this point when I entered the conversation and wrote/asked the following: “Many of you in this group have acknowledged how some of your families have gone from black to white in a few generations. But how many of you can point to cases where the opposite is true, where a white family not only became black, but dark-skinned black?”
Most claimed not knowing of such a case, while one guy claimed that he knew four such cases. What does that mean? For every thousand cases of black families turning to white, there are four that go from white to black? But this is my whole point was with this discussion. If miscegenation were happening on equal footing across Brazil, you would see an equal number of families turning dark-skinned black after a few generations as you have of black families becoming white after a few generations as well as those brown families that fall in the middle. But this is simply not the case. And this is the point that most Brazilians don’t get, which in many ways, renders the discussion a waste of time.
What I see over nearly 20 years of studying, analyzing and visiting Brazil, is brown to dark-skinned blacks fading into light-skinned mestiço and white. And in this scenario, it is very much possible that the light-skinned mestiços will someday just be classified as white in a scenario similar to that of Italians in the US that weren’t always considered white. According to numerous reports over the years, we see a phenomenon in which many blacks define themselves as browns while many browns categorize themselves as whites. As such, in Brazil, we already have millions of mixed race individuals who classify themselves as brancos, or whites, in official census forms, which basically solidifies the scenario I just presented.
In the end, I eventually ended up receiving a response from Fernando himself after I posed my question. I don’t know how much of the discussion Fernando read, but in his comment toward me, he wrote, “may God have mercy on your thought. May God protect you and your family always.” All I could think was, ‘mercy on MY thought?’ We’re talking about the destruction of the black race and god should have mercy on MY thought? In reality, when I come across people that have this train of thought, I have to let them be.
Julier – Fernando Fernandes, God has nothing to do with it. It was the WHITE men who created Eugenics. There’s nothing to celebrate with the whitening unless it is in agreement that “sanitizing” the family by whitening is something commendable. Besides, your family is an example that the genocidal plan is still alive.
Pierre – As soon as the black Brazilian family is constructed, to whitewash the next generations. That’s why the guy is celebrating the whitening of his family, it’s each thing lol
In response, I wrote to him that I wished no ill will on his family, but that I could one day envision a history book talking about how Brazil was the place where millions of blacks disappeared because, “love has no color”. (Didn’t that happen in Argentina too?) Who’da thunk it? Celebrating the whitening of a black family on the Day of Black Consciousness.
Only in Brazil…
To get an example of what this type of debate looks like, check out some of the comments below. For those who read Portuguese, I come with full receipts of the discussion in the screen shots at the bottom of the page.
Luh: The Theory of Embranquecimento (whitening),a post-Abolition racist policy, worked well in your family, mine, and many black families. We are human, we love our non-black halves, but it takes judgment not to preach this as an alternative to end racism, but in 1 century we will have no more blacks in Brazil, which was really the intention of the Embranquecimento Theory. Arthur de Gobineau will have won and so will the racists… Let’s study your history, because celebrating that the family turned all white on Black Consciousness Day is an endless alienation! The Redenção de Cã is not the way
Shayla: Luh, I was thinking that. Blacks are changing characteristics likely that in the future the recintos (retintos, dark-skinned blacks)) will be extinct.
Erica: Luh, exactly in my family of my mother, dark-skinned great grandmother and grandmother, today there are white grandchildren with blue eyes! And miscegenation fulfilled the role of exterminating blacks in my family!
Luh: It’s an extermination policy, unfortunately. The miscegenation together with the extermination by police and urban violence and bad treatment in the SUS, the ethnic group will disappear.
Paloma: “Celebrate that the family turned white on Black Consciousness Day.” The weight in that sentence. Excellent comment!
Juris: Luh, trade blacks for Germans and you get a Hitler speech
Luh: Juris, do not blame me for his stupidity, as I mentioned historical points for consultation on Google. I myself am the daughter of a white mother, I have a mixed family and even a light skinned daughter, the difference is that I know why it happens. Hitler is that cone head you chose!
Luh: Juris, I am Hitler, but who married a blonde was you. 70% of white men like you marry white women, in other words, you, white man, are in no position to call me a Nazi. The opposite only happens when the black has money and fame, that is, abducting the mind of the rich black is a type of colonization.
Marvyn: So, the black is easily manipulated and self-interested?
Ana Paula: Luh, you never disappoint!
Luh: Marvyn, it’s not manipulative it’s really psychological racism. But we are already seeing other eras flourish, and the younger ones are more careful not to be absorbed. Interracial love does exist, what we question is the rule. This post is in this manipulative purpose and the message is obvious: “Have children with whites/someday we won’t have to have Black Consciousness Day.”
Alex: Stop talking shit and let the people love each other
Alex: White with black = beautiful, Black with white = ending the black race. White who has no relationship with blacks = racist, Black who has no relationship with whites = lucid Make up your mind
Marvyn: “psychological racism” = having free will to choose who to have children with? Or is the guy forced to have only black children?
Luh: Alex, but people are free to love each other, so much so that in Brazil 70% of white men marry white women, but you and not the guy up there call them (or define themselves) as racist. No one here is talking about prohibition, you have little intelligence, do you all lack comprehension of the text or are you really crazy? Oh, never mind that I don’t have time to hit your hard head.
Luh: Marvyn, so, enough questions. You can’t get into college with only (an) elementary school (education). To understand what I’m talking about here it takes at least 10 years and if you are white you will have to have a dose of goodwill, two simancol shovels, 100 tons of reading and a good wash to remove the mold from the brain. I DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT PROHIBITION or the endless silly things that you guys understood and I’m don’t have the patience to explain anything.
Luh: The guy in the topic posted that it is for black men to have children with white women until color no longer exists and it’s me who is racist and being questioned? (It’s) white women who should be bothered by this because they are being used in this way. If I were a white woman, I would be very worried if I am really being loved or if I’m a fissure due to the color of my skin and use of my uterus to lighten the skin of their offspring. Do white men want them and black men even making Suvinil (paint) catalogs to show the fading (of color)? You don’t even need all this stuff, there’s the Withenicious (Whitenicious, bleaching cream) and whitening cream and just put it on the skin guys!
Antonio: Luh, does it itch when these people expose their stupidity on social networks?
Sabrina: “beautiful blacks”. Aren’t they just beautiful people?!
Gabriel: The f&@$ kinda comment is this?
Carla: Brazilian racism.
Ane: It’s really cool to celebrate this date using an example of a tactic designed to END OUR COLOR. My congratulations, grade 0, it sucks.
Fernanda: Damn dude it’s cool to know that my mom and the whole BLACK maternal family got involved with my dad from a WHITE family just to end our color, like they never thought this..imagine crazy black and white people getting involved for pure love, right…. Ahhhh, stop it, right … I am the very proud daughter of a black woman with a white man, blood of a white man and a black woman run in my veins, and I’m not being less human because of that and I don’t even point my finger at people for their choices…. If you don’t like white … Just get with black … Accept it black woman!!!
Fran: There are more than 1.2 billion blacks in Africa, Jamaica, Haiti and some Caribbean islands, the color will never end, but it will increase racism against mestiços on the part of mestiços wanting to be pure black Africans.
Robson: They talked about sources, where do you want to start? Eugenics?
Robson: We can talk about Franz Fanon’s book “Black Skin, White Mask” Carlos Moore “Racism and Society” Or about Abdias Do Nascimento’s “Quilombismo” Not worth mentioning “Whitey”…
Manoel: Abdias do Nascimento was an integralista
Manoel: The only race is human, scientifically speaking, which according to several authors, factors such as geographic isolation caused mutations that are perceived today, the man today is not the same one hundred thousand years ago that looked more like a monkey, according to the fossils found
Manoel: Eugenia was a way of preserving the racial and cultural characteristics of a given people through state policies, the Nazis defended it, and had supporters even in African countries, in Brazil it is not possible to do this because almost all the people are mestiço, even if they isolated white people, they would still have black children. Not even culturally, for our culture is well-synced.
João: To think about it: if the blacks are whitening themselves, they are blackening the whites. Do you think there is a plan to end blacks, did you not stop to think that they are ending with whites too? If society is racist, who loses? The whites, of course!
Rita: The Black sanitizing his own race, culture and historicity …
Maive: Girl, who you all are wanting to a “maintain a pure black race” with who? Were you never of mixed descent by any chance? It’s cool, now you have to take care of the lives of others to see who you can or not relate with, why do you feel uncomfortable when you look at others’ skin color and then at your own color?
Vera: My father, blond with green eyes, had a son with a black woman. The boy was born white, with straight blond hair and blue eyes. I am witness to the little importance of skin color.
Juliana: It is the symbol of the whitening policy working. The weapon used against us. At least he’s healthy, but there’s no reason to be proud of it.
Felipe: Juliana, because it makes a lot of sense to whiten the race, if you take a pure branco (white) and a pure negro (black), the maximum that will come out is a pardo (brown), are you whitening or blackening the race? Understand, it makes no political sense to whiten, because inevitably you will have a majority of browns, neither white nor black and genetically if two browns have a child it is easier for him to go black than white, this is basically the genetic order since the black genotype genes are mostly dominant, and the white ones recessive.
Lissandra: People, in Brazil Racism is about skin color, it’s different from United States, for example
William: And that “conspiracy theory” that caused World War II is becoming more and more real.
Clarice: in a family where miscegenation happens by the man the tendency is to always lighten, never to darken, why is that? Is his origin not valued? self-hate? attraction to those who oppress you? Such whitening, or even worse, improve the race? all the motives lie in the denial of their ancestry.
Douglas: It became a crime for a black person to like and want to build a family with someone else, only that white
Andréia: Douglas, crime it is not, but it is lack of social consciousness, knowledge of your history and ancestry, a relationship is political act, it’s not only love, it says a lot about who you are, about your past, your longings, the funny thing that all over the world there are people who only relate with to each other, the black cannot choose to relate only to blacks, that begins the talk, resistance, indignation, they even invented the term reverse racism to silence us, to stop us, Japanese, Muslims, Indians, Jews marry each other and have no such oppression. The lack of knowledge of our history, the erasure of our identity, the lack of representativeness, the low esteem, the feeling of not belonging, the racism itself did the job very well, because today we still have situations of racism including the institutional and people continue to deny that it exists, defending the indefensible and justifying the unjustifiable and deified those that violate us and even kill us.
Marvyn: What does knowing your story have to do with it? Do you care about love or a fact 500 years ago? If the relationship is for love, let it be
Manoel: You said some bullshit; a black man who marries a white will have more black children than whites, and all white children of blacks can have black children as well, through their African descent.
Priscila: Andréia, nega (black woman), when will you receive the racist award of the year? Because I want to go there to honor you.
Victor: “Attraction for those who oppress you?” Do you choose love? Blacks can indeed relate to blacks, black woman, whoever they want, MY GOD! You all are being racist with yourselves! Such a disease!
Khalida: Nothing to do (with it) … my great-grandfather was white. My grandfather, white. My white father and here I come. Guess? BLACK because my father married a black woman. So, who said it always goes white? Nothing to do with it. Let people marry and mingle with whoever they want.
Fran: I have friends who are opening investments and real estate sales in central Africa, Senegal, Rwanda, Botswana. They don’t stay in Brazil at one time or another, his children will relate to someone White or mixed and his race purity will end.
Wallace: The future of humanity is to be brown, sooner or later ALL will be. We are the Aryan race version BR 2.0.
Guilherme: Dude, Hitler would be proud of some who have commented here! Now one must “oversee” the right of choice of blacks. To think that it is blacks themselves who think so.
Lukas: Guilherme, man, the best comment!
Karina: Well what Paulo Freire says: “when education is not liberating, the dream of the oppressed is to be the oppressor.” Instead of studying history, understanding what our ancestors went through, and fighting for the right to a decent life, people fight for supremacy of skin color. They want revenge rather than equality.
Glauber: My God how many prejudiced people, I am the son of a very proud interracial couple, I was born moreninho and my sister white with green eyes lol