Note from BW of Brazil: Before I get into today’s story I must first reveal to readers that this story first made headlines about two weeks ago and has since fizzled out as a hot topic. But as I’ve had a few issues to deal with in recent weeks that just have to do with life, I didn’t have adequate time to address the story as I really wanted to. So rather than throw something hurried and sloppily written together, I decided to wait until I could address it the way I wanted. As the vast majority of my readers are outside of Brazil anyway, this will still be news to most of them, even if it’s a few weeks late. With that said, let’s get to this.
Since I began this blog a little over five years ago, there have been times when I was amazed at how a particular story dealing with race in Brazil coincided with a racial controversy in the United States. The funny thing is that both times that happened it involved a black Brazilian and one of the tennis-playing Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. Today’s story is relevant on its own but even more intriguing was the fact that the statements on race made by today’s subject, funk singer Mr. Catra, coincides with comments by the well-known African-American doctor and new US Housing and Development secretary, Ben Carson, who had everyone looking at him twisted when he suggested that Africans that were taken to the Americas during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade came as “immigrants” rather than human beings who were enslaved and reduced to objects whose work and very bodies were made into commodities. That story broke on March 6th. A few days later, on March 8th, Rio-based funk singer Mr. Catra made headlines when he expressed his opinion on slavery and who was responsible for it. Before I go into an analysis, let’s first check out exactly what Catra said.
Catra detonates leftists by criticizing racial quotas and the Day of Black Consciousness
“It was not the white who enslaved the black, it was the black who enslaved the black,” said the funkeiro.
“In reality, it was not the white who enslaved the black, it was the black who enslaved the black and sold him to the white on the (African) coast,” said the carioca (Rio native) singer.
“There are certain things in which hypocrisy comes in such a great form, people put it in such a badly done way, because it’s the following, brother: and where is the nobility of the black? Many noble people came here enslaved and the nobility was where? Do you understand, brother,” continued Catra, who has 32 children and three women.
“I think blacks don’t need quotas, they don’t need anything, we are equal,” he commented on the racial quotas that entitles blacks to enter some universities through quotas. The theme is quite controversial and has generated debates for a long time.
Catra also commented on the Day of Black Consciousness, which is celebrated on November 20th and is a holiday in some Brazilian cities. “Day of Black Consciousness…there has be the day of the Asian consciousness, Indian consciousness, of white consciousness, that for me is racism too,” said the funkeiro.
“And I came enslaved, sold by the black and saved by the white. Nowadays I am king,” he said, at another controversial moment of his comments to the Pânico humorists.
The carioca (native of Rio), who is openly opposed to leftist ideals, said that all this is part of ideology. “You have to stop this (ideology). Even what you feel people impose,” said Mr. Catra.
One of Brazil’s best-known funkeiros, Catra draws everyone’s attention through his resume. He speaks English, French, Hebrew and German. In addition, Catra graduated in law from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). The funkeiro only didn’t take the carteira of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) (see note 1), but he graduated. The funkeiro is already a grandfather.
The interview given to Pânico reverberated in social networks, where he was highly praised by many people for the overwhelming opinions given on the radio show.
@F_Santooss: Damn I never imagined that I would have a class with Mr.Catra’s hand Namoral, he showed off on Pânico on the Radio
Nobru ✠ @sv_bruu: Catra surprised me, he spoke many truths on Pânico and will cause a lot of mimimi (whining) in the left movements.
Note from BW of Brazil: Now before I get into my own response on Mr. Catra’s views, let me first reveal that reactions in Afro-Brazilian circles went from disappointment, to outrage to shock to irony. Below I share with you the reaction of blogger Nêggo Tom.
Mr. Catra’s panic and racial breakdown
By Nêggo Tom
One of the definitions of panic according to the dictionary is that which causes terror, fright, horror and fear, and it was exactly as such, physically taken by the sentiments defined by the above-mentioned writings, that I was left listening to some statements given by Mr. Catra, on Pânico no radio program on Jovem Pan. Never has the title of a program matched so much with what was said by the interviewee. Once again the themes racism and racial quotas were addressed, again who was willing to talk about the subject left (something) to be desired and once again the video went viral in the networks thanks to MBL (Movimento Brasil Livre) (see note 2). And always with the logo of the movement as a watermark of the manipulation.
It took me a long time to figure out what the racial quota system was about, and I also had to take a step back to this sort of affirmative policy. As Catra stated in the program, I also questioned how a policy that disqualifies blacks could be affirmative, giving the idea that he is so inferior intellectually that he needs quotas to enter public universities. Later, analyzing the facts better and having as main reference the historical factor and the social trajectory of blacks in Brazil, I began to understand that the quotas did not attribute to us intellectual inferiority, although it seems so, but it aimed at reducing the social and numerical inequality among whites and blacks in universities.
This inequality was generated by the period in which the blacks were enslaved and prevented from having access to the same education as the white slave masters, and consequently their descendants were also affected. After the abolition of slavery blacks had nowhere to go and didn’t even have basic literacy, much less the necessary training to be admitted to some formal employment. Not to mention that the colonizer, annoyed at having to give up his slaves, acted in repression, and suggested to everyone that they close their doors and deny them any type of dignity. Thus, the streets, the ghettos, the favelas and the worst conditions of work and survival were left to them. And it still exists today.
It was unfortunate and frightening to hear from the following statement from Mr. Catra: “It was not really the white man who enslaved the black. It was the black who enslaved the black and sold him to the white and everyone knows it.” Everyone who, pale face? After this statement, he still condemned the hypocrisy and the badly done way (in these terms), with which blacks complain of racism in Brazil and concluded: “I came enslaved and sold by the black and I was saved by the white. And today I am King.” I would summarize this with two expressions that he himself likes to use: “The situation is crazy. Understand?” Yes, unfortunately I understand and I have to hear things like that.
As Simone de Beauvoir would say: “The oppressor would not be so strong if he didn’t have accomplices among the oppressed themselves.” Catra’s complicity with the oppressor colonizer is a mixture of alienation and gratitude. This becomes clear when he says he was saved by the whites. Perhaps he was referring to the white upper-middle class couple who adopted him and provided him with good living and education. Cool! Gratitude in life is everything! Now, wanting to make an exception as a rule is not very honest or legitimate. Catra acted como um preto criado na casa grande (like a black man raised in the big house). And my placement in this case is not just metaphorical. The luck he had, thanks to God, did not knock on the door of the majority. This is a majority he ignores when he repeats the cliché: “Somos todos iguais” (we are all equal) and opposing the quota policy, not taking into account the historical factors I have already mentioned.
Catra confirmed the thesis that, if he expresses himself with intelligence, it is not always conditioned to the degree of instruction of the person and to his social environment of formation. Even speaking 3 or 4 languages, he couldn’t speak the language of empathy. He was not able to put himself in the shoes of many who did not have the same opportunity and repeated in a generic way the hypocritical discourse of meritocracy according to coup’s agitators. Once again the reading that is done by those who are interested in having it done in this way is: If a successful black man is saying this, those who keep in “mimimi” (whining) are lazy, incompetent and have no ability to get to where he got. We know that naive he is not. Much less stupid. But the situation in which he finds himself is more favorable and this sometimes takes from some people the capacity or even the will to see the difficulty of the other.
The problem isn’t knowing how to handle an opinion contrary to our own. The problem is the distorted information reaching its recipients as a formed opinion, coming from someone with relevance in the media and who for this reason, supposedly has the authority to talk about the subject. My question is: even if the blacks had been sold by other blacks to the whites, would this make slavery legitimate? Would all the horror and cruelty suffered by the enslaved blacks be justified? And how did white slave masters save blacks? Denying them access to education, dignity, and a human way of surviving? Imposing upon them a judgment lower racial inferiority that still lasts to this day? Claiming that the blacks had no soul and so the punishment and the scourges attributed to them could not be considered inhumane?
Tell me, Mr. Catra, how did the white settlers save the blacks? Selling them as purebred animals or any commodity in newspaper ads of the time? Offering rewards to anyone who caught a rebellious black who had escaped the rigors of whippings? Denying them the right to freedom or selling to the blacks at the price of gold, a liberty that they themselves had stolen from them? Generating the social, racial and human inequality that we see today? Sexually violating the enslaved black women and giving them gifts of mestiço (mixed race) and abandoned children as bastards? Undermining their culture and forbidding them to have access to the culture of whites?
What salvation is that which has decimated thousands of lives, whose bodies were thrown into the sea from the slave ships, leaving a trail of endless blood in our history? Did they put some prohibited substance in your water during this interview or did you simply miss the history class? What do you define as salvation? What is it to be a king to you? Unsaved blacks want to know.
Note from BW of Brazil: So, where should I start here? I guess I’m wondering what sources Mr. Catra used to form such a simplistic opinion on such a complex topic. Anyone who hasn’t studied the topic in full and may have been listening to the interview with the famous father of 32 children could walk away from his comments with a completely distorted view on what actually transpired before and during the loading of millions of African bodies aboard ships to be sent to the Americas to never see their homelands again.
The first thing I’ll mention before I get into the meat of this of discussion is that Catra makes it pretty plain that his intent is to align himself with those who have long disagreed with the implementation of affirmative action policies that have helped hundreds of thousands of Afro-Brazilian attain a college education. I find it quite ironic that Catra can turn his nose up at a policy meant to correct the historic exclusion of Afro-Brazilians from attaining a means to attaining a comfortable living when this same man of poor origins was given his own boost in life by the generous boss of his mother, a maid. Catra was adopted by Edgar Luiz Pinaud and grew up in a well to do middle class neighborhood. Pianuad, who died last year at the age of 86, was a stockbroker and a cousin of João Luiz Doboc Pinaud, the State Secretary of Human Rights in Rio de Janeiro. One has to wonder what would happened to the young Wagner Domingues Costa (aka Mr. Catra) had he not been given this helping hand by the (white) man who he would refer to as his father. Unfortunately, throughout Brazil, most white families, while referring to their live in (often black) maids as being “like one of the family” don’t actually treat them as such. If they were really “like one of the family”, wouldn’t they help these women and their families, often paid minimum (or slightly higher) salary by their “like family” bosses, attain the same status that they have? Wouldn’t they help pay for their college education? Help them with down payments on their own homes, just like they do with their own children? What I remember is that many middle class white Brazilians sneer at seeing black Brazilians in chic shopping malls, nice apartments (see here or here) or seeing their “like one of the family” maid’s daughter attending the same university as their own children. Mr. Catra was one of the lucky ones but he doesn’t believe that other black people of humble origins, similar to his own, deserve the same break. Ironic to say the least.
Then there’s the point he makes about the necessity of there being days of Asian and Indian consciousness, of which I would actually have no problem. The whole problem in Brazil, as in the rest of the West, is that the histories of each particular country as well as the world itself, is usually only told from the perspective of the white European, which makes his suggestion that there also needs to be a day of white consciousness utterly ridiculous. As this blog has shown repeatedly, Brazil does quite well in indoctrinating its citizens into the concept of white supremacy. Why would such a system need to celebrate such exclusionary practices when it already does this 365 days a year? But I suppose, in Catra’s view, that’s not racist.
Now let me deal with Catra’s view that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade happened because Africans simply sold other Africans to Europeans. The fact is that that wasn’t the whole story. It always amazes me how the media narrative is always to present a given topic and present it in a negative manner without putting it in an historical context.
For example, back in 2010 when a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, I lost count of how many reports started with the phrase, “the poorest country in the Western hemisphere” without also revealing how the country became so poor. No mention of the reparations the French demanded which in itself would completely undermine Haiti’s economy. No mention of the American occupation of the country between the years 1915 and 1934. No mention of the US-backed Duvalier dictatorships, National City Bank of New York control of the Haitian National Bank, no mention of the usage of Haiti as a virtual sweatshop for foreign interests, the US removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004 nor the Brazilian military’s occupation of the country since his ouster. None of this. And all of this before the devastating earthquake.
In other words, it’s sufficient enough to show the world that Haiti is a black country that is poor and backward without exposing the not so hidden hand of the West that has made sure that Haitians pay the price for being the only country in the Americas in which black slaves overthrew their European colonizers. The same is ultimately true of the way the entire African continent is usually portrayed in the media, an incomplete representation that Mr. Catra apparently has no problem contributing to.
When we deal with the issue of slavery, we must first acknowledge many races and citizens have enslaved people of their own races and countries and this is not unique to Africa. As Richard McKenzie Neal tells us:
“Slavery has been part of the human condition throughout recorded history and everywhere on the globe; Greeks enslaved other Greeks; Asians enslaved Asians; Africans enslaved Africans; and in the New World, Aztecs enslaved Aztecs and other native groups.”
Slavery itself is not unique to Africa or Europe. But what IS different is the barbaric method with which Africans were treated under European slavery. Slavery in Africa didn’t objectify and brutalize the enslaved or base an entire economy on this enslavement. Slaves in Africa were more akin to indentured servants rather than subjugated to condition of chattel in which they found themselves in the Americas. African slavery didn’t involve the rape of enslaved women. A former West African slave, writer Olaudah Equiano, having experienced slavery in both Africa and the Americas, described the difference between the two forms of slavery. According to Equiano, a slave in Africa was treated as an extended member of the family, which in no way compare to the brutality experienced by Africans enslaved in the Americas. In the Americas, he had also been beaten and seen the rape of an African woman by a European slave owner, things he had never seen when was a slave in Africa.
And as slavery in Africa was completely different from what Africans would experience at the hands of Europeans, historian John Henrik Clarke explains that Africans didn’t knowingly sell other Africans into bondage with full knowledge of the horrific, torturous treatment that would await them on the other side of the world. Yet another aspect of the story is the fact that European would often supply superior arms to one African nation that was at war with another. The victorious side would then gather captives of the losing side who were then sold to Europeans in order to buy more weapons. Europeans would then use these newly acquired captives to initiate slave raids using existing animosity among different groups to their benefit.
As Dwayne Wong Omowale tells us, there “seems to be an attempt to shift the burden of the slave trade on the victims of that very trade.” Omowale continues:
“In How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney mentions how the white author of a book on the slave trade admitted that he was encouraged by other scholars to blame the slave trade solely on the Africans. This narrative helps to lessen European guilt by making Africans seem just as or even more guilty of being involved in the slave trade. This piece is not an attempt to ignore the African role in the slave trade or to absolve those that were involved, but to provide a more complete picture of the African involvement in the slave trade.”
And researching the full story of the slave trade is the only way we can get to the bottom of what really happened in that distant past. And needless to say, Mr. Catra would do himself and us all a huge favor if he would sit down and learn the full history before making such deceptive statements without telling the full context of the story. For some reason this doesn’t surprise me coming from a man who doesn’t mind dressing up as a gorilla or putting on a wig and women’s clothing. But hey, if Catra is willing to educate himself on this topic, maybe then he could share the knowledge with Ben Carson too!
- Documents of professional identity issued by the Brazilian Bar Association which is mandatory for attorneys and trainees to practice law.
- MBL is a Brazilian political movement that defends neo-liberalism and republicanism, and has been active since 2014. The movement became well-known with its participation in demonstrations for the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff. MBL is also connected to the controversial, newly elected black São Paulo city councilor Fernando Holiday, who shares similar views as Mr. Catra on the issue of race.