Note from BW of Brazil: More news from the country where only 1.3% of the people openly define themselves as racists. Today’s story is really more of the same: the “dictatorship of whiteness” that everyone wants to pretend doesn’t exist. Again, this is nothing new. Brazil has also proclaimed itself to be a country of racial diversity and even a racial democracy while simultaneously and continuously showing its preference for whiteness in nearly every realm of society. We see it in politics. We see it in the media. We see it beauty contests. We see it in job advertisements. We see it on modeling runways. Only a few weeks ago, we received news that an agency requested only white female applicants in a city in which only about 20% define themselves as white. Last week, the governor’s party of the country’s most important economic state made a similar request. Check the story below and BW of Brazil’s comments afterwards.
Electoral campaign seeks model for advertisement that “cannot be black or Asian”
by Marcos Sacramento and O Tempo with info from PSDB website
Last Friday, a posting from the Relíquia Casting agency on Facebook summoned women to participate in a job for the electoral candidacy of current São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin. Relíquia Casting is a production and research company that has clients all over Brazil.
Those interested should be between 25 and 35 years old, willing to shave her head on the spot and be “castanha” (brown hair) or “loira” (blond) and send their photos by e-mail to the agency. The payment would be R$2,010 (US$896). The actress would simulate having cancer, hence the need to go bald. According to the Blog Olho Neles, the agency affirmed that it was Alckmin’s political party itself, the PSDB of São Paulo, that made the demand and re-iterated that the actress could be “nem negra e nem oriental” (neither black nor Asian).
Olho Neles tried several times, and several numbers, including those given by the PSDB (1) of São Paulo, to speak to Alckmin’s campaign committee. However, the calls weren’t answered. The PSDB of São Paulo, in turn, has not responded to questions sent by the blog. Relíquia Casting has in its portfolio castings for big advertisers such as Nike, Adidas, Wizard, Burger King, Sky, Skol and vignettes from Globo TV. The government of São Paulo itself, governed by the tucanos (1), has been a client of the company in an advertisement for “anti-alcohol campaign in São Paulo”, produced by “Cia de Cinema”.
Taking into consideration the minutiae of political marketing, that opines in relation to details such as hairstyle and tie color, it’s hard to believe that the demand made by the agency was an accident in processing or an “intern error”.
Maybe it was a faux pa? On Alckmin’s Facebook page there is no reference to the anniversary of the Secretariado Nacional da Militância Negra do PSDB (National Secretariat of Black Militancy of the PSDB) or the Tucanafro Brasil (2), on the 23rd. Nor to the Second National March Against the Genocide of Black People, a nonpartisan event held in various state capitals, including São Paulo, last Friday, the 22nd. Also there are no posts congratulating women for the Dia Internacional da Mulher Negra (International Day of Black Women), on July 25, or reference to Dia da Abolição da Escravatura (Day of the Abolition of Slavery), on May 13th. We say that it was amnesia.
For the Alckmin government, justice was done, proposing affirmative action to include more blacks in public universities and the civil service. However, such an action is not from the benevolence of a single party or a public figure. Quotas are a demand constructed by years of militancy of civil society and by politicians engaged in fighting racial discrepancies in the country.
The demand made by the party to the agency for the recruitment of models and the semiotic whiteness of the Alckmin page gives an idea of the commitment to the black cause. The post was taken down.
In the PSDB’s national and São Paulo pages there is no mention of the “brown or blond hair” model recruitment episode.
Note from BW of Brazil: Just to update this story, Felipe Neves, press office coordinator of the Alckmin campaign responded with a paragraph on the controversy in which he declared: “The campaign never made the demand related to a race or ethnicity requirement, as you (mis)inform your readers.” So, the party denies the accusation while the blog stands behind its word. Who are you inclined to believe? Well, on my part, the Facebook ad clearly shows a request for brunette or blond women and after the discriminatory ad raised eyebrows, it was quickly removed. As is customary in Brazil, NO ONE, or better yet, only 1.3% of people actually admit to being racist, so why would we expect that someone would voluntarily admit to racism even after being caught with evidence that suggests bias? While we don’t have a Facebook post that proves a demand excluding black or Asian women, but rather the followup contact made by the Olho Neles blog that was not visible, why would this demand be shocking after the original Facebook post? Having various contacts with people who work in advertising, I know that these agencies themselves only reproduce in the ads the demands of the client.
As has been proven on the blog since the beginning, Brazilian companies and businesses regularly exclude Afro-Brazilians in their selection processes, so why would we believe that this didn’t actually happen? The realm of politics is just as dirty, and as Afro-Brazilians have no power, they are forced to choose among political parties dominated by ideologies of white supremacy that in fact don’t really care about black issues. As the O Tempo newspaper reported on July 30th, there is a “lack of interest of political parties in promoting the candidacy of blacks” and thus they end up “reproducing the exclusion that happens in society.” Although the party that has maintained the presidency for the past 12 years, the PT (Workers Party) can count the most blacks of any party (still a miniscule amount), and is considered the friendliest toward black issues, “money earmarked to finance campaigns and programs geared toward racial issues are not part of the PTs costs.” The country’s most visible parties, the PT, PMDB and PSDB (3), have black nuclei, but these groups suffer from a lack of resources to give visibility to candidates and as a rule, the parties “don’t invest in blacks.”
As such, Afro-Brazilians are often left to choose sides between parties that simply don’t represent them and hope to receive some scraps from the table of white supremacy. And with the the PT and the PSDB being the two dominant parties and considered by many to be the flip sides of the same coin, where does this leave the black population? As President Dilma Rouseff, like Lula da Silva before her, have proclaimed advances under their administrations in policies in support of the black population over the past 12 years, the PSDB seems to feel the need to reach out (exploit?) to this parcel of the population as well with the addition of the black wing of the party with the Tucanafro organization (4). What does it tell us that this organization within the party has only existed for one year? Couple this with the fact that Alckmin’s party and administration has been condemned for its authoritarian stance towards the black population that has led to the shocking numbers of Afro-Brazilians murdered by the Military Police. With this in mind, why would I be inclined to believe that it didn’t exclude non-white women from a promotional campaign?
1. The term “tucano” (the toucan bird, the party’s symbol) applies to politicians belonging to the PSDB political party of its supporters. PSDB is the party of current São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin. The Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, PSDB or Brazilian Social Democratic Party is a centrist political party in Brazil. Originally a centre-left party (with social-democratic intentions, though they never held any actual strength in the unions) at the time of its foundation, PSDB moved to the right after Fernando Henrique Cardoso forged an alliance with the right-wing Liberal Front Party and was elected President of Brazil. The third largest party in the National Congress, PSDB has been the main opposition against the administrations of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. Its mascot is a blue and yellow colored toucan; party members are called tucanos for this reason. Famous tucanos includes Mário Covas, Geraldo Alckmin, Tasso Jereissati, Aécio Neves, FHC, Franco Montoro, Aloysio Nunes, Yeda Crusius, and José Serra.
Born together as part of the social democratic opposition to the military dictatorship from the late 1970s through the 1980s, PSDB and the Workers’ Party are since the mid-1990s the bitterest rivals in current Brazilian politics — both parties de facto prohibit any kind of coalition or official cooperation with each other in all government levels. Source
2. Tucanafro Brasil or the Secretariado Nacional da Militância Negra do PSDB (National Secretariat of Black Militancy of the PSDB) – completed one year of existence last Saturday, August 23. The Tucanafro PSDB is a movement started in 2004 in São Paulo, but it was in 2013 that the party decided to expand its core operations nationally, and today Tucanafro is already present in 24 Brazilian states.
Even with little time of existence, there are already thousands of militants of the cause throughout Brazil fighting for racial equality. Going against the still common view that Brazil is a country free of racism, Tucanafro seeks to educate people about the problem of inequality. Blacks have lower salaries in the country, are the main victims of violence and have fewer opportunities.
3. The PSDB held the presidency for eight years under Fernando Henrique Cardoso between 1994 and 2001 while the PT has reigned for the past 12 with Lula da Silva (2002-2009) and Dilma Rouseff (2010-current).
4. On the topic of policies directed at the Afro-Brazilian population, it is often pointed out that former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of the PSPB iniciated political action for racial equality began when he became president, in 1995, and began to discuss seriously the problem of racism which, up to that point was very little discussed. “The PSDB has an obligation to defend the compensatory policies. We were the first to declare publicly that we are committed to blacks,” said the former president.
Cardoso, who was signed Decree No. 4228, establishing the scope of the federal government’s National Program of Affirmative Action, establishing percentages of participation of African descendants in filling positions in the DAS (Demonstrativo dos Cargos em Comissão). However, the decree was revoked in 2003, and only after 11 years did the government resume the discussion of quotas in public competitions.