Note from BW of Brazil: Wow, wow, WOW! According to a mythology that has existed for since at least the 1930s, one would believe that racist sentiments, comments and heated debates about race and representation simply don’t exist in Brazil. After all, isn’t it supposed to be the country where everyone is of mixed race and thus “all equal”? Well, in nearly five years of the existence of this blog we’ll laid this lie to rest time and time again. So what’s so intriguing about today’s piece? In reality, as we’ve thoroughly covered this topic in numerous posts, there’s actually nothing shocking about the details of the article. It simply provides more insight into thoughts and beliefs about race that show that people continue to deny the facts and that these thoughts can be as deeply racist as citizens of any other multi-racial society. Before I proceed, let’s first delve into what happened last week due to a post and photo on a social network.
Photo of black girl on representative receives thousands of racist comments
Girl was attacked by a barrage of biased comments; many suggested that she buy products with the picture of a monkey to see herself represented
By Maíra Streit of Revista Fórum with additional information courtesy of JC Online
The photo of a menina negra (black girl) holding a sign with the words “Não me vejo, não compro” (I don’t see myself, I don’t buy) has generated discussion on social networks. The phrase refers to the campaign against the lack of black representation in the market. In the picture, posted on Facebook user Ronald JF Santos Cruz, she appears in front of products of the Barbie character.
The intention of the photo was to highlight the issue of representativeness, as meninas negras don’t feel included in the media industry, always disposed to impose on children an ideal standard of beauty.
However, in a few days what we saw was a flood of thousands of racist comments. Some, for example, suggested that the girl buy products with the picture of a monkey. On the profile in which the photo was posted on Wednesday (26), the image received more than 10,000 curtidas (likes) and it was compartihada (shared) more than 710 times.
In the comments there were prejudice phrases and even Nazi overtones. The child’s mother was also the target of nasty comments, such as teaching the child to “fazer de vítima” (play the victim).
Among the comments, a user says in the picture: “look at the legal process, guys”, noting that racism is a crime provided for in the penal code. A web user showed his anger in the face of so much prejudice: “Many don’t understand, it’s not a question of her being able or not to buy a Barbie for it being white, she doesn’t feel represented by a white Barbie, for not having a Barbie that looks like her. Por favor, não existe racismo contra branco” (please, there is no racism against whites).
The cases could be considered a cybercrime, for promoting hatred and violence against individuals based on racial issues. Complaints of this kind of attitude can be made in the site of the SaferNet NGO and, after analysis, will be sent to the Public Prosecutors and the Federal Police so that an investigation may begin.
There have been cases of people who shared the photo and also suffered aggression on the social network. The student from (northeastern state) Pernambuco Ronald JF Santos Cruz, who posted the image to feel represented, reports that in addition to the racist comments against the photo of the girl, he was also the target of prejudiced comments because of being black. After a series of complaints about the image, Facebook blocked the student’s profile, that couldn’t delete the comments nor the profile picture. He said he will seek the Pernambuco’s public prosecutors (MPPE) to report the case.
Cases of racism on the Internet can be reported on the website of the Federal Public Ministry. It is important to copy the link of the publication to be denounced, in addition to prints of complaints before sending them to the organ.
Note from BW of Brazil: If you haven’t figured out by now, the lack of black representation in so many areas of Brazilian society has become a major issue for Afro-Brazilian activists for many years, but with the rise of social media these demands and opinions are reaching a much wider audience and also showing how divided much of Brazil is on questions of race. The photos featured above were taken from Facebook after a photo of a black girl standing in front of a store display of backpacks all featuring the famous blond doll character Barbie. The point of the sign the child holds is a sentiment shared by many in Brazil’s black community: “If I don’t see myself (represented) in a store, I don’t buy the products.” As simple an ideology that this is, it still lead to a heated debate on Facebook in a post that received over 12,000 comments as of today. Of course it would be far too time-consuming to read, translate and post 12,000 comments but below I posted a few just to give you an idea of how the debate went down. I will interject my comments in italics.
JF Ribeiro – PQP (puta que pariu) (1) I didn’t know that a post like this, criticizing the lack of representation would become a federal confusion. You guys are wanting to disqualify the fight against the lack of representatividade negra (black representation) that exists. Either you all didn’t fucking understand anything or you want to disqualify the struggle of those who have no representation. If the second option, you guys are psychopaths.
Carlos – Fuck you, Barbie is a personagem branca (white character), (if) you want a black character, there’s a purse of Cirilo do Carrosel (black character of popular children’s novela/soap opera) (2).
JF Ribeiro – Fuck you, Carlos? Are you sure? Okay. I can do what you’re saying (by) putting this Barbie your ass. Can I? Is it tight?
Although I have in fact seen a backpack with the image of the Cirilo character (played by actor Jean Paulo Campos), the availability and popularity of this character and backpack cannot compare with that of the Barbie brand. One is guaranteed be able to go into children’s store across Brazil and find an enormous supply of Barbie dolls, clothes, toys, makeup etc. Beyond the simple image of the Cirilo character, I also have a problem with the way the character is portrayed on the novela, with his endless adoration of the white girl character, Maria Joaquim. Symbolically, the Maria Joaquim character is adored by the black child character in the same way that the Barbie character is adored by millions of children worldwide. We also know that children can be quite vicious in their treatment of colleagues and I wonder how a black girl would be treated in a situation in which everyone in her class, including other black children, wear products featuring Barbie or other well known white characters while she wears something with the Cirilo character on it. Although Carlos is correct in pointing out the existence of a backpack with Cirilo featured on it, in terms of popularity, availability, adoration and the image associated with it, in comparison to Barbie, there is still no comparison here.
Kauane – Beautiful, but it’s true, people only create personagens brancas (white characters), the black ones are in the minority.
In analyzing Brazil’s major television networks, cinema, print media, etc., fictional characters, journalists, talk show hosts, etc., are overwhelmingly white. Brazil’s media also presents a huge selection of American television (both on free TV and most cable TV options), film and print media, which are also overwhelmingly white. This even though it is notable that American media presents far more black representation than Brazil’s media.
Maron – How irritating!! Now everything is racism. Go break yourselves!!! Carry your materials in a saco de lixo preto (black garbage bag). Much more your face, right??!
A common manner of dealing with critiques of racism/white supremacy is the complaint that “you people see racism in everything”. Maron’s trash bag comment is also reminiscent of a controversial incident involving race and athletes on Brazil’s national gymnastics team. It is quite amazing how most white Brazilians simply prefer to belittle or ignore black demands for representation. The facts aren’t at all difficult to perceive if one were to simply spend some time analyzing the vast difference in sheer numbers between white and black images in the mainstream media. The problem is that the representations of black and white are so normalized that when people begin to take note of these differences and point them out, it is simply amazing to see how wide the unbalances actually are. When one group is in a position in which the representation of their own image is the norm, it’s easy to disregard critiques from other groups. It seems that no one ever wants to stop and consider how it would be if these representations were reversed.
The perfect example of this are the photos in which people posted a white girl or Barbie doll holding the same sign (“I don’t see myself, I don’t buy”) in front of products with images of black girls on the front as if to say that is reverse racism. Again, I would challenge anyone to go to any store throughout Brazil and show where this is a true scenario. There is no store in Brazil in which white children will not see images that look like them. In every children’s store across Brazil, the norm IS white representation with black representation almost non-existent (3). As such, making such a point shows that people don’t really want to debate the issue based on reality.
Sabrina – So go without a backpack, carry your materials in your hand! Barbie is a character and was created loira (blonde)! There are several other negro/moreno (black/brown) characters…People don’t buy because they see themselves, but because they think (something’s) beautiful, after all, this is not a mirror!
Here, it seems that Sabrina wholly supports the clear propagation of white supremacy through global capitalism and marketing regardless of how this may affect people who don’t fit within the parameters of the images promoted. Her comment seems to say, “she’s white, get over it!” and her assertion that people by things “because they think they’re beautiful” speaks to the dominant connection between whiteness and beauty. The fact is, due to the dominance of whiteness in Brazil, if most children were given the choice, most would most likely say, “A black doll?!?!? No mommy, I don’t want it!”
Again, no desire to deal with why representation matters. As far as there being “several other negro/moreno (black/brown) characters”, I would ask her to take a simple test. Go to movie theater, count how many posters feature white people as the lead cast and how many feature black people. In the films themselves, how many white characters in total does one see versus black characters? Watch television for just a few hours and conduct the same test. Go to any children’s store and do the same test. Only recently did a Colombian production introduce a cartoon for the Brazilian market in which the majority of the characters were black.
Her comment is a blatant lie.
Her second comment (“People don’t buy because they see themselves, but because they think (something’s) beautiful”) is equally problematic because the fact is the global norm presented as beautiful is white. This is an important part of this whole debate. The fact that whiteness is associated with beauty on a global scale makes it so that there isn’t even an option of an alternative. Whites and non-whites alike are programmed to accept whiteness as the hegemonic standard, thus, not only do consumers purchase what is universally accepted as “beautiful”, retailers support the ideology by offering mostly products that present this dynamic. We cannot simply narrow the argument down to what people think is beautiful without taking into the consideration the powerful mechanism of propaganda and media which have such a powerful influence on the very perception of beauty.
Carlos – BUY A FUCKING MIRROR THEN, DAMMIT. THIS IS A BACKPACK. THERE ARE MANY CARTOONS AROUND HERE, BUY ANOTHER ONE DAMMIT. AN OBSESSION YOU ALL HAVE OF SEEING RACISM IN EVERYTHING. WHY NOT PUT THAT GIRL IN FRONT OF A FUCKING KING KONG DISPLAY?
Bruno – King Kong?
Lume – Racist.
Again, the baseless argument that “there are many” other products here. But he conveniently doesn’t deal with the fact that almost ALL of those other cartoons also feature mostly white characters. There is no debate when people can’t come to terms with the facts. And when one cannot come to terms with the facts, they purposely blind themselves to perspective of those of which he/she debates. Again the “you see racism in everything” comment and when all else fails, apply the racist comparison of black people with monkeys and gorillas. Here Carlos doesn’t actually want to debate white supremacy but rather align himself with and benefit from the global model of racism/white supremacy in which he doesn’t even need to confront the facts. One of the facts that is very pertinent to this present discussion is the study that found that of the dolls sold on online Brazilian stores, only 3% of all dolls are black dolls. And finally, the ridiculous comments made by both Carlos and Sabrina in which they argue “this is not a/go buy a mirror” are simplistic attempts to discredit the slogan “If I don’t see myself, I don’t buy” by addressing the literal meaning of the phrase when they clearly know this has nothing to do with an actual mirror but rather seeing images in products that are designed to emulate real human physical characteristics of one particular race of people to the exclusion of others.
Hélio – Sad to see people who do not know their roots!!!! Ehehehe fucking racism is lack of knowledge of their ignorance, and our school only teaches shit to strengthen racism studying some concepts of before being racist, such as Africa; origin of the peoples of the world, in order to know that there are several people in the world and not all having to be of the white race!!!
Fitting to remember here that for more than a decade, Brazil has had a law obligating schools to teach African and Afro-Brazilian history and culture although it’s been basically ignored since its existence. Numerous articles on this blog make reference to the law.
Tiscyanne – You all are ridiculous, she’s just an innocent child, if you want to talk shit speak of the mother making the child look ridiculous! Who do you guys think you are? Somos todos iguais (We are all equal) in God’s eyes it doesn’t matter if we are black, white, blue or green, he loves us anyway so stop being racist and will ask God for forgiveness for your sins. My opinion, I’m black and I’m married to a white man, or it’s not because of this do I have racism, my daughter is morena (brown/mixed) and my son also, both with light eyes so I see no reason for this. Kisses of light for you guys who are in the darkness of racism.
Here we have the classic “we are all equal” reaction that so many Brazilians utter as opposed to actually dealing the existence of racial inequality. It’s a comment I wish more people would analyze more critically and refrain from repeating. The same with the popular phrase that “it doesn’t matter if we are black, white, blue or green” as there are in fact no blue or green people. We have enough inequality with only the colors and races that actually exist; what is the necessity of inventing people? What does this really bring to the discussion? I also find it intriguing how Tiscyanne finds it necessary to include the fact that she is black and married to a white man and has children with light-colored eyes. Although she doesn’t specifically state this, it’s almost as if she’s confirming that being in an interracial marriage and having mixed children that she can’t possibly understand (or relate to) the reason that the child desires seeing images equal to hers. Her views seem to be perfectly in line with the Brazilian discourse of “we’re all mixed” thus discussion of black people feeling excluded would violate the widely disseminated myth. In my experience, when people adapt the ideology that says “we’re all equal”, these people are perfectly comfortable with the status quo (which is very unequal) and as such unlikely to support any sort of activism/policies that would challenge this status quo.
Camilla – I don’t see myself in this child. When I was a kid the only thing I (didn’t) care about was if I was black, white, yellow, brown…What I wanted to know was to play and have fun. And another thing, I didn’t have a beautiful backpack like that one, no, I had what my mother could buy and was very happy! I dread putting a child in this world to become equal to that girl, so small but thinking differently when in fact it she doesn’t have anything different, somos todos iguais (we are all equal)! Fight for the right to equality but fight for real! I think this photo is ridiculous, I am black but today’s blacks don’t represent me.
It should be recognized that the Brazilian discourse of “we are all equal” and those who speak against this idea are “playing the victim”, “creating problems that don’t exist” is equally powerful among white and black Brazilians. Notice that Camilla in fact belittles the black child in the photo for “thinking differently” which proves the points I’ve already made. As we saw in a previous post, and what I’ve pointed 0ut in numerous other posts, racism in Brazil is normal, but fighting against it is seen as abnormal. What I get from Camilla’s comment is that being the average Brazilian is not to reject the established standard and actually assert one’s differences, because “we are all equal”. But in reality, if “she doesn’t have anything different”, there would be no need to speak out against racial exclusion because she would regularly see images that represent her. In this sense, it’s not surprising that “today’s blacks don’t represent” Camilla as many black Brazilians are attempting to break away from the stifling of the discussion of the racial situation that has silenced them for decades. The adherence to the “we are all equal” rhetoric firmly places Camilla in the racial accomodationist side of the debate that has maintained the ‘racial democracy’ myth for so long.
Thais – Funny is to having so many things with white little girls with blue eyes stamped on everything, and there are people who think it’s normal to place this as a standard of beauty. If prejudice didn’t exist we would see bonecas negras (black dolls) and images of meninas negras (black girls) with the same frequency that we see dolls and images of meninas brancas (white girls). What this girl’s mother did was quite right in explaining to her that what she really has to do is fight for equality, and she must know that she is as beautiful as the white girl, and therefore deserves to be represented. What disgusts me is not this victimhood that they think she has, what disgusts me is seeing white people who never went through what blacks go through and still come to say that she is exaggerating, this can only be a lack of education or lack of love in the heart itself ❤✌
Sarah – People, stop this is ugly, you all really didn’t understand the big issue that was raised by this photo. What this girl wants is representation, and if it was only on the backpacks everything would be OK, right? The issue goes far beyond that, blacks represent 50% of the population and even so, they have no representation. It’s not disrespecting whites, nor is it preventing a white person from buying the backpack he/she wants. It is more than fair that there be products with black models, that we turn on the TV and see as many blacks as whites in novelas (soap operas), this is not mimimi (whining), it’s equality. Stop distilling racist comments and understand that the issue is broader than simply buying a backpack.
Both of the two previous comments are well-written and represent the position of BW of Brazil since the beginning.
Luan – “what this girl wants is representativeness.” Sarah, the girl in the photo may not even know what “representation” is, let’s not be naive.
Sarah – She may not know, but she certainly suffers from racism and lack of representation, you can see by the comments here.
The black girl in the photo at the center of this whole debate may or may not know what representation really means. But it is not impossible that she could have a very simple or even a more profound understanding of it. While many black children are simply indoctrinated to accept white images as being very normal and beautiful, we have seen numerous examples of black children who can clearly identify the lack of black people in so many areas of society. Remember the 4-year old boy who blew up on the internet because he identified with the black Star Wars doll? Or the activism of the child rapper MC Soffia? Or the black child who asked if black princesses existed? Or the six-year black girl who told her mother, “Wow mommy, this place is beautiful but there are no black people.” And in reference to this whole controversy, how sick is it that people can refer to a black child as a monkey? We know that calling a person of visible African descent a macaco/macaca, meaning monkey, is the Brazilian’s favorite racial insult, but when I see people hurl such an insult at a child it shows me that having a debate with such people really makes n sense. Amazing that people can say such cruel things and people still want to defend the idea that Brazil has no racial problems.
This a debate that does need to continue and resorting to racist sentiments, denying the problem or attempting to silence dissent are no longer options that go unchallenged. In this latest controversy, there were more 12,000 comments made by many Brazilians who clearly show that they prefer to maintain the decades old discourse of the Brazilian ‘racial democracy’, ‘we are all equal’ as well as those who probably know full well that, as white people, they are clearly over-represented in nearly every important genre in the country yet demonstrate an unwillingness to come to terms with a Brazil that clearly prefers their phenotype; and why would they? But what we can also note is that more everyday black Brazilians are no longer willing to accept conditions in their country that continue to maintain them in a position of second class citizenship. And as this consciousness continues to rise, we can expect to see more heated debates about the issue.
Comments in original Portuguese
- Th phrase “puta que pariu” is a shortened version of the phrase “Vá pra puta que te pariu” can be translated as “go to the whore that gave birth to you”. In it’s full form it can be strong insult but in it’s shortened version it is often used to simply express frustration with a given situation.
- There are a number of articles on this blog that deal with the racial question of Cirilo, the black character on the SBT-TV children’s novela, Carrossel. See here, here and here.
- A few days ago, we presented news about a new online site that features 100% black vendors and the models of the products are also all black. In the same manner that persons who want to deflect the facts away white dominance of nearly every industry in Brazil by arguing for the existence of “reverse racism” will probably soon begin to attack this site as somehow being racist against whites. Again, the fact here is that Afro-Brazilians create such initiatives precisely because they are clearly not represented by popular stores, neither as owners, the images presented on the products or persons hired to endorse the products.