Note from BW of Brazil: The origins of today’s post come from three different incidents that have nothing to do with each other. The first happened in November of 2014, while the second, a simple question and response made by a colleague, another African-American who has also been studying the experiences of black Brazilians, back in February or March of this year. Today’s post was also inspired by a rising realization on the part of a parcel of Brazil’s black population as to what Brazil’s long promotion of miscegenation actually means for black Brazilians.
Before I get into this, let me introduce two texts that influenced me to write about this. The two posts are courtesy of two online social network profiles that I happened to discover a few days ago. One is called Grana Preta, which can be translated as ‘black money‘, while the second is known as Enegrecendo as Estruturas, meaning ‘blackening the structures’. Both of these profiles make some very honest, provocative declarations on the situation of the população negra in Brazil. After reading their posts, I thought to myself, finally, people are starting “get it”.
Considering these comments along with recent debates concerning two well-known black female entertainers (see here and here), one can sense a shift in the understanding of the many weapons of white supremacy that are used to undermine the black community and maintain it in a position of subservience. Before I weigh in, let’s get to the comments posted in the two online profiles. First, let’s take a look at what Grana Preta had to say.
Grana Preta @pretagrana
The black person who is in an interracial relationship may have really found “love” in white arms, but his life is empty of Bolingo (meaning ‘love’ in Lingala language). He/she undertook an almost hypnotic search for the relationship model that was instilled in their subjective from an early age through contos de fadas (fairy tales), movies, and novelas (soap operas) (see here and here). Of course, this pursuit of westernized romantic love will lead to the pessoa branca (white person). It is unrealistic to expect that a black person, born in a colonial context, forged by racial tensions and daily experiencing structuring racism, has the ideal psychological conditions to engage in such a romantic performance.
Today, the family photo of a black businessman, owner of the largest Latin Amerikkka company in his field, caught my attention; it showed three generations of his family, his father, him and then his son. The father, a noble and elegant nobleman, him, also dark-skinned, with the same skin tone as his father, and finally his son, a distinctly white young man. Of the few blacks operating in the economic/financial sector, the overwhelming majority are in interracial relationships that have generated white descendants.
You might be thinking: Okay, this we already know! But what does this have to do with economics? Unfortunately, everything. Palmitagem should be viewed as a form of suicídio econômico (economic suicide) for the comunidade preta (black community). The individual works, rises socially, detaches from the community, and marries white, begins to work and accumulate wealth to maintain an institution (family) and a descendant that will be white. Actively contributing to the maintenance of the economic domination of the povo branco (white people) over their own people.
Bottom line: A rich black man poses no threat to racist structures, because puppeteers know very well that he will hardly be able to transfer that wealth to his black descendants, either for lack of wealth strategy management, lack of financial intelligence, or in worst-case scenario, the transfer of wealth will easily occur, by inheritance or retirement, from black hands directly to white ones… #economia #familiapreta #autonomia #financas #relacoesinterraciais #palmitagem
Note: After reading this piece, I couldn’t be absolutely sure because the writer didn’t mention the black businessman by name, but I was willing to bet I KNEW who he/she must have been talking about. Rewind to the year 2014. A friend of mine from the Bay Area in California who happens to have one of the largest online black communities in the world of social networking, arrived in São Paulo to participate in a seminar focusing on black entrepreneurs and social networks put on by the people of Feira Preta.
After my friend made his presentation onstage and the event ended, he, myself and five other black men got together in a meeting room, exchanged ideas and just chopped it up a bit for about 10 to 15 minutes. Most of the men in the small circle ran small businesses. Of the seven, five were black Brazilian men, while my friend and I were the only two black Americans. We then took a group photo. Within the group there was a tall, very light-skinned young man who arrived perhaps half way through the event and sat in the audience. I don’t remember him introducing himself to the group, it would be well over two years later before I would discover who this young man was.
You see, I had featured a story on this blog about his father who had risen from poverty to becoming the CEO of a multi-million REAL (Brazil’s currency) company. As I had featured his father a few times on the blog already, I was familiar with his name and his face. So then sometime between 2016 and 2017, walking down Avenida Paulista, I happened to catch the cover of an important entrepreneurial magazine that often featured real-life “rags to riches” stories of Brazilians who had started out with nothing and managed to become enormously successful in their business ventures.
On that cover, I noticed the father, the multi-million REAL (Brazilian currency) black businessman who had been featured on this blog, with his two sons. As I always check magazines out when they feature black folks on the cover, closer analysis revealed that the lighter-skinned of his two sons was the very same young man I had met a few years before at that seminar. I thought, “That’s ole boy I saw at the Feira Preta event back in 2014!” Meeting him in 2014, I had no idea that his father was one of the few non-entertainer/athlete black multi-millionaires in the country. But now I knew and as I am always intrigued by the almost rule of “successful black man/woman, white partner” rule in Brazil, I was curious to know if the son would be the exception or the rule.
Judging from his light skin, I assumed that his mother was white, but I wondered if he, being an heir to his father’s fortune, would follow suit in the whitening process. Doing a quick internet search with his name and I found a photo of not only him, but also his wife and two children. What color are his wife and kids? Well, let’s just say that in the process of the embranquecimento (whitening) of black families, the mission is fully accomplished!
Now, on to the post by Enegrecendo as Estruturas.
II, Enegrecendo as Estruturas (@enegrecendoasestruturas)
[PART 2] During African slavery in Brazil, the first interracial relations came from the rapes that white men practiced against blacks, it was common for slaves to be sexually subordinate to their masters, which resulted in a hypersexualization of the remaining black bodies to this day (this is a subject to another text). These relationships were born in a context of intense subordination, discrimination and disrespect. In addition, it was a tool used to promote the embranquecimento (whitening) of the population defended by the state in the late nineteenth century, along with the mass importation of European labor to work in place of blacks, but with pay and other concessions.
We have been taught to deny love to ourselves. We were taught to value white people and their characteristics over our own. Having an interracial relationship for black people is a kind of redemption, of social ascension. Black men who earn fame and money such as jogadores de futebol (soccer players) and singers, for example, often marry mulheres brancas (white women) as a way of affirming their success. We don’t see beauty in ourselves. The established beauty standard is branco caucasiano (white caucasian). We are still in the process of self-esteem redemption, understanding that there is beauty in ourselves and our black peers is a process of daily deconstruction for men and women, and because of this it’s difficult to develop attraction for what we don’t find beautiful.
I remember an internet post that exposed the family tree of the Gil family. Gilberto Gil is a black man who married a white woman and had filhos “mestiços” (“mixed race” children), who in turn married other white people and the result is that all of Gil’s grandchildren are white. The embranquecimento (whitening) of the Gil family only exemplifies the real impact of interracial relationships. The next generations of one of Brazil’s most important black artists, simply will not have (any) pessoas negras (black people). The interracial relationship is also part of the project to exterminate corpos negros (black bodies), especially os retintos (the dark-skinned ones)…
Note: In this second post, I wonder if the internet post the writer mentions could have been the one I posted. A few years ago I posted a meme that featured Gilberto Gil at the wedding of his daughter, Preta Gil. Considering the topic, you already know the race of the groom. My question was, as Gilberto Gil is probably one of Brazil’s richest musicians, and he married a white woman with whom he had several children of mixed race, where will the wealth Gil accumulated over the course of his 50+ year career end up? I have no idea if Enegrecendo as Estruturas saw that meme, but when I took a look at Gil’s family, this is what came to my mind.
Now imagine, in Brazil, Gil is the rule, NOT the exception. If you ever take the time to look into the wives, children grandchildren and families of Brazil’s richest blacks, be they athletes, entertainers, doctors, lawyers, judges, company CEOs, etc., you will see a consistent pattern that would lead you to believe that between 90-95% of black elites, men and women, are married or in relationships with white partners. Unfortunately, this is NOT an exaggeration. The percentage of well-off black Brazilians that marry white is often shocking when one really does the research.
A few days ago, the colleague I mentioned at the top of this article sent me a screenshot of a popular black female poet based in Rio de Janeiro. Said colleague follows the poet via her Instagram account. On Sunday, August 11th, which was Dias dos Pais (Father’s Day) in Brazil, the poet posted a photo of her son’s father, a white man. Under the photo she sent me via WhatsApp, at the discovery of yet another prominent black Brazilian that married white, my collegue wrote: “So she had a white partner too! I can’t deal with this!” Her reaction was the same as mine. The further you go down the Afro-Brazilian elite hole, the more shocking the widespread miscigenation among these highly influential people becomes. In terms of the poet, I didn’t know her current or past partner was/is white, but I’m just beyond the point of being surprised.
I often receive comments from African-Americans commenting on articles on interracial relationships featured on this blog in which they’ll write something along the lines of, “the same thing is happening here” (in the United States). My response? NO! IT’S NOT!
Although interracial unions have taken off in the US in the past few decades, there is simply no comparison with what is going on in Brazil and it may be difficult to grasp this if you haven’t spent an extended period of time in the country. I think a saying one of my friends back in Detroit used to always say applies very well to this scenario: “Indoctrination runs deep!” Well, in Brazil, it’s ocean deep!
For decades, Afro-Brazilians have been willing, active participants in this whitening process that continues to this day, but in recent years, a small percentage of activists are seeing what effects such widespread interracial unions have had on the black community. Racial identity confusion? Check. Progressive whitening of once black families? Check? Transfer of wealth? Check. The passing on of knowledge and advantages to white/whiter offspring? Check.
With this sudden realization of the goal that the promotion of miscegenation really has (elimination of of the black race) vs. its propaganda (a melting pot where all are equal regardless of skin color), those who have caught on to the agenda are now sounding the alarms. But I have to wonder…Is it too late?