“On TV shows, couples and families are never black”: Singer Nouve underscores the importance of “#Amor Preto” (black love), in his new music video
By Marques Travae
One of my interests in studying the effects of racism on Brazil’s black population is the manner in which black men and black women relate to each other. And studying this with any sort of honesty isn’t possble without considering the openly stated objective of the Brazilian state to eventually disappearance its black population through a number of mechanisms, one of which includes a promotion of self-annihilation by way of miscegenation.
Whenever the topic of mixed unions comes up, inevitably, people will resort to several responses to deflect away from the topic, be it the infamous ‘love has no color’ clichê, ‘leave politics out of personal relationships’, or making the accusation that questioning such unions in some way suggests that one wants to institute some form of ‘sexual segregation’ in which the races should be legally bound to have relationships and children only with persons of their own race. When dealing with Brazilians, you will also sooner or later hear the idea that ‘you Americans are racist because you don’t mix’ whereas, it is assumed that Brazilians don’t have such race problems because such a large portion of the population is, in fact, of some degree of mixed race.
I’ve addressed a number of these reponses in numerous articles that discuss interracial unions, but in terms of the US-Brazil comparison, I maintain the following. If the US was engineered to be a segregated society, we must also conclude that Brazil was engineered to be a mixed society with the overall objective of whitening the nation through the disappearance of the black phenotype. In general, there is a huge denial on the part of the black population in coming to terms with the idea that having relationships with white partners is an ideal that has been planted in the minds of black families that is still a force in the mindset of perhaps millions of black and brown families, some of which are in the full process of whitening their family trees.
Besides the fact that we rarely see prominent black Brazilian men and women with partners of the same color, from time to time, we see obvious examples of the black population’s own adherence to the whitening ideology. Historian Beatriz Nascimento shared a memory of a peculiar example of this mindset, in the state of Bahia, the region in Brazil most associated with blackness and African culture.
”Once, in Salvador, I was talking to a young head of a family who was trying to convince me of how Bahia was the greatest center of racial tolerance in the world. By justifying such a claim to his state, he showed himself to be a passionate adept at miscegenation and appealed to his example. He showed me his two small children, both mulatto, but with differences in skin tone, and said: ‘You see? This one came out almost like me (referring to the darker boy), but this one came out better; almost blond’. Saying this, while the first boy and I were staring at him, he concluded: ‘In this way the black is disappearing and we won’t have racial conflict like in the United States’.” (Nascimento, 1977).
The fascinating thing about the man’s statement is that it almost exactly the same viewpoint that US president Theodore Roosevelt reported being told by a Brazilian official when he visited the country in the 1910s. The statesmen went on to say that the pure negro in Brazil is ‘constantly disappearing in numbers which would eventually end the ‘negro problem’ with the disappearance of the negro himself (Skidmore, 1974). Now I ask the question. How can anyone conclude that this mindset cited by Nascimento in 1977, Roosevelt in the 1910s and increasingly more Afro-Brazilians today be simply a thing of love having no color without any sort of social engineering to influence and guide the black population in such a direction?
It also goes without saying that if the black population has been indoctrinated to accept whiteness as superior, the white population in turn knows it maintains this position in the hierarchy. Thus, this relationship of ‘’superior’’ and ‘’inferior’’ also plays out within relationships that cross the color line and is then, often times passed on to the children who are products of such unions. In the example above, we see a young black man acknowledging his acceptance of the idea that his child that came out closer to the white standard came out ‘better’ than the child that came out with a phenotype closer to his own blackness. In turn, the white population also clearly accepts this standard, as Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman’s 2015 book The Color of Love repeatedly shows us. One passage of the book exemplifies this.
In a dialogue with a 52-year old white woman, Hordge-Freeman recollects how the mother was so anxious for her to meet her fair-skinned, light-eyed teenaged daughter. So proud of her daughter’s apparently straight hair, she encouraged the professor to touch the girl’s mane. The woman’s daughter was so beautiful that she didn’t “even look Brazilian”, according to the mother. As they walked away, the woman was asked about the other girl standing nearby. The woman flipped her wrist and said, “Oh, her, she’s my other daughter.” The “other daughter” had brown skin and wavy hair.
Everyone knows about the existing racial hierarchy in Brazil, but it’s been so thouroughly ingrained in the minds of the people that they often don’t even perceive how their allegiance to this hierarchy comes out everyday in their thoughts, comments and behavior. According to popular belief, love would be the all equalizing force that would undermine this alignment of those on top of the hierarchy and those on the bottom, but how would this be possible when the entire society is based on this structure? In black families, we still have this idea that securing a relationship with a white partner is something to celebrate and when even the black partner in such a relationship has earned a social position that we are told levels the playing field, citizens still have clear ideas of which partner in such a relationship has more value, as one black legal advisor discovered.
People seem to ignore these existing clues of how love has not and will not conquer societies that are based on racial hierachies, but the mythology behind some beliefs seems to hold Brazil together as a nation and impedes the nation from exploding into outright race riots that have been documented so thoroughly in places such as the United States. Make no mistake, the absence of race riots in Brazil doesn’t mean that the country isn’t as racist as the US, it simply means that the mythology of the racial democracy still acts as the glue that keeps the society from completely collapsing in terms of race. What we’re seeing today is that, as more black people are demanding their fair slice of the Brazilian pie and attaining it to some degree, and white Brazilians being disturbed by seeing more black people in places where historically they were denied, more open racial confrontation playing out.
Brazil’s black population is slowly starting to awaken from the stupor imposed upon them by the racial democracy myth for so many decades and starting to analyze how racism functions in the society. Perhaps summing up this battle between ‘have nots’ who want more and ‘haves’ who aren’t willing to give it up, a previous article entitled ‘80% of Brazil’s new middle class is black and upper and upper-middle class consumers are none too pleased about it‘ goes a bit into this conflict. In various ways, Brazil’s white population expresses its displeasure with even slight improvements in the lives of black Brazilians.
One recent petty example of this is, in response to the celebration of the annual Day of Black Consciousness national holiday, the recent proposal of a ‘white consciousness day’ in Congress shows us that white people in Brazil still refuse to acknowledge the absolute dominance of whites in Brazil society under the guise of all Brazilians being equal. But the rise of black consciousness continues.
In the past few years, another example of this rising black consciousness are the discussions of what interracial unions and the slow whitening of the black population after centuries of mixed unions really means and why so many black families are deceived by these ideologies. Out of these discussions, we are also seeing open calls for the necessity of ‘amor preto’, black love, and explanations as to why it is the only way for the black population to survive the genocidal conditions promoted by the Brazilian state against its black population. We are also seeing a handful of black artists promoting the idea of black love in their musical releases. I’ve featured a few of these artists in past posts and will present more in coming posts.
Today, I want to talk about a recent video by the artist known as Nouve, whose lyrics and images in his new vídeo, appropriately titled, ‘’Amor Preto’’ exemplifies his understanding of the topic.
“Kiss your black woman in the public square, in a unique way, with the aim of showing that in the simple gesture is the way to revolutionize”
Decades of an imposed Eurocentricism has created a certain self-hatred among black Brazilians, many of whom reject their own physical characteristics, provoking a deep desire for whiteness. The belief that blacks are not deserving of love diminishes acceptance of self and peers. Against this historical backdrop, singer Nouve drops a music video for “#AmorPreto”, promoting the need to bring affection among black people and directing them toward a healing process through music.
‘’This is a way of telling the world how important it is for us to love and care for each other,” says the artist in reference to the single produced by Tito Vinícius and DJ Gug Pinheiro, and a video of which he self-directed and wrote the script, with recording and editing by Robson Borges.
The arrangement features an engaging, a danceable beat emphasizing a view that he shares with others of love being a revolutionary act, with images meant raise the self-esteem of all black Brazilians who see it. The singer was inspired to create the song after having watched the YouTube video “O Amor está no ar? Sim, e ele é preto!”, which in English translates as ‘Is love in the air? Yes, and it’s black’, by the Família Quilombo meaning (quilombo family). The YouTubers also extol the warmth of love as a strengthening tool within the black community.
“Reaja à violência racial: beije sua preta em praça pública” (React to Racial Violence: Kiss Your Black Woman in the Public Square) is a poem written by Lande Onawale and is featured in the chorus of the song. The poem was featured appeared on the cover of the Movimento Negro Unificado (Unified Black Movement) newspaper in 1991 and has been mentioned from time to time by activists in today’s black social movements. Lande’s intention in writing the poem was to broaden society’s view of what racism was and what racial violence was.
The poem is another inspiration for the creation of the song and vídeo for ‘’Amor Preto’’ by Nouve. Knowing how Brazilians react to anything meant to promote the uplifting of the black community, I can already hear the cries of racism and comparisons to Hitler as what typically happens when black folks call for loving and supporting their own. But these same people will never speak on Brazil’s openly declared policy of black annihilation through miscegenation.
‘’We have long grown up being bombarded by TV shows, soap operas and romantic movies, where structured couples and families are never black-skinned. In such a tense moment that we are experiencing, we need to talk about love and affection among our own,” says the artist commenting on the fact that the norm for relationshps in Brazil’s media are white couples, and when black people are featured in romantic settings, they are almost always paired with a white partner. The video was recorded at the Centro Cultural da Juventude Vila Nova Cachoeirinha in São Paulo.
The people featured in the new video are all people who are in Nouve’s life and inspire him in some way. “Everyone was well involved, open-hearted, and helped us make it happen. Couples of different ages, new couples, couples with 50 years of marriage, complete families and all showed the real example of Amor Preto, that the relationship can be lasting and healthy.”
Due to the fact that black Brazilians have been so long denied access to their own history, struggles and creations, they often turn to their black American counterparts for this representation and inspirational ideas. In the video, Nouve presents references to a scene from a 1898 short film called Something Good-Negro Kiss which shows a kiss between a black couple. The short was recently restored and added to American National Film Registry in 2018. The film is historical in the fact that it is believed to be the first on-screen kiss between black Americans, the importance of which cannot be understated considering the racist depictions and caricatures that was the norm of black Americans in the American media of the era.
“When we talk about today’s times, Taís Araújo and Lázaro Ramos are our greatest inspiration and example of #AmorPreto. Besides them we have Michelle and Barack Obama, Denzel and Pauletta Washington and Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Very powerful couples that show us how we should build a family structure.”
The very fact that three of the four couples that the artist mentioned were African-American is very revealing as it demonstrates that Afro-Brazilians have very few well-known Afro-Brazilian couples to which they can turn for examples of black love. In my participation in various black Brazilian social media groups, I can attest that whenever an image of black love is needed to demonstrate the necessity of black men and women loving each other, Ramos and Araújo are often the ONLY black Brazilian couple presented. I’m not the only one who has noticed the rarity.
Nouve believes that simply talking about struggle and resistance isn’t enough as it is vital to also put amor preto on the agenda as the battle for mere survival is daily for black people in Brazil. “As much as we go through difficult times, love still gives us hope. When it is present with a partner or with friends and family fighting together, everything gets lighter and we can overcome any barrier.”
This black love of which he speaks goes beyond the romantic and includes all sorts of relationships, such as those within families and even friendships among black people. In always pushing and striving to enter what sociologist Florestan Fernandes called the ‘’mundo dos brancos’’, the white world, black people often learn not to place any value in the developing relationships with their own. Again, breaking this paradigm can be considered a political act. Besides the video and song, Nouve is developing other actions to re-enforce this idea.
“My lifemate, my blood family, Ase’s family, bring me much strength what it is to be black from the periphery. We need to welcome and have a differential. I know well what it is to be raised by a solo mother, who played the role of both father and mother. This is more common than we think for people who come from the same space as me and cause many impacts,” he says.
To divulge his ideas, on his Instagram TV profile, the artist has featured a a four-episode series featuring black couples telling their stories since last month. Discussing the theme of affection, the artist will feature a psychologist, a historian and artist for further dialogue on the topic. Promoting the already somewhat popular hashtag #AmorPreto, he hopes to broaden the discussion and invite the black community to participate and help others come to understand why the subject is so vitally important to the very existence and survival of the black population.