Note from BW of Brazil: It’s been a while since I had read anything over at the Revista Òkòtó page on the Medium blogging platform. The writings of this collective of black writers, students and activists are some of the most hard-hitting, real articles available on the ‘net in relation to black Brazilian issues. This group unabashedly brings the noise on a range of topics from black representation and cultural appropriation, to analysis of palmitagem and feminism. To put it bluntly, much of their work is not for the faint of heart or those who completely buy into the mainstream discourse on the topics of the day. Writers at the Revista Òkòtó will express opinions and views on issues affecting Brazil’s black community that you just won’t find within the moderate circles of the Movimento Negro (black social movements).
But for me, this is no surprise.
In my own intellectual development, I have found over the years that the further down the “rabbit hole” you go in search of truth, as you discover truths that may be troublesome for the masses, the fewer people you will find who are willing to challenge what they think or have been taught to believe. I won’t get into how many conversations I’ve had with people over the years who will disagree with me on topics that they have no knowledge of, but simply cannot bring themselves to even fathom that what I say may actually be true. I would never tell anyone to take anything I or anyone else says as truth simply because we say so, but to not be willing to at least do your own research on a given topic to come to your own conclusion is what I would call cognitive dissonance at its maximum.
When I look at what’s going on in the black world in the United States, the same applies. You have the masses of people who only follow what the mainstream media, including a selected group of black talking heads, say, and when alternative voices suggest that these voices are deceiving them, many people within the black masses will dismiss the alternative voices as “radicals”, “crazy”, “rabble rousers”, etc.
When author Neely Fuller once said “If you don’t understand white supremacy/racism, everything that you do understand will only confuse you”, I can see this in action. And due to this misunderstanding, most won’t get how the top black actor/actress, singer/rapper, politician, athlete or media mogul is often presented to the black masses for specific reasons rather than them contributing to any real change in the system. It’s kinda like running on a treadmill. Yes, when you’re on treadmill, you are in motion but you’re not actually going anywhere. A simple example, but when applied to real life situations, it often goes right over people’s heads.
The piece courtesy of Revista Òkòtó that I present today touches on a number of topics that I’ve discussed on the blog and others that perhaps need more coverage. Blogger Barbara Lewis (I’m curious to know how a Brazilian woman has such an Anglo-sounding name) explores a subject that was hot topic in Afro-Brazilian-oriented social networks when I first shared it back in August. That article was about rapper Karol Conká, a woman that many looked to as a symbol of black empowerment, and her new boyfriend. For those unfamiliar, let me remind you that the term “palmitagem” refers to black people who choose white partners for long-term relationships.
Hold up…this just in…
I just discovered that another black Brazilian male celebrity is facing the wrath of fans disappointed with his dating choice. This time the target is actor Rafael Zulu. Here’s the report.
Rafael Zulu is criticized for dating blonde and is called Palmiteiro
Actor Rafael Zulu who is known for his appearances on the Globo television network’s novelas (soap operas) recently received a string of harsh criticisms on his social network account after he posted a picture with his new girlfriend, the fitness muse Aline Becker. Critics called the actor a “palmiteiro”, which is a slang used when a black person gets involved in an interracial relationship (with people of different colors/ethnicity).
Zulu didn’t take the time to respond to the comments which appeared to come from mostly his black female followers. With a rising debate on the issue of prominent black people dating/marrying non-blacks, Zulu is not the first artist to get blasted for this reason. Other famous artists such as actor Mussunzinho, who recently announced the pregnancy of his blond girlfriend, rapper Karol Conka and singer Gaby Amarantos have also received similar criticism.
Note: Now back to this post in progress. I’ll be popping in on this lastest article from time to time within the text for purposes of clarification, context and background, but first, let’s get into it.
Not everything that shines is gold; not even televised
By Barbara Lewis
Some time ago I wrote about how people seek inspiration from social network idols (idolatry is created by their own followers). I wrote about it because I always found this relationship of love and hate strange. From the way fans interact with the idol, how the idol does everything to get fans.
I remembered that because Karol Conka showed up this week with a new boyfriend. Not surprisingly for many of us, her boyfriend is white (tisc tisc tisc)… Period… Now there are fans fighting online to “defend” and others to “attack” her romance. Since, in this attack vs. defense thing, they always play to the account of those who think this courtship is a spectacle, that always see the angry, unloved militants who are attacking the poor person in an interracial relationship.
People… palmitagem is a very big relationship of self-hate. Seeking in whites a love that they destroyed within you and your ancestors is quite bizarre. But not everyone can observe this (sometimes they can, but prefer to feign dementia while thinking about its subjectivity). The subject may be complex, but seeing (funk singer) Nego do Borel asking his girlfriend to marry him really saddened me. I already knew he was dating a white woman, but I had never noticed if they looked happy. Well, people sent me his video asking her to marry him, during the marriage proposal he tries to kiss her a few times and the woman turns her face every time. You can’t know exactly what happened there, but the scene is bizarre, I would never wish it on myself or anyone else black (see note one).
If the white is responsible for the entire racist structure we are in, the one that kills us emotionally, psychologically and physically, why do people think their own relationship is an exception within this context? It’s shameless isn’t it? But anyway… We all know the complexity surrounding the relationship with whites, and when I talk about this relationship of palmitagem I mean not only romance itself, but financial relationships, friendships, and all the other things we sometimes submit to because of our involvement with the mundo brancko (white world).
Getting back to Karol Conka… A bunch of people were justifying dating the most irritating classic in history, “the black woman doesn’t palmita because she’s the one being passed over”… People… Just stop! How do you dare to use such a justification? Would that be the case of singer Iza too? Because from what we see, Iza does not seem to be the type of woman that is passed over, right?!
From her wedding photos, you can see that the overwhelming majority of her friends were white… There were people who were surprised to see that her large entourage had only white women lol. But people… This goes for anyone, if you only have white people in your life, it will be very difficult to find a black man or woman to relate to, right?!
Note: The paragraph above is in reference to an ongoing debate between black Brazilian men and women. Black women have long called out black men for their apparent predilection for pursuing relationships with white women. In many scenarios, black women have been left alone to raise their children after having been abandoned by the father of their children. In other scenarios, black women report that black men only want them for sexual relations, claiming to not be ready for a serious relationship but then turning up later hand in hand with a white woman. In turn, black men counter that black women also have a preference for white men. In response, black women claim that they don’t “palmitar”, but rather they open their options to non-black men because black men consistently pass them over. Interestingly, when we look at black entertainers, it is rare to see either side with a black partner.
In terms of singer Iza, when I saw photos of her wedding almost exactly one year ago to producer Sérgio Santos, the first thing that caught my eye was the photo of her and her bride’s maids. The image was striking. Iza, a very brown-skinned black woman, was surrounding by mostly white women and a few light-skinned women who many would classify as mestiças or morenas (brown/mixed). Iza was the only brown-skinned woman in the photo, the proverbial “fly in the milk”. Compare this with the photos of singer Ludmilla’s or Solange Knowles’s weddings and the contrast is even more striking.
Another issue that I recently become of aware in an Afro-Brazilian social network was the debate over whether Iza’s husband was actually black. I admit, upon first glance, I just saw him as a light-skinned black man. But then a group of black men in a WhatsApp group began posting photos of Sérgio Santos as a younger man, with hair and without his beard. At second glance, he DID look like a tanned white guy. I have noted that Santos’s father is black, but again in Brazil, one can be considered white if their features aren’t clearly black.
The fact, for me, aside from the sadness that these women are in relationships with whites, is the demand of fans in relation to this. People really think artists should act or be the way they want. That must surely be a great breach of expectation, but it shouldn’t be. We have to be aware that the media does everything to sell, and that the empowerment discourse of these artists does not necessarily match their personal attitudes… Look at the rapper Djonga, his songs contain a very potent reaction to racism, he puts force in the words “fogo nos racistas” (fire on racists) and “vamos enegrecer nossas famílias” (let’s blacken our families), but in practice he is married to a white woman and his son was born with fair skin (system breakdown lol).
Note: Minas Gerais rapper Djonga is one of my favorites of the current crop of Brazilian rappers and I remember another group of mine debating whether his wife was actually black or not. In my own assessment, this woman doesn’t look white to me. In every photo I’ve seen of her, she looks like a light-skinned black woman or mestiça of African ancestry. Lewis’s definition of Djonga’s wife as white once again calls into question black Brazil’s own contradictions in terms of race.
For clarity here, I must remind readers that Brazil’s black leaders have long defined the country’s black population as the combination of pretos + pardos (black and browns), a concept I accepted for many years. But in recent times, my views have changed on this and I can longer view all pardos as black even while maintaining that there is a percentage of pardos who are black. The problem, as I emphasized here, is the contradiction of saying, on the one hand, that all pardos are black, but then on the other hand disqualifying people who look like Djonga’s wife as black.
Another angle to this issue is simply skin tone. Whether people accept Iza’s husband or Djonga’s wife as black or not, they ARE fair-skinned. And Lewis’s point here is legitimate because I’ve noted many situations in which brown and dark-skinned black Brazilians marry white/light-skinned partners and their children coming out very light-skinned, which continues the eugenics policy of early 20th century Brazil in slowly eliminating dark skin itself and black people through the slow process of generational unions between blacks and white/lighter-skinned partners.
I discussed this generational whitening of black families in a recent post about a popular São Paulo hairstylist and this very common phenomenon seems to have claimed actor Mussunzinho also. To understand the announcement of the recent news of his girlfriend’s pregnancy in the context of today’s topic, we must first take a look at Mussunzinho’s famous father, comedian, actor and musician, Mussum, a very dark-skinned black man. Mussunzinho’s birth wasn’t the result of Mussum’s relationship with his wife, who was black, but from another relationship. I cannot confirm whether Mussunzinho’s mother was white, but clearly considering his skin color compared to that of his father, his mother was most likely white or fair skinned. Now, with Mussunzinho expecting his first child, considering what his girlfriend looks like, all I can wonder is if his son or daughter will complete the whitening process of this branch of Mussum’s family tree.
It’s no use to think that everyone who sings about militancy or social causes is singing because they live this reality, because most of the time it’s about money and not about making change. The discussions of militancy are controversial. Why do you think the television show Big Brother has put on such diverse participants in this latest edition? Yes… It was simply to sell more!
Note: Another point I’ve been wanting to make for some time again considers the response that many black women give when men make the accusation that black women “palmitar” as much as black men. The typical response is, as mentioned above, “black women don’t palmitar” because they are the ones being passed over. This justification would have us believe that black women, living under the same racist system as black men, have been somehow unaffected by the standards of beauty, wealth and power that is associated with whiteness. I never bought this explanation and a recent phenomenon is a good example of why.
In keeping up with well-known Afro-Brazilian entertainers, elites and influencers, I’ve noticed that a number of black women have been going public with their lesbian relationships. In November, well-known actress Camila Pitanga made her relationship with a white craftswoman, Beatriz Coelho, public. Pitanga has a daughter from a previous relationship with a white man. I point his out not because Pitanga is in a relationship with a woman, but because she has spent her entire career defending her identity as a black woman to people that continuously question why she identifies herself as black. Apparently, passing on this blackness to her daughter wasn’t an issue.
Other well-known black women involved in lesbian relationships with white women included slain activist Marielle Franco, the late religious leader Mãe Stella de Oxóssi, both sisters of the singing duo of Pepê and Nené and singer Sandra de Sá. Some would include YouTuber Nátaly Neri and her partner Jonas in this circle, but in this case, her partner was born a female and now identifies as male. These are just the cases that came to mind as there are a number of others that I’ve noted but that I’m not remembering at this moment.
Here’s my question.
Black women insist that they are being passed over in mass by the black men who would naturally be their partners. Tens or hundreds of thousands of black women can identify with this feeling of rejection as the so-called “solidão da mulher negra”, meaning ‘loneliness of the black woman’, has been a much-discussed topic for at least the last five years. So, if black women understand this pain and accuse black men of self-hatred for choosing white women, what does it say when black women enter into lesbian relationships and bond with white women instead of other black women? Aren’t they guilty of the same rejection of their own that they accuse black men of?
Note: I’m just going to give a salute here to the perfect Nina Simone who, in my humble opinion, died with a total of zero defects in having lyrics against racism and acting on what she sang despite paying a heavy price for it.
The fucked-up thing is that you want these people to be what you want and not notice that they are just ordinary people (with talent, of course), but individuals who go through the same racial crossings as you. The point is that you yourselves have to stop putting artists on a pedestal, that just because they’re black and have a sharp discourse they’re really acting against the racist system we live in. On the contrary, what you have most is people using this sharp discourse to make money and you end up promoting these people and giving more profits to the white music industry.
As the Planet Hemp song says, “Not all that glitters is gold, not even the televised.” Mainly this idea of the televised, if we have a racist media that excludes blacks, why are some blacks participating in this media? Do you think these blacks conquered their spaces or were they put there as pieces to raise the questions according to the very necessity of white people? So… For those who have been disappointed with the relationship choices of these artists, you are more lost than a blind man in a shootout, because the blind man in a shootout at least knows where the shot comes from because of the sound. If you don’t even know where the shot is coming from, you really need to wake up!
With info courtesy of Diário Prime
Source: Revista Òkòtó
- It seems that Barbara may have seen something in her perceptions of this relationship. Barbara’s article was written in November and just last night, December 30th, I came across a story saying that Nego do Borel and his girlfriend have officially broken up. The couple was together for about a year, but since about August, there had been reports that all wasn’t well in the relationship. Over the course of a year, Borel frequently posted photos of himself with his love, Duda Reis. Some of the photos disgusted those who questioned the motives of why so many famous black men dated only white women. One such photo was the one in which the singer wrote that the blond’s blue eyes ”drove him crazy”. Hmm, wonder what happened here. And better, any bets on what his next girlfriend will look like?