Note from BW of Brazil: And the analysis continues. A debate or reflection is always more intriguing when people are willing to dig within themselves a little deeper to come up with responses that go far beyond the typical. I mean seriously, when someone asks you a question and you respond with a phrase that has been uttered by millions of other people, am I supposed to believe that you gave the topic any thought or rather that you simply agree with everyone else who said it? Today’s material is not so much revolutionary in its content as it is soul searching and recognition. And the read is simply more thought-provoking that some of the comments that come in regarding the topic.
Let me just prep readers by saying that, if you are a person who firmly believe that people of different races get together because they “just fell in love”, “love has no color”, or “it’s a matter of taste” and that there are no other influences contributing to people getting together, perhaps you should just stop reading here because this is probably not an article that you’ll appreciate. But if you’re intrigued by a black Brazilian man analyzing how his taste in certain types of females was steered without him knowing it, you may find this read interesting. In today’s piece, Bruno Vieira re-visits the SBT-TV novela, Carrossel, and its depiction of a poor, black boy doing everything possible to capture the affections of a rich, white girl and how this soap opera played out in his own life. The onscreen, prepubescent relationship has influenced numerous black Brazilians to reflect on how this scenario plays out across the country everyday. In analyzing his own experiences, Vieira comes to a conclusion suggested by Kenia Dias in that the choices we make in relationships are political and in need to be so in today’s environment.
Politicizing of the affections makes itself necessary
It was when, at six years of age, I caught myself by scratching my legs with my nails, in a desire to make myself white to stop hearing from my classmates that I was like Cirilo (the black boy of the novela Carrossel, the most foolish and of the most humble origins of the class, in love with a white girl)
By Bruno Vieira
In the year of 1991 (if my memory doesn’t fail me), the Brazil took consciousness of a novela (soap opera) that would delight a whole generation with its plot. Its script was the stories of the children in the second year of elementary education in the school world. Its protagonists were Laura, Cyrilo, Maria Joaquina, Carmen, Jaime and the unforgettable Professor Helena.
Yes, if you are born in the 1980s, you must remember Carrossel and its affectionate but controversial plot. I was one of the children that most loved to watch attend the novela. It was shown by SBT-TV in the time slot between afternoon and night (if my memory doesn’t fail me). And it was at that time, 1991, that I took consciousness of my personal condition.
One year later, I began to study where today is located a Unidade Municipal de Educação Infantil (UMEI or Municipal Unit of Early Childhood Education) – as formerly conventionally these little schools were called here in Belo Horizonte “jardim” (garden). I studied in the jardim closest to my neighborhood, which was 12 blocks away from home (if my memory doesn’t fail me). My father took me and picked me up on his Caloi Barra Forte, a bicycle of the time in which it still didn’t yet exist this fashion of thinking of the bike as a means of transport – times when cows were thinner than fat.
Because of studying in the garden, at six years of age (I am from June 1986, if my memory doesn’t fail me) I took first knowledge of what would come to be an inner feeling of rage and anguish. Because of my being black, it was logical and notorious that the other boys of jardim would associate the character Cyril to my person.
Cyrilo, who in the plot was the most foolish of the class. Cyrilo, the poorest and humblest, who was not able to deliver his love to his beloved Maria Joaquina. Maria Joaquina, this little girl, who was rich and white, always disdained the love which Cyril had to offer her. Cyrilo, silly and naive, ran after Maria Joaquina as if he were mounted on a horse racing on a turf. Maria Joaquina, from the top of her arrogance of a “well established” girl – and a very spoiled – knew how to get away from this platonic love.
I felt like Cyril, because of his necessity of leaving from his condition of poverty. And more: his racial condition, which inherently distanced him from Maria Joaquina. Okay, okay, I didn’t like Maria Joaquina, but I realized that she was the standard to be followed – not Cyrilo, who was not even me. I didn’t want to be seen as that “negrinho” (little black /nigger boy).
That was when, with six years of age, I caught by scratching my legs with the nails, in a desire to make myself white to stop hearing from my colleagues from jardim that I was like Cyrilo. In this respect, my memory doesn’t fail me.
From the first to the fourth grade, I developed a severe acute platonic crush on a girl in my class. Coincidentally, a menina era branca e loira (the girl was white and blond), like Maria Joaquina of Carroussel. Jumping to the fourth grade, in the middle of the semester, a student of the middle class that (I don’t know why) came to study in our school, a relatively small state school.
Of course, all my eyes turned to one that I considered the muse of the room – I imagine that you must have already imagined her phenotype: branca e loira (white and blond), just like Maria Joaquina. I came to the ridiculous point of leaving school one day humming a cheesy Italian song by Peppino Di Capri that my father listened to and whose name was the name of the little girl in question.
It’s about this that I intend to speak on. This text is not intended to be a roadmap of rules to be complied in order for one to step into the universe of the “politically correct”, as some like to say. Nor is it a guide of behavior that should be followed to the letter. I merely intend to just make an explanation about what is affection in a society as complex as ours.
So I ask you: is this story, as a criança negra (black child), only “fell in love” with a single female phenotype (by some chance, the white-blond phenotype) just “something in my head”? This story of Cyrilo and Maria Joaquina never goes out of fashion. In principle, there would be a general rule that oriented our feelings. If everyone likes this or that person? “I don’t know, I just know that it was like this,” Chicó would respond to João Grilo (see note one) questioning him on this issue. But I think that some aspects of our affectivity indeed deserve to have the critical process highlighted.
After getting older (I am almost reaching 30) and taking several humiliations, taking a beating from many people (which, even today, cease being friends and have distanced themselves because of my vacillations), could see that whirlpool in which I found myself. I developed what is conventionally called “Síndrome de Cirilo” (Cyrilo’s Syndrome), a term coined by Blogueiras Negras in a text of by Mabia Barros.
In addition, I can also say that it is a feeling of denial about his (in this case, my) condition and the warm affection of fitting into “another section” in which you don’t find yourself. An anguish mixed with anger. A behavior surfaced in me not to accept my body as it was – pudgy, with a big butt and locked tongue. And, of course, black.
It is wrong for a Cyrilo to fall in love with a Maria Joaquina? I believe it to be a blatant reductionism if we neglect just this question – and, if dichotomously, we say yes or no. The question that must be engendered is: what makes Cyril fall only for Maria Joaquina?
What issues are placed behind the fermentation of this feeling that makes you feel the need to negate your body as it is to match a deformed standard? Why do we only see the Maria Joaquina as standard to be followed if proclaim to the four winds that the world is a diverse place?
In the novela, we see a Cyrilo who denies himself as a poor and black boy. The denial is not (as I did at six years of age – and I would like to reiterate that, at six years of age – and again, at six years of age) using a strategy of physical embranquecimento (whitening) of the skin.
Their denial is spiritual – and I prefer to use this term instead of psycho-emotional because it converges on a good part of that that I believe: that we are in a social, political, economic and cultural amalgam development which is underlying our unconsciousness. Your spirit is not related to your body – whence comes the strangeness and the affection for the different does not for the yearning of the desire of the difference, but for the yearning of the desire of the annulment of such a “foreign body”.
And spiritual is also the relationship that the African human being establishes with you and the world – I don’t speak only of religious spirituality, it manifests in the candomblé and such, but in the very constitution of the African idea of what it means to be a person. Unlike the western thought – Cogito, ergo sum, that is, penso, logo existo (I think, therefore I am); a sentence in which manifests a high load of individuality, uniqueness and particularity of the subject – the African thought conceives the “individual” as part of a whole, of a collectivity that is greater than the sum of its parts.
A human being in such a vision is “to be a ‘person’ which is a sun preview, possessing a spirit (essence) cognoscente and knowable by means of which one has a longstanding relationship with the total universe”, as Dr. Wade Nobles said so well (1). When Cyrilo denies himself, he says no to all this spirituality inherent to African ancestry and opens the doors to the Euro-caucasian individualism – which makes him sick and lose sense of himself.
I’m making myself long-winded, I realize. But only do this so that the title of the text is intelligible. When I speak of the need to “politicize the affections”, I don’t speak of segregation only to our social caste. I don’t speak of guetizar (ghettoizing) relationships or to confront in opposite pole positions on being Cyrilo and being against Maria Joaquina.
We have to necessarily leave a reduced, reductionist and bi-polar paradigm to tackle the issue of our affective relationships. Understand the fact that you be white and socializing affectively with black people doesn’t make you less racist than a openly racist person. That our desires and affections are also a construction supported by the dialectic relationship, dialogic and daily that the capital (sensu lato) has in our lives, in our bodies, our ways of being.
It is much easier to consume what is vastly offered – in this case, a culture centerd on the Euro-caucasian human being. As Mabia Barros said so well in her text, there is a “historicity of ‘loving’ relations: “estar com uma mulher branca é mudar de status, é evoluir, é ser aceito na roda dos ‘bem nascidos (being with a white woman is change of status, is evolving, it is to be accepted in the circle of the ‘born into a well-to-do family’).” If we say that “one doesn’t discuss taste, I see the need for us to stop, stubborn and blindly, to point this adage as the only possible possibility for understanding and interpretation of our affections – because these are also a social construction.
Our preferences are, from a very early age, tailored precisely by means of this construction. They are the media, the comic books, the songs, all of this modeled in a padrão de beleza euro-caucasiano (Euro-Caucasian standard of beauty). You need to understand that our tastes, in which we say so much that “one doesn’t discuss”, are socially constructed. It’s necessary to understand that the potato nose is overlooked for the thin nose. That straight hair is prioritized over crespo (kinky/curly). And on it goes, but we don’t do this just by our wanting, but we do this also as a way of demonstrating the external influence in our wants.
“White skin and straight hair became, and in many ways still are the badges unquestionable goodness and beauty. The white color and the proximity of brancura (whiteness) become the standard of the human being. Becoming the license for the privilege based on racial condition and the undeniable evidence of that one is worthy and good. Because it is a fundamental denial of merit and of the intrinsic value of a person, the resulting ‘desire of coming closer to whiteness’ becomes a debilitating psychological, pathological and destructive condition. Embranquecimento’, ‘blanqueamiento’ shame of color, ‘I want to be white’, hating yourself – all this results in a psychological condition driven by the dysfunctional desire to be white.” (Dr. Wade Nobles) (see note two)
There is no response to the question of whether or not a Cyrilo can be with a Maria Joaquina. And it will go unanswered, because for every relationship there is a relation that, indeed, needs to be a target of reflection. Here is the mystery of faith that I would like to put out there.
The main issue is to think through where our affections go. If we are a construct of what we feel inside with what is constructed on the outside, then we can say that Cyrilo liking Maria Joaquina is not only something in his head, but things of his head mixed with a bit of information that comes (directly or indirectly) to him. And vice versa, because the FETICHE is constructed and exists.
It is not prohibited that both relate to each other, but we are at a stage of the universe in which it is no longer possible that absolutely everything is only of the order of the unconscious. We urgently need exit this orb of the collective unconscious and dialectize, debate and reflect constantly on our affections. If both people (regardless of skin color) are willing to do this, we are gaining a filigree in this Homeric battle.
To deepen in this issue, I strongly recommend the texts of Mabia Barros (at Blogueiras Negras) and Daniela Gomes (at AFROatitudes). There is also a documentary created from the approach of the book Pele Negra, Máscara Branca (Black skin, white mask) of Frantz Fanon that meets this principle of the discussion that I wanted to propose here. And I reiterate: the proposal here is merely to bring elements of reflection that, so deeply rooted, became routine in our life.
“When they love me, say that it is despite the color of my skin. When they detest me, they justify it by saying that it is the color of the skin. In one or another situation, I am a prisoner of an infernal circle”. (Frantz Fanon)
- Characters from the play and TV mini-series Auto da Compadecida
2. Wade No Nobles, Saktu sheti: retomando e reapropriando um foco psicológico afrocentrado (Resuming and re-appropriating an African-centered psychological focus). Text part of the book Afrocentricidade, fourth volume of the Coleção Sankofa (Sankofa Collection), organized by Prof. Elisa Larkin Nascimento, published by Selo Negro Edições.
Source: Brasil Debate