Note from BW of Brazil: By now, our readers are quite familiar with the problem: representation, exclusion and invisibility. In Brazil’s media (television, film, print, advertising, etc), Afro-Brazilians almost don’t exist and when they are featured it’s often for some “special” feature. The invisibility is obvious and the media knows it! For example, as if to address the extremely small representation of black characters on television series, when Globo TV debuted the program Subúrbia in late 2012, it went out of its way to promote the fact that 90% of the cast was composed of black actors. In the end, it didn’t really matter. After all of the hype, the series debuted and quickly descended into familiar media stereotypes about black Brazilians. The same was true of last year’s controversial series Sexo e as Negas. As if the title of the series wasn’t enough to alert the public of how the show would portray black women, the show did nothing to present them beyond the traditional roles reserved for mulheres negras in the media.
Today, we see a similar issue and one that we specifically covered nearly three years ago. Which is exactly the point. It was in October of 2012 when we covered a black baby being featured on the cover of the popular parenting magazine Crescer. Why? Because that was the last time a black baby was featured on the cover! And the circumstances are the same. We often see in the media when black Brazilians are presented the issue often surrounds the issue of racism. Now one could argue that this should be seen as an advance for a Brazilian society that has for so long denied the very existence of a problem that affects millions of Brazilians everyday. And in fact this is true.
But the problem now is the fact that it now seems that black Brazilians are specifically featured when the issue has something to do with race. It’s as if they want to present black people as some strange parcel of the population that must be dealt with every now and then rather a group that represents half of the population. Presenting Afro-Brazilians in this manner (once in a while when featuring racial topics) maintains this population as something outside of the norm, exotic, strange or “the other”. The lives of everyday black people don’t revolve around racial issues 24/7 as they regularly do everyday things that any other group does. They eat. Laugh. Go to the movies. Wash their hair. Raise their children. Graduate from college and drive cars. In short, everything. But when the media chooses not to show this side of everyday life, they cannot leave from the dimensional area of the stereotype. And you know what? That’s probably exactly the way the media wants to maintain the black Brazilian!
Ironic that this new cover would debut now. Back in February the blog A Mãe Preta (meaning ‘the black mother’) by Luciana Bento also spoke on the frustration of the invisibility of black babies on the covers of the magazine.
“We have never seen a black baby on the cover!” – Crescer and Pais & Filhos magazines do not represent us!
February 16, 2015
by Luciana Bento
In December of last year Pais & Filhos magazine did a cover story on racism and how to deal with it. On the cover, they put a picture of a girl with curly hair. Far from me to say that she should not suffer racism and that she’s not black, but it’s obvious that this little girl little represents those who suffer racism daily.
It’s not today that we blacks are ignored by advertising. In magazines about motherhood and parenting, black families and children are rarely found. We have no space to share and reflect on issues that plague us, like racism at school, the construction of racial identity of the child or tips on how to care our girls’ African hair.
It is easy that we deal with this issue stating that the magazine is a waste and that it reproduces a number of prejudices and questionable concepts of raising children, and so we shouldn’t even care for it not having any blacks. This is the simplest way, that of denial.
But all of this is not about the quality of the publication. It’s about representation. I want black children there even though the magazine talks about wonderful elective cesareans, has pacifier advertisements, bottles and walkers (no, not walkers, this crap is already forbidden!) or that has a pediatrician column sponsored by a powdered milk brand. After all, there are several black people who agree with some of these attitudes, and our goal here is not to judge. The fight is for full inclusion of blacks, it’s for the visibility of black children, women, our aesthetic, our issues.
And it’s not for lack of solicitation from the public. I have already written e-mails to these magazines questioning and requesting more blacks in their pages. On Facebook, I have seen numerous expressions of readers questioning the absence of blacks and those magazines are just silent on this reality. I know I’m not the only one who does this, many people notice this demand and magazines well know that it has a portion of the public very unhappy with this lack of representation in their pages.
Having more blacks in these magazines is important not only for us black people who want to follow a publication on maternity and child-rearing. It is important for everyone. Everyone has the right to live with diversity. Everyone has the duty of teaching kids what diversity is and how to respect the specificities of each one.
Choosing not to put blacks in their pages even constantly being alerted of these failures is to make clear its racist editorial line is transpire their desire to segregate blacks to a certain space of invisibility. They do not want us in the media, even less as potential consumers of certain products and services.
The inspiration of this post came when I found a complaint from a father on the site (section) Reclame Aqui (Complain here) talking about the lack of representation in the magazines. A father made the following complaint on the site:
Translation: “Today I celebrate my first Father’s Day! When my wife was pregnant I think of getting a subscription to this magazine, but we sparingly bought it on the newsstands and we had one reason: we’ve never seen a black baby on the cover. Even being that the non-white population, the majority in Brazil, you only publish covers with babies that have European features, I ask, are you racist or is there a lack of equality policy???”
The question was clear and direct, exactly what many people post on the Facebook page of the magazine and comment every day. The representative of the magazine, in a burst of candor, responded this way:
How are you? We received some days ago your complaint through Complain Here. First, I would like to thank you for your interest in the magazine and yes, also, in the interest that the magazine widens its view and communication with the black race. We don’t have any prejudice much less are we racists. If you follow or observe in our fashion editorials, frequently there are blacks, redheads and Asians. We have by policy and principals to show the diversity of the world and of the cultures in which we live and that we are placed in; this being with blacks, or Asians or redheads. We have a major concern not exclusive with whites or blacks but with all.
Regarding the cover especially, our variation is always within a same profile or standard. Because of this the homogeneity that you identify as prejudice for us is a way of creating identity and re-affirming it in each issue. They don’t differ much for one to the other, and precisely because of this, we create only one image. This is the reason. It was never racism or prejudice.
I hope that this has been transparent enough for you to be able to clarify and remedy your doubt. Any inquietude please feel free to speak with us again.
Thank you very much,
Editor in Chief”
The complaint and the magazine’s response can be viewed at this link here.
Faced with this clear demonstration of the magazine’s positioning, we can infer that it’s not unlike the position of another magazine of the style, it is even clearer that we must do something. We cannot just accept this attempt to keep us on the margins of society.
It is up to us, blacks, and specifically to mães pretas (black mothers), to fight for representation in these spaces and also build alternative spaces of socialibility where we can interact and discuss issues related to motherhood and conscious mothering.
Note from BW of Brazil: As an example of the, “we featured a piece on blacks and racism so we have diversity” attitude of the media, below is how the other popular parenting magazine presented its December 2014 issue.
The December issue is on newsstands!
The subject is serious: racism still exists and we do not know how to handle it
Newsroom of Pais & Filhos
Racism exists yet, and we cannot handle it. The special article of the December issue of “Somos Todos Mestiços” (We Are All Mixed Race) speaks of this important issue, especially in a country where 50% is black and 50% miscegenated (mixed). What parents can do about prejudice? Here you will read 7 tips about this – See more at:
Note from BW of Brazil: The thing that is perhaps most manipulating and yet another example of the media appearing to deal with the issue of race while simultaneously continuing its standard practice (a tactic we’ve seen often – see here and here, for examples) is how the magazine completely ignores the very fact that their own magazine contributes to this exclusion or extreme under-representation of black Brazilians every single month when it continuously chooses to present Brazilian children who possess European features.The second thing is it’s choice of the words “Somos Todos Mestiços” (We Are All Mixed Race) for the title of the article. The magazine may recognize that Brazil is a huge mixed race society, but one doesn’t seen these racial blends on the covers and in its contents. This is a direct adherence to Brazil modus operandi for decades: giving lip service to a pride in being a mixed race society but consistently showing its real ideal of beauty: white – the color that was always the elite dream for Brazil’s future. “We Are All Mixed Race” is also a play on the common repeated Brazilian response in the face of blatant racism: “Somos todos iguais“, meaning ‘we are all equal’. A phrase in which we are not the only ones that wish would suffer a sudden death!
Below is how some black Brazilians expressed their sentiments on Crescer’s choice of a black baby on its new cover.
Daniela – I swear I don’t know if I celebrate or lament. On one side it’s interesting to have a child on the cover of Crescer, at last they finally understand that black children are also born and grow up. On the other, why does it have to be on a cover where the theme is racism? Why can’t we, for example, be on something ordinary like a shampoo ad? In spite of still believing that representation is fundamental, each day that goes by thinking our representation has to come from ours, making ours for us, because of these it’s no use waiting for nothing.
She – 1. I can only start to believe in this racist magazine after the tenth consecutive issue with a black child on the cover. 2. “We are all equal”: Seriously? 127 years after abolition and only now you have discovered this?
Mary – …..A shame that they only put a black child on the cover because the main subject is prejudice. I hope a new cover with a black child is a main topic like beauty for example. But it’s valuable. It’s a start.
Renata – We are not all equal
Gabriela – We are not all equal. Our differences are what need to be respected. This must be learned.
Daiane – Finally!!! I thought I would die and not see a cover like this. Our moreninhos (1) are beautiful and deserve to appear more.
Marta – We are all equal, only that for years only white children were on the cover of the magazine. I don’t believe that you have cacife to speak about racism, no. We never were equal for you. The title should be: WE ASK YOUR FORGIVENESS TO THE WHOLE BLACK COMMUNITY AND ITS CHILDREN….
Katia – A black child on the cover of Crescer? It’s one in a million.
Bibiana – At last….I’ll buy it
Daiane – Many comments full of hate and malice. I prefer calling my children moreninhos rather than negrinhos. Negrinho is indeed an offensive term (1).
Above comments in original Portuguese
1. Interesting here that Daiane prefers to use the term moreninho to describe black children. In black Brazilian consciousness circles, terms such as moreno, moreninho, mulata, parda, etc. are vehemently rejected as terms that show a certain shame of and avoidance of blackness/black identity. Daiane rejects the term negrinho as offensive, which in fact many black Brazilians also see as an insult but she still prefers to choose another that is equally rejected.