Note from BW of Brazil: Back in 2017, I remember when school psychologist, motivational speaker, and Pan-Afrikanist Dr. Umar Johnson made an appearance on the nationally syndicated radio show, The Breakfast Club and stirred up the pot on a number of topics, including his views on blacks marrying whites. Of course thousands of African-Americans are familiar with Dr. Johnson as well as the radio program, but because of the magic and power of the internet, this particular episode also reached the Afro-Brazilian population. In a video featuring Portuguese subtitles that circulated in a few black Brazilian Facebook groups, Johnson’s appearance on the radio program was edited down so that only the section in which he comments on interracial marriage was posted for discussion. A few choice soundbites from Johnson’s appearance were:
- “Marriage is a political decision, who you marry tells me who you are”
- “There’s no greater symbol of your loyalty to your struggle than to marry a sista, who shares that struggle”
- “Is love purely blind, I disagree. Love is a function of your values and your priorities”
- “I would argue that the reason black men marry white women is because they wish they were white themselves”
In reading the comments, I noted that there was a percentage of black Brazilians who agreed with Johnson but the vast majority responded that politics had nothing to do with love or some derivative of the “love has no color” argument. Needless to say, I have never heard a prominent black Brazilian male make any statements similar to those of Johnson when the topic is interracial marriage, most likely because a large percentage of them have white wives but also because such a statement goes against the discourse of Brazilian society. Anyone in Brazil who would make comments such as those made by Johnson would automatically be deemed a racist or a radical. Of the few prominent black Brazilian men who did marry black, I have also never heard any of them making such statements. Interestingly, the only black Brazilian I’ve heard make a statement similar to any of those made by Johnson is producer/activist Kenia Dias, the wife of actor Érico Brás, who said that “marriage between blacks is a political act”.
So, needless to say, in general, black Brazilians haven’t come to the same conclusions as Umar Johnson, but in recent years, there have been a number of black Brazilians who are beginning to see the effects and realities about widespread interracial unions and what they mean to the future of the Afro-Brazilian community. Below, we find another black Brazilian man who sees what’s really going on.
“A rich black becomes white” and its implications
By Fernando Sagatiba
This is not a socio-anthropological study, but an observation in the vicinity of that field by a black man interested in the subject. I think of the number of artists, athletes, and celebrities in general who throw all their orgulho e consciência negra (pride and black consciousness) into the air, but at the time of the wedding, they marry brancas (white women).
There are even those who marry blacks – usually the first wives, from the humblest and most difficult times, “with no money and with no glory,” as the samba poet, Jorge Aragão, would already have said. But what we see is a social phenomenon (can you call it that?) that exemplifies and illustrates a kind of phrase that I have heard all my life, but it didn’t make the same sense that they it has in recent times for me: “Preto quando fica rico, vira branco” (black when he gets rich, turns white).
You see, I understood this phrase in its figurative sense, saying that the white is the privileged one in our society mounted with a racist and slavery structure. It was the simple theorem: If he is black, but it he has money and prestige, then, they will treat him with perks, as if he were white. But I realized with time that it was not quite like that. Many blacks are cursed by their ethnicity at the slightest sign of error or disagreement with their system. Take the case of a few years ago of the goalie Aranha. He was cursed, Pelé, who defended that the goalkeeper adopted the posture of leaving the subject alone, no. So it’s not all blacks who reaches a social level of admiration and become ‘white’ (which in practice is a euphemism for ‘bom crioulo’ (good nigger), given the level of ‘domestication’ and subservience of the black). There was something to look at even though it was not always visible to the naked eye, or, at first glance without compromise.
Well, now that we’ve made the visit and the budget has already been given, it’s time to hire the service, right? Let me go right to the point of the curve that showed my other look at the sentence “preto com grana embranquece” (a black with money whitens). I will not be enumerating, but some well-known artists for decades seem to be looking for new wives with a Google search filter. Older whites find younger ones and the black men find white women. Every minute some of them appear to repeat this pattern. I was once a ‘constructed’ black man (almost a Pizza Tower base so profoundly ‘Eurotorta’ (Europeanized), the sort who felt something wrong in common sense, but had no psychological strength to challenge and confront the system. It’s from that time that I remember believing that the medium was making relationships. If a black were in places of white predominance, he would end up relating to a white woman. But I myself have frequented such environments and it was not so simple. Lots of ‘friend zone’ and some rejections “for no apparent reason” and finally, I learned!
My theory goes a little beyond the figurative sense. It is really physical that the black man whitens when he becomes privileged. With a few exceptions, the general picture we have is that black rises socially, knows whites, generates a thousand descendants with them and this mestiço (mixed race) offspring, will continue to walk through the big parties, big schools, the media, the beach, buzzing and going to marry other white people and to generate more mixed-blooded offspring of the mestiços and on it goes… And the perplexing question is one I read a few years ago, but I had not made the association of figurative language with the physical fact: When the black gets rich, he whitens the family and this whitened family is who will inherit his estate.
So, it’s like this: It’s very beautiful to sing blackness, to be an ethnic symbol of a nation in a secular struggle, but in reality, he is strengthening the other side with his prestige, money, goods, etc. Most of the population – that is black – will remain poor and, of the few who manage to take our banner to places most dream of arriving without reading celebrity gossip magazine, almost none really leaves a physical legacy, material for their race. The cultural empire is ours, there’s no point in a thousand appropriating that we know who is who, but is it good for us to be content with being kings in revelry and real life, living in shacks to rest from underemployment? Imagine what a mass it would be to see blacks rising socially and financially, whether by art, sports or higher education, and success in the job market and the roots were maintained. One day we could dream of seeing the black race having its social value recognized. But for now, it is palmitagem (see note one) and usurpation of the assets of blackness.
Fernando Sagatiba is a black man, journalist, samba artist, cartoonist, sarcastic and a self-proclaimed observer of contemporary issues. Affiliated to UNEGRO-RJ
Source: Mundo Negro
- The preference of some black Brazilians to only have long-term relationships with white partners.