Note from BW of Brazil: In reality, this really isn’t too hard to pick up on. If one were to hang out with enough Brazilian men and pay close attention, you might note there seems to be a sort of unspoken agreement on the premium placed upon white women. You can see it in the reactions that men, specifically black men, have when the topic is a blond woman. I say specifically black men because it is expected that white men would have this adoration for the woman that looks like him and that can give him a child that looks like him. On the other hand, it’s almost embarrassing to see how many black men seem to slobber on themselves over white women and the manner in which it seems they will trample over black women to have access to a white woman.
A few years back, I remember being at a shopping mall in São Paulo with a female acquaintance who was also black. We were walking around the food court trying to decide which restaurant we wanted to dine in. We separated briefly to check out what types of dishes were being offered in various restaurants. A few minutes later, we met up again but I noticed from the expression on her face that something was bothering her. When I asked what had happened, she asked me, “Did you see that guy just walked past me talking on a cell phone?” I had seen the guy in question but didn’t really notice what he looked like, I responded. I knew he was black, taller than her and had a low haircut. “Well, as he walked past me, I heard a part of his conversation. First, he asked, ‘What does she look like?…Cool, cool…Nega (black woman)? No no, nega, no. She’s gotta be a loira (blond).'” Now of course, without hearing the full conversation, we can’t be sure what was going on there, but we know what it sounds like.
In another situation, also a few years ago, I remember being in the home of a black family in São Paulo’s north zone. As I watched a television program in the house, I could hear one of the uncles of the family, a dark-skinned black man in his early 60s, having a conversation with his sister and her husband is his loud, deep, booming, boisterous voice. He had been there for at least 45 minutes talking when he started making his way out and announced, “I gotta go, I’m having lunch with a loira.” Everyone just started laughing as he walked up the driveway in his neatly pressed suit as his cologne seemed to linger in the afternoon air.
Over the years, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve noted this sort of adoration of white women, particularly blonds, among Afro-Brazilian men. Beyond the idea of people claiming not to have preferences in the area of mate selection, it would be impossible to believe that black Brazilians haven’t been victims of a process of social engineering. Besides the history of the promotion of whitening one’s offspring through unions with whiter partners, one will also note the rarity of black romance in Brazil’s ever-popular novelas (soap operas). It’s pretty much the rule: black character, white partner. I’m not a fan of the Globo TV’s novelas, but check out the story of the 2017 novelas entitled Novo Mundo.
Set in the 19th century, the drama features an interracial romance between the characters Cecília and Libério, played by actress Isabella Dragão and actor Felipe Silcler respectively. In what is described as a troubled and forbidden romance, he, a black man, is responsible for a newspaper in the city and she is the daughter the city’s main slave trader. Speaking of the onscreen romance, Silcler says, “It’s nice to see people identify with this most naïve love. In addition to all the political force of being an interracial couple that fights against prejudice in the 19th century, the romance is genuine.” Really? So the fact that the woman’s father trades in people who look just like him doesn’t even matter, huh? I know it’s just a novela, but what type of message is this situation passing on to the audience?
Nowadays, there is a small, but growing parcel of the Afro-Brazilian population is starting to question such relationships, the reasons behind them and what they say about the racial hierarchy in Brazilian society. Today’s piece takes up the topic from yet another angle.
The Social Obligation of the Brazilian Man to Show Off a White Wife
By Aline Krisner
Slavery in Brazil didn’t end, it only disguised itself over the centuries. If we pay attention to the architecture and luxury apartments of the present day, we can clearly find the model of the casa grande e senzala (big house and the slave quarters) when we see the “quartinho de emprega” (maid’s quarters), a small, dark, sometimes windowless, poorly ventilated room. When we hear complaints on the part of maids about the abuses and the act of dehumanizing them, committed by the bosses, of not being able to use the cutlery, of not being able to eat the food, and often of not being able to use the bathroom (see note one)… Modern slavery is to earn 300 reais (US $91) a month to work 10 hours a day in a house and be treated like an animal, but for the visitors the insistence on the cliché phrase: “She is a member of our family.”
This social behavior in the labor environment extends to the environment of affection, for these servants are most often abused, harassed and even raped by the bosses like an animal that is there not only to serve the whole family as a slave but also to attend the sexual needs of their employers and the sons of these bosses. And this subject is absolutely normal in sexist bar talk among men, about how he satiated his sexual needs with such maids. Since this class of women whose profession is hereditary, this profession is directly linked to the descendants of slaves who don’t have the slightest chance of social ascension, today’s maids are daughters, granddaughters, and great-grandchildren of past maids. And in the masculine mind, a man can never enter into a relationship with these often black, other times mestiça (mixed race) women because they would never be respected by their friends in bar talk.
The white man of the Brazilian social elite will not dare to admit a PUBLIC relationship with a black woman, a descendant of slaves, he will never be subject to racist jokes in assuming a black woman, thus eliminating one more way for these women to ascend socially, as many white women manage, born poor, often stupid and ignorant, and thus continue into adulthood, don’t seek to improve their intellect and culture, and need not necessarily, but because of their color they meet the mandatory social standard of Brazilian man to form a family, this means: skin color and hair as the ONLY prerequisite, THE BRANCAS (white women), EVEN THOSE BORN IN THE MISERY, for the simple fact of being white have the chance to change social class. Negras (black women) do not. In effect, this opportunity for improvement in social status does not extend to black women and therefore the heredity in the maid profession and also hyper-sexualization of this woman in a male conversation.
The man could lose his power and status if he exhibited a mulher negra as his wife, the mother of his children, and since this is a rule, almost an obligation among middle-class men, this behavior is also reproduced among men of the poor classes and even homens negros (black men). It becomes a masculine status: To show off an esposa branca (white wife), to choose a white wife to form a family. The men put the negras in another “box” in their mind: Somente para Sexo (Only for Sex).
The consequence of this act are the extramarital relationships that often times the black lover is with whom the man prefers to spend most of the time and the encounter with his white social partner becomes a statute, the fulfillment of an obligation, much less pleasurable, since his choice was based only on race, often this homem branco (white man) ends up being disappointed with the passage of years with this white woman who did not offer him real qualities worthy of him to love her and then he outside the marriage obtains a woman that he admires, and often wants to spend most of his time with her, and in some cases even have children, other children with her, these mestiço children, bastardos (bastards), totally hidden, out of the image he exhibits for society.
The ostentation of the white woman as a wife becomes a standard, a symbol of power, copied by poor men, including black men, in the mid-21st century the social requirements for a marriage are not based on the personality and personal qualities of this woman, often which she doesn’t present. I usually say that if the light-skinned woman “dyes her hair yellow” in Brazil she doesn’t even have character, one of the most important qualities, and she will indeed find a partner who wants to share his life with her, and sign a document passing his assets legally to her, while the negra or mestiça woman with whom he enjoys himself most of the time, will not have those financial rights.
- The story featured in the link after came several months after the writing of this current article with the experiences of maids in Brazil being thoroughly documented on Facebook by rapper/teacher Preta Rara on her page “Eu, empregada doméstica” (Me, a maid).