BW of Brazil: We’ve heard the same tired arguments for decades. “Brazilians aren’t racists.” “Racist countries are the United States and South Africa.” “Brazil isn’t racist because it never had legalized segregation.” “Brazil isn’t racist because it never had laws banning interracial marriages.” On the outside looking in (and even being on the inside), these arguments will actually fool the untrained eye on how racism may function differently, but ultimately has the same objective as other countries. Racism in the minds of millions of Brazilians is complete segregation in which whites and non-whites rarely interact and manifest open sentiments of hate which lead to extremely violent actions and reactions. But there are two problems with these sorts of arguments.
One, the existence of these things in one place and absence in another doesn’t necessarily mean that one is racist and the other isn’t. And two, Brazil actually has facets of all of the features that it believes only exists in other countries. For example, how can people really believe that “Brazilians aren’t racists” when we see open expressions of racist sentiments every day across the country? Sure, Brazil never had legalized racial segregation, but when we dig beneath the surface, we discover countless examples of racial segregation that existed on soccer fields, in movie theaters and in social clubs. And still today, we see sentiments in which white Brazilians don’t believe black Brazilians should have the same access to the same spaces that they have. We’ve seen demonstrations of this attitude in country clubs, shopping malls, on beaches, in apartments and restaurants among many other places. What one will note is that as Afro-Brazilians increasingly demand their place in Brazilian society, open displays of racial antagonisms continue to come to the forefront.
Then we have perhaps the biggest trump card in the Brazilian arsenal of denying the racist roots of the nation: “Brazil isn’t racist because it never had laws banning interracial marriages.” What most Brazilians won’t admit and probably don’t even know is that interracial marriages were promoted by elites in the 19th century with a stated objective of the eventual disappearance of the black race altogether. As the ideology of racial mixture for the “improvement of the black race” was promoted and often accepted by the black population itself, most didn’t perceive its racist, eugenics objective. Slowly today, many Afro-Brazilian women are questioning why it seems that so many successful black men choose white women when it’s time to establish long lasting relationships. In fact, some Afro-Brazilian men are beginning to the come to this realization and even making the same accusations against black women. In other words, although slowly, some black Brazilians are discovering that, in some ways, an apparent acceptance of placing whites on a pedestal in the marriage arena is one of the best examples of how racism functions in the country.
Many Afro-Brazilians understand that racism isn’t simply someone calling another person a monkey (which is very common in Brazil) and nor does mixed environments mean there is an absence of racism. In fact, the higher up one goes in social class in Brazil, the whiter it gets. A fact that we also notice on television, in movies, doll availability, beauty products, Miss Brasil beauty competitions, politics, advertising, literature and countless other areas. The hidden message of this absence of blackness simply re-enforces the ideology of embranquecimento, or whitening, that was idealized and promoted in the decade preceding the abolition of the slavery era. If Brazil doesn’t present black faces in so many areas, it is (not so) subtly saying that it wishes the black race didn’t exist. And presenting overwhelmingly white faces in so many important areas is simply a mechanism of indoctrinating Afro-Brazilians to accept and adapt this concept as their own ideal and eventually contribute to their own eventual demise as the nation continues to deceive itself under a thoroughly debunked mythology of ‘racial democracy‘ through a one-sided multiculturalism that seeks to ‘black out’ half of the population in a sea of (almost/would be) whiteness.
The nation’s print industry is yet another area in which we see a constant whitewash. We have addressed the issue in the past when we discussed women’s magazines, bridal magazines, teen magazines and also baby magazines targeting new parents. And as we can see from today’s article, nothing has changed since that original piece four years ago. Week in and week out, on magazine stands across the country, we see Brazilian faces represented by the whitest of its citizens. This is not to say Afro-Brazilians never appear on magazine covers, but from what this writer has seen over the years, on a weekly basis, white Brazilians represent between 92-95% and sometimes 100% of them regularly.
The fact is, over the past 20 years, the only magazine that targets the Afro-Brazilian community and consistently features black faces on its overs has been Raça Brasil, the most successful of all-time dedicated to this audience. Last year, there were rumblings that Raça Brasil was in trouble as the whole year only saw a few new editions in a twelve month period, a signal of instability for a magazine that normally publishes a new edition every month. But as rumors of the magazine’s apparent demise swirled for several months, early in 2016, the magazine’s makers announced the name of the magazine would be changed to Afro Brasil as it re-organized itself and struck a deal with a new publisher.
But even with a steady presence over the past 20 years under the two names, the fact that there is only one magazine that speaks directly to Afro-Brazilians is very revealing about how Brazil deals with the race issue. For decades, a strongly held belief was that black faces on the covers of popular magazines don’t sell, and even as Raça Brasil proved that there was a public that was starving for representation, accusations of reverse racism were directed at the “revistas dos negros brasileiros” (magazine for black Brazilians), the magazine’s actual slogan before the criticism forced it to drop this tagline.
Think about that for a minute.
In countries like the United States and South Africa, that Brazil always points to as examples of racist countries, one sees numerous magazines dedicated the black population, while in Brazil, that fancies itself a ‘racial democracy’, it was thought to be absurd that any magazine would represent black people even as mainstream magazines routinely ignored this parcel of the population and its specific issues. And as more and more black Brazilians are attaining access to international travel, this blaring invisibility of Afro-Brazilians is becoming more apparent. And that’s what Afro-Brazilian journalist and independent media entrepreneur Paulo Rogério has noted over the years on his global travels. Below is a brief message Rogério posted on his social media profile on a recent trip to London, England.
Paulo Rogério: “Look at this magazine stand in Brixton, a multicultural neighborhood in London. As long as Brazil doesn’t understand that it’s only possible to construct a democracy and a solid economy with diversity we have a long ways to go…We’ll always be a “small” and unequal country. Sometimes I feel as if Brazil was a bubble, a matrix, where they hide from us what happens in other parts of the world. I repeat once again…Brazil is the most backward of the great multicultural nations in this aspect of inclusion of under-represented groups. Many years behind the US, UK, Canada, South Africa, etc. Look at more photos of magazines and advertisements here in the comments.”
- Although it is true that Dejesus and Januza both cover popular magazines this month, it should be noted that both are featured in men’s entertainment magazine in which one is nude and the other featured in a more soft core photo spread. As such, it could be argued that such covers do nothing but maintain the position of black women in one of the ‘places’ where Brazilian society has always envisioned them: available sex objects.