Note from BW of Brazil: A few weeks ago, we presented a story about a well-known party that is put on from time to time in Rio de Janeiro called “Meu Black é assim”, meaning ‘My Black is like this’, but as we speaking of Brazil, we must again point out that the ‘term’ ‘black’ here refers to an afro hairstyle, as in the hairstyles popularized by militants of the Black Power movement in the United States of the 1960s and ’70s. The party may have made use of the ‘black’ aesthetic as the theme of the party but the vast majority of bodies at the party were clearly not black which led to a debate on exclusion and cultural appropriation. Here is how one activist saw the issue.
‘My black’ is not like this
By Walmyr Junior
This article was written by me and by the militant of the National Black Youth Collective – Enegrecer, Nassor Oliveira. His intention is not to attack the participants or party organizers cited here, or even belittle the contribution of non-black people to the cultural movement, but question the difficulty inherent to black people in seeing themselves represented, even in the culture that historically identifies them.
Last weekend, after the release of photos of the latest edition of a party in Mansão Botafogo (Botafogo Mansion, Rio de Janeiro) called “Meu Black é assim” (My Black is like this), followed shares brought an event of its routine repercussions to the center of debates about cultural appropriation, identity, the black aesthetic, and as couldn’t be missed, heated debates involving institutional racism.
When opening the party’s Facebook page we see a profile photo with an analogy to the hair style “Black Power” (meaning afro), however it was not only a common ‘Black Power’, it’s a ‘Black Power’ in the form of a vinyl album, situated quite well so that the association was made. This image, popularized in the ’70s as an aesthetic expression of a cultural, musical and also political movement, empowered thousands of black men and women not only at that time, and that more than ever has returned today as a symbol of resistance and hegemonic culture.
‘Black Power’ in vinyl form
Until then, no big deal, but from the event’s Facebook cover photo came the element that contributed to the controversy. We have two loiríssimas (ultra blond), straight-haired girls wearing baseball caps at the event. Besides this, of every 10 photos published you see ½ of a black person, the overwhelming majority of images represent the event’s public: the typical phenotype of the elite neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro (white type/south side), which caused fury in the comments and a virtual mobilization that generated more than eleven thousand comments only on the photo album of this edition (of the party), out among thousands of shares and discussions that went on in the network.
And why do we blacks get so bothered about it? – “It was just to buy a ticket to go to the party?” – “The young black favelado (slum resident) was not at the party because they didn’t want to be?” – “Now we will have to have quotas in the events?”
No, nothing like that. There is still a barrier that divides the city, the areas of socialibility, and this goes far beyond the scope of this particular event, it is just one example of a much larger phenomenon: The structural inequalities, marginalization of blacks and the association between color and financial condition, anyone who denies any of these facts defies reason.
What has happened, as rapper Emicida would say, is that cultura negra or black culture, (to further gourmetify it) is fashionable. The aesthetics, music, and even the dialect used by blacks give an urban and conceptual touch, and some say “exotic” to the elite image. Commercially speaking, this becomes an explosive phenomenon, combining elements of culture that represents a people, associating the historically accepted figure by the society of the non-black population.
It is a fact that a party for profit has no obligation to represent anyone, the problem is that a for-profit society works the same way. The most salable, the already established, prevails. The marginalized look at the TV, at the commercials, at all public representations and cannot see themselves. Even in places where he is in reality, such as the bailes funk (funk dances) on the novelas (soap operas), even the place unfortunately occupied by the black majority is represented on TV by white models coming out the teen magazines.
Source: Jornal do Brasil