Note from BW of Brazil: Some of the best comedy skits, sketches and routines that I’ve seen over the years are those that make me laugh while simultaneously dealing with a very real social situation or issue. The truly talented comedian can drive home a social message in a funny way that allows one to reflect on the humor rather than becoming angry or defensive as the situation may be when presented in a debate.
I recently saw an example of this on Rede Globo TV of all places. Why do I say “of all places”, you might ask. Well, if you’ve never watched the presentations broadcast on Globo, or for that matter Brazil’s other top networks as well (Record, SBT, Band), suffice it say, its depictions of black Brazilians play an enormous role in the way this population continues to be seen in the country’s conscious and subconscious. If you’ve followed media coverage on this blog for the past few years, you will note that the mainstream media continues to present Afro-Brazilians to their audiences in subordinate roles. On Brazilian television, black people, when they are presented, are always places in the role of the maid, the personal driver, security, the sexy mulata or the criminal element. Although there have clearly been exceptions to this rule, in general the rule doesn’t change.
Earlier this week I received from several friends and groups a video that became pretty popular in social networks. The video was produced and broadcast on the Globo TV network and presented a humorous take on white privilege in Brazil. The short clip showed various whites enjoying privileges that many take granted and which many black Brazilians simply don’t have. All of the situations presented in the clip have been previously discussed on this blog. Nina Silva’s experience at an Itaú Personnalité branch in Rio was an example that many have experienced at banks. The fact that Brazil has such vast inequalities in access to adequate health care as well as the racism that many black w0men experience during doctor visits speaks to the issue as well as the fact that so many primarily black people depend on the public health system known as SUS. Then we have the numerous reports of racism when attending certain restaurants and add to this the ongoing rejection of Brazilian society to affirmative action and the increased presence of Afro-Brazilians on elite college campuses (see here, here and here) and we can understand why the comedy skit resonated with so many black people.
Now before moving on to a brief analysis of the comedy skit, readers should first know that the title of the skit, “Branco no Brasil”, meaning “white in Brazil” is a play on the title of one of Brazil’s biggest banks, Banco do Brasil, meaning “Bank of Brazil”.
“White in Brazil” sketch exposes wound and generates discussion on the internet
“Branco no Brasil” (meaning ‘white in Brazil’). Marcelo Adnet’s sketch divulged on the internet exposed on one of the biggest open wounds in the country. The video went viral and was acclaimed by Internet users, but there were also criticisms.
Globo TV’s Tá no Ar (meaning ‘it’s on the air’) will be shown again next January 24th. Headed up by comedian Marcelo Adnet, the attraction decided to anticipate one of his skits on the internet.
The segment makes a parody of the bank commercials with a critique on the privilege of white people.
In the video, the characters appear being served by black people in various situations and saying things like “I had access to the best universities” and “I am always well attended in the best restaurants.”
In the end, a white woman says, “Of course, I’ve never been barred at the revolving door,” while a black woman is stopped by security at a bank branch.
The video ends with a logo written “Branco no Brasil”, and with the slogan: “Há mais de 500 anos levando vantage” (For more than 500 years taking advantage).
The clip has already been watched 500,000 times and shared more than 30,000 times. In the video, actors show daily situations in which whites receive privileged treatment. See the full video here.
Most commentators positively favored the content and praised the criticism presented in the skit. Others, however, criticized, saying that they are white and don’t have all the privileges cited.
Brazil is one of the countries that took the longest to abolish slavery in the world, and was the last to abolish slavery in the Americas only in 1888. The black slaves brought from the West African coast were the main labor force in Brazil for over 300 years, which explains the country’s historic debt to blacks.
Note from BW of Brazil: In summary, I think the video and the message presented pretty much speak for themselves. Deep down inside people know that whiteness is seen as a privileged status in Brazil and many other countries around the world. The association with whiteness and all that is good is so deeply entrenched in a country like Brazil that many people still don’t even perceive something wrong with this thinking; it simply it is what it is. In referring back to the previous point of Globo TV itself often perpetuating negative images of Afro-Brazilians, that is when they are presented at all, an interesting little detail details this point. While the program Tá no Ar deserves accolades for pointing out the existence of white privilege in Brazil, the regular cast of the show itself, which is ALL WHITE, is perhaps the best example of this.
The only thing I would address here is toward the end of the article in which some whites expressed the opinion that they don’t have all of the privileges portrayed in the video. Here’s my thing. It is a fact that there are millions of poor white Brazilians who face discrimination due to class everyday. No doubt about that. But these people do not face discrimination based on race. Even in being poor, in many ways persons judged to be white still carry a number of privileges that they may not even perceive. For example, due to Brazil’s acceptance and promotion of the beauty of white men and women, two people, one black and the other white, can carry the social stigma of poverty, but the poor white may still be judged as being physically attractive due to his/her race. There have also been studies that show that, in Brazil, a white person has an easier time being able to ascend out of poverty due to a whiteness that puts him in a social network of other whites who can reach back and help him or her. Over the years, numerous studies have pointed out the differences between being black and poor and being white and poor.
Rosana Heringer (2001) shows that black and poor young people are disproportionately more identified as a source of threat and insecurity to the population than poor young whites, while research by Zaluar (1989) points out that the characteristics of police action contribute to the preference of blacks for repressive policing. And yet another study (Adorno 1995) indicates that blacks and whites commit violent crimes in equal proportions, but black defendants tend to be more persecuted by police surveillance, face greater obstacles to access to criminal justice and show greater difficulties of applying the the right to ample defense ensured by Constitutional norms.
To finalize, one of the best examples of white privilege that we see operate in Brazil everyday is that in certain environments, whites will never be thought to be “out of place”. We’ve seen many examples on this very blog in which a black Brazilian, even with a college education, a white collar job and status still face questioning and cases of mistaken identity due directly to their race. Afro-Brazilian lawyer Hédio Silva once mentioned how airline stewardesses usually speak to him in English aboard flights as the assumption is that a black man aboard a flight cannot be Brazilian. Then we’ve seen the case of the black man who was wrestled to the ground because it was assumed he was stealing his own BMW. Or the black woman scientist who was impeded from entering a luxury hotel because she was assumed to be Carnaval dancer. We see numerous situations like this everyday that white people in the same situation will never experience, which is one of the reasons this status is defined as white privilege that leads to “a differentiated treatment, everyday, 24 hours, in any place.”
Source: Pragmatismo Político, Heringer, Rosana. “Desigualdades Raciais no Brasil”. Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos. 2001. Zaluar, Alba – “A polícia e a comunidade: paradoxos da (in)convivência.” In Presença – Política e Cultura. Rio de Janeiro, #13, pp.144-53. Adorno, Sérgio – “Discriminação racial e justiça criminal em São Paulo” in Novos Estudos – CEBRAP. São Paulo, #43, November, 1995.