Our Blacks, our negroides, the salt of the earth of said Brazilian-ness, were trained for submissiveness. Daniel Alves and Neymar bleach their heads blonde for pure idolatry with heads of hair so blond that they look snowy.
What must be stressed here is that Brazil’s Black consciousness movement has been in many ways operating underground and never reached the widespread participation as what happened with Civil Rights/Black Power movements in 1960s/70s United States. In Brazil, among the general population, it is widely accepted that the closer one can be to whiteness, the better. This general ideal can be noted in the overall population from those with darker Black skin to dark or nearly White mestiços (persons of mixed race). The blond ambition, or would-be proximity to whiteness perceived in the bleach blond looks of Neymar and Daniel Alves for a time was very popular with many poor, young, Afro-Brazilian males and blond highlights remain very popular among all women.
This writer has witnessed throughout the years how cosmetic manipulation can be used to hide or make racial origins less obvious. For example, a light-skinned person with blond, straightened hair enters a room, a subway train or a bus. Due to the light skin and blond straight hair, a quick glance might lead one to believe that this person is White, but upon closer inspection, one realizes that the person in question simply straightens and colors their hair thus masking the darker, curlier textures of their hair. Earlier in the decade, it was also very common to see very brown-skinned women applying hydrogen peroxide to their arms to give their arm hairs a blond appearance!
Last year, people noted the physical change in the appearance of popular singer Anitta, who before her fame appeared to be a light-skinned mestiça, but later appeared to go through a process of cosmetic embranquecimento (whitening) as her appearance seemed significantly whiter than before. Coincidentally, earlier this week, I had seen one of those articles online showing how celebrities looked before their fame. In that one, the article asked, “do you recognize this popular singer?” and featured a photo of a young girl. I didn’t even bother to click on the article. Later, a friend posted the photo side by side with a current photo of the celebrity on a social network along with the phrase, “As afro-brasileiras e a dura missão que envolve ascensão x embranquecimento”, meaning, “Afro-Brazilians and the difficult mission that involves ascension and whitening.”
Seeing the photos side-by-side, I realized the celebrity was sexually provocative funk singer Valesca Popozuda. On the photo to the left, taken when she was 8 years old, the singer’s hair and facial features clearly denote a more obvious mixed-race background while her current photo shows her in her manufactured, whitened re-incarnation. One can also note differences in the appearances of actress Camila Pitanga (1) and model Adriana Lima.
Such are the examples of Neymar, Daniel Alves, Anitta and Valesca in a Brazil in which the aesthetic supremacy of whiteness has very little challenge. This is one of the most important differences between the US and Brazil. As I wrote above, one of the main reasons Brazilians have the idea that Brazil’s racial relations are so much more harmonious than those in the United States is because Afro-Brazilians have never been allowed to develop a widespread movement to combat the hegemony of White supremacy. Behind the façade of “we are all equal” rhetoric lurks a deeply ingrained Black inferiority complex that equates whiteness with all that is good and desirable. Although White supremacy is equally strong in the United States, the 1960s and 1970s movements laid the groundwork for a collective identity and pride in Black communities that, while also being influenced by the contradictory acceptance of European aesthetics, still forms a collective of resistance.
The Black pride of the US has well-founded bases. One is W.E.B. Du Bois. He spoke German better than (first Black Supreme Court President) Joaquim Barbosa. He advocated the superiority of Blacks (which he called the “talented tenth”). In 1911 he wrote things like “people of color have a distinct artistic and cultural creativity from that of their White antagonists and oppressors, a deeper inner vitality and humanity” (That Du Bois called “life soul” or “seeleleben”).
In his work Dark Princess , Du Bois noted: “the darker peoples are the best – the natural aristocracy, the makers of art, religion, philosophy, life, everything except brazen machines.”
Here is the poem “Ghana Calls” that that Du Bois wrote in Ghana (which Neymar and Daniel should sing, to the furtive tears, instead of our national anthem “Ouviram do Ipiranga as margens plácidas/They hear from Ipiranga the placid banks…”):
I lifted my last voice and cried
I cried to heaven as I died:
O turn me to the Golden Horde
Summon all western nations
Toward the Rising Sun.
From reeking West whose day is done,
Who stink and stagger in their dung
Toward Africa, China, India’s strand
Where Kenya and Himalaya stand
And Nile and Yang-tze roll:
Turn every yearning face of man.
Come with us, dark America:
The scum of Europe battened here
And drowned a dream
Made fetid swamp a refuge seem:
Enslaved the Black and killed the Red
And armed the Rich to loot the Dead;
Worshipped the whores of Hollywood
Where once the Virgin Mary stood
And lynched the Christ.
Awake, awake, O sleeping world
Honor the sun;
Worship the stars, those vaster suns
Who rule the night
Where black is bright
And all unselfish work is right
And Greed is Sin.
And Africa leads on:
By: Claudio Tognolli