Love or hate social media, one thing it doesn’t fail on doing is being outlet for calling out offence. And that’s exactly what I woke up to today as my Instagram feed continuously shared posts about Vogue Brasil director’s lavish colonial-themed bash… Admittedly I had no idea the exact extend of the outcry, until this evening I hit the translate button on Joyce Fernandes‘s Facebook post with over 14K reactions across her social media platforms in the last 12hrs!
Race issues in Brazil
“Our pains can not be your fantasies, clothes, or decoration” – Joyce Fernandes aka Preta-Rara
Despite it’s well-marketed perception to the world as being a ‘rainbow nation‘, Brazil has had, and continues to have, it’s it’s fair issues of race inequality and insensitivity. Just yesterday in Salvador da Bahia, a Vogue Brasil director enjoyed a private colonial-style themed 50th birthday bash alongside her invited guests, without thinking it would be offensive to have black women dressed and acting as slaves (and let’s face it, ‘maids’ in colonial days were slaves, so there’s no sugar-coating it). People – google White Privilege! In 2019 there should be no more excuses for ‘I didn’t know‘ or ‘I didn’t think it would offend‘!
Preta-Rara uses social media to ‘call out’!
Brazilian rapper, Joyce Fernandes aka Preta-Rara, articulates why this act is so toxic. She shared on Instagram and Facebook; “We live in such modern slavery, where our pains see fantasies, decoration of parties to benefit the bad taste of sinhás and sinhóres (slave owners).” She added; When I read about slavery, it gives a lump in the throat, it chills the skin and it is obvious that I feel my body ache, I feel the pains of my ancestors, after all, it is only 131 years since Brazil “ceased” to be enslaved.
Preta-Rara shared already circulated pictures from the event, which she modestly covered the faces for the black women dressed as Baiana servants. An important move I feel so they aren’t penalize or use as a scapegoat from addressing the wider situation – that the decision-makers are the ones in the wrong. Preta-Rara’s comment section it has been pointed out that these women weren’t forced to work at this event. True, they weren’t forced to work, but you see, this is how racism also manages to perpetuate itself; the use of power to entice knowing fully well if not them, someone else will take the role simply based on the social economic class of black people in Brazil… Just because they agreed doesn’t make it right.
And where were the black guests? I thought to myself
Wasn’t this in Bahia – the state with the largest population of Africans outside of Africa, after all? This shows why it’s important to have a diverse circles – and diversity in positions of decision-making I might add! If there were black people in the event planning management team, or guests – surely some-one of them would have called this out sooner.
If it offends even 1 person – take note and learn from it
For all the cynics who don’t see the harm in this act, or think it was an ‘innocent’ party – if it offends even 1 person – take note and learn from it. In this case it offended a lot of black Brazilians, many like Preta-Rara took to social media to share their dismay. To silence one is to shut down the voices of many… Understand your position of privilege even if you can’t empathise.
Once again social media proves to be an effective tool for calling out offence, and I think Joyce Fernandes aka Preta Rara did a great job using her platform to do just that!
Donata Meirelles, style director of Vogue Brasil magazine, who’s birthday it was, apologised;
“Yesterday I celebrated my 50th birthday in Salvador, my husband’s city and I love him. It was not a themed party.As it was Friday and the party was in Bahia, many guests and the receptive were in white, as tradition says. But it is also important to clarify: in the photos published, the chair was not a Sinha chair, but a candomblé chair, and the clothes were not a maid, but party dresses from Bahia.Even if we make a different impression of that, I apologize Respect for Bahia, its culture and its traditions, as well as the Bahia, which are Intangible Heritage of this land that I also consider mine and that receive with such affection the visitors at the airport, the streets and the parties. mistake there is no commitment and, as samba says, forgiveness was made to ask” (via Vogue Press office to E+)
*Update 13th February: Donata Meirelles has resigned from Vogue Brasil. Now, that’s evidence in the power of collectively ‘calling out’ using social media!
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