Yes, We Are Racists

History cannot be used forever to justify media immobility

The death of George Floyd, murdered by a police officer in the USA, advanced conversation about race in Brazilian media more in just one week than the media industry did on its own in the last 20 years.

Newspapers and TV channels left behind even for a few days, the whitened image of the country that they have always supported and included black presenters, reporters, analysts, and academics in the discussion.

Since the death of a black man by a white policeman has provoked increasing demonstrations in the USA, the coverage of the Brazilian press has been moving towards delivering more of the same: images of brief commotion and little interest in fostering the debate.

But the focus seemed to shift to the violent episodes of the protests, covering up what drives the demonstrations - racism that kills black men, women, and children with a knee in the throat, a shot in the back or neglect inside an elevator.

The persistence and size of the protests led the press to expand the discussion. And, amid a succession of tight skirts, vehicles were forced to respond to criticism.

Among several articles on the topic, Folha, in a good episode of the Café da Manhã podcast, turned to professor Thiago Amparo. Amparo, alongside Djamila Ribeiro, is one of about ten black people out of a total of almost 200 columnists from across the newspaper.
The contradictions, however, have become more transparent on television channels — a place where racism can be viewed.

Invited to speak on CNN, the ex-consulate of France in Brazil, Alexandra Loras, recalled on Tuesday (2), live, that a broadcaster that is willing to have a debate on racism led by anchor William Waack should also invite black specialists. They can discuss the theme in more depth and from an anti-racist perspective.

Loras was polite in reacting to what appeared to be a provocation. Waack left Globo after a video leak showing the presenter, irritated with a horn, saying that it was "black stuff," a derogatory term in Brazil.

On the same day, GloboNews decided to invite journalists who give their opinion on the program daily Em Pauta to debate on racism in Brazil. An internet user mocked the image of the all-white team, and the post went viral.

After what happened on Tuesday with Loras on CNN Brasil, the volume of black academics, artists, and activists interviewed in the following days on the channel rose considerably.

GloboNews decided to reformulate the program's edition on Wednesday (3), with the right to a mea-culpa and convocation of almost all the main black journalists of the group: Zileide Silva, Flávia Oliveira, Maria Júlia Coutinho, Aline Midlej and Lilian Ribeiro .

Before handing over the program to Heraldo Pereira, presenter Marcelo Cosme said: "Globo values diversity and is proud of the black professionals it has in front of the cameras and behind them. But, for historical and structural reasons of our society, also on Globo, the black colleagues are still not as many as desired."

The broadcaster could be accused of opportunism, but it advanced this by announcing that Zileide Silva and Flávia Oliveira would become part of the fixed group of Em Pauta.
The idea seems to have worked so well that, on Friday (5) night, Globo Repórter repeated the program on open TV.

Throughout the week, we saw the Brazilian press put forth the effort, obviously valid, to answer a question seriously never addressed (unless occasionally) seriously - the racism of Brazilian society and the lack of black professionals in the media.

The episodes revealed unpreparedness to deal with the lack of diversity in the teams and with racism itself - for the first time, I saw (white) journalists without really knowing what to do with the monopoly of opinion and image that they always held.

But these episodes also made it clear that, if there is a will, human resources and an audience don't lack it.

If we will see more profound changes in the newsrooms, it is still too early to say.

But it should be clear how important it is to have professionals with different experiences participating in all journalistic production stages and talking about politics, economics, health, and public safety.

Historical and structural reasons have indeed brought us to the place where we are. Still, they have been uncovered for some time and, therefore cannot be used eternally as a justification for the media's immobility. At the risk of having to repeat programs like the one done with black journalists not once, but hundreds of times.

Flavia Lima

A reporter specializing in economics, she graduated in social sciences from USP and in law from Mackenzie. Se has been the ombudsman at Folha since May 2019.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon