Is Folha Racist?

Newspaper insists on maintaining a balancing act in front of its audience

No, Folha is not going to eliminate Leandro Narloch from its columnists. Although the ombudsman does not participate in this type of decision, I will understand perfectly if the reading is interrupted already in this paragraph to unsubscribe, delete the application or tear up the newspaper.

If you've already done all of this, but managed to continue reading this text, proceed aware of the obvious facts: Folha is not given to raptures, forget about any quick or practical attitude; the newspaper is well aware of the role Narloch plays in the public discussion and was fully aware of the risks involved in bringing him back. Here there is nothing new.

It would be just another rift between columnists or opinion emitters, an exercise that this daily loves to embrace, were it not an important element that stands out in the many criticisms of the journalist accused of racism. He is a subsidiary target. The problem is at Folha, which doesn't seem to have fully understood what happened last week.

For those who have arrived from Mars now, Narloch has done what he always does, turn exceptions into rules. In his first column in this second life at Folha, he relativized the climate crisis. In the last one, when reviewing a book about "black ladies" who bought their freedom and became wealthy merchants, he relativized "the horror of slavery," in the words of writer Itamar Vieira Junior. Columnist Thiago Amparo reacted without sparing his liver. "Folha, why do we still need to collectively masturbate with the relativization of black pain?"

Itamar again: "By highlighting in the article by Leandro Narloch that 'the luxury and wealth of the black women must inspire the black movement', the newspaper mocks a collective trauma and outrages the memory of the black movement." "It is not possible to defend democracy and continue publishing falsified versions of slavery just to sweeten racism and collect likes," wrote Unicamp professor Wlamyra Albuquerque in Tendências / Debates.

"There is, in black movements, the discussion about the recent wave of diversity in the media. There is the thesis that black people are used to confirm a kind of anti-racist seal to institutions that, in practice, will not stop exercising the discourse that they always exercised," wrote Dodô Azevedo, from the Quadro-Negro blog, noting that this occurred even before Narloch's text was published by Folha.

Amparo: "What is at stake is whether the plurality that this newspaper values includes racism."

Note, the questioning of the newspaper's team of black columnists is not whether Narloch was or is racist, but how Folha can harbor a racist opinion. Prejudice is no longer the journalist's, it belongs to the newspaper that welcomed him. The same newspaper that set up a diversity section, made a training program for black journalists and hired this group above because it understood that this was important, that Folha needed new horizons and audiences. Was it missing to combine the limits of plurality? Wouldn't this new newsroom have other limits? Didn't the newspaper imagine that it would embrace a universe with different tolerances?

Folha did this in the pandemic. It was filled with medical columnists, infectious diseases and others to talk about Covid-19. No denial, of course. By permitting the advertisement of doctors from the parallel Bolsonaro office, who were bankrolled and later discovered by a laboratory that they had earned millions with the "Covid kit," the newspaper was badly beaten. Did you lack consistency?

Wlamyra once again: "Let readers decide on the coherence and commitment to science of the largest newspaper in circulation in the country." Racism and chloroquine are not matters of opinion but of science.

A flood of messages reached the ombudsman. To the editorial department I sent three questions trying to cover the bulk of the criticisms. Go back to the first paragraph to reread the first answer.

The second answer: "The newspaper does not agree with what the columnist wrote. Folha's opinions are expressed solely in its editorials and very often diverge from the opinions of columnists and bloggers."

The third answer: "Pluralism is a pillar of the newspaper's project, as defended and explained in the Editorial Manual (pages 22 and 87). In addition, Folha believes in the maturity of Brazilian society and its readership to deal with the broad spectrum of opinions that circulate in the country and on our pages. The best answer to a point of view that we reject is the publication of the contradictory in the public arena. It is within this perspective that the newspaper chooses its team of 202 columnists and bloggers, constantly reassessed in relation to what it adds to quality and in relation to what is offered to Folha readers."

It should be noted, then, that this balancing act was largely rejected last week.