Broadening Representation for the Brazilian Black Community

Trends / Realness
FG Trade
Federico Roales
Oct 1, 2021
In Brazil, Black people make up more than half of the country’s population—the largest population of African descendants outside of Africa. However, in film, television, and advertising, Brazilian society tends to be portrayed as almost entirely white. This underrepresentation on‑screen also reflects the fact that the Black community is alarmingly underrepresented in leadership positions like executives of big companies, university directors, or even Congressmen and women.

For many years, this debate was avoided under the pretext that Brazil is a racial democracy, the dominant notion being that the melting pot of ethnicities prevented racist structures of any type. However, indicators such as the severe inequalities in labor and education, the hate crimes, the huge asymmetry in income levels and the endless prejudices suffered by the Black community are proof that the structural racism is still prevalent, and continues to be latent in the deepest sense of the Brazilian social ethos.
Brazilians have the highest global acceptance on working towards anti‑racism and social justice (90%)
What’s happening among consumers? Aligned with a greater global consciousness willing to work on broadening the demands of underrepresented communities, consumers seem to have taken notice of the urgency of this subject. According to our Visual GPS research, Brazilians have the highest global acceptance and are working towards anti‑racism and social justice (90%), and most of them are willing to actively contest discrimination. In addition, this seems to influence purchasing decisions: 3 in 4 Brazilians prefer to buy from brands that support social issues.

The rising interest in social justice could lead to a racial reconfiguration: over the past decade, the percentage of Brazilians who self‑identified as white dropped from 48% to 43%, while the number of Brazilians who self‑identified as Black or multiracial has risen from 51% to 56%. Historically, many Afro‑Brazilians have chosen not to identify as Black to distance themselves from the legacy of slavery and societal prejudices. However, a generational change is definitely emerging. As our Visual GPS research indicates, self‑identification as Black ethnicity is three times higher among Gen Z. In that regard, social media is also a key factor contributing to the broadening scope of representation and visibility among historically silenced communities.
Our customers also seem to have interpreted this demand: searches for “black people” (+75%), “black man” (+82%), or mulheres negras (black women) (+71%) have risen in Brazil during the last year. In addition, there is a focus on broadening the representation in workplaces: searches for “black woman computer” (+791%), “black business woman” (+278%), or “black doctor” (+81%) have also risen among Brazilian customers.

Certainly, there is an important gap between consumers’ desires for social equity and the persistence of systemic racial inequities. It’s clear that Brazilians are open to a shift in their social perception towards broadening the representational spectrum. Both large companies and the new generations seem to have taken note of this issue and some small changes are happening—but there is still a long way to go.
When making visual choices, it is always important to ask yourself:

  • What ethnicity are the people being shown in leadership positions?
  • Are pessoas não‑brancas (non‑white people) just tokenized?
  • Are you depicting pessoas não‑brancas, from lighter to darker skin tones, showing a variety of emotions, age ranges, gender identities and working occupations?
  • Are you including people of darker skin tones outside of including them in group images?
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