Racism, branded on the skin

Video (in Spanish) about the prevalence of racism in Venezuela. It’s a fact much denied by the upper classes (who are overwhelmingly white), but when seen through “black” eyes, it becomes impossible to miss. Example: A group of young blacks makes the journey into the rich Eastern Caracas district of Chacao, which prides itself on its “security”, to go nightclubbing. The doorman won’t let them in–on account of age (he says). Yet right in front of them, a much younger group of whites has no trouble getting in, without so much as a request for ID. Yet the doorman denies that race had anything to do with it; he even trots out the “some of my best friends are” line which is a well known cover for all kinds of discrimination (you’ll probably recognize it from up here, too).

This is just one of many instances of blatant racism and denial that you’ll encounter throughout this 40-minute documentary. In another, a very notorious incident which took place several months ago, a white Televen talk show host and her guest, an Italian woman, make blatantly racist remarks about the “laziness” and “criminality” of the typical Venezuelan (who is not white!), while another guest, a black comedian, just sits there and takes it. You can see the hurt on his face, as clear as the palmprint from a slap. There are also snippets from opposition websites and forums in which President Chavez’s face is photoshopped to look like that of an ape, along with more blatant racism. (It’s very common among the oppos to refer to non-whites, especially their own president, as “monkeys”. It’s also common for them to deny, almost in the same breath, that their remarks have anything to do with racism!)

But the part that got to me the most was when the young narrator calls out her grandmother–who is clearly black–and the latter shows off her wedding photo. Talk about photoshopping! It’s as if all possible traces of Africa were expunged from the picture; bride and groom have lightened complexions, and their features and hair are carefully “neutralized” to look as little afrodescendent as possible. This, along with all the advertising images of white, blond models selling everything from makeup to candy, all the whiter-than-white beauty queens, makes clear just how prevalent and ingrained the racism is. When you can’t “look nice” on your own wedding day without trying to look as white (in other words, as much like the “pretty” models) as possible, you know you live in a racist society.

And only when the denial stops can the real work of change begin.

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