Giovanna Ewbank, Titi and Bless

Image: Jade


Forms of struggle and resistance to racism should, above all, on the part of those directly affected by it

Theodor Adorno, in the book Introduction to Sociology, states that the social totality is expressed in individualities. This was the Adornian way of saying, echoing Karl Marx's materialist critique, that the dialectical constellation of multiple and diverse determinate variations traverses individuals; that the concentrated social articulation has its existence in people and in the relationships they have with each other throughout history.

But two situations derive from this – on the one hand, the whole immanent in individuals can occur in a symmetrical, linear and coherent way, demonstrating positive dispositions of and with rationalized benefits or not and, on the other hand, the pathological manifestation of fullness can occur in these circumstances. social in individual experience; that is, the concrete representations of personal and group unhappiness, above all, are ways in which the completely inauthentic of the forms of experience shattered by the alienated social order is constituted.

This is what we witness in societies damaged by the ways of the bourgeois universal, the revelation of life processes in triumphant capitalism, which are revealing aspects of collective and personal pain and the coerced “incapacity” of those who suffer it, precisely the subordinate classes ( workers, blacks, women, LGBTQIA+, disadvantaged people of all kinds), to present immediate resolutions to this end. The contradictions of human societies organized by capital pierce personal positions in one way or another – and sometimes it is something painfully indescribable.

This was the case of actress Giovanna Ewbank and her children, two black children (Titi and Bless), who went through a situation of racism in Portugal. In the images and sounds made available by social networks and which began to circulate last weekend, we see Giovanna Ewbank, incisive, uttering “curses” against the woman who, in a violent, cruel and cowardly way, racially offended the children of the actress and model, as well as other black people in the place, a seaside bar on a beach in Lisbon.

Literally Giovanna Ewbank said: “you are ugly […]”, “look at your face, […] ugly […]”, “you son of a bitch […]”, “you deserve a punch in the face […]” . The latter was what occurred; said by Giovanna Ewbank herself in an exclusive interview with the black journalist Maria Júlia Coutinho at the Fantastic – the mother of Titi and Bless claims that she slapped, a physical “aggression”, against the racist woman.

Here, immediately and at first glance, it is not that Giovanna Ewbank is a blonde, blue-eyed woman, “beautiful” by Western standards and eventually others as well, of visibly upper-middle-class habits (but with certain levels of culture and critical understanding of social reality) took the stand in defense of two black children, who coincidentally were his children. Rather, it is an inverted question of how the forms of struggle and resistance to racism should, especially on the part of those directly affected by it, black men and women, be crossed by a combat subjectivity, as demonstrated by Giovanna Ewbank.

The well-thought-out commonplace, progressive conformism, the white middle-class cynicism that appeases the wounded soul of those who see themselves as the “civilized elite”, including black men and women who rose to the middle class, will say and did say that Giovanna Ewbank and Gagliasso did so because they have the authorization and social legitimacy to do so. If they were black… (sic). In other words, they have the racial and class privilege to do so, as they did.

In a society of “slave reproduction” (Florestan Fernandes) and a “racial mentality of self-denial” (Lélia Gonzalez), in which racism is a device of exploitation, oppression and, therefore, of control and extermination of supposedly insurgents with black skin, it is more than natural that the position of what without much conceptual and analytical-practical precision is called white privilege would emerge in situations of this order.

However, there is something deeper in the Giovanna Ewbank case: it permeates the fight against racism today in Brazil, the vocabularies of this fight, the very subjectivity of the agents of the process – and in more caustic terms, the very conditions of construction of hegemony. Indeed, if it were “only” the problem of white privilege that was at stake, two circumstances would derive. On the one hand, we would be in a relatively simple position to convince the privileged (with Giovanna Ewbank's conscience, of course) to wage the fight against murderous Brazilian racism, and on the other hand, and in a diametrically opposite way, the fight would already be lost from the outset, because why would a privileged person behave differently, what would it mean to lose his privileges? What are the reasons for the experience that would supposedly make them stop enjoying the good life, etc., etc.?

The Giovanna Ewbank event, in effect, expresses, contradictorily, that the modalities of struggle against racism, unfortunately, have become an institutionalized plague in various variations, absolutely de-subjectivating black people's capacity for political and practical action. for that one geiststaunens when seeing the images of the model's clenched fist when facing racism. And if it is understood that the argument here is constructed in disregard of the courage of hundreds and thousands of black women who defend their offspring day after day from racism expressed in the most varied forms and devices: in fact our situation is much worse than one imagines.

The control mechanisms and procedures of the dominant white elite, with the well-understood consent (or not) of black middle sectors, impose a set of practices that effectively address the problems of racism (itself evidencing a type of racism of the white dominant class – in absolute disjunctive to the average blacks –, more subtle, of the small gestures, cynical, of the details) for situations of complete loss of subjective rebelliousness, insurrectionary collective impulse and organized political indignation of the blacks.

These are constructions that emphasize the effective language of the law, which accustom to the politics of institutions, which “condemn” any position of response in the style presented by Giovanna Ewbank (confrontational), which dismantles racism from the class struggle, making it a national issue with discursive subtleties. lateral – in a nutshell, it desublimates the power of black insubmission itself. However, this is not done without the consent of sectors of the rising black middle class. Corroborate and ratify; they promote themselves and elevate the soul; put themselves to suitability to the status quo and picking up the little crumbs that the system drops. But for this to achieve real results, the imposition, again consented, of an entire conciliatory vocabulary is necessary.

Thus, the media, spokespersons for the white ruling class and elite, repeatedly say that “justice must be done”, “racism is a crime”, the plaster “racism is structural”, “we have to learn from whom suffers racial prejudice”, “diversity policies are needed”, “we need to rethink white privilege”, “we need to build empathy”. These are discursive tactics that serve to establish a foggy circle to avoid real confrontation, the racial-classist,[1] against the social, political, economic and cultural order that has prevailed in the country for a long time and that sustains the good life of the white elites and ruling class.

Yes, this is the confrontation that interests black men and women. What is actually wanted – is that “actions” such as that of Titi and Bless’s mother (which here, things well understood and for the present argument to be better received as far as possible, emerge as a symbolic ontology of the present) do not transform (transfigure) a political program of collective action. Here follows, therefore, the notion of hegemony. Or the conscious and well-crafted blocking of ways and means of real persuasion of those who are, presumably and tendentially, willing to fight racism. It will not be possible to incite other sectors of society to fight against racism if we do not place ourselves as subjects of the process. Without cultivating our own combative (collective) subjectivity, no one and no sector of Brazilian society will fight with us the good fight against the racist system that organizes the country. Karl Marx used to say that the liberation of the worker will happen through the hands and works of the worker himself.

It is a mistake, and it is being a fatal mistake, the naive and sometimes foolish recurrence that whites should (re)think their privilege and stand alone on the side of the fight against racism. What would happen if Giovanna Ewbank behaved as such as standard tendencies and control tactics impose? Not only would she have been chased away with her daughter and son, but she would also have to, here and there, endure the sometimes rationalized indifference of many people.

His stance forged a minimal hegemonic event – ​​given the social repercussions of the stance adopted. Because at no time did she act like that, did she not accept and/or resort to the schematic normativism that in its immanent core wants this rather the “democratism” of races as a solution to racism – it is urgently necessary to understand the hermeneutics of Lélia Gonzalez (which unfortunately became theme of a gourmet cooking show, “poor” Lélia…) about racism by denial. (Sometimes, and it has been said in the history of politics and ideas, “dangerous” are those who are supposed to be on our side.)

And such a desublimating control scheme has been tried; it is not fortuitous that the final question put to her by the direction of the Fantastic (one of the main products of the Marinho family's capitalist communication company for more than four decades) in a lamenting tone was “if she; had he attacked the racist woman?”; the expected response, evidently, was “I did it to defend my children, but violence cannot be fought with violence… dialogue, education and justice must be the way…”.

She and her husband, actor Bruno Gagliasso, reaffirmed the double attitude taken at the time, of subjective and aggressive raising of voice and (political) physical violence against the racist. They gave life and form to a disruptive event. Now, if we do not overcome our imposed mental habits and practices, we will continue to witness situations such as the one that occurred recently, three days after what happened in Portugal with Ewbank and his offspring, at the Municipal Library of Mário de Andrade in São Paulo, where a racist the space with the Mein Kemp of Adolf Hitler on display (let him read whatever he wants at his whim, isn't it…), with a smile on his face and blatantly confident that he'll get through the situation unscathed, he says out loud: that he doesn't like blacks (“so what racism is a crime […] I really don’t like black people”); the security of the place, a white man, with his arms crossed he was and with his arm crossed he stayed…

*Ronaldo Tadeu de Souza is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science at USP.



[1] It is clear that this was not the reality of the Ewbank-Gagliasso-Titi-Bless case.


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