Leading Afro-Brazilian actress Taís Araújo called 'gorilla,' other racist slurs by social media mob

Afro-Brazilian actress Taís Araújo has endured a litany of racist attacks on her social media page during the weekend, prompting a national response. Araujo is the first black star of a Brazilian telenovela in history, with the role of “Xica da Silva” in 1996, when she was 17. But being a famous pioneer isn’t enough to shield her from racism. The country has historically marginalized its more than 100 million Afro-Brazilians.

On October the 31st, Araujo posted a picture of herself on her Facebook page, and soon afterward, it was flooded with racial slurs and attacks on her hair. Comments like, “who posted the picture of this gorilla on Facebook,” “how someone can find beautiful that hair,” “lend me your hair I wash dishes,” and “I did not know that zoo has camera” were posted on the photo below.

Araujo is considered the most famous black actress in Brazil, which has led many around the country to rally in her defense. People are now using the hashtag #SomosTodosTaísAraújo (#WeAreAllTaísAraújo) to support the artist, who has been featured in some of the most prominent roles on Brazilian television.

With her husband, Lázaro Ramos, perhaps the country’s most visible black actor as well, the two form the only prominent black couple on Brazilian TV. They recently debuted a series on TV Globo called “Mr. Brown,” which for the first time on Brazilian TV shows a couple of middle-class blacks with an Afrocentric aesthetic. The series is inspired by the African-American entertainment duo Beyoncé and Jay Z.

The series is seen as a breakthrough in a country where more than 50% of the population is of African descent but where there is very little diversity in the media. As described by The Guardian, “Brazilian television is overwhelmingly dominated by whites, both on and off screen.”

During the time her page was being descended upon by racists, she was on stage in the city of São Paulo, presenting the theater play The Top of the Mountain – an adaption of the American play Mountaintop — where she portrays the maid Camae, and her husband, Ramos, plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When she saw the comments on her page, Araújo wrote: “I will not delete any of these reviews. I insist that everyone feels the same as I felt: shame to still have cowardly and little people in this country, besides feeling sorry for the people so poor in spirit. I will not bully me, either, bow your head. ”

This is hardly the first or last case of racism in social media against black celebrities this year. In July, the journalist Maria Julia Coutinho — the first black “weather presenter” in Brazil’s history — was also the target of racist slurs. In both cases, the hate speech focused on their beauty and the fact that they had a national platform.

The actress will address the Brazilian federal police, and the case will be investigated by the authorities.

In recent years, the number of cases of racism on the Internet in Brazil has increased considerably. In 2014, the NGO SaferNet received 86,000 complaints of offensive cases registered by the internet users.