“I hate Brazos, so watching one of these smug little f**kers get bashed was fucking SICK.”
“Well, what else would you expect from a pack of favela-dwelling rodents?”
“Funny, because all your attractive women seem to move to America to get knocked up by superior Americans while Brazo men are left to fight over the scraps (and each other). Obrigado for all the hot Florianopolis pussy though, we appreciate it!”
“HAHAHAHAH f**king pussy Brazos get the f**k off those islands f**king scum”
These are just a few of the remarks I read online following the news of a fight between Tanner Hendrickson and Michael Rodrigues on the North Shore of Oahu. And while we’ve heard rumors the two have since buried the hatchet, this wasn’t the first time I found myself reading comments on social media about “those nasty Brazilians” who don’t know how to surf but are quite adept at stealing waves. This time, it was too much, though. Sure, trolling on the internet is sometimes carried out innocently, without aggression, threats, or even sincerity, but it also opens the door to utterly ignoble and hateful remarks like the ones I came across that day.
Every time I read something about those “pussy Brazos,” “f**king Brazos,” and other pejorative qualifiers without anyone taking offense, I’m reminded there is something bad deeply rooted in our community, and it’s important to address it. Let’s not be afraid of words; are those who speak this way of Brazilians any different from those who ordered Rosa Parks to sit at the back of a bus? They generalize, stigmatize, and discriminate, so let’s call it what it is. They are bigots.
For me, it is obvious that if we reviewed the multitude of comments under the articles of several surf media, we would realize that indeed, the insults against Brazilians multiply there with a lot of intellectual shortcuts and profound ignorance. That kind of prejudice fuels a vicious circle that also includes the hateful comments from what look like Brazilians themselves; as can be seen on Tanner Hendrickson’s Instagram account. Clearly, people from any country can be rather nasty and we unfortunately know that this circle of hate does not bring anything positive.
Admittedly, the subject particularly affects me as I am married to a Brazilian, and we have a little boy together. Even in Montreal, Quebec’s small surf community, I’ve heard some pejorative comments about Brazilians said with complete detachment by people who certainly don’t consider themselves racists. But if many of these same things were said about, and applied to, an ethnic group, we’d be pretty clear and quick to mark them as unacceptable.
To me, the most enraging thing is that these insults come from people who have likely never been to Brazil. Since 2012, I have been there three times (with and without my husband), and I’ve been welcomed there with better treatment than many other places in the world. Nobody in Brazil ever stole a wave from me, and the lineup never seemed particularly hostile. Better yet, as a woman, I can surf there in a bikini without having to suffer the inappropriate comments and whistles that characterize most sessions elsewhere in the world. The reality is that over my surf trips in Asia, Europe, North America, Central America, and South America, I’ve had many more unpleasant experiences with Americans or French people. Of course, in spite of this, I’ve never considered generalizing and shouting narrow-minded insults about them on social media channels. Why? Because I have the sensitivity to recognize that a bad experience with a small group of people doesn’t apply to the entire population.
I think it’s time for surfers to look in the mirror without the filter of social acceptance or the anonymity of a username. It’s never acceptable to pour hatred on a group according to the color of its skin, its nationality, its sex, or its beliefs. Yet somehow that’s still a norm in surfing. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
In the end, we are a group of people united by a common passion. And it’s a lot more fun to get to know people for who they are rather than where they come from.
Watch The Inertia’s Short Documentary, Brink: Surfing’s New World Order, about Gabriel Medina’s first world title and the ascent of the Brazilian Storm, below.