RIO DE JANEIRO: Police in Brazil said May 31 they have opened an investigation after two social-media influencers posted videos of themselves giving black children gifts such as a stuffed-animal monkey and a banana, drawing accusations of “recreational racism”.
The outcry came after self-described Rio de Janeiro mother-daughter influencer team Kerollen Cunha and Nancy Goncalves, who have a total of 17 million followers on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, posted videos in which Cunha approached black children on the street and asked them if they would rather have money or a present.
In one clip, she offers a boy either 10 reais (about US$2) or a bright red package. He chooses the present – which turns out to contain a banana.
“Do you like it?” she asks.
“No,” he replies.
“Take a better look. I’m sure you like that,” she says.
In another, she offers a girl 5 reais or a big, brightly wrapped box – then laughs as the child opens it to find a stuffed toy monkey.
In that video, she is dressed in the yellow jersey of the Brazilian national football team, which has been adopted as a symbol of supporters of far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro.
The videos – which are no longer available – caused a firestorm online after a lawyer and black rights advocate, Fayda Belo, condemned them as “recreational racism”, in comments that went viral.
“How far can human cruelty go?” Belo said on Instagram, where she herself has 325,000 followers.
“Does anyone have any idea how cruelly these two treated these children?”
State prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro said they had received 690 reports condemning the videos as a possible hate crime by Cunha and Goncalves, whose content often show them playing pranks, dishing out beauty tips or attending Evangelical Christian church services and gospel concerts.
Rio police said their race and hate crimes unit had opened an investigation.
“The videos will be analysed, and inquiries are under way to identify those involved and establish the facts,” they said in a statement sent to AFP.
In a statement posted to their Instagram account, a lawyer for Cunha and Goncalves said the pair were “shocked” by the accusations and “vehemently deny any form of racial discrimination”.
The pair did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – AFP