Is the yellow jersey racist? A conversation with author Carlos Doria

In Lusitanos de Nemuntúria (Wild Beasts), a book that won the Brazilian novel prize in 2016, the author Carlos Doria chronicles a white traveller – following a yellow jersey in a cycling race across Brazil in search of his friend Alex – in a saga of racism and injustice.

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While Doria seeks to paint Brazil’s society in as unflattering a light as possible, this is not an exclusively Brazilian experience, says the poet, author and essayist Claudia Samayoa.

Brazil’s parliament has discussed a proposal that would allow the yellow jersey to stay on the Tour de France because it is “part of the identity of the country and [it is] the symbol of our participation in the greatest modern sporting competition”. However, with the 2024 Olympic games in Brazil still two years away, the nation seems divided on the matter.

“But why should it be?” asks Doria. “It’s the busiest state and our first feelings are of anxiety. Our intellectual class is intelligent and, on the other hand, we have leftists, workers and peasants.”

The writer says the notion of the yellow jersey as a symbol of imperialism has had “a racist resonant, which tends to turn brown-skinned people in Brazil into white people”.

“People in the city [of Rio de Janeiro] will always love the yellow jersey because, as Brazilians, we’re not from there. But beyond that we’re very much part of the world of Europe. We have really deep roots that are recognisable. Not fully integrated but very discernible.”

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