Note from BW of Brazil: I’ve said it before and today’s article is yet another example of my point. For decades Brazil has been able to keep its image relatively clean in terms of having problems in terms of race relations. While other countries earned reputations of racial conflict and turmoil, Brazil was able to promote itself as a ‘racial democracy’ around the world. For the most part, the rest of the world bought into the myth that the nation was a place where various races co-existed in racial harmony. The image being sold was a complete sham! Even within its own borders, Brazilian and foreign scholars had been exposing strong racist tendencies across the country since the 1940s, but the rhetoric was so strong that everyday Brazilians, white as well as black and white, actually bought into the hype (see here and here, for examples). As such, the fact was not that racism and anti-black sentiments didn’t exist, it was simply that so much of the general population didn’t recognize it as such. After all, racism was a thing of ___________ (fill in your country of choice).
But in recent decades with ongoing consciousness-raising efforts, access to institutions of higher learning and the new politics of black identity, millions of people are understanding the connection between their phenotypes and the way some people treat them because of this phenotype. The result has been that more and more people are refusing to remain silent in the face of such humiliating treatment. The nation’s capital is perhaps one of the best examples of this.
In six years, in the nation’s capital, accusations of racism have grown more than 1000%
The figure is from the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Federal District, which is releasing a book on the subject and alerts for the need for the victims to register the aggressions and not be silent
By Paula Pires and Julia Campos
“My childhood nickname was ‘picolé de kichute’ (see note one). At school, they called me ‘Carolina Saravá’, in reference to the religion practiced by my family. In addition to neguinha (little black), umbandista (see note two) and macaca (monkey),” says psychologist Carolina Saraiva, 34. She’s part of a portion of the population that suffers from daily prejudice because of skin color (see note three). Today, the Ministério Público (Public Ministry/Public Prosecutor’s Office) of the Federal District and Territories (MPFT) is releasing a book that brings together accusations of racism in the Federal District in the last 10 years. Between 2010 and 2016 alone, the number of complaints increased by 1,190% in the capital. Hundreds of people were victims of intolerance and disrespect from other human beings, citizens who didn’t know how to exercise citizenship and found themselves in the right to offend someone.
Despite everything that she went through, calm and speaking in a slow voice Carolina tells in detail all the verbal aggressions she has heard throughout her life. She assures us that all this did not generate revolt or trauma. As a teenager, she was the only black woman in a school of priests. “To be respected, I became the best student in the class. I was that girl who always earned honorable mention.” Even though she was a prominent student, she was not invited to study groups because her classmates thought she could dirty up the paper with the cor preta (color black).
Over the last four years, the prosecutor and coordinator of the study Thiago Pierobom has been at the forefront of the Núcleo de Enfrentamento à Discriminação (Nucleus of Combatting Discrimination). During that time, what most caught the attention of the prosecutor was the quantity of racial crimes. “When we don’t act in a specialized way on this matter we can’t have the dimension of what the reality of these people truly is. It is only when we see the table with piles of lawsuits that we have this sensitivity to see better and understand that the offenses are not normal sentiments in a fight. It requires legal action,” he admits.
Recently, Carolina went through a situation of an argument with her ex-husband that is not usually common. She even shows a little bit of distress when she rummages into the past, which she says churns her stomach. “I had already separated from him when that man knocked on the door with several bananas in his hand. He began to scream and soaked the floor with water, throwing the fruit on the floor. Then he trampled on everything and began to insult me (calling me) ‘monkey’ and ‘nega’,” she said (see note four). The psychologist faced the situation with a cell phone in her hand trying to record everything, but the man broke the device. Carolina filed a complaint at the police station for racial offense, but there was no witness at the time of the assault to prove it.
The research indicates that 34.7% of occurrences happen in the work environment. Camila Rodrigues, 28, experienced this type of situation three years ago. As she remembers the episode, she holds both hands tightly and takes a deep breath. It’s something that bothers her to this day. “I worked as a gas station attendant at a gas station in Aguas Claras when a truck driver stopped to fill up his tank. Out of nowhere, he started to swear at me ‘neguinha’, ‘vagabond’. I was embarrassed by that whole situation without reaction and lost my voice. The only move I made was to walk toward the bathroom to distance myself from the man who, by the way, was also black (see note five). He even called me a ‘monkey,’” she recalls. Camila’s reaction was like that of most of the victims: to be silent in the face of offenses. But she also took the opportunity to respond later in the most dignified and just way. Camila filed an ocorrência (incident report) at the 21st Police Precinct (Taguatinga Sul). The case is in court and the offender will respond for racial offense, verbal aggression and threat. “I had to review it twice in hearings. He admitted everything he did and his lawyer asked for an agreement. I did not accept it. I want him to feel the weight of his aggression against me. Justice will know how to punish him,” she says.
Thiago Pierobom explains that procedural agreements are a good thing because they prevent the perpetrators from committing more crimes like those or more serious ones. But the most important thing is that they are always sure that they will respond for what they have done. “Agreements are also the fastest responses from justice, as alternative penalties are given. But defendants do not like to make deals because they feel punished,” he explains.
Source: Correio Braziliense
- For clarification, picolés are frozen ice cream popsicles while kichutes are a brand of black tennis shoes.
- Refers to a person who practices Umbanda, a religion of African origins
- What is also intriguing here is, once again, we are led to believe that black people with lighter skin and less kinky hair texture are not actually black and thus don’t face such treatment. According to her phenotype, Carolina Saraiva would be classified as a ‘parda’ (brown/mixed woman) and thus not ‘negra’ or ‘preta’ (both meaning black). But as we can see, being ‘less black’ hasn’t spared Carolina from the same treatment that darker-skinned blacks receive.
- Carolina doesn’t declare the race of her ex-husband, but it is possible that he could have been white, which again speaks to a recent post that discusses racism within mixed families and interracial marriages, which popular beliefs would have us believe is not possible.
- Camila’s experience fits into the same category as Carolina’s (see note three) in the sense that she has lighter skin but still experienced racism taunting. The fact that she was insulted touches on yet another complex aspect of racial relations in Brazil: black people attacking and insulting other blacks.