“I’m going to kill you, you stinking monkey!”: 12-year old black girl bullied, threatened and humiliated by another child; school tries to sweep incident under rug
By Marques Travae
A very honest question here. How long do we continue to deal with an issue that continues to happen again and again and the people who have the authority to do something about it instead do nothing? Here, once again, we have another example of a racist, verbal aggression against a black child in a school setting. An aggression that will surely have negative effects on the child’s self-esteem for who knows how long. Ana Luiza Guimarães Pereira asked the question in a previous post: “Who will defend our children from whiteness?” The story is always the same, but as always, I’ll share the details.
Praia Grande is located on the coast of the state of São Paulo and is a popular tourist resort for Brazilians, especially residents of the city of São Paulo who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of life in an enormous mega city. But this story has nothing to do with fun and sun.
At one of the city’s school, a 12-year old black girl was called a macaca (monkey) by a classmate and on top of that, the colleague put together a poster in which a monkey was illustrated and given to the 12-year old. As usual, the case is being investigated by the school and the city’s board of education. And while the case happened back in June, about a week before kids went on their school break, it happened again!
The victim, 12-year old Adriele, is a student of the Escola Municipal Joaquim Augusto Ferreira Mourão located in the district of Melvi. He child’s mother Adelaide Alves, 31, was advised by parents of her daughter’s colleagues of what was happening so that she could take the necessary precautions.
According to Adelaide, one of her daughter’s colleagues called her at work and told her to come and pick up Adriele because another girl was insulting her with pejorative terms such as vagabond and monkey and also threatening to beat her up. The parents advised Adriele’s mother to fill out a police report, which she did and then took it to the school. According to the law, racism and injúria racial (racial injury/slur) are against the law. But the school’s actions were typical of why this issue continues to affect so many black children in Brazilian schools.
The school’s director told Adrieli’s mother that she knew who the child was that insulted her and that she needn’t worry about the situation because she (the director) would talk to the aggressor’s mother and resolve everything.
As Adelaide worked far from the school, the director insisted that she not get involved and that everything would be taken care of. The school director didn’t even bother to make a copy of the police report as the problem seemed to just get bigger. Adrieli’s aggressor actually went over to her house making new threats to beat her up. At this point, Adelaide, who works as a vendor, wanted to get to the bottom of the whole thing because the school director’s behavior didn’t seem to be conducive to someone who really wanted to resolve a pressing issue.
After having sought out the aggressor’s mother herself, Adelaide was told by the woman that the school’s director had in fact only approached her after a third child, who had sympathized with Adelaide’s daughter had gotten into an altercation with the aggressor. Adrieli, clearly traumatized by the whole ordeal, stayed home for an entire week and only managed to get some relief from the situation when the school break started. But the break only provided a temporarily diversion as the taunts would begin again with her return to school after the break in August.
Adelaide then detailed the disturbing letter that the aggressor sent to her daughter. The letter contained two images of monkeys, said that Adrieli stunk and that the aggressor wanted to kill her. Adrieli was told to turn the letter in to the school’s director and not to tell her mother what was going, but her Adelaide found out anyway through a friend who knew about the situation. At this point, Adelaide decided to take the case public, posting the story and sharing her indignation on her social network profile.
After Adelaide’s detailing of the situation online, the school’s directors called her to the school and began to question her as to why she decided to make the case public. The crazy thing here is that the school, even after hiding the situation and not taking any real action against the child who was the source of Adrieli’s misery, didn’t admit to handling the situation badly in any manner. This even though school employees also advised Adelaide to take legal actions against the aggressor and her parents. The school’s leadership even went as far as to ask Adreli if she in fact liked the school, attempting to convince her that she did.
Adelaide and school employees all wondered about the motives of the school’s directors, with the mother herself contemplating that, with this sort of non-reaction, what would happen if the aggressor had actually followed up on her threats to beat up and kill Adrieli. In the world in which we live, we cannot ignore such possibilities, so how do we explain such negligence on the part of the school? Quite simply, this is the MO of the typical Brazilian school, as the research of Eliane Cavalleiro demonstrated nearly 20 years ago in her classic study of racism in the school system.
Adelaide, understandably concerned with situation expressed her wishes that her child simply be able to go to school and get an education like any other child without having to constantly checkup on her due to such episodes of humiliating harassment, which also lead her consider removing Adrieli from the school altogether.
This story is not the first of its kind and clearly won’t be the last. It is yet another example of a serious problem in Brazilians society as so many parents, when become aware of such an ordeal, when simply shrug it off as “child’s play” or nothing serious. The school’s handling of the situation is an example of how the sort of behavior is allowed to continue and allowed to affect the psychological well-being of untold numbers of black children who will carry such traumatic incidents into adulthood. Adrieli’s mother is an example of how such treatment imbedded in Brazilian society goes on from generation to generation without any sort of recourse.
Drawing on her own experiences, Adelaide went on to reveal that she had also been called a “macaca” at her job and thus being able relate to what her daughter was going through. Adelaide’s confession of her own experiences with racial insults demonstrates why this issue cannot be seen as mere “child’s play”. I’m always curious to know where adults think their children pick up this sort of behavior. And without any sort of punishment for deeds, people like Adreli’s aggressor will later grow up seeing no problem with hurling such insults at black adults like Adelaide, or the thousands of black Brazilians who report such experiences every day in one city or another.
The school involved in this case saw fit to cover up the situation rather than address it and seemed to react more to Adrieli’s mother taking the case public than the actual aggression of one child against another happening on their premises. In response to the accusations, the school, in a standard, typical reaction of most Brazilian schools or businesses, claims it repudiates this type attack that affects the dignity of an individual, promising an investigation of the facts and the taking of measures to ensure the child’s safety and that such an incident doesn’t happen again.
Unfortunately, this sort of case is all too common in Brazil. And so are the reactions.