Artist sentenced to prison for comic strip: Is this depiction of a black woman and children racist or a condemnation of racism?

Cartoon depicts a black woman giving birth to multiple children while a doctor calls security and warns of a "mass escape"
Cartoon depicts a black woman giving birth to multiple children while a doctor calls security and warns of a “mass escape”. 

Note from BW of Brazil: The idea for the creation of the Black Women of Brazil blog was give a little more media space, even if just a little, to Brazilian women of visible African ancestry. The image of the black women has been rife with demeaning stereotypes for centuries and that’s when the image of the black woman is even visible. Due to this history, there have been a number of recent events to acknowledge accomplishments and highlight the struggle and history of black Brazilian women, including books that put the black woman in the first person instead of the in background as in most Brazilian literature, a magazine, writing contests and an initiative to create policies to address this historic slight. A recent comic strip serves as a good example for why these types of actions are necessary.

In the piece below, there are two interpretations of the intention of a comic strip. One, the actual judgement, defines it is as a clear example of racist intent while the other labels the punishment of the artist as a stifling of artistic expression as well as the cry against racism. How do you see this? Although the right to artistic expression should always be defended, in the historical context of sexual stereotypes of black Brazilian women (as well as black women globally), is it really necessary to portray a black woman as “baby-making machine“? The article below is strictly the opinion of the writer of the piece and not that of BW of BrazilPlease feel free to leave a comment. 

Tribunal of Justice in Santa Catarina condemns journalists on racism charge

The cartoon shows what will happen with the lowering of the age to prosecute criminals: a mass arrest of black youth.

A cartoonist and journalist chief of a Região Serrana newspaper in the state of Santa Catarina (1) were convicted of racism because of a publication from February 2007. The decision was taken unanimously by the Fourth Câmara Criminal do Tribunal de Justiça (Criminal Chamber of the Court of Justice) of the state on May 28th. The complaint was made by the Prosecutor of the District of Lages and in the first instance the defendants were acquitted.

The alleged crime was publishing a cartoon that, when discussing lowering the age of prosecution for a crime, had a black woman in the delivery room. In the drawing, there are also four black babies with thin, black editing strips covering their eyes (used to hide identity as they are minors), running away. To complete the drawing, the illustration depicted a doctor on the phone, crying out: “Security!! It’s a mass escape!”

Jorge Henrique Schaefer Martins, the judge presiding over the case, said that the right to freedom of expression cannot prevail over the right to dignity and equality. The rapporteur also noted that “by the title, the way the children jump down using a sheet, as well as the wording of the character, it appears that there is a clear intention to make an analogy of the situation with the escape from a prison, we’re dealing with true veiled racism.”

According to Schaefer Martins, the material made clear the relationship between black children and crime. “The published cartoon induces racial discrimination, instilling feelings of contempt and prejudice against people of African descent,” concluded the judge of the court of Santa Catarina.

The cartoonist was sentenced to two years in prison, while the editor-in-chief, having his operations considered minor, was sentenced to one year and four months of confinement.

The real racism

In the first place, one must report that the bourgeois justice always intended to restrict or prevent political expression, the expression of opinion. Dictatorships, in their entirety, repressed political demonstration as the first commandment.

On the other hand, the charge shows what the reality will be of the reduction of the age of criminal responsibility if it becomes law. In what extraterrestrial came mind the idea that black boys will be penalized the same way as white boys? Being that the history of the penal system demonstrates otherwise?

In fact, the charge is a complaint which shows that lowering the age of criminal law is racist with the aim of arresting black youth; and that racism is indeed reality and not in the dream world of the judge where a photo or art of Carandirú (2) will show whites in the same proportion as blacks.

What society should be is the topic of various opinions. But what it is, in fact, doesn’t have much to distort. What the judge did not see is that racism is, in every sentence of national criminal judgment, for example. But in this case, it’s not racism, it is solely the end of the penal prosecution (!).

Likewise, the cartoonist may have liked to have shared an idea about the case, and he has the right to do so. But it is an idea in a debate that is going on in Brazil, i.e, it is a political demonstration that should never be persecuted by the state penal system much less under the pretext of combating racism.

Finally, who is the representative of the judiciary (that was not elected) to say what is or is not racism? Who gave you permission to speak on behalf of black people? What does he know of racism? Nevertheless, it’s a discretionary decision on a political case, and it is precisely this that is the dictatorship: the arbitrariness of the trial and this case has the objective of preventing anyone from drawing anything, a total abuse.

Source: Partido da Causa Operária


1. Santa Catarina is a state located in southern Brazil.

2. Carandirú was a notorious prison located in São Paulo, Brazil. The prison was designed and built by Samuel das Neves in 1920, when it was considered a model-prison to meet the new demands of the 1890 criminal code. It was operational from 1956 to 2002 and, at its peak, was South America’s largest penitentiary, housing over 8,000 inmates. On Friday, October 2, 1992, the infamous Carandirú Massacre took place when military police stormed the facility following a prison riot. The massacre, which left 111 prisoners dead (102 shot by the police; 9 killed by other inmates), is considered a major human rights violation in the history of Brazil. The prison was demolished on December 9, 2002. In April 2013, 23 policemen involved in the massacre were sentenced to 156 years in jail each for the killing of 13 inmates. Source: WikiWiki (2)


About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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