Attack against black students raises questions on Brazil’s racial equality self-image

Grafitti: “Death to the foreignors”

On March 28, 2007, three dorm rooms of 10 immigrant African students were firebombed on the campus of the Universityof Brasília in Brazil’s capital city. Although no one was killed, this incident was a top story in the Brazilian press for weeks in what was labeled an act of terror. Before the attack, red crosses and graffiti messages saying “Death to the Foreignors” had been sprayed on the doors of the same three dorm rooms. Some may label this a crime against foreigners without racial overtones but, according to activist/historian Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, of the group EnegreSer,  the University of Brasília’s foreign student population totals 457 students with only 21% coming from African countries. Thus, with African students being a minority of the foreign student total, why were they targeted? In other words, if many students come from non-African countries, why is it that the African students were targeted for such open displays of hostility? With such blatant acts of racism being displayed in plain sight, the most fascinating thing I saw when watching coverage of the Universityof Brasília incident was the sight of a black guy holding a sign that read “Brazil is not racist”. Really?

Attack against black students raises questions on Brazil’s racial equality self-image

The Associated Press 
Published: March 29, 2007

Sign: “Brazil is not racist” – Students protest in support of African immigrant students

BRASILIA, Brazil: Black university students were attacked in their dorms on the very day the Brazil’s vice president denied racial problems exist in the country, feeding a debate about Brazil’s treasured self-image as a land of racial equality. Assailants placed flaming gasoline-soaked towels against the doors of three dormitory rooms occupied by west African students at the University of Brasilia on Wednesday. While none of the 10 students from Guinea-Bissau were hurt, police are investigating whether it was a hate crime. The university’s president condemned “all forms of aggression and discrimination,” and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim spoke out as well on Thursday, saying “The incident fills us with shame. I hope that this kind of absurd incident never repeats itself.”

Red crosses and the phrase: “Death to foreign students” were painted on the same three doors last month, said 26-year-old Samory de Souza, one of those targeted at the federally run university, where only 380 of 21,000 students are foreigners.Brazil was already roiled by controversy over comments by the racial equality minister, Matilde Ribeiro, who said in a BBC interview, “It is not racism when a black person lashes out against a white person.”

Racism, she said, is when a white elite with economic and political power “represses or vetoes the rights of others.”

Vice President Jose Alencar responded Wednesday by declaring that “there is no racial problem in Brazil, which is a mixed-race nation.” He added that “there is, however, a need for the social inclusion of the underprivileged and of better income distribution.” Brazilians of African descent account for nearly half of the 187 million population in Brazil, which has more people of African heritage than any country outside of Nigeria.

But nearly 120 years after Latin America’s largest country abolished slavery, Afro-Brazilians still suffer social and economic discrimination, according to a 2005 report by the U.N. Development Program. It said blacks earned an average of US$74 (€55.42) a month in 2000, less than half of what whites earned two decades earlier, and fewer black men had college diplomas in 2000 than white men had in 1960.

Source: AP/Alter Media International

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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