“The games were never a comfortable space for black people”: At Rio university law student games, bananas thrown at black students while others mimic monkeys

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Note from BW of Brazil: You know it’s funny, there are probably hundreds of thousands of people who visit Brazil every year and never hear about this side of Brazil. Of course, depending on what color they are, this type of news wouldn’t affect them anyway so why would they know? Now, if you happen to be black and are curious about Brazil, its history, culture and people, you may wanna pay attention to this type of story. It’s quite intriguing to me that Brazil’s colleges and universities have turned into one of primary battle grounds in incidents having to do with race across the country. Stories of racial strife on these campuses have become pretty common place in this blog’s ongoing coverage of race in Latin America’s largest country. In some ways, it shouldn’t be surprising. The introduction of affirmative action policies have brought forth expressions of racism that have historically been denied or ignored in Brazil’s media. But as I’ve argued before, it’s not that these sorts of incidents haven’t always existed, but rather that black Brazilians are not more likely to react and denounce it thus leading to even worse manifestations of racism from citizens who neither accustomed to seeing black people in traditionally “white spaces” nor dealing with black people who will no longer back down and stay “in their place.” 

Students from PUC-Rio throw bananas at black students and mimic monkeys in Jogos Jurídicos

Complaints of cases of racism were made on social networks and, according to students, such situations are recurrent

By Luke Negrisoli *

Alunos da PUC-Rio jogam bananas em estudantes negros e imitam macacos em Jogos Jurídicos
Act performed by the campaign Jogos Sem Racismo in 2017 (Photo: Luis Felipe Rodrigues Paranhos)

“Look at my face, do you really think that I’ll be arrested?”. This sentence was said by a student of Law at PUC-Rio (Pontifical Catholic University at Rio de Janeiro) at being confronted with other colleagues by students from UERJ (State University of Rio de Janeiro) that pointed out racist attitudes during a game of Jogos Jurídicos (Juridical Games) (see note one), an event that brought together several Rio universities for sports competitions, from May 31 to June 3. In accordance with one of the students who witnessed the scene, students from PUC-Rio left the gymnasium in which one of the games happened and imitated monkeys to provoke Law students from of UERJ.

In another situation, a student threw a banana peel at a black athlete of the Catholic University of Petrópolis (UCP). A third case, in which a player of the Fluminense Federal University (UFF) was called “macaca” (monkey) during the final game of women’s handball, it was also reported. “In the face of racism, evidently students from UERJ were appalled. In it, a young girl from PUC-Rio turns to us and says: ‘Look at my face, do you really think that I’ll be arrested?’,” said the student. “Very sad and disgusting what is happening,” reported another student on Twitter.

During games, bananas were thrown at black students while others imitated monkey gestures and sounds

“The university law school games were never a comfortable space for pessoas negras (black people),” she said in a note to the campaign Jogos sem Racismo (games without racism), which since 2017 has fought against episodes like this in the event. According to the text, at the dawn of this Sunday (3), they informed the official meeting of the Liga Jurídica Estadual (State Legal League), responsible for organizing the Jogos Jurídicos  “to express again our indignation about the violent crimes of racism that occurred during the event.”

Students from PUC-Rio practice racist acts during Jogos Jurídicos in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro

The note says that on Saturday (2) they had already attended the meeting and asked for a position from the organization on the events of racism that were happening. “In the face of a crime, the league had punished the Atlética of PUC-Rio only with the commitment of preparing a brief note, the payment of a negligible fine of R$ 500 and the suspension of the crowd in a game without any expressiveness”, explains the note.

After that, the Organization of the Jogos Jurídicos decreed that, as punishment for the cases of  racism, there will be no college winner this year. The student of the fifth period of Law of UERJ (State University of Rio de Janeiro), Mariana Carlou, who is part of the campaign Games Without Racism, says that the situations are so common in the event.

Law student Mariana Carlou

“Racism has always happened in the games. In the past year, we saw a real need to create a campaign to combat these episodes,” she explains. According to her, the range of the complaints on social networks was a surprise. “We’ve fought against this for some time and didn’t see many positive results. These games, in spite of everything, have come with a good surprise: PUC-Rio was actually punished. Many times, it just passes by,” she says. “I really hope that the PUC help us to identify these people so that the people who were victims of these acts have the opportunity to sue them for injúria racial (racial injury/insult)”, she points out.

Grupos de alunos do Coletivo Nuvem Negra
“Your racism will not pass by blank” – “Games without racism” – Group of students of the Coletivo Nuvem Negra (Black Cloud Collective) with cards protesting against racism at PUC

The UFRJ student, Gabriel Trancozo, was one of the people who denounced cases of racism on social networks. According to him, despite not having participated in the event having contact with the incidents, the matter has been widely commented on in the university. “This weekend, these cases of racism were the most commented on among university students within the groups and ended up winning over the whole internet in general,” he says. “The black student within a higher education institution is still obliged to go through this kind of thing, as much either explicitly (as in the case of students of PUC-Rio) as the more implicit, sometimes,” he laments.

“Black people united” – “Racist, racist, racist” – “Black people strong” – Protests and chants in auditorium after racist incidents

For the student, it is worrying that such situations occur in the cradle of the Brazilian judiciary. “The most serious thing of this whole story is that a bit in the future those involved in this case of racism will be the professionals responsible for touching the Brazilian courts. And it is quite disappointing as a black man noting that the possible future civil court judges, judges and prosecutors still carry this mentality”, he concludes.

In a note, PUC-Rio has stated that it is aware of the complaints and that the Vice-Rector for Community Affairs at the Department of Law of the university will build a disciplinary committee to investigate the information. According to the university, if confirmed the veracity of the statements, there will be an “individualization of the responsibilities of members of the student body.” PUC-Rio stated that the Commission will have a period of 15 days to prepare the report.

* Intern under the supervision of the sub-editor Ellen Senghenydd

Source: EM


  1. The Jogos Jurídicos (Juridical Games) are the main university games between the law school departments of Brazil. The contested events are track and field, basketball, soccer, handball, jiu-jitsu, judo, swimming, volleyball, rugby, tennis, table tennis and chess. Most of the games divided into male or female competitions.
About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. This was good, I like see to people stand to racism and not back down. Really glad to read about these students taking a strong stance against the stupidity of some people.

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