Note from BW of Brazil: Unraveling the truth about race relations in Brazil has been an ongoing process of dismantling the idea that the country is a ‘racial democracy’. Studies dating back to the 1940s and ’50s from all over Brazil provided the research into the ways that racial discrimination is manifested throughout the nation. One area that is very important in understanding the identity issues that many black children have growing up in Brazil is prejudice in the school system. As school is such an integral part of a child’s development in so many ways, studying what goes on in school relationships in terms of race can provide an important clue into how the racial hierarchy is perpetuated and maintained within the society. Eliane Cavalleiro’s study on racism in school was groundbreaking when it was released nearly two decades ago but there is still plenty of room for more research on this specific area. The research discussed in the article below shows that this problem clearly hasn’t disappeared since Cavalleiro’s work back in the late 1990s.
“Black children are more punished than white,” says pedagogue
By Marcelle Souza
There is racism in the classroom, and it starts in kindergarten. That’s what Ellen de Lima Souza, master and doctoral student in the Graduate Program in Education at UFSCar (Federal University of São Carlos) and director of Itesa (Institute of Technology, Expertise and Professional Development) says.
According to the educator, the school is normally an inhospitable environment for black children. Ellen studied how they are seen by kindergarten teachers and found two distinct visions: blacks generating pity of the teachers (a paternalistic posture) or expectation (which must necessarily take an activist stance). To change this reality, she proposes that teachers assume a leadership stance in the classroom, generating knowledge, to work on the autonomy and independence in the children.
UOL Education – Can children also be racist?
Ellen de Lima Souza – Yes, they can. And they are. People don’t expect them to reproduce racist attitudes. After the family, the first socialization environment is the school where the child is more exposed to racism.
UOL – In what was does prejudice present itself in the classroom?
Souza – When you have a child who refuses to sit next to another child, black, that says she feels disgusted by blacks, who sees blacks always in subordinate roles; when black children are not selected to participate or have no role in cultural activities, parties. This makes children naturalize inequality and reproduce offenses, as when they say that black is ugly, stupid, smells and other pretty heavy things.
UOL – How are teachers accustomed to dealing with the topic in early childhood education?
Souza – In my dissertation [Master’s], I sought teachers awarded for the practices that they already exercised in education for equality, and realized that they are afflicted by two basic perceptions toward blacks: a strong sense of paternalism, they pity the black child, understand that he or she will necessarily suffer racism, and has a feeling of pity; the other is the perception that generates in the teachers an expectation that the black child has to be an activist. On the other hand, there are teachers who don’t have this consciousness of an education for equality. They believe that Brazil is a racial democracy, treats blacks with indifference and frequently punishes the black child. Incidentally, from the time that they’re babies, black children are more punished than white children, receive derogatory nicknames and, in situations of conflict, are passed over or blamed.
UOL – So how should the issue be dealt with in the classroom?
Souza – In the dissertation, the first thing I propose is that the teacher create methodologies and didactics, she is the protagonist in the classroom, has a social role, is someone who guarantees rights, who should see the subject as author and not reproducer of knowledge. Then, I work with three basic concepts, based on Yoruba mythology: the perspectives of ancestry, of corporeality and oral communication. These concepts help the child, whether black or not black, to develop their identity, their relationships, develop emotion, physically and intellectually, in various possible ways. The teacher has to deal with children to empower and value the condition of being black, since the child has always learned that it’s something bad. These prospects make it so that children are increasingly independent, autonomous, learn to respect and give the impression of ethnic belonging, that the child is not alone.
UOL – And what does one do when parents don’t want their children to participate in these activities?
Souza – I think you need to seek the Public Ministry, the courts. Teaching Afro-Brazilian history and culture is paramount. If this father or this mother does not want their child to study African and Afro-Brazilian culture, you must pay a confessional school. The public school is for all, it’s for the black child, the non-black, Bolivian, and if you do not want your child to learn these values, take him out of public service. Brazilian public school has to be secular. We learned Christian values, why can’t children learn part of the African philosophy?
UOL – What are the impacts of discussing racism in early childhood education?
Souza – A child who has the condition of working from an egalitarian education goes beyond what is laid out, has new perspectives of values, a new cosmology of the world. She gets this gamut of information and has more comprehensive thinking. Indirectly, it causes her to know to deal with issues of gender, sexual orientation, differences between impoverished and non-impoverished. [Discussing racism] is an amplification of the worldview.
Source: UOL Educação