Note from BW of Brazil: Nothing surprising here. Just another example of a Brazil where people continue to believe that issues of discrimination are due to “class and not race”. And of course no conflict would be complete without a white Brazilian uttering the most popular word for insulting a black Brazilian. What often amazes me about these types of scenarios is when people commit such acts and then want to hide their faces from exposure. What’s the problem? If you have the nerve to violate the humanity of another person by referring to them as an animal, you should also have the nerve to admit it and identify yourself!
Supermarket employee is called “macaca” by customer
Victim was quite shaken and decided to register a police report in Belo Horizonte
Courtesy of R7
An employee of a grocery in Belo Horizonte was the victim of an injúria racial (racial injury/slur) in the establishment where she works, in the Pampulha region. Edna Maria dos Santos, 45, was discriminated against by a customer and was quite shaken.
“I went to help her, but she simply discriminated against me and called me ‘macaca’” (monkey).
Upon learning of the offenses, the victim’s husband, Romário Oliveira da Silva, was outraged and the couple decided to report the case to the MP (Military Police).
“It’s extremely embarrassing, but we will take the case forward. We are conscious blacks and know very well that what we must do is fight.”
The whole mess started on the conveyor belt of a cash register of the supermarket when the customer’s shopping cart crashed into another customer’s cart and the two began to argue. At this time, the employee was called to try to resolve the problem, but also ended being offended.
“The other continued cursing at everyone and cursing at me.”
Edna Maria says that she had all support of co-workers and even other customers of the establishment that also witnessed the assaults, as was the case the modeler Diva Maria Silva, who went to the police station to testify in favor of the victim.
“She started insulting her, calling her macaca, while the employee came down a ramp taking the woman’s cart. She [the aggressor] was kept saying: You’re taking too long, are you’re eating a banana?”
The suspect of the racial slur is a white, blonde woman, and allegedly told police that she was in pain. She was then sent to the hospital and then was heard at a police station in the capital and left the place with her head covered.
The aggressor chose not to record an interview and denied that she had assaulted the supermarket employee. The police registered the case as a racial slur and opened an investigation.
Note from BW of Brazil: Another thing that struck me as very typical of Brazil in this situation was shown in the video of this report. Toward the end, the victim’s husband is shown speaking to the woman who insulted his wife. Romário Oliveira da Silva is heard saying “you’re gonna pay for this. You’re prejudiced! This is Brazil!” Also toward the end of the clip, the victim, Edna Maria dos Santos says this type of thing has never happened to her. All three of the reactions are very common in this sort of racial incident and are revealing of how race and racism plays out in Brazil. Why?
1) The husband says that the aggressor is “gonna pay”. This may be true. More and more Afro-Brazilians are winning court cases against this sort of aggression. But on the other hand, Brazil continuously shows that it doesn’t have the desire to take on the wider, more institutionalized sort of racism that determines Afro-Brazilians to be a lower class of citizens not worthy of respect. We see this in the continuous usage of blackface on TV or, in a recent case, theater. We see it in the country’s power structure (see here or here) as well as in the widespread murders of Afro-Brazilians by police forces, death squads, etc.
Also of note is that Edna Maria revealed never having experienced this sort of humiliation and appears to have been crying or on the verge of tears because of the situation. Again, shock, anger and sadness are all natural responses to these sorts of situations, but it is also true that Brazil has long used a very successful strategy of denying the existence of racism while blatantly practicing it everyday for nearly five centuries. This ‘racial democracy’ myth often renders many victims unprepared to deal with the situation if and when it should occur. But this too is changing!
The third note re-examines the aggressor. Although many white Brazilians harbor prejudicial views toward non-whites, they often have a notion that this view is wrong and when they are caught breaking the code of the ‘we’re all equal’ façade, they have shame in being caught in the act and want to hide their identities. This reaction reminds me the famous Brazilian writer Monteiro Lobato who lamented that Brazil is a country of mixed race people “where the white man doesn’t have the force to organize a Kux-Klan” (KKK). In Brazil, it is clear that the racism is there. And there are even many who admire and adhere to neo-Nazi ideas. But this denial of being racist is what often makes the Brazilian style of racism sometimes difficult to identify and fight.