Note from BW of Brazil: Not much to say here; another day another case of a racial slur in the land of “racism doesn’t exist here.” One point that should be emphasized is to all those people who will, “I have never experienced racism”, or in this case, a racial slur. Remember this: 1) Simply because a person, regardless of their social stature, doesn’t actually act in a racist manner or doesn’t say racist things doesn’t mean the sentiment isn’t there, and 2) You may never suspect that a person harbors racist sentiments until the moment in which a member of a certain racial group does something to trigger such animosity. The question in this case is, what does the person’s race have to do with what they did, that is unless someone believes that people of a given race do bad things simply because they belong to that race. But then, that would be racist, wouldn’t it?
Councilman arrested for assaulting neighbor and call him “shiftless black”
Parliamentarian paid bail of R$3,000 (US$1,375) to be released and will answer for racial slur
Councilman Felix Aparecido Alves Neto (PMDB), 38, was arrested for racial insults and contempt of authority Juramento in northern Minas Gerais, on Sunday (28). He called a neighbor a “preto folgado (shiftless black)” and “negro sem-vergonha (shameless black)” and even tried to choke him because the man parked his car in a way that made it difficult to maneuver in front of the house. The information is contained in the police report filed by the victim.
The councilman got home at around 5:40pm, on Rui Barbosa street, downtown, when he was prevented from entering the garage because the neighbor’s car was parked across the street, which is narrow.
A plain clothed military policeman and a fire firefighter that passed by helped contain the councilman, who even tried to attack them. The alderman was immobilized, held in contempt for authority and a racial slur and taken to the police station in Montes Claros (about 22 miles). After paying bail in the amount of R$3,000, the councilman was released the same night.
The councilman was not located for comment for this report.
The racial slur is typified in Article 140, § 3º of the Brazilian Penal Code, for an offense against someone because of their race, color, ethnicity, religion or origin. The crime of racism, considered more severe (Law 7.716/89), is non-bailable and consists of discriminating against a particular group or community.
Note from BW of Brazil: Although one would expect that politicians and public officials, representatives of the people, would have a higher standard of behavior and respect for fellow human beings, Brazilian politicians have a long history of making disrespectful, often racist comments to/about black Brazilians. Earlier this year, the former mayor of Dourados (state of Mato Grosso do Sul) was fined and sentenced for making use of a common phrase that is based in racial ideals.
In 2002, ex-governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro Anthony Garotinho was accused of racism when he said he would “disinfect the Palácio Guanabara” (governor’s mansion) so that the new governor, his wife Rosinha, could take command. Garotinho’s comments referred to the outgoing governor, Benedita da Silva, who is a black woman. Now one could argue that Garotinho didn’t actually use the word “negra” (black) in his comment and thus deny any racial connotations, but the fact is, in Brazilian society, “fedido”, or stinking, is a very common insult hurled toward persons of African descent in moments of verbal aggression.
In 1997, in another case that made headlines, the Minister of Transportation, Eliseu Padilha apologized after his faux pa. In a declaration, Padilha said that, “in Brazil there are two admired blacks. One is Pelé, our forever king. The other is the asphalt king. Everybody likes asphalt. It’s the black that everybody likes.” In other words, Padilha compared the world’s greatest soccer champion to something that people walk on and drive their cars on, as Gerson Camarotti points out. Dulce Pereira, of the Fundação Palmares at the time, affirmed that Padilha apparently meant to compliment the soccer great but ended up “disqualifying the entire black population.” Another typical reaction to this incident was Padilha’s response to the accusations. Accused of racism he said, “I am a mulato. My mother is a descendant of Europeans but my father has black ancestry.” Paulo Félix, Padilha’s press representative also defended the minister saying, “He was misinterpreted, his grandfather is black, his father is mestiço (mixed-race). He compared Pelé to the asphalt because the Brazilian likes and is proud of the two.” Over the years, numerous everyday people and public figures have resorted to pointing out their African ancestry when accusations of racism arise. They will use this excuse whether their African ancestry is visible or not, a common fact in a country where it is estimated that about 86% of all Brazilians carry at least 10% African DNA. Such is life in the “racial democracy” of Brazil; the country where nearly everyone, including ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, has “pé na cozinha (a foot in the kitchen) (1).”
1. A popular saying that refers to widespread social connotations that historically connect black women with work in the kitchen or domestic work in general.