Is every black Brazilian at a mall a ‘suspect’? – College student files police report after store security accuses her of shoplifting; search produces nothing

Na ‘branquíssima’ Salvador, mais um caso de racismo em loja de shopping (capa)

Note from BW of Brazil: Is every black person a potential ‘suspect’? What is the connection between skin color, hair texture and a suspicious eye inside of a commercial establishment? I think we all know the answer but evidence of this connection seems to happen everyday, even if it’s not reported. We see it in supermarkets, malls, bakeries and many other everyday environments. Just a few months ago, one black male also in Salvador, frustrated with such treatment, made headlines when he dropped his pants to prove he hadn’t stolen anything in an incident caught on a cell phone camera. In reality, this scenario is nothing new. As a matter of fact, considering the TV commercial the store featured in this story released back in March, we should know the skin color they prefer to receive as customers! Oh well, just another day in the land of ‘racial democracy’. 

Another case of racism in shopping mall

Courtesy of Racismo Ambiental

Yesterday (November 8), Ana Paula Bispo, Production in Communication and Culture student at the Federal University of Bahia, went to make a payment at a store in the mall. She stopped to look at an earring, declined to buy it, and tried to continue on her way: she was barred and had her bag searched … Only it didn’t stop there: fortunately, Ana Paula, who was angry, denounced the crime to the supervisor of the store, the mall, and more: the police in a boletim de ocorrência (police report). The statement below was issued through her social network profile, as well as photos. (TP)

It happened to me, it happened today.

By Ana Paula Bispo

Ana Paula Bispo
Ana Paula Bispo

I started my day very well. I went to a wonderful class and didn’t even imagined that a few hours later I would be at the police station making complaint. I think it’s important that as many people know what happened because I don’t believe it was an isolated incident.

Iguatemi Shopping mall in Salvador, Bahia
Iguatemi Shopping mall in Salvador, Bahia

I went to the Iguatemi mall after class to resolve a few things, including making a payment at the Riachuelo store. I entered the store on the third floor and a piece of jewelry on sale caught my attention. I stopped to look and saw an earring in the shape of a dream catcher, but for me it was kind of expensive … and I kept on. I stopped again [next] to the boxes to see the price of a cup when an officer touched me. At first I thought he wanted to pass by, when he asked me if I was scared. Before I answered anything, because I was stunned, he was ordering me to remove the earring from my bag. What earring, my God!!!


Outraged and confused I started removing everything that was in my bag right there. As the class was about filming, I had the equipment inside a smaller bag, [and] he pointed to this bag. I asked him to look at the contents of the bag, because I didn’t want to expose it, he asked another employee who had approached to look at the inside of the bag where the camera equipment was properly stored. This employee was precisely the person who ‘saw me’ put the earring in my purse and came close to me with a basket so I would put the earring in.

Several people looked at me, I asked for him to identify himself and I said I would not leave the store without the necessary information in order to register a complaint.

I spoke to supervisor who apologized and said that this was not the procedure adopted by the store, explained to me how it would be, trying to soften things up, and said that the employee who accused me was temporary and was on his first day (do I care?).

I demanded to see her record the occurrence, took the first name and function of the three, registered the incident with the administration of the mall and headed to the 16th (precinct). I reported the occurrence and I will take it to the end. It will probably just be a case against the store, but it is a matter of to honor take it to the last instance. As I said at the beginning this is not an isolated situation, today I felt the true weight of racism, one that transforms a negra de cabelo crespo (black woman with kinky/curly hair) into a thief. They can say that there is no relationship, but as I didn’t see white girls with their straight hair reporting facts equal to mine, they don’t convince me (of this).

‘They called me a thief,’ says the UFBa student who denounced racism in a shop

Officials of shopping store student accused of theft.

Courtesy of Portal Ternura FM

Ana Paula Bispo was accused of shoplifting at store in Iguatemi mall in Salvador, Bahia
Ana Paula Bispo was accused of shoplifting at store in Iguatemi mall in Salvador, Bahia

“They called me a thief, and I do believe it was a crime of racism,” vented the student Ana Paula Bispo, 30, who on Monday (10) went to the 16th Territorial Precinct (DT), located in the neighborhood of Pituba, where she spoke with the police chief Nilton Tormes. Ana Paula claims she was the victim of a racial injury by employees of a department store in the Iguatemi mall in Salvador on Saturday (8).

The head of police said that employees of Riachuelo may be called to testify. “If racism was configured, people who acted in this way will be held accountable, if not, we will archive the incident,” said Tormes.

A student of Cultural Production at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBa), said that, despite having gone to the police station, she has yet to testify. “The police chief scheduled for me to return there on Wednesday (12) evening,” she says.

Ana Paula filed an incident report with the police
Ana Paula filed an incident report with the police

According to Samuel Vida, an attorney specializing in race relations, despite the alleged act of racism coming from an employee, the company can be held liable for this. “From the point of view of criminal law in force, the crime of racism is practiced by individuals, by people, however the companies are not held criminally liable, only the agents, employees, individuals in the company who have committed the act. However, from the civil point of view, you can blame the company because it is co-responsible, to the extent that it places the employee and does not prepare him/her to properly deal with racial diversity,” explains the attorney.

Ana Paula says, “For me, it was a clear case of institutional racism. I felt discriminated against because I do not see that kind of thing happening with branquinhas (white girls) people with a different financial situation. As much as there was mistrust, their approach placed me as guilty, as a criminal,” she states.

In a statement, Riachuelo regretted the incident and apologized for what it called a misguided approach. The store said the officer involved in the case was punished for not following the rules and ethical values of the company.

Source: Racismo Ambiental, Portal Ternura FM

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. Another person victimized for “Shopping While Black!” Unfortunately, we of African descent are all too familiar with this scenario….I’m glad Ms. Bispo protested the incident. Social change only comes when it is DEMANDED by those who need it!

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