Note from BW of Brazil: Absolutely absurd this story! More than a decade ago, researcher Eliane Cavalleiro released her groundbreaking work on how racism is continuously perpetuated, allowed to continue and even practiced by Brazilian school teachers themselves. Cavalleiro’s book, Do silêncio do lar ao silêncio escolar: racismo, preconceito e discriminação na educação infantil (From the silence of the home to school silence: racism, prejudice and discrimination in early childhood education) exposed a dirty little (not so much of a) secret for the whole society to take note of. Studies about racism throughout Brazilian society had existed since the 1940s and 1950s, but Cavalleiro’s book exposed how racial discrimination in the school system functions on a day-to-day basis and how school teachers were either unprepared or unwilling to do anything about it. This treatment, the maintenance of a racist educational system and a blatant lack of or negative black representation in schoolbooks are just a few of the reasons that Dr. Petronilha Beatriz Gonçalves e Silva has argued expels the black child from school. Looking at this disgraceful story below, things clearly haven’t changed! The story below serves as yet another example of how Brazil pretends to address this issue while simultaneously avoiding the issue and allowing it continue.
Brazil: a victim of racism in school, girl is forced to apologize to aggressors
by Fernanda Canofre
As long as Camila dos Santos Reis can remember, her daughter Lorena, 12, has always been a sweet girl who loves to run around at Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo, and watch Disney cartoons. However, since her return to school this year, Lorena was different – quieter, withdrawn. It was a night in March when Camila received a call from the school warning that Lorena would be transferred from class because “colleagues have not adapted to her.”
It was hard to for Camila to understand. The two have always been very close; it was strange that Lorena wouldn’t have told her anything. When her mother tried, she explained: she was ashamed. Since the beginning of the school year, Lorraine – who is black – was suffering bullying and racism at school.
On the same day that Camilla got the call, Lorena had sought directors to complain of the attacks. But according to Camila, the school has only taken steps to identify who was behind the attacks two weeks later. When the other students discovered that Lorena had named the perpetrators she ended up being confronted, as the post from the Preta e Acadêmica (Black and Academic) page reveals:
“In the school environment, your ‘colleagues’ have begun to question what happened, and how she may have pointed them out, initiating an outcry against the child, who rushed to the school director’s arms. The director, who “is already sick of that story” (his own words), decided to confront the situation. The result? Lorena had to apologize to the perpetrators.
Finally, the director asked if the girl would like to change classes and Lorraine, tired, accepted.
Four days later, things got worse. As Camila said in her Facebook profile, shared by more than 74,000 people, Lorena sent her a message with the phrase: “Look how I suffer,” followed by a series of audios.
“(…) I put my phone to my ear, and pressed the “REPRODUZIR” (play) button, that scared me … soon the first sentence shouted in loud and clear was “SUA PRETA, TESTA DE BATER BIFE DO CARA *****” (YOU BLACK, HUGE SIDE OF BEEF FOREHEAD). There were 53 seconds of horrific offenses, offensive expletives, on the physical, racial level and as incredible as it may seem, sexual, coming from a boy of about 13 years old, a resident of the condominium where we live.”
A group of 20 children – some from Lorraine’s school, others, their neighbors in São Bernardo do Campo (metropolitan São Paulo) – used a Whatsapp group to continue with the attacks on Lorraine. Camila reveals in the same post:
“I asked her to send me all of the audio that he had received a sequence of more than 20 audios approximately, then I realized that the audios were being sent from a friendship group of which she is a part. All group members are from the condominium where two boys offended her while some others encouraged the offenses.”
The phrases that marked and frightened me the most were:
“SUA PRETA, TESTA DE BATE BIFE DO CARA******!”(YOU BLACK, HUGE SIDE OF BEEF FOREHEAD)
“EU SOU RACISTA MESMO, QUANDO EU QUERO SER RACISTA EU SOU RACISTA, ENTENDEU?” (I AM REALLY A RACIST, WHEN I WANNA BE RACIST, I AM RACIST, UNDERSTAND?)
“TODA VEZ QUE EU ENCONTRAR ELA NA MINHA FRENTE EU VOU ZUAR ATÉ ELA CHORAR” (EVERY TIME I FIND HER IN MY FACE I WILL MAKE FUN OF HER UNTIL SHE CRIES)
“VOCÊ VAI FICAR NESTE GRUPO ATÉ VOCÊ CHORAR” (YOU WILL BE IN THIS GROUP UNTIL YOU CRY)
“CABELO DE MOVEDIÇA, CABELO DE MIOJO, CABELO DE MACARRÃO” (QUICKSAND HAIR, RAMEN NODDLE HAIR, PASTA HAIR PASTA)
Many colleagues were quiet and didn’t choose to speak, one of them even left the group when the offenses began, there was another who rebelled and said they were out of line and that it was too disrespectful.
I went into shock with so many psychological aggressions, such thoughtlessness of these youth who still behave in a cruel way today, I cannot face this situation as “kid stuff”, racism was never child’s play.
Due to involving minors, the case was referred to the Conselho Tutelar (Child Protection Agency). Inside the school, there was no punishment for the offenders or even an attempt to address the aggression with those involved.
In an interview with Global Voices, Camila showed that this is was what made her even more angry.
“It’s the wrong defeating the right, she switched class, but the students were not aware of the error they were committing, and in the school corridors when saw each other, how would this be? Would they continue offending her? I received a call from the school at night period informing me that her class would be changed class because there was no adaptation. What do you mean? And in the society where do I put her?”.
“It’s not bullying, but racism”
What happened to Lorraine seems to be a common denominator in the childhood of black students. It is the life experience of thousands of black girls going through school years having to listen to jokes about their hair and skin color. All victims of racism, not bullying.
To differentiate the two forms of prejudice, in 2013, a group of 21 black women decided to gather their school stories into the book Negras (in)confidências: Bullying, não. Isto é racismo (Skeptical/confident) Black women: Bullying, no. This is racism), where they explain:
“The organizers make an issue of affirming that what happens to black children is not bullying but rather racism, because in the first case, most of the attacks happen without the presence of adults and those who suffer the violence tend to commit acts of aggression because of having suffered assaults but don’t talk about it. Racism, however, is an ideology that claims a superior race to another; the ideology is so widespread that the attacks occur as much in the presence of adults, as where they promote them, so even if children seek help at school, they won’t obtain it, which increases the feeling of injustice and loneliness. They believe that bullying degrades them and racism, in addition to degrading, dehumanizes the human being.”
Research conducted by Fundação Institucional de Pesquisas Econômicas (Fipe or Institutional Foundation of Economic Research) in 2009 showed that ethnic-racial prejudice is the second strongest in Brazilian schools, second only to prejudice on physical issues, such as obesity. The study surveyed faculty, staff and students from 500 schools across the country. Only 5% of respondents were black.
In 2003, the signing of Law 10.639, making the teaching of “Afro-Brazilian History and Culture” a obligatory requirement for schools, seemed to herald a change in the system. But it was not so. Ten years later, in an article in Fórum magazine, Professor Dennis Oliveira, member of the Núcleo de Pesquisas e Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre o Negro Brasileiro (Neinb or Center for Research and Interdisciplinary Studies on the Black Brasileiro), pointed out among the problems in implementing the law, resistance to college pedagogy courses in including the material in the curriculum and hence the lack of teachers with training in it.
Viviane de Paula, in an article published on the site Blogueiras Negras, states that “the school environment is still an oppressive agent for many identities”, something that both the State and school communities still fail to recognize:
“The school, no doubt, is a socio-cultural space that must accept and, above all, widely discuss cultural plurality, even as a way to deconstruct prejudices. What often times is witnessed in schools are attitudes of indifference and silencing by the school management. It is observed that managers of public and private institutions don’t position themselves: it is easier to hide than to problematize.
#SomosTodasLorena (We Are All Lorena)
After everything that happened at school, Lorena just wanted to see her father, mother and best friend. “This created a very big uncertainty in her, beyond resistance to going to school, she’s having a hard time sleeping, wake up in the morning and can’t fall asleep, and her appetite has greatly diminished,” Camila said in an interview with GV.
Still, the support that Camila found on social networks since she told her daughter’s story of reveals that the internet has opened itself as a space of affirmation for all that is ignored outside of the network. “Given the proportion that this case has taken and the amount of messages of support, help and care we receive, believe me, there are many more good people than evil,” she said in an interview with GV.
Shortly after the publication of the story on Facebook, a sociologist wrote to Camila offering to conduct a training with school faculty on educational measures to be taken in such situations. The school accepted, but later backtracked.
According to Camila, much is still to happen until the conclusion of the case. The hashtag #SomosTodasLorena (we are all Lorena) (1) began to circulate showing mothers and communities dedicated to exalting cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair), like the group As Vantagens de se Enrolar (The Advantages of Curling).
Since her story appeared on the Internet, Lolô (as Lorena is affectionately called) adopted a black power (afro). A start to find for her to discovering she has power and how beautiful she is.
Source: Global Voices Online
1. As we have discussed in previous posts discussing other slogans such as “Somos Todos Iguais” (We Are All Equal) and the ridiculous campaign/slogan “Somos Todos Macacos” (We Are All Monkeys), creating a “Somos Todas Lorena” campaign also falls into the category of pretending to do something while in fact doing nothing. Black children, women and men are consistently the victims of racist attitudes, jokes and attacks and these sorts of physical and psychological assaults don’t affect white Brazilians who continuously show their adherence to the maintenance of white supremacy by never seriously addressing the issue. The fact is, the vast majority of whites will never stand up and reject the over-representation of whites in politics, media, banking, business or any other genre of which they hold all of the power. With that being the case, slogans, signs and campaigns have no true effectiveness.