Note from BW of Brazil: How are racist ideologies maintained and continuously widely divulged in an enormous country with a population of more than 200 million people? I mean, according to some people, if we all just stop talking about racism and black people just stop “whining”, it will just suddenly, magically fade away…right? Let’s be real, at best, it’s not that simple, at worst, this is sheer fantasy. Today’s piece shows how, besides the media, the Brazilian school system is a powerful mechanism for the consistent reproduction of racist thought, be it blatant or subtle.
I first became aware of the fact that racism in Brazilian schools didn’t end with just the attitudes of biased teachers who, besides not caring about the experiences of black children with racism, re-enforced such treatment with their own racist behavior, but the problem was also present in school textbooks as well as the work of influential writers such as Monteiro Lobato. In her 1995 book, A Discriminação do Negro no Livro Didático (the discrimination against the black in textbooks), Ana Célia da Silva detailed how, besides Afro-Brazilians having a rare presence in school textbooks, this presence was always marked by stigmatization and dehumanization. As we see in today’s story, this legacy continues in 2017.
Private school uses racist school textbooks and student’s mother complaint
By Luna Markman
Social educator Aline Lopes, 30, was disgusted with an exercise that came in the book of her 3-year-old son that she described as a racist. The exercise was to link three people to three professions, and the right answer was a young black man holding a broom associated with cleaning up a school hallway. The child studies in a private school in Recife (capital of Pernambuco) which reported that it will not suspend the didactic material, but will do a pedagogical activity on the subject. The publisher in Formosa, which is responsible for the publication, said in a statement that “situation will be resolved” in the 2018 edition.
Aline says that the school assigned the exercise, located on page 32 of the book Natureza e Sociedade 3 anos (Nature and Society 3 years), last May 26th. The mother went to help her son in the with assignment on the 28th and, indignantly, posted the case to Facebook on the same day, with the caption “Tarefa de casa de x (nome do filho), 3 anos de idade. Encontre o erro” (Homework of x (child’s name), age 3. Find the error). The photo received almost 400 comments, most of which support the social educator.
Aline’s indignation has a track record. The same book brought on page 16 an exercise where there are two tables, one with a sad black family and one with a lighter-skinned family smiling. The assignment was given by the school on March 17th. “Why can’t the teacher be black? Why can’t the happy family be black? The publishers still didn’t take this race question into consideration, only reinforcing negative stereotypes and show the lack of positive black representativeness. Some people have called me racist in the post. I think it’s okay to be black and a cleaning person, the problem is that it’s always like that,” she explained.
The social educator goes further to explain her revolt. She considers herself white and has the boy of 3 years and a 5-year old girl, both by a black father. The couple was born with a skin that she says is “negra mais clara” (lighter-skinned black). The educator says she has had problems with the girl’s race at another school, which led her to change school units this year. “Imagine that my daughter went with a black power (afro) to the [old] school and often coming home with her hair pinned down because the ‘tia’ (auntie) (see note one) tied it down, even without me asking her. She’s already cried asking me to straighten her hair because she thought my straight (hair) was prettier,” she said (see note two).
“So that’s not the kind of [deprecating] thing I want to see in my kids’ homework. I try to educate them in a way that respects differences, understands the society we live in. I want them to understand that they can be and can occupy any place they wish,” she added.
Aline, who also studies for an undergraduate degree, sought the directors of the school which, according to her, decided not to suspend the use of the book as the two exercises were considered isolated cases in the totality of didactic material. The teaching unit, still according to the mother, assured that it will do a pedagogical activity on the subject.
In an interview with the FolhaPE (website), Paulo André Leite, administrative manager of the publisher Formando Cidadãos, said he was surprised by the complaint, as the book, which is part of a collection with more than 12,000 pages, has been used by schools all over Brazil for four years and hadn’t registered a similar complaint.
In a statement, the publisher stated: “It repudiates any kind of intolerance and prejudice and emphasizes that all of its material is very representative of ethnicity. We also understand that the fact that it occurred in the book of Natureza e Sociedade 3 anos, on pages 16 and 32, is an important issue and for this reason we dedicate our efforts to elucidate the case and in the next edition, for 2018, this situation will be resolved.”
Source: Folha PE
- As noted in a previous post, the term ‘tia’, meaning aunt or auntie, is a popular, affectionate term given to any woman who takes care of children or provides domestic services and is usually not actually related to the person, child or family who refers to her with the term.
- Two more details to be noted here is that it was the white mother who took action against this depiction of blacks in her child’s textbook. As some previous posts have pointed out, sometimes in interracial relationships we see a sort of silence of the black partner in terms of racial issues (see here). As I read this text I wondered if the father was aware of this incident or if he actually knew and took no action. The other thing to note here is once again how the child of a mixed marriage shows preferences for physical features of the white parent such as hair texture.