Note from BW of Brazil: In reality, there shouldn’t be anything shocking or even surprising about the existence of racism in Brazilian schools because it’s been so well-documented in past posts. Since Eliane Cavalleiro’s ground-breaking study blew the lid off the topic nearly 20 years ago, incidences of racism in Brazil’s school system, on the part of students, teachers as well as school administration, has neither declined nor disappeared, but with the rise of the internet and more coverage from the racial perspective in the media, there is simply no way to try to push the problem under the carpet. Dr. Petronilha Beatriz Gonçalves e Silva revealed the severity of the problem when she told us that “racism expels the black child from school”.
So while Brazilian society will forever go along denying the effects of racism on black Brazilian children, an Afro-Brazilian university students’ group decided to create an internet campaign so that thousands of students could share their personal memories of racial discrimination in the school environment for all to see. The whole thing started over a discussion of the writings of famed Brazilian children’s book author Monteiro Lobato, whose works have come under heavy criticism in recent years due to the racist stereotypes and depictions of Afro-Brazilian characters (see here and here). Similar to other hashtags and campaigns, this movement strips away yet another layer of racism embedded in Brazilian society. Check the report below.
“My Racist Professor” hashtag goes viral denouncing discrimination in schools and universities
Campaign started after case of racism at USP involving a professor
By RBA Staff
Campaign highlights traumas resulting from racist practices in schools
An episode at the University of São Paulo (USP) on October 3rd, when a teacher made fun of the racism present in Monteiro Lobato’s works and also in Carnival marchinha (see note 1) songs, the hashtag #MeuProfessorRacista flooded social networks this week, with testimonies that reveal racial discrimination in schools and universities across the country that have marked black students since childhood. Confronted, the teacher responded to the screams by stifling the discussion.
Two militants from the Ocupação Preta (Black Occupation) (black students’ collective) entered the classroom bringing Lobato passages that confirmed the racist content and alerted for the need to debate the issue, when the security forces were withdrawn at the request of the professor.
In an interview with journalist Jô Miagui, for TVT’s Seu Jornal, the journalist and researcher Maitê Freitas gave her testimony on the cases of racism suffered during her student life. “One day, the principal summoned my father and directed him to withdraw me from school. According to the principal, I was walking around with bad influences, all black girls like me.”
In the report, the lawyer Rosângela Martins also shared a case she experienced in a private university in São Paulo, when a law professor said that the legal career was not for just anyone. “She said that doing Law was not for the poor, because it was a very expensive course, a very expensive career. Books, clothes to be very presentable, and poor people should not study it. In a loud and clear voice she said, go be a manicurist.”
For the lawyer, the repercussion of the campaign #MeuProfessorRacista was great because the racism in the classroom is very common. Jokes related to cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair), associations of skin color with lack of hygiene, and references to slavery, among others, end up traumatizing children.
Maitê hopes that the statements come to the teachers and that they recognize and reflect on their racist stances and practices. “I wanted some racist teacher to say: ‘I was a racist teacher when I said this and that to a student.’ If this hashtag can echo to the point that these teachers see themselves in these testimonies, and if they rethink, then we are really walking towards a campaign of transformation.”
With the launch of the hashtag, thousands of statements, many of them shocking, have begun to emerge and to explain how serious the problem of racism in the school and university environment is. The reports range from nicknames such as “sabonete de mecânico” (mechanic soap), macaco/macaca (monkey), among others, including exclusion from, work groups, vexatious situations such as ordering to pick food up off of the ground in order to “learn not to waste”, even meritocratic and anti-quota discourses, as if the blacks benefiting from quota programs didn’t deserve to occupy that vacancy.
The #meuprofessorracista (my racist teacher) hashtag was created by the Ocupação Preta (Black Occupation)
“Open Letter from Ocupação Preta
On March 20, during a discussion in the Theories of Text class at FFLCH (Department of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences) at USP (University of São Paulo), the theme turned into a racial debate at a time when the “racist marchinhas” and “racism of Monteiro Lobato” subjects were given a tone of a joke by the then professor who taught the lesson, which led to a discussion led by a student on March 27th and that was stifled by the professor.
Today, April 3, Ocupação Preta (Black Occupation) entered the classroom to bring about a historical recovery contained in the racial debate that permeates the works written by Monteiro Lobato, presenting his well-documented and accessible postures even on the internet.
The professor in question brought extracts from a book that reinforced the theory that Monteiro was not racist, which intensifies dogmas of the racist culture still existing in Brazil and in the world. We clearly understand that the academic role of the researcher is to know the different points of view of any discussions.
We question the professor about coming to the classroom without at least preparing an analysis of the author and his position regarding his works, as well as his context and his participation in Brazilian society. Analogically, we deepened the discussion by telling the professor how serious it would be if we brought any material that related some any minority to rats, for example – considering the use of pejorative ideals – without even using a discursive counterpoint. We raise the debate about blacks in Brazil today, because we know that the population is still stereotyped and marginalized these days.
We are talking about how serious it is to present and analyze as example the construction of the image of “Tia Anastácia” (Aunt Anastasia) ignoring the existing discussions about how the character and her characterization of “the good and faithful servant” have a narrative and ideological function to soften relations of interracial power and the reinforcement of servitude as a space reserved for blacks, fitting herself as a great example of the stereotype of the North American “mammies” and the Brazilian “mães-pretas”(black mothers).
The problematic about the work of Monteiro Lobato is far from being a subject of debate only between black Brazilian movements. Monteiro Lobato and his literature have already played an important role in the dissemination of eugenic ideologies and in the advance of a racist scientism that influenced public health policies during the beginning of the 20th century, unfortunately with developments that continue today. Although the development of Lobato’s work may include the presence of the black as protagonist, he does so in a totally misleading and racist way, which has long been questioned not only by militants but also by intellectuals interested in the debate about the ideologies that dominated Brazil in the past.
Yet, knowing that a guideline and a theoretical foundation pertaining to branquitude (whiteness) are perpetuated in universities, we raise the need for the professor to know, discuss or at least listen to what students have to say, abandoning his position of superiority.
It is important for the general population, and especially the black population, to be aware of a series of laws that are used to hold various kinds of any discrimination accountable.
Finally, we repudiate the position of the professor who demanded that we be withdrawn by campus security, and who dared to say that he knows a university professor who, according to his speech, “is blacker than all of us” students who were present in class. This type of posture shows how much we have professors who urgently need academic training in accordance with Law 10.639/03 on the teaching of Afro-Brazilian History and Culture, since they are responsible for the academic training of future professors.
WE INVITE ALL BLACK STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES OF BRAZIL TO PARTICIPATE IN THE VIRTUAL CAMPAIGN # MeuProfessorRacista (my racist professor)
“Your silence will not protect you!”
1950s Carnaval marchinhas of Rio de Janeiro
1. The marchinha is a genre of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) that was predominant in Brazilian Carnival from the 1920s to the 60s of the 20th century, when it began to be replaced by the samba enredo because the samba schools didn’t want to pay the high prices charged by composers.