Sign: Calling (someone) ‘monkey’ is not an injury, it’s racism.
You need to be punished adequately. No to racism!!
The drama at the University of Pará continues to unfold. As we reported a few days ago, a white college professor of African religions called a black security guard a monkey after she was denied entrance through a gate at the university. The incident was caught on a cell phone video and it made headlines in the media. A few days after the incident, students protested and called for the professor to be punished for her verbal assault. So, again, as we have featured on this blog countless times, we have a white Brazilian referring to a black Brazilian as a monkey in the country which once hailed itself as a “racial democracy”. The professor recently apologized for her words.
Video image: “You are a monkey; you’re going to call it a crime now?”
Although someone calling an Afro-Brazilian a monkey is rather common in Brazil, more than a few things caught my attention about this case. One, the professor, a white woman, is a professor of African religions and an anthropologist. Two, she claims that her calling a black man a monkey has no racist connotations to it. Three, she believes she shouldn’t be punished. And four, a representative of the Commission for Racial Equality, a black woman, defended the professor saying that she didn’t offend anyone because there are “yellow monkeys, red monkeys, blue monkeys”. What the….???? Are you serious??? These comments are simply ridiculous!
First of all, as a college professor, an anthropologist and even more, a professor of African-derived religions, this woman must know of the centuries old racist connection between persons of African descent and monkeys. As we have shown on this blog, monkey is most common insult against black Brazilians. Why was this word the first thing out of her mouth when she spoke to a black man? How is it that she believes that she shouldn’t be punished? My thing is, I would be more likely to accept her apology if she were to simply admit a slip of the tongue rather than her denial of racist content. She should admit that she knows the term has racist connotations and then maybe her punishment would not be as severe.
Target of aggression, security guard Ruben dos Santos
As for the black representative of the Commission for Racial Equality. Again, absolutely absurd! As with the professor, if she wanted to defend her, it would be easier to say it was slip of the tongue rather than excusing the insults because there are “yellow, red and blue monkeys” also. Let me be the first to say that I have never actually ever seen yellow, red and blue monkeys, not to say that they don’t exist. If we include multiple types of the primate family (chimps, orangutans, gorillas, etc) it is certainly true that we see different fur colors including white, silver, brown, red in the face, etc) but this is beside the point. My point is that in the minds of many people around the world, there is an acceptance of the comparison between black people and monkeys.
It does not matter if there are different colors of monkeys. When most people think of the color of monkeys they think of the ones of the brown-furred variety. Because there are yellow monkeys does not suddenly mean that the association with monkeys is suddenly shifted to Asian people because they are known by many as the “Yellow race”. It is the African descendant with whom the association with primates has been permanently cemented for much of the world’s population. We have seen/heard enough jokes and references connecting black people with primates throughout the world to substantiate this.
In reality, racist or not, in the heat of the moment, the professor most likely blurted out the first thing that came to mind to demean a black man, and in Brazil that term is monkey. Whether the professor is fired or given a simple slap on the wrist, her usage of the term monkey against a person of visible African ancestry speaks to the bigger problem of widespread disrespect for the humanity of persons of African descent throughout the society.
Here’s the full story:
Professor apologizes for insult after calling black security guard a monkey
On Monday morning (September 17) students at the State University of Pará (Uepa) and members and affiliates of the Movimento Negro (black movement) posted placards with phrases in repudiation of the attitude of professor Daniela Cordovil who is accused of verbally assaulting the security guard Rubens Silva dos Santos and university student Paul Paula with racial insults, last Friday.
“At no time did she offend nor demoralize anyone,” said Oneide Silva of the Commission for Racial Equality. When questioned by a Liberal TV reporter what she would do if someone called her a monkey, the representative said she was not offended. “Look … There are yellow monkeys, red monkeys, blue monkeys … I wouldn’t take this angle at any moment. Because you would have to have some other adjective added to it in order for it to be discrimination. There was no discrimination at any moment,” said Silva Oneide.
Oneide Silva, Commission for Racial Equality: “At no time did she offend nor demoralize anyone…There are yellow monkeys, red monkeys, blue monkeys…”
Early on, two posters with slogans condemning the attitude of the teacher and stressing black pride had already appeared at the gate of the university where the incident occurred. Among students, the feelings of anger and confusion were evident. “I have a heavy heart. I knew the teacher, who was always great and I never expected something like this from her. I am black and I practice (the African derived religion) Umbanda. I believe this episode generates a reflection. Just because someone has black friends or lives with them, it means that (the person) is not racist? For when a stressful situation arises, that, maybe she didn’t even know existed, surfaces. The blood of blacks almost all of us have, but whoever has the typical phenotype, such as skin color or hair, feels this more intensely,” said the Arts student Aline Correa, 32. The professor, a Ph.D. in Anthropology, administers the Anthropology Department of Religions of African Matrix at the university.
The Ombudsman of Uepa summoned the three directly involved yesterday – both the offender and offended – for providing statements and moving forward to the earliest possible establishment of a recommendation from the Syndicate Commission to the Dean to investigate and, if found guilty, punish the teacher. “It is important to note that the university doesn’t share this or any other kind of prejudice and discrimination. The plea generated will be evaluated by the dean as soon as completed,” said the director of the Ombudsman, Professor Lairson Cabral. Punishment can range from a verbal warning to expulsion. Victims would be heard and the professor was also due to give her testimony the following day.
The Department of Religious Sciences, of which the professor is part, also has autonomy to punish the teacher, however, the university lecturers’ strike prevents any action being taken at the moment. Among the students present at the institution yesterday morning, the unanimous opinion was that Daniela Cordovil should not continue in her position. “There’s no more climate for her in a classroom after assaulting a student and an employee this way,” said Igor Pereira of the Central Directory of Students (CDE/Uepa).
Besides this, other cases of racism, when the offenses are directed at any race, or racial injuries when the offense is individual, have been followed by the Coordination for the Defense of Racial Equality OAB-PA. “Not all cases come to our attention because they are not centralized by the Racial Crimes Precinct, which should take forward these investigations and the information just divulged. There are currently six ongoing cases, of which we are aware,” said Jorge de Farias of the Coordination for the Defense of Racial Equality of the Order of Lawyers of Brazil in Pará.
University professor Daniela Clodorvil, that last Friday (14) called a security guard and a student at the University of Pará (Uepa) ‘monkey’, apologized to the guard yesterday in an exclusive interview with Liberal TV, an affiliate of the Globo TV network in Pará.
“I admit I made a mistake with him. I exceeded myself. I could not have argued with him, as a teacher and as a professional. He was not responsible for the situation,” says Daniela. Asked if she regrets what she said, she said “I regret (what happened) and because of this I’m here apologizing for it in this interview,” she continued.
Professor Daniela Cordovil apologizes for her verbal aggressions:
“I do not deserve punishment. I’m apologizing!”
She ensures that the word ‘monkey’ had no connection with the fact of the guard being black. “Monkey was (meant as) just monkeying around, clowning, of what was being done at the university. It has no relation with him being black. I have studied the racial issue for 15 years ago and I have no racial bias and would not be prejudiced against the race of anyone”, she said.
The Liberal TV’s reporter still wondered if the teacher believed she deserved to be punished for the crime of racial injury. “I do not deserve punishment. I’m apologizing! I think when you argue with someone, you apologize. Justice must assess whether it is a crime of injury even when people go back and apologize. I do not think anyone deserves to go to jail because she was ‘distempered’, if there are so many people acting against terreiros* of African matrix, depredating and yes, committing the crime of racism”, she defends.
Throughout the day, posters were plastered on the University campus of Uepa in Belém. Phrases like ‘Calling someone a monkey is not an insult but it is racism’, were used. “The university’s code of conduct says that she may be suspended or even expelled. We want the Uepa to position itself for the university community on the case,” said Pereira.
The institution’s ombudsman says the case will be investigated and it will open an administrative process to investigate the complaints. “We do not agree with this kind of discrimination or any other kind. Let’s establish the facts and briefly we will soon give a response to society”, ensures Lairson Cabral, the university ombudsman.
According to the delegate of Specialized Division of Discriminatory Crimes in Pará, Lucinda Antunes, racial slurs correspond to 70% of the cases investigated in the state. “We work so that this type of crime decreases, but unfortunately there are still people who lack respect for others that are of the color black,” she informs.
* – Terreiros are temples for followers of religions of African origin in Brazil
Here are a few comments found on the website I found about this story.
Esmeraldo Pereira: What impresses me is how the people have a straight face, trying to explain a thing that is super clear, no one insults an other person (with the term) monkey, remembering the animal, but they do because of the color. This is racism and they are wanting to save her skin. Unfortunate. And when one says monkey no one remembers a yellow, blue, red monkey but they do remember the negro. This is a joke and now that the stick broke (shit hit the fan) they want an excuse….This is foolish.
Solange Rangel: This Oneide is a sell-out. The professor was wrong, she is racist, she demonstrated with all her words hjer fury, because it is in these moments that people reveal themselves, so, whoever wants to defend her is like her or her doormat.
Below is a video featuring those involved in the controversy. It’s all in Portuguese but this report, including the comments of those interviewed has been summarized in this current blog post as well as the initial report on this incident.