Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s story is very typical of how racism can sometimes take on the subtle or blatant variety in Brazil. Sometimes this type of discrimination passes without even being perceived by the person who experiences the act and as such, often contributes to the perception that racism isn’t an endemic problem woven into the very fabric of Brazilian society. Even in the world of the social sciences academics will also claim that the country has a more veiled system of discriminatory practices in comparison to other societies with histories of racial antagonism. This blog’s stance has always been that subtle and blatant expressions of racism exist side by side in Brazil (see examples).
The incident featured today happened to Nina Silva, well-known poet and writer based in Rio de Janeiro. BW of Brazil originally introduced Nina to our readers in an article about an organization she is affiliated with called Estimativa, an amazing collective of black women from the periphery of Rio de Janeiro that came together to use art as a means to inform and protest against all forms of violence and gender discrimination. These women are all dynamic as individuals and even more powerful as a group! Nina is a specialist in African Literature and Afro Diasporic poetry and has participated in numerous international seminars speaking on topics related to black women, achievements and invisibility, similar to the content of this very blog. Her latest work was a book of erotic poetry co-authored with Akins Kintê, entitled InCorPoros – Nuances de Libido.
Below are details of what happened to her at a bank in Rio. Keep in mind here that the banking industry is yet another area of the society that discriminates against Afro-Brazilians.
Racism at the Itaú Personnalité Bank (office 7818, Méier, Rio de Janeiro – Brazil)
When trying to get in a bank branch of the Itaú Personnalité in Méier, Marina Silva (Nina Silva), needed to remove all her belongings from her purse. Not satisfied, the security asked her to show the contents of her purse. A few minutes after this fact, two white women were entering the same location with purses and luggage full of metal objects without being bothered or stopped by the security.
At the same moment, the victim questioned the reason for this different treatment, and the employers told her that it happened because the white women were regular customers and that nobody knew her. The security apologized to the victim when they realized that she also was a client, which means that if she didn’t have any connection with the bank nobody would have apologized to her.
Why does the Itaú Personnalite bank believe that a client needs to receive different treatment from a non-client? Does the security in the bank know all the customers of that location? Why does the victim not look like a client?
After this episode, Marina went to the hospital with a chronic asthma attack and received treatment for it.
Later she went to the 23rd Precinct Police Station in Méier to report the fact. Although registered by the authorities as illegal constraint, her lawyer Bruno Alves understood that according with the Caó Law (Brazilian Constitution), the fact should be approached as racial discrimination, considering the denying of access to the local, in opposition to the treatment received by the white clients, which happened because of the skin color of the victim. “The place violated not only the federal constitution but also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and specifically article number 5 of the Law number 7.716 (Brazilian Constitution).
The case was reported to the Itaú company under the protocol 277464361
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Note from BW of Brazil: In an update, Nina revealed that she will move forward with legal action and although the bank has promised to improve security treatment of clients, it also denied any racist action on their part. Typical of the Brazilian way…