In yet another example of how Brazil treats its black citizens, be they lawyers, students, athletes, professors or everyday people, a black college student was repeatedly told to get off of a university campus bus by a bus driver who was bothered by his presence on the bus. Although this incident didn’t appear to be as aggressive, it is reminiscent of the incident involving African immigrant students on a bus in southern Brazil that was reported here last year. Here is how this latest incident went down:
On Tuesday night (2/26), at 10pm, returning from IFCS (Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Sociais or Institute of Philosophy and Social Sciences) where he attended class, black Philosophy student, Aparecido de Jesus Silva was coerced by the bus driver to get off the bus.
Aparecido reports that he caught bus number 160, plate KXW 4619, going to student housing from the Rodoviário da Cidade Universitária (bus terminal). Upon entering the back of the bus (which is free) and sitting in the back, the student saw the driver gesturing with his hands and asking “To where are you going?”. “[The driver] seemed nervous about my presence,” said the student who continued seated not realizing that it was he that the driver was talking to.
Stopping at a point where some passengers got off, the driver then opened the door and said: “You’re not getting off?” At that point, other passengers boarded the bus heading in the direction of student dorm rooms and in accordance with the philosophy student, because of being “socially considered white and he [the driver] didn’t ask them anything.”
The situation worsened when they reached the point of City Hall. According to reports the driver opened the door of the bus and said, “to where are you going? Get off the bus.” Surprised, Aparecido asked if he was talking to him. “Yes, to you! I’m going to the dorms and you will not keep riding (for) free. Get off the bus!” screamed the driver. Not satisfied with moral constraint, and realizing the racist character of the driver, Aparecido responded that the driver should continue the route because it was his job. It was then that the driver threatened: “You won’t get off? When you get to the last stop you’ll be sorry,” he repeated several times. I said to him, “you are a UFRJ driver and you should drive.”
The student said he didn’t let the driver’s attitude shake him up and, according to his own account, said: “What is your problem? Why didn’t you ask anything of the other people? You are a racist. I can call the PM (Military Police) and arrest you now. Where is the badge with your name?”
Aparecido also said that during that final leg of the journey the driver ironically derided attempts initiatives to get his name and plate number of the bus saying “who are you wanting my name? Are you the police?”
I asked: “What is your name? You will not drive here at the University anymore. I don’t have your name but I will write down the plate and bus number.”
Arriving to the student dorms I started noting the information and he laughed saying: “Did you write it down already? Did you write it down? Look I’m leaving.” And he left laughing.
Aparecido continued “He threatened me. I want to know what my safety will be like here at the University (UFRJ) where I study,” complained the student. “I want to know what UFRJ will do in regarding this. Until when will we have to live with these racists? It’s not the first time that this happened to me here at UFRJ.”
Sought by our team of reporters, the press reports that the UFRJ has received the complaint and the ombudsman would be seeking relevant information to perform the appropriate action in the case.
Update 1: The UFRJ representatives reported that college coaches are free to anyone that circulate throughout the campus and the service is outsourced, however measures will be taken.
Update 2: Aparecido de Jesus Silva is from the interior of Bahia, has worked as a bricklayer all his life, became literate through EJA, which is literacy program for youth and adults, studied for the vestibular (college entrance exam) in a community preparatory course and entered the Philosophy program at UFRJ being the only black student in his class.