Note from BW of Brazil: This case is actually around seven old but some recent news has brought it back to public consciousness. With the case from back in February in which a black teen was stripped naked and tied to a pole after being accused of petty robberies by a large group middle class Rio residents. The case had various repercussions around the country and in the media with a well-known journalist congratulating the vigilante group for their act. There are several issues tied to the case presented today and take to task widely held beliefs in Brazilian society.
1) The woman in this case is a maid and was assaulted because her assailants thought she was a prostitute. In a society that is largely constructed upon skin color (although it denies this), what is it about this woman’s appearance that caused the group to think she was a prostitute? 2) Brazilians strongly believe that well-educated (white) persons of the middle/upper classes deserve the social privileges that they have whereas lower class (black) people deserve the brutality of which they are the primary target in Brazilian society. What does this case say about these associations considering the class background of the assailants? 3) The case of this poor woman is similar to the case of another woman who was judged and beaten based upon her skin color. In that case, the woman’s father was a state governor. Thus, as we have argued in previous posts, in Brazil, class assumptions are intricately connected to one’s skin color.
Prejudice and racism: jail and a fine for marginals
by Magno Martins
The Rio courts put forward the punishment of five youths who assaulted the maid Sirlei Dias de Carvalho Pinto, in 2007, in the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca. They said confused her with a prostitute and therefore assaulted and beat her, which limited her ability to work (she has no strength in her right hand). Judging the appeal of the defendants on Wednesday (21), they had already been convicted criminally, the Third Civil Chamber maintained R$100,000 (US$45,000) in compensation for moral damage per offender – and broke new ground on the issue with the principle of “joint and several liability.”
As the sentence emphasizes that they are “liable for the completeness of claims,” a thesis on the issue of human rights, according to rapporteur Ferdinand Foch, Sirlei may demand R$500,000 (US$224,000) of all, some or each of the condemned (ISTOÉ – Ricardo Boechat)
Note from BW of Brazil: The following piece written by Edna Roland was written briefly after the case made national headlines back in 2007.
Racial divisions in Brazil
by Edna Roland*
The Barra da Tijuca case in Rio de Janeiro, occurring in recent days involving the maid of the parda (brown) skin color, Sirlei Dias de Carvalho Pinto, repeats the same Brazilian scene as so many other episodes: not dealing with the absence of limits, but of the existence of the geography of race, color, class and gender, translated into narrow-minded stereotypes expressing the prevailing social hierarchies.
A parda woman on a bus at 4:30 in the morning, could only be a prostitute and, “therefore”, can become a punching bag for near white youth of the emerging middle class of Barra da Tijuca. Remember that four of these young people were recognized by the maid at the police station as the assailants that beat and robbed her.
The father of the fifth suspect – a law student – well trained in Brazilian ethics, that applies the law according to the race and class of the accused and the victim, stated that “the children” (sic) who beat Sirlei should not be arrested because they go to college and work. Therefore, they are not criminals.
Criminals, in Brazil, as we know, are always pardos (browns) and pretos (blacks) (1), are unemployed, don’t make it to the university (especially public universities), live in slums where they can be killed for resisting the police, have or have not committed crimes, be they children, teenagers or adults.
As they probably haven’t read the book organized by leaders of the Manifesto Against Racial Quotas, the “puerile” young men from Tijuca were not told that in the country there are no racial divisions: ignored that Brazilians of all skin tones mingle, and we can’t accept the introduction of a legal division that separates and divides the people. It must be because of this that they broke the woman’s arm and face.
Sirlei’s perpetrators ignored, in this way, that “race does not exist”. They didn’t act because of “official races”, now supposedly created by affirmative action policies that are putting blacks in Brazilian universities (2). They acted from the old national racism, which can be very comfortable for researchers that, for decades, benefited from resources to study such a “peculiar” phenomenon and that, now, are starting to be confronted with policy proposals by those who were their object of study.
Unlike what some suppose, the behavior of young people, who live in a luxury condominium, didn’t result of a failure in their family upbringing. Rather, it expresses the efficiency of internalization of racism, sexism and upbringing provided by the family, school and universities that do not co-exist with black people on equal footing.
To the contrary to what its detractors scream, policies of affirmative action in universities promote racial integration. Along with providing access to blacks and students coming from public schools, putting blacks and whites side by side in the university environment, they have the potential to humanize the young white middle and upper classes accustomed to thinking that black men and women are second class citizens, intended to be their objects of pleasure and hatred.
The brutality and the desire for justice
by Martha Mendonça
Besides impunity, Sirlei’s beating raises another question: what leads young people from wealthy families to commit crimes? In recent times, cases involving well-born criminals have thickened in the police news. For psychoanalyst Junia Vilhena, who coordinates the Clínica de Violência (Violence Clinic) at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, a mixture of two points explains this behavior: the first is the lack of boundaries and values in families. “Parents want to be friends, can’t withstand the rage of children and end up allowing everything. From the time they’re children, they aren’t accustomed to suffering the consequences of their actions. They don’t believe in punishment,” she says. The second point is the idea that blacks and poor people are second-class citizens. Sociologist Gilson Caroni Filho agrees: “Those guys didn’t jump out of the car to beat a prostitute or a maid. They jumped out to hit a poor person. Much of the middle class still thinks under the logic of the casa-grande e da senzala (the big house and the slave quarters).”
… Added to this is the idea that the law is not for everyone. Detained, some of the guys assured the delegation that they would not be remain in jail. The businessman Ludovico Ramalho Bruno, the father of the Law Student Rubens, 19, one of Sirlei’s attackers, requested that the boys be placed in special cells. “These kids are not criminals. They can’t be mixed with drug traffickers. There are worse crimes. Now they’ll see my son as the monster he is not,” he said. Apparently, the father had no idea of his son’s behavior outside the home. At the police station, Ludovico apologized to Sirlei. The two came in crying, embraced. Sirlei, even after what happened, says she forgives the families. “They’re desperate. And they must be feeling guilty, also,” she said.
…. Besides preventive detention of the perpetrators being extended, they are likely to respond to the process in freedom. The five are charged with attempted armed robbery, which yields 12 to 15 years in prison. But Sirlei’s lawyers are also trying to characterize it as a conspiracy. “For this we are looking for other events in which they are involved, to register a customary character,” says the lawyer Marcus Fontenele. They aren’t far from it. The owner of a gas station in Barra went to police to testify that after beating Sirlei, the group was involved in a fight in his establishment. On Thursday, a prostitute from Barra recognized one of the boys, who allegedly also attacked her. “Beating (people up) was their sport,” says Fontenelle.
The crimes of middle class youth
In the records of the “children of good families” there are cases of attempted murder, drug trafficking, robberies, assaults and vandalism
- In June, a 15-year old student of Suzano High School in São Paulo, assaulted his teacher after class.
- In São José do Rio Preto, Sao Paulo, a 14-year old student set fire to his teacher’s hair. Ana Paula Sousa, 21, a law student from Campinas, São Paulo, and the daughter of a businessman, was arrested in April this year, accused of leading a gang of residential thieves.
- Three months ago, four college students in Brasilia were planning, on the internet, the death of a teenager. The reason was that the one of ex-girlfriends was dating the victim.
- In April 2006, police broke up a gang of young ecstasy traffickers in Região dos Lagos, in Rio de Janeiro. They used (the social network) Orkut to do business. Almost all were college students.
- In 1997, a group of boys from Brasilia set a pataxó Indian afire as he slept at a bus stop. The man died with 95% of his body burned. Condemned, they are now free.
* Edna Roland is a psychologist, a member of the Group of Experts of the United Nations ( UN) for the program of action of the 3rd World Conference against Racism and responsible for the Coordination of Women and Racial Equality Hall of Guarulhos (SP)
1. This is the general belief in Brazilian society that associates crime with skin color.
2. This comment and the article in general is a direct response to a number of Brazilian professors and media directors who have been very vocal in their opposition to the system of quotas. Among them are journalist Demétrio Magnoli (book Uma Gota de Sangue, meaning one drop of blood, from 2009), director of journalism at Globo TV Ali Kamel (2006 book Não somos racistas, meaning we’re not racists), Peter Fry and Yvonne Magge (along with Simone Monteiro and Ricardo Ventura Santos) (2007 book Divisões Perigosas: Políticas Raciais no Brasil Contemporâneo, meaning Dangerous Divisions: Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil). One of the arguments of the Fry/Maggie book (Dangerous Divisions) is that implementing racial quota policies in Brazilian universities will aggravate the issues of race and racial identity and thus divide the country in ways that never existed before. Authors of this sort consistently attempt to diminish the existing policies of racial exclusion that are already so deeply ingrained in Brazilian society.
Source: Revista Época, Pauta Social, Flores PE News