Students hold protest at a federal university; students proclaim director’s comments about student’s hair racist

black Brazilian women

Protest flyer; student Wgercilene Martins who was allegedly the target of racism

Another day, another accusation of racism. This time it occurred on the campus of a federal university in the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão, a 76% black state. Once again the issue in question has to do with the hair of a woman of African descent, a complaint we’ve reported numerous times such as the recent mobilization against a racist marketing campaign by a hair product maker or another that referred to a long-time stereotype about black women’s hair. We must point out that at this point the case is being called an “alleged” case of racism as it is being investigated. But there are two other points to be noted here. 
1) It shows that Brazilians of African descent are reacting more and more to possible racist incidents, a change in past attitudes where people didn’t recognize prejudice or didn’t do anything about, which, even though more people are making denouncements nowadays, is still common as judge Alzeni Barreto pointed out in the state of Bahia. And 2) some people would consider that the woman at the center of the accusation has “good hair”, a concept very common concept in Brazil that refers to people who don’t have extremely kinky hair. But the question is, of course, what is “good hair”? In Brazil, as in any country dominated by a dictatorship of the white standard of beauty, “good hair” is straight hair. So regardless of the outcome of this case, the standard remains the same. Here’s how it went down:

UFMA reveals that an alleged complaint of racism against a student is being investigated.

On February 7th, the “17 de setembro” Central Directory of Students, held a protest in front of the COLUN (Colégio Universitário) area of the Federal University of Maranhão, in São Luís, thecapital of the northeastern state Maranhão. The demonstration was against another act of racism that occurred within the university area.

Sign: I’m not ashamed of my (hair), I’m ashamed of your racism
According to the protesters, this time the victim was UFMA Visual Arts student, Wgercilene Martins, that “was so confronted in a disdainful manner in the presence of students” by COLUN director, Francicarlos Veras Cardoso and the coordinator of the Telésforo Reis high school, all because the student has curly/kinky hair.

The Student Directory also released a petition. Below is the text

Participant at the rally

“We signers of the petition, are outraged by the assault suffered by UFMA Visual Arts student Wgercilene Martins, which took place on January 28, 2013, to which she performed a work teaching African and Afro Brazilian Art. The director of COLUN, Francicarlos Veras Cardoso and coordinator of the school, Telésforo Reis, confronted her in a disdainful manner in the presence of students.

Wgercilene Martins being interviewed by SBT TV

The culminating point came when the teacherTelésforo touched Wgercilene Martins’ curly/kinky hair and sarcastically said, ‘- and this here is also art?’ We consider this unacceptable, since it represents an act of discrimination not only to the artists but also the entire black population in that it reaches one of the elements of identity of this population which is curly/kinky hair. It discriminates against art of African matrix, the object of the project developed in school, which is why we request that the Dean Dr. Natalino Salgado take the necessary steps so that this absurd act is exemplary punished.

Sign: Say no to racism

It is unacceptable that racism, a non-bailable crime, susceptible of immediate imprisonment and execrable vestige of social ignorance is repeatedly stated in a University environment. During the administration of Dean Natalino Salgado, many cases have been registered marking a positioning of managers and educators, but mainly obliterating the memory and identity of the students affected. Because of this, we petition the support of all petitioned against an act so improper.”

Participant at the rally

Right of Response

In a statement, the Federal University of Maranhão (UFMA) announces that it is investigating the alleged case of racism recorded in Colégio Universiário (Colun), last January 28, denounced through the newspaper Vias de Fato. The victim was a student of Visual Arts, Wgercilene Martins, who, according to the publication, “was confronted in a disdainful manner in the presence of students” by the school director, Francicarlos Veras Cardoso, and the coordinator of the high school, Telésforo Reis, for having “curly/kinky hair”.

Wgercilene Martins

UFMA reports that preliminary investigations have not identified any racist behavior by the leaders of Colun.

The institution states that the complaint has as its purpose to create a political fact to “undermine the electoral process that is occurring in cited school.” Below is the note:

Official notice from UFMA

The Federal University of Maranhão clarifies that the denunciation of the act of racism, supposedly occurring in the Colégio Universitário, on January 28, 2013, is being investigated by the institution.

However, we inform that in an initial assessment we did not identify, up until this moment, any act of racism, but the creation of political fact to undermine the electoral process that is occurring in the cited school.

Another case

In 2011, The Núcleo de Estudos Afro-Brasileiros (NEAB or Center for Afro-Brazilian Studies) of UFMA, submitted a document to the Dean Natalino Salgado requesting action on another case of racism. According to the document, the Nigerian student, of the course in Chemical Engineering, Nuhu Ayuba “was insulted, discriminated against and subjected to public embarrassment triggered by the racist attitudes of the professor of Calculus, José Cloves Saraiva, at the Center for Science and Technology (CCET) of UFMA.”

The case gained international attention.

Source: Globo Imirante

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About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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