Note from BW of Brazil: The numbers say it all. I’ve said in a number of past posts that Brazil has a very sufficient form of racism. The news I’m sharing today is yet another example of why I believe this to be true. Often when the issue of racism in Brazil comes up, people will react in a number of ways. First, they’ll deny the very existence of racism. Second, they’ll admit racism exists and that they even know people who are racist but then deny that they themselves could possibly be racist. A third reaction is when people point out the fact that Brazil has a law that prohibits racism. My response to this last reaction is simply, “yes….and.” What does having a law against racism really contribute to diminishing racism when such cases can go court and the defendant comes out victorious? And people, perhaps knowing how weak the law really is, believing that they’re above the law or perhaps understanding how white privilege functions, sometimes arrogantly dare black people to take them to court.
We saw this recently when the owners of a Facebook page posted a photo of two black men walking on a Rio beach and warning residents to “be on the look out” even though the men in the photo hadn’t actually done anything wrong. The group administrator posted the comment saying that “I’ll be doing well here waiting on the lawsuits” posted with a photo of man sipping champagne. Several months ago, a woman was caught on video verbally assaulting a black woman, also on a Rio beach, and was heard saying “go to the police station and be embarrassed.” She further continued ‘You can record it, I have money and this won’t do anything.” Then we have the case of late night talk show host Danilo Gentili offering a black man bananas to end a dispute they were having on Twitter about the comedian’s tasteless, often racist jokes. A judge later ruled that he found no racist intent in the exchange. And in the last example, we had a white television personality making a racist comment about a popular black singer’s hair on live television. The TV network’s response was to ban the singer! Are you beginning to see now why racism in Brazil is a perfect crime?
Racism in Brazil: almost 70% of cases are won by defendants
By Maria Fernanda Garcia
Despite being the majority, representing 54% of the Brazilian population, blacks continue to suffer prejudice in the country. Even well-known artists suffer from prejudice, such as the singer Thiaguinho, who in 2012 told the Folha de São Paulo newspaper that he was a victim of prejudice when he went to lunch in a restaurant wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops. “When the valet brought my car and I went to get in, he put his hand in front. He didn’t think that car could have been mine and asked, ‘Do you own it?’” the singer reported. (See note one)
More recent cases of racism such as those with journalist Maria Julia Coutinho and actress Tais Araujo have also gained prominence in the media. Both were offended through social networks.
One of the most serious cases was that of actor Vinicius Romão. In February 2014, the actor was arrested by mistake, when he was accused of stealing a woman’s purse in Méier, in the northern zone of Rio. He was taken to a jail in São Gonçalo, in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, where he was imprisoned for 16 days. Vinicius lost eight pounds during the time he was under arrest and then needed therapy to overcome the trauma.
The law provides for punishment for crimes of injúria racial (racial injury/slur) and racism. Racial injury is typified in article 140, paragraph 3 of the Brazilian Penal Code, and consists of offending the honor of someone using elements referring to their race, color, ethnicity, religion or origin. It is, for example, insulting a person with the term “monkey” because he/she is black. The crime of racism is provided for in Law 7.716/89 and consists of discriminatory conduct addressed to a particular group or collectivity, which is considered even more serious. The crime of racism is imprescriptible and inviolable.
But the latest survey by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) Laboratory for Economic, Social and Statistical Analysis of Racial Relations (Laeser) showed that in almost 70% of the judgments for the crime of racism or racial injury in the country, the winner is the defendant.
According to the report, which analyzed judgments in the 2nd instance of judgments for racism and racial injury in the Courts of Justice of all states between 2007 and 2008, the defendant won the suit in 66.9% of the cases, against 29.7% with victory of the victim (3.4% were judgments didn’t have decisions).
Racism in Brazil was criticized even by the United Nations in 2014. According to the UN report on the situation of racial discrimination in Brazil, racism in Brazil is “structural and institutionalized” and “permeates all areas of life”. In the document, experts also mention that the “myth of racial democracy” still exists in Brazilian society and that a substantial part of it “denies the existence of racism.”
Source: Observatório do Terceiro Setor
- The idea that black Brazilians cannot be owners of nice cars has a long history in Brazil. For examples, see here and herehere.