Three cases in three cities, all having racial overtones, result in US$247,000 in damages, three college suspensions and an expulsion

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Note from BW of Brazil: Comments and actions often speak volumes and reveal much in terms of how people really think and feel about certain topics and people. All three of the decisions and punishments of the cases (featured previously on the blog) were coincidentally delivered in the month of August (the 12th, 19th and 21st) and all had involved covert or overt racial overtones within the actions. Please read the original stories to understand the full background of each (links provided in stories). Below are the recent decisions. As you read these stories, keep in mind the popular Brazilian belief that “we are all equal”. BW of Brazil will chime in with thoughts at the end of the article. 

“Justice has not stopped,” says domestic about compensation for domestic assault

Sirlei Dias was assaulted while waiting for the bus in Barra in 2007. “The important thing is that the Court didn’t cross its arms,” she said.

by Livia Torres

August 19, 2014

Sirlei Dias was attacked by five youths in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro
Sirlei Dias was attacked by five youths in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro

Seven years after being beaten by five youths at a bus stop in the Barra da Tijuca area of the West Zone Rio de Janeiro, the domestic Sirlei Dias celebrated, on Tuesday, August 19th, the decision of the 3rd Civil Chamber of the Court condemning each one of the attackers to pay R$500,000 (US$224,000) in damages. In an interview, the domestic, who still suffers from the after effects of the assault, criticized the delay of the sentence, but said he was “pleased” with the decision.

“Justice is very slow. It’s been four years for the process to be seen and now it must take another four years for me to receive this compensation, since they can appeal. But the important thing is that the court didn’t cross its arms. Though it took time, it’s not just my case that drags on. I’m satisfied because people said it would go nowhere and gave up. What I really wanted is that they had learned something from everything that happened,” she said.

Unable to work

Sirlei, now 39, lives in the Bonsucesso region of the North Zone in Rio, and receives a minimum salary (R$724 or US$324 per month) from the Instituto Nacional do Seguro Social (INSS or National Social Security Institute), since she hasn’t returned to work after the episode of aggression. “I’m going to the INSS at 3:20. I’m ‘leaning over’ because of my arm. Due to injury, I have a dislocation and I’m in line at the Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics (Into) to be operated on,” she said.

The maid said she had no further news of the aggressors and that she doesn’t want to know nothing about them because she is still shaken up because of the case. According to her, there was never an apology on the part of the young people, despite the grandmother of one of them regretting the incident during the trial of the case.

In July 2014, one of the youth was arrested again for drug trafficking. Júlio Junqueira Ferreira, 29, was arrested by Federal Police with one pound of hashish inside of a book.

See more about the case here.

Psychoanalyst will have to pay R$50,000 for racism against a cinema employee DF

Accused reportedly told the victim that she should be taking care of orangutans in África

Marina Serafim dos Reis was insulted by a psychoanalyst in an incident in the nation's capital in 2012
Marina Serafim dos Reis was insulted by a psychoanalyst in an incident in the nation’s capital in 2012

Courtesy of R7 with TJDFT

August 21, 2014

According to the victim, the confusion began when the doctor tried to take cuts in front of other customers 

The TJDF (Court of Brasília) convicted a psychiatrist accused of offending an employee of a movie theater in a mall in Brasília, because of the victim’s skin color. The judgment convicted him of “offenses to the honor of the victim, consistent in the use of elements of race and color.” The value of damages is R$50,000 (US$22,400). The defendant challenged the decision, which will be judged on appeal.

According to the victim, Marina Serafim dos Reis, 25, who was the cinema box office where the case happened in 2012, the confusion began when the doctor tried to pass in front of other customers for being late to the session. Among other insults, the psychoanalyst said that Marina should be living in Africa taking care of orangutans.

See the full story here.

UFMG suspends and expels law students who participated in racist hazing

In 2013, in Belo Horizonte, a group of Law students participated in hazings of freshman; in this photo, a student is painted black, chained with a sign referring to a well-known Afro-Brazilian historical figure
In 2013, in Belo Horizonte, a group of Law students participated in hazings of freshman; in this photo, a student is painted black, chained with a sign referring to a well-known Afro-Brazilian historical figure

Courtesy of BHAZ

August 12, 2014

The Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) has decided to expel a student and suspend three others who participated in a racist practical joke in the first half of 2013 (see the story here).

On that occasion, in early March, during a reception for freshmen of the course, upperclassmen of the Law Department commanded the racist hazing with an apology for Nazism. The episode came to prominence following two photos that were posted on Facebook. One in which a young person appears with the body painted black, hands tied in chains and carrying a sign around the neck that read: “Caloura Chica da Silva”, or Freshman Chica da Silva. The name refers to a famous black historical figure.

Another shows a freshman student (who appears to be painted black), tied to a pillar, while three upperclassmen pose around him making the Nazi salute. One young man also painted his face with a mustache similar to that worn by Hitler.

In another photo, students gave a Nazi salute with one of the participants wearing a Hitler mustache
In another photo, students gave a Nazi salute with one of the participants wearing a Hitler mustache

According to a statement from UFMG, the decision to expel Gabriel de Vasconcelos Spínola Batista and suspend Gabriel Augusto Moreira Martins, Gabriel Mendes Fajardo and Giordano Caetano da Silva for a semester for involvement in the hazing, “follows a recommendation made ​​by the commission to conduct administrative disciplinary proceedings against the students. Composed of Professors Adriana Goulart de Sena Orsini (president), Roberto Luiz Silva and Mariah Brochado Ferreira, all from the Law School, the commission acted in accordance with the General Rules and the Statute of UFMG.”

In the column of the historian Matheus Machado, Bhaz (newspaper) published firsthand the relation between the participants of the hazing, the expelled student, Gabriel Spínola (who appears in the photo with the Hitler mustache), with the release of an abundance of material for openly fascist advertisements on social networking websites and profiles. During the meeting of the Commission on Human Rights of the State Assembly, that discussed the UFMG case, Deputy Durval Ângelo used not only the aforementioned column, but also various pieces from Bhaz (newspaper) about it.

Note from BW of Brazil: So here we have three separate cases, in three different areas of the country, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and the nation’s capital city. The first case here, the assault on the maid in Rio, adds up to yet another association of skin color with assumed status. The five men who assaulted Sirlei Dias said they did so because they thought she was a prostitute. So the first question would be, even if she were a prostitute, would this woman not have the right to simply exist? Dias, who is not a prostitute, was waiting on the bus to arrive. Second, what is it about her appearance that signaled that she must be a prostitute?

A cabeça do brasileiro by Alberto Carlos Almeida (Editora Record, 2007)
A cabeça do brasileiro by Alberto Carlos Almeida (Editora Record, 2007)

Well, let’s be real. She is not white-skinned and blond like supermodel Gisele Bündchen or any of the other well-known white and/or blond women in Brazil’s ultra-Eurocentric media. Political scientist Alberto Carlos Almeida’s 2007 book, A Cabeça do Brasileiro (The head or mind of the Brazilian) showed how the average Brazilian made social associations depending on the perceived race or color of an individual and placed values upon those appearances accordingly. For example, Almeida found that 43% of Brazilians would prefer that their daughter to marry a white auto mechanic rather than a preto (black) high school teacher (27%). To be accurate here, the maid Sirlei Dias, who has a light-brown skin color, would be defined as a parda, meaning brown, in Brazil. But as studies have long shown, in many ways, pretos and pardos face equal discrimination being non-white. In fact, Almeida’s study actually found that Brazilians harbor more prejudice against pardos than against pretos.

Following this line of thought, it’s quite easy to see why Dias’ assailants thought she was a prostitute; this is the place reserved for brown people in Brazil. As a parda woman, in their minds, she could only have been a person of low social value. We’ve heard of these associations in previous posts. Vanessa Rodrigues revealed in an article that she remembers being told that she had the face of a poor person. Or how about Cássia Aparecida Jardim who was verbally assaulted in a shopping store by a man who screamed that she had the face of a cleaning woman or a trash/scrap collector. The Marina Serafim dos Reis’ case in Brasília was similar in the sense that the psychoanalyst’s insults associated the woman’s face to Africa and orangutans. Both of the women (Reis and Dias) could be defined as either negra or parda, and as such, received racialized treatment that a woman judged to be branca (white) surely would not have received. The ironic thing about the Dias case though is that looking at her assailants, they don’t all look white themselves! 

The last case from Belo Horizonte simply shows that, beyond all of the rhetoric and denial, racial history and images also have a strong influence in Brazil. The appearance of adherence to Adolph Hitler, who is one of the most demonized personalities in World History, and the reference to a black personality initially associated with slavery in Brazilian History give us an idea of how these men see themselves in the world. Well, it was all a joke, right? This is what college students do when they initiate freshmen. Really? And these are Law students? So nice to learn of the sense of humor of people who will one day be occupying one of the most prestigious professions in Brazilian society. It’s funny how these Law students in Belo Horizonte and the young men who assaulted the maid in Rio represent the country’s middle to upper classes and they commit these types of acts, but in the mind of the average Brazilian, it is the black Brazilian who should be feared or denigrated. It must be nice to have such privileges. I almost forgot that “we’re all equal”.

Source: Bhaz, R7, G1 , Folha de S. Paulo

About Marques Travae 3625 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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