Note from BW of Brazil: The racial situation continues to heat up in Brazil as everyday there are more manifestations of rejection to the ascendance of Afro-Brazilians in society. Several years ago we introduced to our audience the division that the system of affirmative action has brought out in Brazilian society. Many (including recently a prominent journalist) would have us believe that it is because of the system of quotas that these racial divisions have arisen in Brazil. In other words, according to the line of reasoning that has been used continuously since the start of the 21st century and the introduction of affirmative action, Brazil didn’t have racial problems until the implementation of the quota system.
Well as we shown and documented, racial discrimination, racism and anti-black sentiments have existed since the nation imported 4-5 million Africans to work as slaves in the territory that would later be known as Brazil. Numerous books (dating back to the 1940s), dissertations and even media reports have shown how ridiculous it is to continue to believe this blatant lie. The fact is, what we have seen in recent years is just how much the white elite population of Brazil resents the social ascension of a black population that has historically always known “its place”, be it in the kitchen, in the bedroom, dancing and singing during Carnaval, sweeping the streets or kicking a soccer ball.
The difference between Brazil of the 16th to most of 20th century and the Brazil of the past few decades is not any new existence of a racial problem but rather the way that Afro-Brazilians have reacted to this secondary treatment accorded them by the society. Brazil has long been accustomed to Afro-Brazilians subserviently accepting the degrading, humiliating treatment directed toward them by (white) elite and middle classes. Previously a population that itself actually accepted the idea that racism didn’t exist in their beloved Brazil, black Brazilians of today are increasingly raising their voices, pushing back and demanding their space and respect from those who would rather see them remain on the margins of society. There are too many examples of this on this blog. Whether protesting at 30,000 feet, speaking out on the internet, staging photo campaigns on prominent university campuses, demanding respect at ritzy shopping malls or directly confronting racist attitudes at universities, black Brazilians are demanding a bigger slice of the Brazilian pie. And what they are seeing is that, behind the rhetoric of “meritocracy”, the other side clearly wants to maintain the status quo, even when black Brazilians continue to prove that they can compete on equal footing.
The beauty of the rise of social media in recent years is the fact that black Brazilians now have an outlet to express the racist resentment and opinions that they have long endured and the ability to connect with others who have experienced the same thing. In other words, a major shift in black identity has been in the making for several years and today’s post provides yet another example of how Afro-Brazilians refuse to be silent when the topic is equal access to a better place in society.
Black student at UFMG approved rebuts racist offense: “I will be excellent student”
Posted on Facebook, prejudiced comment was made by a candidate who tried to earn a vacancy at the university, but failed. Discussion draws attention on social networks.
By Cecília Emiliana
When the student Bruna T. used a public message on Facebook to show her outrage at the quota system – in due to her failure of securing a place in the course of Arts of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) – perhaps she didn’t expect a response from another candidate – this one approved precisely by the reserve of quotas. “I am a black lacradora (1), intelligent and cotista (quota student) who entered into Letters in your place,” said Lorena Cristina de Oliveira Barbosa, 20. The prejudiced explosion, thereafter, became controversial and took shape.
Unsuccessfully contending for one of 130 undergraduate seats available in a wide competition, Bruna T. attributed her results to affirmative action measures adopted by the institution, which, in compliance with Law No. 12.711/12, maintains 50% of the registration to public school students. Of this amount, a percentage is destined to self-declared pretos (blacks), pardos (browns) or indigenous and/or low income. “In the course of Letters at UFMG there are 260 vacancies. I came in position 239. But I won’t get in why? Because of this merda de cota (quota shit),” snapped the young woman.
Fifteenth placed in the selection, and besides responds to the profile of the competitor, Lorena continued her outburst in another post on the subject: “Sorry for not accepting any child of the bourgeois pointing the finger at me and saying that her non-approval was my fault. It was not. The public university should tend to more people like me. Theoretically, she was born for this. I occupy this place now. And it will be as much mine as that of you all.”
Lorena Morena, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
“First of all, thanks to everyone who sent me messages of affection and support. I swear I will respond to each one when things are more tranquil. But let’s go:
After the ‘fuzuê’ (commotion) about my comment in response to the publication against quotas, I can express myself better:
I didn’t think I would pass at the federal university. Not with the disabilities I had in the primary education process. In elementary school, I studied in a peripheral school on the edge of a stream, a geographic location that left us months without class because of poisonous animals invading our drinking fountains and canteens. In high school, I went to a school that always flooded during the rainy season. A teacher told me that I would be a maid. We were released outside of schedule often times because of fights between drug traffickers that happened right there, in the gate of our school. I went almost an entire school year without classes because of school strikes.
When I graduated, I went to school at a private college. I was bolsista (scholarship student). In the fourth period, I decided to try to change course and go to the federal (university). I worked during the day to study the night. I always had the support of my family who never disbelieved me. I went nights without sleep. I studied on the weekend with a friend who was willing to help me.
When the results were released, I almost didn’t believe it. I got 920 (points) and my average had been enough to fill my heart with hope. On the 18th, I received confirmation that I had been selected to attend the UFMG.
Thus, I will study alongside whites and bourgeois who always enjoyed all the social privileges that I never had. I studied to be there. A quota is the minimum social repair that the government owes me, rightfully, for making me get the worst teaching and school structures just for being born black and poor. The minimum.
Now, excuse me for not accepting any child of the bourgeois pointing the finger at me and saying that her non-approval was my fault. It was not. A public university should tend to more people like me. Theoretically, she was born for this. I occupy this place now. And it will be as much mine as it is that of you all.
I suffered in silence.
A long academic life to black women and black men!”
(8,782 likes · 478 comments · 1,300 shares)
Sought by this report, Bruna T. would not comment on the case and deleted the publication which appeared on that morning. Other public posts to her profile, however, contained various manifestations of outraged people. Some support the revolt of the non-approved competitor. Most, however, supported Lorena, celebrating her victory: “I was very happy. A flame of hope began to dawn on me,” says the belo horizontina (native of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais).
Approved with 920 points, Lorena was pessimistic about their performance on the exams. “I didn’t expect the approval of Enem (2); I was feeling lost,” says the university student. An understandable stance for those who listen to the stories of hostility that the school environment so often imposed on the girl. “In school, my math teacher shouted in my class that I would be a maid to clean the floor of her daughters,” she says.
Upon completion of high school, she came to earn a scholarship to a private school of journalism, where she remained for a year and a half. She gave up the institution and the craft – she said, due to not handling the racist environment as much from academia as from the labor market.
“My teachers lived to send me messages with invitations to leave. In internships, I’ve been fired under the justification of being too black for communications. They said this openly. My former boss said that if I wanted to succeed, I only need to use my black sexuality (3) to have sex with all the entrepreneurs,” she says.
After four months of cursinho (university prep courses) – she worked eight hour shifts of work as an educator in social projects to help her family as payment of tuition – becoming, officially, a student at UFMG Faculty of Arts: “I worked all day and went straight to the cursinho. I came home bordering on 12:30(am). But I’ve always been very good with writing and a friend was willing to help me on weekends. And this is how I did it. Taking online classes, studying at dawn.”
It is with dismay, however, that upon approval for the program she received the post of her competitor Bruna T. as well as the aggressiveness of those who believe that quotas are privileges: “I came from a black family that has always followed the same story of servants. I’ve never had anything, you know? I scraped a lot to enter the UFMG. My school had no structure to accommodate students. So I don’t think it’s fair a person who always had everything pointing to this as a privilege. The quota is the minimum that the government owes me for making me go through all this just because of being black and poor. That college is mine too and I also have the right to be in it,” she says.
- Meaning someone who has the ability to shut down her enemies or “haters”
- Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (Enem) (English: High School National Exam) is a non-mandatory, standardized Brazilian national exam, which evaluates high school students in Brazil. The ENEM is the most important exam of its kind in Brazil, with more than 7.1 million registered candidates in 2013. Source
- It is very common that black Brazilian women hear rude comments playing on stereotypical ideas of sexuality connected race. Like here or here for example.