Note from BW of Brazil: So many things come to mind when I think of the details involving today’s story. For one, it reminds me of a comment that was posted on this blog a few weeks ago. The article that provoked the comment was the background of an incident of racism involving a Brazilian athlete ad the recent 2016 Summer Olympic Games hosted in Rio de Janeiro. The person claimed that Brazil was a place “full of love” and that we should stop “spreading hate”. Well, in reference to the latter comment, there are countless examples of the love that exists among Brazilian people, no doubt. No one denies that. The question, and second point, is why is it that people ALWAYS want to deny the existence of the other, unpleasant and sometimes violent side? I’m always amazed at how people who want writers to stop “spreading hate” are so silent when incidents such as today’s story make the headlines.
Today’s story details the sort of ugly, blatant, threatening and institutional racism that so many in Brazil would have us believe simply doesn’t exist. After all, as these same people would constantly remind us, this type of racism is the norm in some other country. What really disturbs me about today’s case is that it speaks to the depths of Brazilian racism and how authorities repeatedly show that the so-called combat of racism on the part of institutions is only “window dressing”. It exposes all of those weak “notes of clarification” issued by companies after they or their employees are caught in acts of blatant racial discrimination. You know the kind; we’ve featured them in numerous posts. ” _________ repudiates any sort of discrimination due to race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation and we have the ultimate respect for all of our clients”….bla bla bla.
Today’s story shows us that this sort of exclusionary, sexist, racist disposition has ALWAYS existed in Brazil, and judging from the reactions of the club and even prosecutors, will continue to go unchecked. Do you think we’re blowing the situation out of proportion? Regardless of the long history of racial exclusion/segregation in social clubs (here, here and here), schools and movie theaters, there are those who continue to deny the existence of such practices. Perhaps those people shouldn’t read material such as today’s piece. But for those of you who can handle the truth, read on!
“We put people like you in the line of fire at the shooting range”: Black woman threatened in country club.
By Pedro Borges
A racist threat was made by a white man toward Fátima Gosch in Rio Claro Country Club on the interior of São Paulo state.
On February 20, 2016, the couple Fátima and Matthias, residents of São Paulo and members of a country club in Rio Claro (CCRC), promoted a weekend barbecue on the premises of the club. The celebration marked Matthias’s 40th birthday and had the presence of the couple’s friends and members of the shooting department of the club. During the party, Fátima, a black woman, suffered a series of racist attacks on the part of those present.
According to the couple, everything was going along peacefully until one of the guests began to say openly that he didn’t like Fátima because she is black and that “it was not her place.” Attempts to circumvent the attacks were insufficient. The subject showed indignation at seeing a black woman with Matthias, a white man of German origin.
Fátima, after being intimidated a number of times, asked the man: “Why have you looked at me in this strange way all day?”. With no response, but with the understanding of what was going on, Fátima said: “When I married Matthias, Hitler must have turned over in his grave.”
The man, no longer able to contain his annoyance, gave the following answer: “No, he (Hitler) didn’t turn over, because people like you we put back there in the flow, right in the line of fire when everyone is shooting.” The situation got out of control and with the argument beginning to heat up, Fátima heard a few times that “it was not her place” (1) and that “she was not welcome there.”
Among the interviewees, only one confirmed the whole story told by the couple. The guy who made the most offenses called the witness three times asking that “he didn’t give testimony in favor of an “outsider”. The witness, after directing the offender to apologize before Fátima, heard the following answer: “Have you ever seen me have to apologize?”
The testimony of the attackers is loaded with attempts to disqualify Fátima with sexist comments. In one, it was said that Fatima was drunk and “rubbed up against” all the men at the party.
Fátima says that the witness that confirmed that the racist offense was threatened, while the others gave testimony jointly. “It was easier that the witnesses of the offender witnesses came together and matched the content of their testimony, where I was vilely insulted by everyone. Witnesses testified in front of each other to facilitate the alignment of their discourses. Our witness was threatened and I knew that the aggressor even has my cell phone (number) now.”
Kizie Aguiar, a member of the Conselho da Comunidade Negra (Black Community Council) Rio Claro, emphasized the support that black men and women of the city have offered to the victim. “In this case in particular, a joint action between council, special advisers and black organizations will write at once a letter of support to the victim, who at this time needs a lot of attention and care of our community repudiating what happened in this club.”
The passage of months, however, was not enough to ease the grief in relation to the fact. “I was seriously insulted as a woman and black. The actions of the offender, of his friends and not least Clube de Campo de Rio Claro (CCRC) prevent me from visiting this place again. I was told that I should be shot, burned alive, that it wasn’t my place in the club, that I have a problem with alcohol and that I am sexually promiscuous. The 40th birthday party for my husband, I prepared for more than a month with great affection, ended disastrously and will never be redone,” says Fátima.
After the case was reported by Fátima’s lawyer, an inquiry was marked in Rio Claro Country Club to provide some measure of repudiation of the aggressions. On February 24th, a letter was sent to the directors of the club with all the denouncements. The internal inquiry, however, was only opened on April 9, even after police reported it on March 21st.
Even with the testimony of a witness who confirmed all the offenses, the Rio Claro Country Club decreed the closure of the inquiry without determining any action. In a letter to State Prosecutor, Silvio Almeida, President of the Instituto Luiz Gama (Luiz Gama Institute) and lawyer responsible for the case, made the following comments: “Despite the seriousness of the events, the CCRC understood that it didn’t have the “competence” to determine the facts involving its members and that occurred within its premises. The pretext for archiving was that the facts, if they occurred, were in a private party hosted by members. Finally, the commission concluded that the club only summarize itself to “meet the requests of police authority” made in the police investigation No. 547/16, as the Constitution and the laws of the country only have application outside the club.”
Adilson Moreira, a lawyer and law professor at the Mackenzie (University) sees the case as a great example of what Brazilian researchers call institutional racism. Before seen by scholars of the subject as a psychological disorder on the part of black men and women, racism came to be understood as systemic and a driver of institutions. “We call institutional racism institutional actions of agents that have a direct or indirect negative impact on racial groups. Institutional racism can be motivated not only by the institutional culture, but also by the individual racism of individuals when they act on behalf of the institution.”
Silvio Almeida completed his explanation and presented the harmful effects of institutional racism. “The rules, practices and institutional customs produce discriminatory factors, be it preventing the presence of certain social groups by action or omission, be it by preventing or hindering the punishment of discriminatory practices that took place within.”
Brazilian law requires positioning of clubs and institutions on cases of racism and other violence inside the premises of these sites, says Adilson Moreira. “Brazilian courts recognize that companies are responsible for acts of racism committed by its agents when they are silent in rebuking in this practice. Problems of moral aggression and racial insults are very common in our country. Thus, the omission strengthens racism because it allows the formation of an institutional culture under which people are free to discriminate against members of minority groups.”
Silvio Almeida thinks that the failure of the club can be an incentive for new discriminatory practices to happen. “If an institution is omitted in the investigation and punishment of cases of racism, it means that discrimination against persons belonging to certain groups (blacks, Indians, gypsies, etc.) is a practice not only tolerated, but determinant of the desired member profile and the real social objectives of the institution. This is extremely harmful, in the measure that, as we have said, the institutions interfere in society and form people.”
Fátima feels that empathy and support from the club was lacking. “On the part of the club there was never any support or sign of sympathy. The threats and racial offense have been proven, but the club saw fit to archive the cause. Because of this, my husband and I never could never frequent the club again. I feel informally expelled.”
The black community in the city has brought pressure on the case. Kizie points out how it is fundamental that there is a severe punishment to stop new cases of racism. “I hope the crimes of threat and injúria racial (racial injury/slur) of which the victim suffered are really taken seriously because the violence that this woman suffered was no joke. And if there is no justice, it discourages people to report and move forward with the cases.”
The support given by the black community of Rio Claro has been instrumental in overcoming the attacks, explains Fátima. “I have received letters of support from the Conselho da Comunidade Negra (Council of the Black Community), from the Assessoria de Integração Racial (Advisory of Racial Integration) of the City of Rio Claro and from the Coletivo Mãe África (Mother Africa Collective). I was very well received and welcomed in visiting the Collective. This strengthened me emotionally. It is very good to know I’m not alone in this situation.”
If Fátima has had great disappointment at the club’s stance, she believes that justice can reverse the situation and make the criminals responsible. “It seems that they think they are above the law by not punishing a proven racist and his friends who came together to ruin my image. The club allowed that a real moral lynching happened in the hearings of the inquiry. From them, I don’t expect anything good and I am shocked by what happened. I hope that through the courts there is appropriate punishment.”
Cases of racism in Rio Claro
The city of Rio Claro has a distant history of racist practices. In the documentary Capital da Alegria (City of Joy), which tells the story of samba schools in the city, members of the two oldest associations, A Voz do Morro (The Voice of the Hill) and Associação Beneficente Cultural Tamoios say that the samba schools were also created by the black community in the 1940s because there were restrictions for the entry of blacks into the social clubs of the city.
Kizie Aguiar believes that racism in Rio Claro is manifested in spatial way. In the city, there are places for whites and the others for blacks. “No wonder we have in the city two black social clubs, because in other social clubs of the city at other times, it was not the place for blacks. And thanks to efforts of the Tamayo and José do Patrocínio communities, today headquarters of the GRASIFS – A Voz do Morro School of Samba, these are places of resistance of our people, where they live socially and make of these spaces great poles of black culture in Rio Claro and the region.”
The information is confirmed even decades later, in the 1960s. Aline Serzedello says her grandparents, Alcides Serzedello and Lídia Serzedello, faced barriers in relation to clubs in the city. The family, associated with with the Rio Claro Country Club and Rotary Club, discovered that another organization would like to build a refuge outside of the city. The desire of the couple continued until visiting the board of the institution. Aline says that when the titles would be sold, Lídia was informed that they could be club members, but that none of them could have access to the pool. The pretext made the family renounce the desire to frequent the space, which was never built.
In 2014, a nightclub in the city was accused by PROCON of offering different prices, according to the “profile” of the consumer. For Adilson Moreira, a professor at Mackenzie, this is a clear demonstration of racism. “People are aware that they can’t openly discriminate against an individual because of their race. Thus, they create subterfuges to keep certain spaces entirely white. Charging different prices is one way to achieve this goal because whites have the greater economic power. Higher prices distance black people. Moreover, this charge discourages the person from entering the place because it is a message that he/she will not be treated in a dignified manner. This practice therefore has a greater negative impact on the black population because a well-dressed poor white person will be seen as middle class while blacks are seen as poor in all situations.”
The most violent demonstration of racism in the city happened in 2013, in the early hours of April 6th, when three criminals beat a 71-year old man, Benedito Santana. He worked as a car guard. The criminals had racist and Nazi tattoos on their bodies and, according to police investigation, participated in neo-Nazi groups. After head trauma due to the aggression and remaining hospitalized about 30 days, Benedito died of cardiac arrest.
Other cities, other clubs, the same racism
Roque Ferreira, a PSOL (political party) city councilor in (the city of) Bauru, says that in Paulista, one of the city’s clubs frequented by the local middle class, black entry was restricted. “In the mid-60, a group of railroad workers of the old Ferra Paulista (Paulista Railway) went to the club to participate in a dance, and were forbidden to enter. They did not accept the prohibition and forcibly entered after a general fight. After the fact, the prohibition ended.”
The action led to the construction of the Clube Icaraí by the black community. “It ended up symbolizing racial segregation in the city. It was a necessary reaction at that time, as a demonstration that racism was present in Bauru society. Clube Icaraí (Icaraí Club) was an alternative space, against racial and social intolerance practiced by a hypocritical society that gave off a pigsty scent wherever it circulated,” recalls Roque Ferreira.
The same happened in São Paulo. Clube Aristocrata (Aristocrat Club), founded in São Paulo in 1961, was a response to racial segregation imposed by white elite clubs. Notorious cases occurred in the old Clube Tietê. In the late 1940s, a black boy was barred and didn’t have the possibility of entering the premises of the institution. The boy at the time was the famous actor Milton Gonçalves.
Years later, in 1978, the Movimento Negro Unificado (Unified Black Movement or MNU) came about as a response to another case of racism in Clube Tietê. At the time, four young blacks of the volleyball team had suffered racial discrimination.
In recent years, several elite clubs in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte were asked about discriminatory situations. For babás (nannies) entering the club, it was and is still necessary to be uniformed. And even with the right clothes, their circulation was limited to certain areas.
At the Country Club, located in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, a sign prohibited the entrance of nannies in the toilets and another warned that they should use the children’s bathrooms. The standard was made public on Tuesday (05/24), when the journalist Ancelmo Gois, of Globo TV, reported in his column that a nanny who bathed two children in the traditional bathroom was asked to leave by an employee.
In an interview conceded for a Globo TV report, an associate of the space, who asked not to be identified, explained why he agrees with the ban. “I have no prejudice, but the nannies are not necessarily highly educated people. Unfortunately, not all the classes have access to the same education. They don’t necessarily go flush the toilet or leave the bathroom clean. It’s nothing against the nannies. It is a matter of order and discipline.”
In response to the Globo team, the club highlights the importance of maintaining the security of the site and says the entry of non-associates could mean a threat because the ladies room is “unique to members who leave their belongings there.”
In 2015, complaints in São Paulo were made against the Pinheiros club because of the security team having barred a nanny. A similar result was also reported in the Caiçaras Club in São Paulo.
Adilson explains how behind these notes and justifications there is a direct relationship with the Brazilian slave past. “Slavery may have ended, but not the social rituals that were part of it. They continue living within our social imaginary. These rituals had a specific purpose in those times: to affirm the social inferiority of blacks in all situations. The requirement of the use of uniforms is a custom that has this objective: to designate the social places of different racial groups. Slaves were forbidden to use the same type of clothing that white and free people wore. The requirement of the use of uniform and prohibiting the use of the same spaces makes no mention of race, but the vast majority of domestic workers are black and therefore it has a racial nature. Once again we see institutional racism at play.”
Silvio Almeida, in addition to remembering Brazilian slave history, points out how the prosecution also reproduced institutional racism. “The most striking proof of the existence of institutional racism that we talked about is the way in which the prosecutor of São Paulo addressed this issue. In January of this year it was requested of the prosecutor of São Paulo that clubs were investigated for segregating nannies and maids. The Conselho Superior do Ministério Público (Superior Council of the Public Ministry) decided to lock down the investigation proposal by one of its members on the grounds that the clubs are private institutions and have the “right” to restrict the movement of people.”
The Alma Preta website team sought the official responsible for the case, the prosecutor and the Rio Claro Country Club in order that they position themselves on the subject. Until the completion of this report, no response had been sent.
Source: Alma Preta
- Quite a common topic on this blog, here we have yet another example of the belief among certain classes of Brazilians that there are certain ‘places’ wheres blacks belong and others where they are believed to be ‘out of their place’.
Brazilians you can’t fuck your way to freedom.
What’s interesting to consider is that the same scenario could occur in the US, except that there’d be more public outcry, especially on social media these days, and despite the ongoing power of elite private institutions, US federal and state law probably would provide more options for lawsuits, which might lead the club to settle to keep the case out of the papers.
I should add that there ARE country clubs in the US that are nearly 100% white (or have only a few members who are not white, white Latinxs or Asian Americans), but they tend to operate under the radar and often will have 1-2 token members to ensure they can host golf tournaments, etc.
But let’s not forget all the hedging and resistance that the horrible Augusta National Golf Club engaged in before it admitted a few black and women members, though only in 2012, to tamp down ongoing criticism and ensure commercial support during the aptly named Masters’ Golf Tournament.
I would hope that black people would have more support to fight this sort of thing in the US, but the way African-Americans are being treated the country nowadays, I’m skeptical!