Note from BW of Brazil: Shocking. Brutal. Barbaric. There are so many thoughts that came to my mind after the read the details involving such a brutal act of hatred. As my regualar readers know, this blog has sought to analyze Brazil from the perspective of race since its debut back in November of 2011. After having already written about race in Brazil since 2001, I have always wondered how it is that Brazil managed to convince its citizens and the rest of the world that it was somehow a “racial democracy”.
Since the 1950s, numerous books and reports have exposed the racial problem in the country, but even so, the Latin American giant’s image remained relatively clean. Later, even when the the myth of the racial democracy idea was completely debunked, the new thesis was that racism in Brazil was subtle and that the problem wasn’t as serious as that in the United States or South Africa. After looking into this thoroughly, I wondered, ‘how could this be?’
Over the years we’ve seen numerous attacks on black Brazilians, be they aggressive insults or violence (see here, here or here), we have seen thousands of young blacks murdered by death squads that are often off duty police and, according to statistics, the country’s police forces kill five times more citizens than American police, the vast majority being black and brown people. In fact, in a widely divulged report, we learned that 75% of murders in Brazils are of non-white people. Afro-Brazilian activists have long defined these ongoing assassinations as the genocide of black youth. We must also must remember the violence perpetuated against Haitian and African immigrants.
Today’s story doesn’t involve a young black person, or a black immigrant, but rather an older Brazilian man, which immediately brings to mind a 2013 attack on a 71-year old black man who died after being assaulted by a Neo-Nazi group in the city of Rio Claro. It is also necessary in context of today’s story to remember other shocking attacks, even if they didn’t lead to death. Earlier this year, we saw three black chased out of a restaurant with clubs and throw chairs after they protested not served while white patrons were. Then there are the lynch mob attacks, some of which involve white and/or black aggressors.
The last thing about this shocking attack is the interracial factor. Time and again we are asked, “we Brazilians are all mixed, so how can we be racist?”. We now, let’s see. First of all, as Alex Castro once argued, when you really look at it, interracial unions are “one of the most glaring symptoms of Brazilian racism” and for several reasons. Second, this idea that a high rate on interracial unions automatically means Brazilians cannot be racist has been debunked by the groundbreaking work of psychologist Lia Vainer Schucman, who showed that racist views, comments, jokes and attitudes can and often do exist within interracial unions. In fact, I’d read previous reports that demonstated this reality, including by adults who detail how they grew up hearing racist jokes and comments in their multi-racial families. The existence of interracial unions doesn’t necessarily mean that racism automatically doesn’t existent. It simply means that, on paper, the marriage exists.
When looking at the situation in Brazil today, sociologist Jesse Souza, who has studied race and class in Brazil for a number of years, described current President Jair Bolsonaro as the racist chief of a Brazilian KKK mentality that can found within the country’s white trash element. Pretty strong words. Bolsonaro himself and his minions, as many past leaders, continue to deny Brazil’s racial problem. I’m curious to know how he would dismiss this brutal act. Actually, I’m not. With the steady blow of BS that comes out of his mouth, I wouldn’t want to waste my time. But, with protests against racism rising in Brazil as it is in the United States, I do wonder what the outcome of this tragedy will be.
Racism: 62-year old man is killed by a neighbor who didn’t accept blacks; crime was in Tyrol
Civil Police discovered that suspect divulged hatred against blacks and didn’t accept his own grandson because of his skin color
By Natália Oliveira, Vinícius Araújo and Luíza Lanza
The Civil Police concluded that the stabbing death of a 62-year-old man in the neighborhood of Tirol, in the Barreiro region of Belo Horizonte, on May 31, was motivated by racism. The inquiry was presented on Wednesday (10). The suspect in the crime is another elderly man, 66, who was constantly at odds with the victim because of racial intolerance.
Antônio Alves de Freitas, 62, was chased and killed after being stabbed 20 times by a neighbor, Joel de Souza Lima, 66, in an attack motivated by racism.
According to the police chief responsible for the investigations, Domênico Rocha, the two had an extensive history of fights due to the suspect’s racism. Ten witnesses were heard and all confirmed that the perpetrator of the crime is racist and offends all black people.
“As soon as the investigations began and the witnesses began to be heard, it became quite clear to the Civil Police that the motivation of the author’s intolerance towards black-skinned people was. Witnesses claim that the perpetrator was openly racist and openly assumed this despicable and inferior sentiment towards black people. Due to this anger and hatred that he spread against blacks, he fell out with the victim once again and unfortunately the facts evolved to the victim’s death,” said the police chief.
On the day of the crime, the perpetrator was at a bar drinking when the victim arrived and, according to witnesses, Antonio heard the offenses against him, and out of fear, decided to leave. “The owner of the bar, already aware of the problems between the had asked the victim to leave. He left, but some time later the suspect went to his house and continued the offenses,” said Rocha.
Not satisfied with the verbal assaults, the man armed himself with a club, and a knife, confronted Antônio in the front of their homes and beat the 62-year-old even also stabbed him 20 times. The victim tried to flee the perpetrator, but was chased down the street until he was killed.
“One of the witnesses said in a statement that she witnessed the day before the author showed the knife used in the murder, saying that he had acquired this knife to kill a person. He killed the victim with 20 blows, including in his face, which characterizes that the author sought to hit not only the person, but the identity of the victim because of this hatred that he had against black people.”
The killer claimed that the motive was actually a disagreement between neighbors. But according to the deputy, that version was deconstructed during the investigation. Ten people were heard in the investigation and the Civil Police understood that the cause of the murder was indeed racial injury.
For the police chief, the manner of the attack shows “a way of attacking the dignity as well as the identity of a person, which reinforces the thesis of racism. The head of the Specialized Division for the Investigation of Crimes Against Life (DICCV), Chief Emerson Morais cited recent racism crimes around the world.
Crime of racism
According to the delegate, the content of the testimonies brings words “barbaric, vulgar and unpronounceable”, used by Joel to divulge his hatred daily against black people. Because of this, he will be indicted for racism, not racial insult.
“It’s never too much to say that we are living in a unique moment, with a movement that started in the United States, due to the death of George Floyd, and that motivated a wave of protests against racism around the world. We can easily draw a parallel with the situation experienced in Brazil, which has racism rooted in its culture. It is also rooted in the DNA, the color black, our black origins,” concludes Morais.
“Racism is a crime against society, against collectivity in general, not a specific person. He verbally assaulted not only relatives of the victim, but people who resided nearby. And he spoke of racist improprieties not directed at a specific person, but at society as a whole.”
The crime of racial insult consists of offending someone’s honor due to race, color or ethnicity. Racism, on the other hand, affects a collective of individuals, discriminating against the whole of a race. Unlike racial insult or slur, the crime of racism is unchallengeable.
Joel is in jail and will answer for double murder, racism and racial insult. The accused will be liable for murder for tortious motives and impossibility of defense of the victim, in addition to crimes of racism and racial insult. If convicted of all the crimes, the added sentences could be up to 36 years in prison.
Suspect didn’t accept his black grandson
The accused, according to Morais, was racist even with his family. During the investigations it was discovered that his son had married a black woman. Which was disapproved by the father. Even when the grandson was born, he refused to recognize the child because of the color of his skin.