Note from BW of Brazil: The future only knows where Brazil is headed but one thing seems to be certain: racism isn’t going anywhere anytime soon! Piauí is a state located in the northeast of the country, and while it isn’t considered a major state and is not featured as much here as say Bahia, Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, this doesn’t mean that the illness of race-based bias doesn’t affect its citizens as well. An example of this was in the tragic murder of a 66-year old black man in that state last year. Below is brief update on the racial situation in Piauí from the perspective of a few of its black residents.
Times of intolerance: cases of racial insults and racism grow in Piauí
By Flávio Meireles
People from the state of Piauí love to say that they are welcoming. And usually they are. But Piauí has shown examples that they still maintain old and reprehensible social practices. Intolerance is one. Discrimination, for example, also draws attention. According to data from the Delegacia Especializada de Repressão às Condutas Discriminatórias (Specialized Department of Suppression of Discriminatory Conduct), cases of racial insults and racism have grown in the state. The scenario concerned the Movimento Negro (black movement) on the National Day of Black Consciousness, which was on November 20. In some sectors, the feeling is that time has gone backwards.
In 2013, police have filed 103 boletins de ocorrência (BO or police reports) for injúria racial (racial slur). Between January and October 2014, there have already been 94 cases of racial insults and, more seriously, racism. If the average is maintained, the amount of BO’s should surpass those of last year.
Numbers feed a great contradiction. According to the Laboratório de Análises Econômicas, Sociais e Estatísticas das Relações Raciais (Laboratory of Social and Economic Analysis, and Statistics of Race Relations or LAESER), at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), 71% of the population of Teresina declares itself either preto (black) or pardo (brown). The statistic is part of the “Mapa da População Preta & Parda no Brasil” (Map of the Black & Brown Population in Brazil), released in November of 2011. According to the survey, Teresina is the second capital of the Northeast and the seventh in the country in number of pretos and pardos.
What, then, explains the growing number of cases of intolerance? The model Núbia Passos has one version. “Racism has always existed. I think a lack of culture and rationality perpetuates this kind of attitude. But I believe that it’s the society itself that often contributes to this kind of prejudice.”
A woman, black, from the northeast and Piaui from Jardim do Mulato, a small city in the interior of Piauí located 140 kilometers south of Teresina, Núbia is gradually seeing her career take off in São Paulo, an openly conservative state, in spite of being heterogeneous, is intolerant. Neither in São Paulo, nor in Teresina, or the interior of Piauí, however, has she suffered prejudice. The same cannot be said of university professor Alcyone Corrêa.
In February this year, he was the victim of racial intolerance that spreads like a cancer, degenerating society and slowly killing those who are excluded. A professor of the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI), hhe was spat upon by a teenager while riding a bike on Dom Severino avenue, in the east zone of the capital.
At the time, Alcyone declined to register a police report. He justified himself saying that he feared retaliation. “I was passing by on a bike when the teenager in the car spit on me. I realized it was an act of discrimination when I saw that he was smiling. The fact of being black makes everything worse. If I had another car and was well dressed, he would never have spit on me,” he said after the incident.
The most serious case, however, was recorded in downtown Teresina, when a black woman was refused entry into a shop because of the color of her skin. Disrespected, she registered a police report. The Delegacia Especializada de Repressão às Condutas Discriminatórias investigated the case, confirmed the suspect and indicted the owner of the property for racism. The Civil Police didn’t not reveal the identities of the victim and accused.
The case is now with the State Prosecutor. It is he who will decide if he will present the case or not denounce it. If the owner is denounced, tried and convicted, the person faces up to five years in prison.
A militant of the Movimento Coisa de Nego (Thing of the Negro Movement) for 20 years, Assunção Aguiar believes that the increase in the number of cases of racial insults and racism in the state is the result of a number of factors and cannot mean just a more intolerant society. Even so, it reveals a sense of lost time.
“The numbers have increased because we are giving greater visibility to cases of injury and racism. Today people have the courage to go to the police station, saying they were offended and demanding their rights,” he says. “What we need now is to qualify this denouncement. Sometimes it doesn’t go from there. The most we get is, at the time of the hearing, to reach an agreement. We don’t see people being punished for offending the honor of a black person,” she adds.
For Assunção, advances in the area will only be reality when the State Government goes back to working hand in hand with the social movements. According to her, the Movimento Negro (black movement) was forgotten in the efforts of Wilson Martins (PSB) and Zé Filho (PMDB).
“Where there is the political will of administrators, things are more visible. The four-year reality to now is of sadness when it comes to racial equality. There is no commitment. We have nothing. We must recognize the advances and also setbacks. We have managed to achieve as Brazil, but the concrete actions in Piauí decreased,” vents the militant.
“The reality of the black woman”
“Being black in Brazil is a very big challenge. It is not easy to assume your identity as black; your hair, your way of dressing, your culture, and in particular, your religiosity. This is no different for me as a black woman and the militant of the Movimento Negro that I am. There were numerous situations of embarrassment and discrimination that I experienced, simply for being black. The job that I didn’t assume in an office was for me not fitting a standard they sought. And the biggest lesson I inherited on this journey is the certainty that the history of my people is rich, beautiful, and my struggle for black identity against any kind of prejudice has been worth it.”
– Assunção Aguiar, Ekede (1) and militant of the Movimento Negro
If the reprimand with the State Government in the last four years is great, the satisfaction with the achievements at the national level is even greater. No wonder. Over the last decade, the black movement has managed a number of advantages. Assunção Aguiar lists some of them.
“There are many positive points, like the policy of promoting social equality. It allowed actions that were implemented to improve people’s quality of life. There is also the law of quotas, the health program of the black population and the statute of racial equality,” she said.
The prospects, thus, are good. At least that’s what Assunção understands and she hopes for a strengthening of the Movimento Negro in terms of public power. “It’s necessary to have mechanisms with a greater power of articulation, a space where we can dignify the agenda of the black population,” she says.
From the top of the catwalk, Nubia only expects a better world, not only for blacks but for browns, yellows and whites. “We must end any kind of prejudice and racism, and share the love.”
Source: Cidade Verde
1. Ekedes are important figures in the terreiros (houses of worship) of Candomblé, Ekedes are women who are not incorporated, but rather chosen by the Divinities, to watch over them and the High Priest of the House. They are people of great importance in the community of religious structure and are admired by all. Source