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Note from BW of Brazil: Some might look at this post and ask, “OK, so another case of racism in Brazil. What’s the big deal?” Well, the details of this story speaks much to how race can be such a difficult issue to deal with in Brazil. As such, parts of this story would be a good read for non-Brazilians to understand that racial identity in Brazil is not always as simple as saying, “those people are just confused.” Read on and BW of Brazil will chime in on this case later…
After being called ‘neguinha’, student is barred in nightclub in São Paulo
A young woman then had trouble registering the racial offense in two police stations; in one, of the Military Police, she heard: “You are parda (brown). Negra is that one who is born quite dark.”
“This neguinha is not getting in here today!”
This was the racial slur that the student Thayla Elias Alves, 22, claims to have been fired in her direction by a hostess (receptionist) of Villa Mix in the neighborhood of Vila Olímpia, in the southern area of São Paulo and considered one of the most famous nightclubs in the city.
The incident happened around 11:45 on December 5, a Friday, when Thayla, her cousin, Law student Natália Timossi and and Debora de Castro, were denied entry at the Villa Mix. The case is being investigated by Decradi (Delegacia de Repressão aos Crimes Raciais e Delitos de Intolerância or Bureau of Repression for Racial Crimes and Crimes of Intolerance), of the Civil Police of São Paulo (SP).
The student Thayla Alves, 22, was refused entry into the Villa Mix nightclub and believed to have been the target of racial discrimination | Photo: Personal Archive
The allegation of the Villa Mix receptionist team for impeding the entry of the young women was that their IDs didn’t appear on a guest list, but the three have emails in which the prior submission of their names for inclusion on the list is recorded.
According to the young women, when they presented their documents to enter Villa Mix, without even checking the guest list, one of the nightclub hostesses said they were not included in the list of names and the three were removed from the line for entrance by security.
Out of the line, the women presented the email sent with their names to the nightclub to Denis Iugas de Sousa, who identified himself as manager of Villa Mix, but he also impeded access of the three to the club.
“While we were waiting for the definition of our release or not, we saw several people going in without their names being found on that list,” said Thayla.
It was also while they were waiting for the definition of the entry in Villa Mix that the two women who accompanied Thayla heard one of the nightclub hostesses say to a co-worker, “this neguinha is not getting in here today.”
Both involved in the dialogue were white, about 1.70 m (5’8”) tall and thin. One of them, identified as being responsible for the racial offense against Thayla, is loira (blonde). The other is morena (brunette).
Difficulty registering police report
Soon after the racial offensive, Thayla, Natália and Debora decided to go to the 96th DP (precinct) (in Brooklin), 1.2 km (3/4 of a mile) away from Villa Mix and where there was no police chief to register the boletim de ocorrência (BO or police report) on the racial slur.
In the 96th DP, the three young people were sent to the 27th DP (Campo Belo), 2.2 km (1.36 miles) away from the police station in Brooklin. When they reached the second precinct, Thayla, Natália and Debora heard from an investigator of the Civil Police that they should return to the nightclub and, at the Villa Mix door, call the Military Police. That’s what the young women did.
Thayla said it was the police commissioner Eliane Tome F. Lima, on duty at 27th DP, who gave the order in the case that it was not immediately registered and that the three young women would return to Villa Mix to call the MP.
The run around with the MPs
When two MPs arrived at the nightclub, the hostess that barred the three young women from entering Villa Mix telling police she would call the manager, Denis de Sousa. It was this same woman who uttered the phrase attacking Thayla. After 20 minutes at the nightclub door, the MPs knew that the hostess had gone.
In conversation with the MPs, Denis de Sousa said the hostesses were not employees of Villa Mix and, as they were outsourced, he could not provide the names of the professionals who were at the nightclub door that Friday night.
After being given the run around by the hostess and Denis de Sousa, MPs led Thayla, Natália and Debora again to the 27th DP, where a clerk recorded the injúria racial (racial injury/slur) in the BO. Until the completion of the document, the police commissioner Eliane Lima had not had contact with the three young women, according Thayla.
Only when Thayla asked to sign the police report after the arrival of her lawyer, that happened in about ten minutes, is that the police commissioner Eliane Lima decided to talk to the young women to say that she would not need to wait. “They wouldn’t let me read the police report,” Thayla said.
When Thayla’s lawyer arrived at the 27th DP, the police commissioner Eliane Lima was no longer at the station and, according to the clerk, “had left for an endeavor.” Also in the 27th DP, before not being able to sign the police report, Thayla faced another issue involving the color of her skin. Filling out the document about the service she received at the Villa Mix door, a PM wrote that the student was parda (brown). Telling the MP that she is negra (black), Thayla heard him say, “You’re parda. Negra is that one who is born quite dark.”
From the 27th DP, without the police report, the three girls and the lawyer went to the Corregedoria Geral da Polícia Civil (Internal Affairs Division) of the Civil Police, where they filed complaints about the way they were attended at the police station. By then it was after 6am of Saturday morning (6/12).
Thayla ensures that, despite the difficulties with the way the police acted, she will follow through to the end so that the hostess and the Villa Mix nightclub are held responsible for what happened on the night of December 5th.
“I know that my struggle to not to let this racist act go unpunished could contribute to other people not going through the same thing. I felt distressed when I went through it all, but I will not cease from going after the law.”
Racism vs. Racial Injury
Currently, Decradi is attempting to locate and summon the hostess of Villa Mix identified as responsible for the racist comment against Thayla.
The police investigation in Decradi was opened to investigate the crime of racial injury, which is when the discriminatory offense is directed at a person, attacking their honor and their self-esteem in reference to their race, color, ethnicity, religion or origin. In the racial injury, the author can pay bail and respond to the crime free.
Thayla believes that the Villa Mix hostess’s comment was a crime of racism, based on the discriminatory offense directed at a particular group or collective. Thayla believed that she was refused entry into the nightclub because she was black. Racism is inalienable and a non-bailable crime.
Carmen Dora Freitas de Ferreira, president of the Comissão da Igualdade Racial (Commission for Racial Equality) of OAB –SP (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil/ Order of Lawyers of Brazil) of São Paulo, also believes that the Villa Mix hostess practiced racism.
“By calling the girl neguinha, this receptionist offended the young woman’s race. The police report and the police investigation should investigate the crime of racism. We can no longer tolerate people being excluded because of skin color. This is harmful. It would have been a racial slur if the receptionist had said some offense such as macaca (monkey), preta suja (dirty black) or something as low as that,” explained the lawyer Carmen Ferreira.
Analyzing the MP’s attitude who tended to Thayla’s call at the Villa Mix door when he wanted to describe her as parda and not as negra as in the records of the Military Police, the president of the Commission of Racial Equality of the OAB-SP was direct at finding a new racist act.
“You know what that Military Policeman did against this young woman? He practiced institutional racism. And it is also harmful,” said Carmen Ferreira.
Villa Mix denies racial discrimination
According to the press office of the Villa Mix, “because of the rush of the holiday season,” those responsible for the nightclub could not protest the Decradi investigation about the possible crime of racial injury against Thayla.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Villa Mix reported:
“Villa Mix adopts a policy of only releasing people who are named on the list and really the names of the three girls were not included.”
From what was ascertained, there was no kind of criminal injury on the part of any Villa Mix employee, inclusive of customers being respected and well treated so that they come back to the establishment.
Talking to the hostess, she said she did not commit any kind of racial slur. To the contrary. She treated the customers politely, however, customers were outraged that their names were not on the list and the club was already reaching maximum capacity.”
Secretary of Public Safety is silent
Sought since Wednesday (17/12) for the report to speak out about the problems faced by Thayla in registering the racial offense she suffered with the police, the secretary of Public Security of São Paulo, Fernando Grella Vieira, responded to only one of the seven issues sent to the press office.
Grella Vieira did not answer the following questions:
1 – What was the reason that Thayla could not register the BO in the 96th DP? Where was the police authority responsible for the shift of the 96th DP?
2 – For what reason did the police commissioner Eliane Lima order Thayla back to the nightclub where she was offended to call the MP? Is this a standard procedure of the Civil Police of SP?
3 – What is the number of the open preliminary investigation in the Corregedoria Geral da Polícia Civil of SP to investigate the conduct of the police commissioner Eliane Lima? Has the delegada already been heard by the Magistrate? What did she say, if it she had been questioned? I ask, please, that the secretary of Public Security makes possible an interview with the police commissioner.
4 – For what reason did the Military Police who went to the nightclub not direct the receptionist who offended Thayla to the 27th DP?
5 – In case of possible crime of racism or racial insults, what is the guidance that you give to the victims? How does the secretary of Public Security of São Paulo determine that the victims of racism or racial insults act to have their rights preserved?
6 – How many people have been arrested in the act of racism in the state of São Paulo this year?
Through a spokesperson, Grella Vieira only replied to the questioning of the report about how many police reports were recorded for racial insults and racism in 2013 and this year, in the State of São Paulo.
According to a survey of Decradi in 2013, there were 36 police reports for racial slur and another 15 for discrimination/prejudice. This year, from January to September 2nd, there were 38 for racial injury and 16 for discrimination/prejudice.
Grella Vieira did not affirm the total number of cases registered in the State of São Paulo in police stations that are not specialized like Decradi.
Note from BW of Brazil: So let’s take a look at this…What happened in this case, assuming everything is true, is so typical of the racial situation in Brazil! An ongoing debate on this blog has been the whole question of who/what is negro (black), who is pardo (brown) and who is branco (white). It’s a topic that’s been covered in a number of posts on this blog but also a topic in which there will never be complete agreement on. For some, “negro” includes anyone who bears any physical features denoting African ancestry. For others, a “pardo”, meaning basically “brown”, is a person of any combination of racial mixtures of blacks, whites and Indians and a completely separate category from “negro”. For the Movimento Negro (black civil rights organizations), “pretos” (also meaning black, but usually of darker skin) and “pardos” combined represent Brazil’s população negra, meaning black population. But even with these views being defined, there is still much room for debate.
In a debate about racial classification/identity, what takes precedence? Personal identity or exterior classification? If someone describes another person as “negra”, but another person defines said person as “morena” or “parda”, and the person identifies as “parda”, which term has more value? Of course people can identify in any manner that they wish, but if this person is subjected to the same type of treatment that a person who identifies him/herself as “negra” receives, again, which term holds more weight? What happens if most people see a woman and all agree that she is “parda” but due to her consciousness and/or experience with history, racism and/or black culture, she identifies herself as “negra”? This last example is perhaps what happened in today’s feature.
As we have pointed out, the Movimento Negro’s proclamation of Brazil having the “largest black population outside of Africa” may be true when the preto and pardo populations are combined and add up to more than 100 million people, but in terms of personal identity, the vast majority of Brazil’s pardos don’t in fact identify as negros. Even with pardos being subjected to as much discrimination in terms of everyday treatment and experiences with Brazil’s lethal police as pretos, this doesn’t necessarily correlate to an “identidade negra”, or black identity. On the other hand, as a number of posts have show on this blog, often times when pardos come into a certain level of consciousness, they come to take on a black identity.
Over the years, I’ve read comments from a number of people who accuse the Movimento Negro of “kidnapping” pardos into the black population when they don’t see themselves as negros. But how do these “stop enforcing a black identity on pardos” react when a person who would be classified as “parda” insists on identifying herself as “negra”? As we can see in the story above, although it clearly appears that this woman was discriminated against and even referred to as a “neguinha” (little black girl), when she recognized this discrimination and insisted on defining herself as “negra”, the police refused her this identity. We saw a similar incident happen at a bakery in the city of Belo Horizonte some time back. Although this blog do NOT subscribe to the infamous “one-drop” of black blood rule by any sense, at the same time we recognize that the idea of race is based upon privileges and penalties based upon social understandings connected to “superior” and “inferior” racial groups. In the above story, Thayla was discriminated against because someone defined her as a “neguinha”, but even after experiencing an incident that clearly adheres to racial concepts of the “other”, she was still denied this identity by the police who were supposed to be assisting her.
What we see here is classic Brazil. The same Brazil that wants its black population to disappear. The same Brazil that has used census trickery to avoid being seen as a “black country”. The same Brazil whose favorite insult for its African descendants is macaco, meaning monkey. The woman in this story, unlike millions of persons who look like her who prefer to identify themselves as “pardos”, defines herself as “negra”. But in a Brazil that wants be as white as possible, even if one wants to be “black”, there is no guarantee that this identity won’t be “blacked out”.