The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent
Note from BW of Brazil: The presence of black bodies on college and university campuses nowadays is far more than what one would have observed just two decades ago. Affirmative action and other policies have been a big reason for this steady increase of darker-skinned students in institutions of higher learning. Even with this surge over the past two decades, they continue to be vastly under-represented in comparison to the 54% stake pretos e pardos (black and browns) represent in the Brazilian population. But Brazilian society continues to see certain social spaces as belonging to only whiter-skinned people and, as such, these sentiments are often expressed in not so subtle manners, both by students and by the professors. Refusing to turn back, Afro-Brazilians continue to push to demand their right to occupy areas in which they are often viewed as being ‘out of place‘. For more on this, check out the experiences of some of these students in the following report.
Black students face the racism of teachers and colleagues in universities
By Giorgia Cavicchioli and Matheus Moreira (BRIDGE)
From insults of being called “slaves” to jokes about their hair, blacks experience racist attacks
The black student, who prefers not to be identified, says that when she got into publicity and advertising at the Faculdade Cásper Líbero (college) in the city of São Paulo, she expected to encounter some racist episode when she stepped into that space – which, until a few years ago, was almost exclusively white, like all Brazilian higher education. “Because of being an elitist college, I figured I would experience something,” she says. What she didn’t expect was the of a professor.
During a class on March 22, flipping through a student’s World Cup photo album, the professor commented that in Croatia “there are only beautiful people” and, faced with the images of the Nigeria national team, she said “I wanted to know how this one here combs his comb hair, it must be a nest,” according to some students. At the end of the class, the student and her classmates contacted the teacher to question this and other statements she considered discriminatory. During the conversation, the teacher denied that she was a racist, said there was no racism in Brazil (“there is even another black at Cásper”) and she even put her hand in the girl’s hair, claiming “curiosity”.
The episode was taken to the directors of Cásper Líbero by the Africásper students’ collective. That week, the school fired the professor who didn’t have her name disclosed. “After analyzing the notes reported by the student body and listening to the parties involved, Faculdade Cásper Líbero opted for the dismissal of the teacher for the use of inappropriate expressions and attitudes. The college reinforces that repudiates any discriminatory connotation and prejudiced attitude, whether in public or private space,” said the direction of the College, in a note published on Thursday.
‘A place that isn’t theirs’
Episodes like this have been shown to be common in the University environment, revealing the racism of the most schooled. According to data obtained by G1 in conjunction with the Secretaria Estadual da Segurança Pública de São Paulo (State Department of Public Security of São Paulo), the state registered, between 2016 and 2017, a case of racial insult in educational institutions every five days.
The problem is slow to be perceived because “part of the population understands that this should not happen, because the universe is composed of people of a higher educational level,” according to Jefferson Mariano, a doctor in economic development, a socioeconomic analyst at IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística), university professor and black man.
However, with the entry of more young blacks into universities and colleges – according to the Ministry of Education, since the quota policy became law in 2012, 150,000 black students entered higher education institutions in the country between 2013 and 2015 – , the pursuit of whites for defending race privileges becomes more explicit. In the minds of many people, according to Mariano, “blacks are coming to occupy a place that is not theirs.”
Mariano remembers that, in the beginning of his career, he faced explicit cases of prejudice “I taught in the interior of São Paulo in Administration courses and I came to hear racist statements from students, it was a very complicated situation. In economics classes, many students felt that there was no point in discussing the insertion of blacks in the labor market, for example,” he says. “In my master’s degree I had a serious problem. At the end of the course, one of my grades disappeared. The professor made a mistake, but he went to the secretary to question my character. My luck is that the secretary found my work in the archives. The professor did not apologize.”
Still, the racist attacks in higher education are just one of several obstacles faced by whoever, getting there, had to kill several lions along the way. “The fact that a black boy is able to complete the cycle of elementary education is a heroic act,” says the professor, for whom “the black always gets the feeling that he is in the wrong place”. According to an IBGE study, conducted in 2015, the percentage of black youth between 18 and 24 years old who reached the university was 12.8%. Among whites in the same age group the percentage is 26.5%. Figures show that blacks access to higher education is still below average.
For a black student to reach higher education, he must first survive emotionally in the other stages of education. “The black person feels racism in his/her school life from the first day of school. I’ve already commented that the worst place for a black person to be, at age seven, is at school. There is no more hostile place,” says the researcher, who today teaches at the Faculdade Cásper Líbero and the Saint Paul Escola de Negócios.
‘Racists are going to have to pay’
“I found this slave in the smoking area! Whoever is the owner, let me know!” said a white student from FGV (Faculdade Getúlio Vargas) when referring to a black colleague. The phrase was shared in a WhatsApp group with a photo of João Gilberto Lima. The student learned about what happened from the coordination of the public administration course, of which he is a member. Upon learning what had happened, João recorded a boletim de ocorrência (police report) in the 4th DP (region of Consolação in São Paulo), for injúria racial (racial injury/slur).
According to João, he knew from the beginning that he had to formally denounce the case. “I was shocked by what had happened, but my biggest feeling was outrage at what is happening in the environment of the FGV,” said student to Ponte. The offender was suspended for three months from the university by the ethics committee. Currently, the congregation of the institution is considering if it will implement other punishments.
According to João, he had already suffered other cases of racism in his life, but that he had not been anything like what he suffered at university. For him, people who suffer from racism “have the courage to denounce”. “I don’t have the utopia of thinking people will stop being racist. I’m not going to change people’s minds or what they think, but once they externalize it, they will have to pay according to what is provided by law,” he concludes.
Brazilian racism is often disguised as a joke. “Here in Brazil, people offend the dignity of the população negra (black population) saying that this is a joke, but this is about racism,” examines the professor Tiago Vinícius dos Santos, Ph.D in human rights from USP (University of São Paulo).
In order for cases of racism be investigated inside the academy, the professor says that a responsible body must be created to investigate complaints. “It is fundamental to create a center of diversity or a department of the universities,” he says. About student victims of racism, Santos says that the students make a complaint in the institutional field and also in police stations. Thus, he claims that the complaints will not only punish the one who practiced some offense but will also serve as the object of reflection of the institutions.
‘I hate pretos and pardos’
What is not lacking are academic institutions needing to reflect on their role. In March, a professor at the Instituto Federal de São Paulo published on social networks a text, which he would later classify as misunderstood, when giving a series of offenses and concluded: “I hate pretos e pardos (black and browns). Students of the institute made the complaint to the board of directors and the rectory of the Institute and organized at least two demonstrations to demand the exoneration of José Guilherme de Almeida, who taught in the course of Geography. The Institute issued a statement affirming repudiation of racism and promising to investigate the case.
Two students of the institution reported persecution. José Guilherme failed Christopher de Lima Machado and Fábio Santos Souza in two disciplines although both students have sufficient grades to pass for the year. According to Christopher, “he makes a point of saying that the outlaws robbed all the Iphones he’s ever had.”
“I took classes with him and it’s excruciating,” says Fabio. “He does not accept confrontation of students against the things he said in class. Whenever there was confrontation in the classroom, the black students suffered reprisals, even though those involved also had whites,” he says. Ponte (website) tried to get in touch with the professor so he could respond to the cases and the accusations, but he didn’t respond to the reporter’s attempts.
It’s not easy for higher education institutions to understand the issues related to racism. In June 2017, the journalism student Thamires Menezes heard a professor at Universidade Tiradentes, in Aracaju (state of Sergipe), that she couldn’t be a TV news anchor because of her cabelo afro, estilo black power (afro), a style that she wore at the time. Thamires denounced the case, but claims that colleagues, professors and directors at the University began to see the victim as being at fault. The event led the student to leave the course.
“I still studied during the past period, doing my work alone, but I saw that I was paying for college in vain. The teacher is still there, the Coordinator also. The case in the Public Prosecutor’s Office was dropped and my lawyer disappeared. The process never happened and that’s it. I went there to drop the course. The worst thing was getting out of the internship. I loved working there,” she laments.
Now the student has moved to another state to finish the course. Three months ago, she went to Salvador (Bahia) and says she intends to return to school in the next period. Even with the suffering that she went through, she says she sees it as a “new challenge.”
On the episode, the school claims that there was no racism. “This occurred in a common classroom dynamic, when the students and teacher were discussing summaries of the area of Communication that deal with the position of the professional on the benches of television news journals, without expressing any personal opinion on the subject. (…) Therefore, the lack of any derogatory manifestation, form of discrimination or prejudice, for any reason (sex, age, color, preferences, convictions, etc.) on the part of the professor in relation to the student in question was verified,” affirms the university in note. The school says that “the facts were verified internally (by the Ombudsman, which registers the complaints, and the Ethics Commission, which acts in the investigation of complaints involving professors and students), the police authority of Sergipe and other state organs, within the scope of their procedural competencies,” without the crime being verified.
Fight and victory
For Larissa Mendes, student of the Escola Politécnica of USP that in 121 years of existence graduated only seven black women, the bias was manifested in less direct ways. “Within Poli, racism is almost the same as Brazil as a whole: no one is directly racist,” she says. “I never heard any evidently racist comment, but, whenever I would come down from the circular in Poli, people would push me, because in their mind I’m not part of the profile of people who come down at the bus stop at the best engineering college in the country.”
Larissa is part of the Poli Negra collective propelled the debate on quotas in the college, forcing students from there to see that there was a racial issue to be debated. “Until then, no matter how many poor and black students said something, people thought it was normal to look to their sides and only see people like them: white, rich, from good schools,” she says. By holding several meetings with the academic centers, Poli Negra was able to push for a plebiscite which, in 2017, indicated that 70% of the students supported the quotas. In the same year, when the University Council of USP approved the implantation of social and racial quotas. “It was a huge victory,” she concludes.
Source: Minas 1