Note from BW of Brazil: In previous articles posted on this blog, I’ve described racism in Brazil as the ‘perfect crime’. I define it as ‘perfect’ because time after time white Brazilians physically or verbally assault black Brazilians and walk away with a slap on the wrist. These things happen constantly and the assailants often challenge the victims to sue them because, with money, they know they’ll simply go to jail/court for a short period, only get a small fine and then walk away relatively unscathed. Remember the Hitler supporter who berated a black woman on a Rio beach and then told her to “next time be born white”? Or the TV host in the nation’s capital that called a popular black singer a monkey, was fired and then hired by another network just a few weeks later? Or the elderly white woman who assaulted and kicked the black psychologist? And these are just a few of the numerous aggressions featured on this blog. My question is, again, these sorts of things have happened for decades, in fact centuries, in Brazil, so how is it that this country managed to successfully promote itself as a ‘racial democracy’ for so long?
Lawyer arrested for assaulting black hairdresser in Belo Horizonte
This is everyday Brazil. For decades, racism was denied by white as well as black Brazilians, but with the rise of black consciousness and a new pride among many Afro-Brazilians, we see more and more examples of white people boldly abusing black people without fear of any punishment. Where do these people get the nerve to make such open attacks on other citizens? Well, this is part of the reason that I say it’s the perfect crime. One, people know they won’t face any real punishment, and as such, could commit such acts again and again and get away with it. And two, the difference between what’s labeled as racism or simply a ‘racial injury’ is the difference between a mere slap on the wrist (the latter) or a person facing stiffer consequences for their actions (the former). And as long as cases such as one below are continuously labeled as simply a ‘racial injury’, the punishment will never fit the crime. Let’s take a look at the story…
In Belo Horizonte, 70-year white lawyer verbally and physically assaults black hairdresser on a bus, and is released after paying bail
Courtesy of BHAZ, Além Da Mídia, O Tempo and EM
While the color of the skin and curls in the hair are a source of pride for a population that has become aware of its black origins, a historical and deep-rooted prejudice persists in Brazilian society.
On March 21st, the very International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, this type of attitude angered the 28-year-old Taciana Cristina Souza Pires, who had been physically and verbally assaulted the day before when she was riding a bus in downtown Belo Horizonte.
A 70-year-old lawyer was arrested Monday afternoon after pulling a woman’s hair and assaulting her with a slap in the face on a bus in downtown Belo Horizonte. The elderly also called the hairdresser a macaca (monkey) and generated revolt among passengers of bus route 3503, on Caetés street, in the capital city’s downtown, which makes the journey between the neighborhoods of Santa Terezinha and São Gabriel. Witnesses reported to the authorities that the man tried to flee but was restrained by people who witnessed the scene. He was eventually indicted, caught in the act of injúria racial (racial injury/slur). However, he left by the front door of the police station after paying bail of R$1,000.
According to the Military Police (PM), Taciana Cristina Souza Pires, 28, said she was assaulted by Walter Roberto do Amaral shortly after boarding the bus. She said she went up the steps and suddenly felt a tug at her hair. The hairdresser further reported that as she turned to try to identify the perpetrator of the assault, she was surprised by a slap in the face. The elderly man also called her a macaca several times.
Occupants on the bus intervened and the lawyer tried to escape in a taxi. “The people wanted to lynch him right there. They tried to assault him, but I did not let him. We are talking about a man of 70 years,” says the victim. When he was prevented from getting in the car, Walter ran toward Praça Sete (Seven Square) but was followed by Taciane and her brother, who appeared during the confusion to protect her. At the scene, Military Police personnel were called in by witnesses. All those involved went to the Central de Flagrantes (Ceflan), in the Floresta neighborhood.
The case generated commotion among friends of the hairdresser and went viral in social networks. This Tuesday (21), the salon where Taciana works, Todo Black é Power (Every Black, meaning afro – is Power), – a space in Belo Horizonte dedicated to the valorization of black aesthetics, promoted a breakfast in order to support the professional in an action to repudiate the aggressions she suffered. To the Bhaz website, she reported being humiliated by the situation.
According to the hairdresser, the old man offended her loudly, not caring what other passengers on the bus heard. “I questioned what was happening and he said he didn’t like my hair, he called me a monkey and hideous and that if he caught me in the street, [the aggression] would be worse,” she said.
“The racist, verbal aggressions, continued in front of the police, who did not react.”
Taciana said that even after being pursued by witnesses, the lawyer didn’t stop offending her. “When we got close to cops, he kept calling me a monkey and mocking me. He said that he is a lawyer and that, therefore, calling the police would accomplish nothing,” she said. “In front of the police, he denied assaulting me. He told the Military Police that he just didn’t like my hair. I felt helpless. The police officers even asked me if I really wanted to make the boletim de ocorrência (incident report). I decided to take advice from friends and acquaintances, since I had no idea what might happen. I thought it was just a waste of my time, but I understand the importance,” she said.
The hairdresser further claimed to have been astonished at the number of elderly lawyers at the police station. “His lawyers didn’t stop coming to the police station, really a lot of people. One of them told the cops that I pushed him, that there had been a confusion. But that was not it and the people on the bus witnessed it,” she says.
On the lawyer’s way out of the police station, dozens of people spoke out against the attack. “The people started yelling and fencing the car he came in after paying the bail. Just like at the time of the assault, I didn’t want anyone to touch him. What he did was wrong, but he is old,” she continued. “People wanted him to apologize for what he did, but that’s never going to happen,” she added.
Taciana still reports this being the first time she suffered prejudice because of hair and skin color. “I’ve heard in the salon that some customers are afraid to do braided or different hair because of the reaction of people on the street. And, unfortunately, it is a reality. I thought it was in people’s minds, but it’s real,” she explained. “I did the corpus delicti and analyzed the possibility of suing him. What he did was not just a simple aggression,” she said.
Walter was released from the station after paying bail. Authorities have taken into account the fact that the lawyer is already 70 years old and has no criminal record.
“He was released and I stayed here, at the police station. But this won’t remain like this. I’m going to seek justice. I’ll sue him. Racism cannot go unpunished. The girls from the institute and representatives of various social movements and black groups are here to support me,”said Taciane.
According to the Civil Police, Taciane will be taken to the Medical Legal Institute (IML) to take exame de corpo de delito (see note one). The case will be investigated and referred to justice. Yet according to the corporation, the penalty for racial slander varies from one to three years.
It is far from being an isolated case. Reports of people inciting hate motivated by color, ethnicity, religion or origin of their victims totaled 401 cases – between racism and racial insult – from January to November last year in the state of Minas Gerais, an average of 36 occurrences each month or more than one per day.
Sought by Bhaz, the OAB-MG (Brazilian Bar Association of Minas Gerais) informed, through its spokesperson, that the elderly called members of the Commission of Defense of Prerogative of the entity in the wrong way. The professionals work with the objective of assisting lawyers who had their rights violated in the exercise of their profession. However, in this case, Walter was appointed as plaintiff and charged in flagrante for a racial injury. Now the Commission on Human Rights is also monitoring the case in order to ensure the rights of the victim.
Reporters of this story also called the office of Walter Roberto do Amaral several times in an attempt to talk to the elderly man or his lawyers. Two employees of the company only informed us that he will not comment on what happened.
In the beauty salon where she works, the atmosphere was one of solidarity among her professional colleagues. Taciana was clearly shaken up, but at the same time she was determined to defend black culture. She said that she spent practically the whole night awake, thinking about the episode. “I will never forget that man, his blue eyes, offending me, calling me a monkey several times. But I know that I am beautiful, my hair is beautiful and I am marvelous,” said the professional. Confident, she explains the reasons that led her to the police station to file a complaint against the assailant. “I could not let this go unchallenged, we have to report it. I do this today not only for myself, but for all the men and women who suffer from racism every day,” said the hairdresser.
“People don’t denounce it, precisely because of the feeling of impunity”
Taciana reveals that she even thought about not filing the report, but said she was motivated to take the case forward because of the people present. “At first, I thought I was not going to get anything. But that is exactly why people don’t denounce it, precisely because of the feeling of impunity,” she says.
Bringing the case to the attention of the authorities is exactly the advice given by the Coordinator of Human Rights Coordination of the Civil Police, Elizabeth Martins. She explains that although there is still much disrespect for race, color, ethnicity, religion or origin, it is necessary to denounce. “Before, offenses were viewed as a joke. People were offended, but they were silent. Now they are having more awareness,” he says. She also says that although in some cases there are difficulties to prove the accusation, in most of the cases there are witnesses, recordings and internet records that work as evidence.
Taciana was still revolted with the bail that allowed the release of the accused. “When I got home, I kept asking myself: what justice is this? I didn’t let anyone lay a hand on the man, just to make sure that legal justice was done. But then the one responsible, who was caught red-handed, pays R$1,000 and goes home?”, she asked. Taciana says that at no time did the aggressor appear repentant.
Racial Injury x Racism
Racial injury consists in offending one’s honor by using elements of race, color, ethnicity, religion or origin. Racism, on the other hand, reaches an undetermined collectivity of individuals, discriminating the entirety of a race. Unlike racial injury, the crime of racism is unassailable and imprescriptible.
The more educated, the worse the racist: Hairdresser is beaten and called ‘monkey’ by lawyer in BELO HORIZONTE
Courtesy of Mamapress via Além Da Mídia
If everything that happened were not enough, having been a victim of racial aggression in a physical and verbal way, Taciane’s name was also disclosed, as well as her place of employment, while the racist aggressor, supposedly a lawyer, had his name protected by the police station, as well as a bail of negligible value.
Taciane Cristina took an excellent position, reacted, ran after the racist, and still managed (almost a miracle) that the police caught him in the act. And on top of that, she saved the racist from lynching. The girl had guts and cool blood. She didn’t match the racist bastard.
The Movimento Negro (black movement) of BH must soon discover the name of this bastard so that all the black women of BH, know where he goes and the danger he is, for all the black people, with Belo Horizonte having this racist sniper, ready to attack the first black woman he sees from the front or attacks from behind.
As always, the police chiefs side with the racists and protect them, as if protecting a child who does mischief. With this ridiculous bail rate, again the victim is twice offended. In addition to the humiliation of police officers who asked her you to “let this go.”
Black lawyers, it is more than work to assert racial insult, because the penalty is the same, and racial injury is nothing more than racism.
The only difference is posting bail. The crime remains the same. Despite law firms, trying to mitigate racism for the racist. For those discriminated against, racism is only increased by the lack of police officers and the judiciary trying to demonstrate that they only typify the crime of racism as a “racial insult” instead of pure and simple racism with flagrant arrest.
We don’t like to make assumptions about the worse the better, but we would not like to imagine how the victim would have been treated by the police chief if she, as a discriminatory and racially assaulted, had she let the racist bastard be lynched.
Also according to the report by Ailton do Vale, Taciane, described the situation in which the racist, a supposed lawyer, still threatened to assault her more if she were alone on the street. And he apologized by saying, “desculpa macaca” (sorry monkey).
Which increasingly proves that in Brazil the more “educated”, the worse the racist.
Lawyer arrested for racism, posts bail and is released by police
Note from BW of Brazil: I hate to keep repeating myself, but this case is so typical of Brazil for the following reasons. One, the white assailant felt no remorse for doing what he did and securely walking away. Two, even with a number of witnesses on the scene, the police still didn’t want to do anything about it. And three, in the video above, at the 37 second mark, the journalist from the sensationalist Record TV news program Balanço Geral, made the following comment:
“The guy is a lawyer, 70 years old, he has experience, has already lived quite a bit, and hasn’t learned that somos todos iguais (we are all equal), that there’s no difference. The color, it’s one detail.”
Again, we have this ridiculous Brazilian response to racism that we’ve seen so many times in past posts. I always wonder, if “we are all equal”, why is it that these types of incidents always happen to black Brazilians who are consistently victims of such assaults due to the very differences that such a stupid slogan refuses to acknowledge. Today’s feature is infuriating on so many different levels. But what really got me is that the black woman who was assaulted in such a cowardly way behaved as a human being throughout the entire ordeal. She even protected her aggressor from the revenge that an angry crowd wanted to bestow upon him. Not only did the coward attempt to flee the scene after his aggression (reminiscent of a similar case in the nation’s capital in 2013), in the end the guy walks away after posting bail. This is why I say that in no way does Brazil really want to fight racism and protect its citizens who are vulnerable to such attacks at any given moment. For many years, black people have taught their children that people who insult, bully or physically assault them simply have a “lack of education”. Well, we’ve seen psychologists commit such acts, university professors (and here), city councilmen and many others express their disdain for black people, so I would say this has nothing to do with a lack of education and that we need to stop providing excuses for such behavior. But the real question for me is, how long will black Brazilians continue to believe in integration and co-existence with a people that continuously prove they believe they are superior and have the right to continue humiliating, assaulting and degrading them?
- Exam to provide evidence that a crime had been committed