Note from BW of Brazil: The past week has been yet another battle of public opinion that has once shown a Brazil divided into two sides. The controversy surrounds yet another display of inequality, protection of class privilege and the apartheid manner in which one side fights to maintain that privilege while the other fights for the right to the same opportunities; and for the third straight month no less. In December, the debate was about space and access to middle class beaches and accusations of poor, mostly black thieves robbing people on the beach. Last month, there were the security threats, surveillance and even quasi-check points in upper crust shopping malls.
The latest controversy surrounds petty crime and vigilante groups who feel it is their right to take justice into their own hands when law enforcement doesn’t seem to be adequate. The week’s controversy began with publishing of a photo showing a teenage black boy, stripped naked and pinned by his neck to a pole with a bicycle lock. Since the photo appeared, the internet has been loaded with opinions and comments in favor of the actions of the vigilantes as well as those who believe the actions were a throw-back to Brazil’s 300 plus years of slavery and a brutal 21-year military dictatorship.
BW of Brazil has already chimed in on this issue (see original post), but recently the flames of controversy were fanned significantly with the controversial statements of two public figures, both known for stirring up the pot with inflammatory remarks. Sharing his opinion on the topic, Mauricio Stycer put it this way:
Even I understand, though I don’t agree, that sectors of the population, outraged by the violence, support gestures such as that of the young men who detained a suspected thief, beat him and left him naked and tied to a pole with a bike lock in the Flamengo area of Rio.
But I find it strange for a television broadcaster to disclose such an aggressive message of support for this gesture, such as the comment made by the SBT journalist Rachel Sheherazade on Tuesday (04) about “the little punk tied to the post.”
“In a country that suffers from endemic violence, the attitude of the avengers is even understandable,” said the reporter. “The state is absent, the police demoralized, the courts are failing…What is left to the good citizen, who, on top of all this, was unarmed? Defend themselves, of course.” She concluded: “The counterattack to thugs is what I call legitimate collective self-defense of a stateless society against a state of violence without limit.”
Note from BW of Brazil: Up to that point, the social media had already been on fire about the case, but Sheherazade’s comments took it up a notch. And right around that time, two more public figures, this time in the political arena stepped forward and represented both sides of the battle. One, a woman whose story inspired a book and a documentary highlighting her meteoric rise from poverty to the governor’s mansion and the other a representative of the extreme right whose fiery comments have made him a controversial figure for a number of years.
Aggression in Flamengo: Deputudo (Congresswoman) Benedita da Silva defends youth accused of theft; Deputado Jair Bolsonaro calls him a vagabond
The federal deputy Benedita of Silva protested in the Câmara (House), on Tuesday, against the beating of a teenager accused of practicing thefts in Flamengo in Rio. The youth, 15, was found naked, bound at the neck to a pole with a bicycle lock. Minutes later, another deputy, Jair Bolsonaro, reacted with irony in defense of his colleague and suggested that she adopt the boy.
In her comment, Benedita was against the creation of the group considered “vigilantes: in Rio:
“We know that those who commit crime should be punished, but we cannot let justiceiros (vigilantes), middle-class boys, make judgement of a poor boy. He actually practiced petty theft, but it is up to the state to provide security for citizens and not let vigilante groups be created,” said Benedita, in the tribune of the Chamber.
The attack occurred on Friday evening. According to reports from residents who rescued the boy, he said he had been subject to “motorcycle justiceiros.”
“Again, as a black woman, I looked and saw the casa grande e a senzala (big house and the slave quarters). We’ve already seen this movie in the State of Rio de Janeiro. It’s appalling, it’s sad, it’s perverse,” Benedita opined.
Forty minutes later, Bolsonaro reacted with irony. He volunteered to chair the Commission on Human Rights of the House and suggested that Benedita adopt the boy, whom he called a vagabond and thief:
“In case she doesn’t do this, I vow here to send one my advisor to the Fundação Casa to give the address of Deputy Benedita of Silva to that vagabond, so that he can practice theft there on the street in the neighborhood where she lives, and not on Avenida Rui Barbosa, in the neighborhood of Flamengo. In my understanding, whoever gave a beating to this vagabond committed a brave act, because the locals are tired of being robbed and assaulted by this mob,” said Bolsonaro.
The president of the Comissão Nacional de Direitos Humanos da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (OAB or National Human Rights Commission of the Bar Association of Brazil), Wadih Damous, classified the attitude of those who seek to attain justice on their own as barbaric:
“Doing justice with your own hands is to recede to barbarism. The episode shows how the civilizing principles are being increasingly ignored and also shows the absence of the state that chooses to focus the police force on guarding malls and forgetting the safety of people in their neighborhoods.”
Note from BW of Brazil: A sociologist was another voice saw the links between global human rights violations and the Brazilian situation while yet another, a union, sought to take action…
“These issues have always existed; the big difference is the communication process. This process of globalization of information has trivialized the suffering and the scenes have a virtual connotation… almost everything is very immediate and disposable,” says sociologist Elza Padua, author of the thesis Esquizofrenia Social (Social Schizophrenia).
“How does Brazilian society behave in respect to this? Are we as horrified as the war of the Jews against Arabs, as the woman who is raped in India…The only thing that differentiates this chaos is our proximity. It’s the feeling of panic because of the proximity. We’re really at the limit, now begins a very serious problem, which is how you deal with a reality like this without going crazy,” adds Padua.
The Sindicato dos Jornalistas Profissionais do Município do Rio de Janeiro (Union of Professional Journalists of the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro) and the Comissão de Ética (Ethics Committee) of the entity radically manifested against a severe violation of human rights and the Code of Ethics of Brazilian Journalists represented in the statements of anchor Sheherazade during the SBT news broadcast.
Note from BW of Brazil: Besides other politicians and representatives, Sheherazade’s comments even drew the ire of her colleagues in the world of journalism…
In a statement issued via Twitter, Jornal da GloboNews and Arquivo N host Leilane Neubarth also criticized the SBT anchor: “People, what is the host Rachel Sheherazade? The journalist infringed on the code of ethics and embarrassed her professional peers.”
Sheherazade is famous for making controversial comments tailored to the style of the American TV network, Fox News, which is identified with the right wing Republican party.
Note from BW of Brazil: In an online article, Kiko Nogueira asked:
Legitimate defense where?
There is no legal justification for such barbarity. If the intention was to hit, but not kill, it’s injury. The Criminal Code provides as follows: “To take justice into your own hands, to satisfy claims, although legitimate, unless the law allows: detention of 15 days to one month, or a fine in addition to the penalty corresponding to violence.”
Note from BW of Brazil: Over the past several years, many Brazilians have shared the view of the increasing lack of quality and deception on the part of the Brazilian media. Sheherazade’s clearly biased opinion was demonstrated in the manner in which she supported what amounted to a public lynching of a poor, black teen while urging that a troubled, white teen pop star be given a break.
She (Sheherazade) has suffered heavy criticism on social networks. In the recent edition of a newscast, the journalist’s station also reinforced that the opinion issued was that of the journalist herself and not the SBT network.
Earlier, the controversial statement also reverberated among politicians. For the leader of Psol (Partido Socialismo e Liberdade or Socialism and Liberty Party) in the Câmara dos Deputados (House of Representatives), Ivan Valente (São Paulo), SBT and the journalist made an apology for crime in primetime. “This kind of television that proliferates fascism through TVs need a bridle that goes through the democratization of the media and social control,” criticized Ivan on Twitter. “The same journalist Rachel who supported the lynching of a poor, black youth, defending the antics of the star (Justin) Bieber as a teenage thing,” he continued.
Note from BW of Brazil: Valente refers to another statement made by the SBT journalist regarding the recent troubles of pop star Justin Bieber. In another SBT broadcast, Shehearazade said:
“But whoever has never been a rebel without a cause, whoever never questioned their values, whoever never lost himself or sought to find himself, cast the first stone,” she said.
Then the host requested that authorities go easy on the star. “The doctors say it is normal. It is a syndrome of adolescence. For anonymous and famous, like Justin, it’s a phase of turbulence, hormones boiling, conflicts, aggression. It is the search for identity. Take it easy on Justin! The boy is only growing up,” she concluded.
Note from BW of Brazil: Shehearazade’s apparent contradictory views on the two situations highlight a different view of blackness and whiteness in the collective minds of Brazilian society that still today people refuse to acknowledge. “It was not because he was black, but because he was a thief” people have and will continue to say. Reality check; race cannot be separated from this incident because of one simple reason: the image of black kids in Brazil. It is not groups of white kids that are denied entrance to a mall, followed around by security or had their backpacks checked by security. This blog is FULL of incidents of disrespect and blatant acts of racism in which regular, everyday black people have NOT stolen anything. In other words, it is their skin that is their sin.
Case in point; in an example that has been featured twice on this blog, last year, a white, blue-eyed, drug addicted, homeless man who had also committed petty crimes was discovered randomly by a woman who was simply enchanted by this man’s looks. She took his photo, posted it on Facebook and received literally thousands of “likes” of women who adored his photo. This man received the sympathy, adoration and support of a public that made sure he got the help he needed, put him in a rehabilitation center and nursed him back to health. Today, he is planning his wedding.
On the other hand, how was this 15-year black kid treated? He was surrounded by a white mob (with one black) who he described as very menacing, strong and toting weapons. This middle class mob with all the privileges of their middle class status (memberships in expensive gyms, for example) used these privileges to terrorize a kid who has been denied these same privileges; a lack of privileges that his color plays a large role in. The black kid is symbolically lynched while a white man in the same scenario is adored. Of course, color had nothing to do with this, right?
Typical response: “Well, he should go to school, study, work hard and he’ll attain the same privileges.” Again, the simplicity of the argument is laughable. The black kid and his friends were planning to sleep on the beach on the night he was assaulted, which means he is homeless. If he is homeless, it is most likely true that he comes from a poor family. If he comes from a poor family, he most likely needed to leave school to help with family income as is so common in black Brazilian families. If he did go to school, he most likely experienced treatment that told him that “school is no place for blacks.” In order to get into college, kids need a good education which often means expensive private education, which again is a privilege of predominantly white families. On the other hand, how many from the middle class “lynch mob” came from well-to-do families? Families whose whiteness opened doors or those who have maintained privileged status since the slavery era in which Brazil divided itself into the “haves” (predominantly white) and the “have nots” (predominately non-white).
Yes, the 15-year old black kid’s skin color had EVERYTHING to do with this case. And in accordance with the treatment reserved for this skin color, Brazilians will continue to exclude, marginalize and lynch the easiest target; its majority!
Below is a video re-mix of the SBT anchor on the black teen in Rio and Justin Bieber. Of course it’s Portuguese but the translations are in text above…