by Mariana Bastos, Gatas Negras
Daymi Ramirez, 28, is a black Cuban woman playing volleyball in a Brazilian volleyball league for the Minas team. She denounced in Facebook that she had been a victim of racism in the state of Santa Catarina*, in a victory over the home team, Rio do Sul, in a match for the women’s volleyball Superliga (Superleague). The Minas team beat their rivals by a score of 3 sets to 1, 22/25 25/19, 14/25 and 16/25 – on the night of Friday, March 9th.
“People, I am very sad and I feel terrible. A Rio do Sul fan came close to the court, where Herrera and I were to scream in our faces: ‘Negras de merda (black shit), go back to Cuba’”, she wrote.
This was the second case of a racist offense in Superliga volleyball this season. One month previously, Wallace, a player in the men’s competition from the Cruzeiro team, was called a ‘monkey’ by a supporter of rival team Minas.
“We can’t accept this. It’s unfortunate. Honestly I never liked the fans here,” Wallace told SporTV at the time. Wallace also said he had looked into the stands, trying to identify the person, but he didn’t manage to locate her. The screams of the fan were captured by the SporTV, the station that broadcast the match live.
“It’s very disgusting to hear such a thing, you can’t accept it. It’s probably better that I was not able to see the person, because I could have lost my mind at the time. It took me a little away from the game,” said the player to the team’s site after the Minas Classic. Three days later, the players of Vôlei Futuro, from Araçatuba (São Paulo), entered the court against the Cruzeiro team wearing black shirts with Wallace’s name on the back as a show of support.
There are a few things as well as questions that stuck out in my mind in regards to both of these situations. In regards to the situation of Daymi Ramirez and her teammate, Herrera (Yusleyni Herrera Alvarez), who were both verbally assaulted and both Cuban, the question of immigration and nationality come into play. Six of the fifteen women on the Minas volleyball team are black, with the other four being Brazilian. In reality, when looking a the photos, there is no clear way of knowing which of the black women were Cuban and which were Brazilian, unless the fan did some research on the team or it is simply common knowledge.
So, the question here would be, we already know that racism clearly exists in Brazil, but is there also a rejection of immigrants that the country needs to address? Better yet, is there a rejection of immigrants of color? In a well known story from 2007, the dorm rooms of 10 African immigrant students at the University of Brasilia in the nation’s capital were firebombed on the very day that Brazil’s vice-president at the time denied the very existence of racism. Red crosses and the sentence “Death to foreign students” were also painted on the doors of the dorms. Perhaps this is a topic for a future post.
The funny thing about the case involving Wallace is that it is often claimed that racism in Brazil doesn’t affect pardos/mulatos, or Brazilians of mixed race. According to all of Brazil’s social statistics, pardos/mulatos are in the same quality of life strata as those defined as pretos/negros (black), which is why pretos and pardos, or negros and mulatos are considered the two groups making up the Afro-Brazilian population. Brazil’s pretos and pardos are both at huge disadvantages in comparison to the nation’s white (branca) population. Oh well, some much for mythology!
* – Santa Catarina is a state located in the south of Brazil. It has one of Brazil’s highest standards of living and is also the state with the highest proportion of citizens that consider themselves to be white, 84%.
** – Photo of Wallace Leandro de Souza updated on May 10, 2013