Note from BW of Brazil: This story is actually from back in July but describes how a black Brazilian can face discrimination even in the most mundane of activities. So, a black man can’t even buy a bottle of water???
“I wasn’t even dirty,” says man who suffered racism in a restaurant
Daniel couldn’t buy a bottle of water and was told to go to a place that sold it “a little cheaper”
by Aline dos Santos
“I wasn’t even dirty.” The qualification was soon made at the beginning of the interview with Campo Grande News, by the plasterer Daniel dos Santos Araújo, 45, who on Saturday (July 20th) was impeded from buying water in a luxury restaurant on Antônio Maria Coelho, in Campo Grande (state of Mato Grosso do Sul). Black, he was told by the waiter to look for a gas station 150 meters away, which sells water “a little cheaper.”
Hours later, a white man, the victim’s nephew, bought the bottle at the same restaurant for R$3.30 (US$1.60). The worker says he paid R$5.00 (US$2.40) at the gas post, but the amount included water and a 600 ml (20 ounces) soft drink.
The situation, that in terms to which punishment was framed in Article 8 of Law 7.716, which defines crimes arising from prejudice of race or color, represented the last straw for Daniel Araujo, who decided for the first time, to report to the police prejudice because of skin color.
On Saturday, July 20, the plasterer was working near the Indez restaurant. Around 11am, thirsty, he decided to buy water and, as a matter of convenience, he headed for the establishment. At the entrance of the restaurant, to be sure, he asked one of two couples who were on the sidewalk if they sold water there. With the positive response, he walked up to the waiter, who was described as a morena clara (1).
“I asked for some water and without even asking the price, the waiter said it was R$3.50. Then, he said that they would not sell water in the restaurant and suggested I go to a station at the intersection of the Espírito Santo and Mato Grosso. The waiter said that there it was a “little cheaper and close,” he said.
Daniel then walked another 150 meters and went to the post. At the checkout, he said that he was unable to buy water at the restaurant. “She said, ‘man , that’s discrimination,’” he says. In returning, he passed in front of the restaurant, saying that the same waiter was in front of the door with his arms crossed.
Upset with the situation, Daniel dialed 190, where he received the suggestion of asking a white person to try to buy the same bottle of water. The mission was accomplished by Daniel’s nephew (who was white), who bought the water for R$3.30 and with no problems.
“He asked for the receipt, but the waiter said that the machine was broken. He gave him a paper with the name of the restaurant and the amount of R$3.30.” Daniel reports that the denial of sale to him was witnessed by an older man who was behind the counter. “I assumed that he was the owner,” he says.
Sometimes, in the interview, Daniel repeated that he wasn’t dirty and wore normal clothes. “If I was a guy who came in a big car, even being black, and I had lowered my window, he [the waiter] would come out and given me water.”
The complaint of racism was made in DEPAC Centro (Delegacia de Pronto Atendimento Comunitário or Community Precinct of Emergency Care). Father of a couple of children, the worker should have returned home, in Paulo Coelho Machado, at 1pm. On Saturday, by deciding not to be silent, he ended up getting home six hours later.
The police report was for discrimination for “preventing access or refusing service at restaurants, bars, pastry shops or similar places open to the public.” According to the law, the punishment ranges from one to three years in prison.
Chief of the 1st Precinct of the Civil Police, Wellington Oliveira recalls that cases of blatant racism are a felony. According to him, the case will be investigated and people will be called to provide testimony. A call was made to the Indez restaurant (for comment). An official said the place wasn’t open on Monday and only in the afternoon would it be possible to talk to the owner.
According to data available on the website of Sejusp (Secretaria Estadual de Justiça e Segurança Pública or State Secretary of Justice and Public Safety), between 2009 and today, there was only one complaint for the crime of racism, occurring in January 2011. And the case was registered in the interior of the State. Officially, Campo Grande hasn’t recorded a case of racism in the past four years, according to the sector of statistics from the Department of Justice and Public Safety.
Note from BW of Brazil: A few things worth mentioning here. First of all, many Brazilians, including blacks, often try to diminish acts of racism by reminding that social class discrimination is very strong in Brazil. While no one will deny that social class discrimination is strong in any society, the comparison that Daniel made in his own experience (if he driving in a big car) is a weak comparison. First because black Brazilians of middle class status, possessing education and good jobs also complain of racist incidents, sometimes blatant but often times very subtle. Second, differences of racial and class discrimination often go hand in hand requiring closer scrutiny of situations. In this case, Daniel states that had be been driving a big car, even being black, the waiter would have sold him some water. If this were the case, it would not be a complete analysis to compare a would be middle class black man with a lower class white man, for example, in the same situation. In this case, even carrying the stigma of the “wrong color”, the man’s social status could give him an advantage even though this is not always guaranteed. In the case of interracial marriages, for example, it has been argued that a black man’s money and social status can be traded in order to “marry up” with a woman who is considered his “superior” in terms of color, a white woman. A better analysis of discrimination of race intertwined with class would be to ask which middle class man, black or white, has ever had his status questioned or faced discrimination due to his appearance even having an elevated social status. I think we know the answer to this question.
Source: Campo Grande News
1. Understanding the terms moreno and morena and their countless variations are key to understanding the question of race and color in Brazil. In this case, without a photo, it is difficult to know exactly what this morena clara looked like. The person could be considered a white man with dark hair, a light-skinned person of mixed ancestry or any other countless various other combinations of phenotypes. For a discussion of moreno/morena and its variations see here.