To illustrate this point and debunk this belief, I will highlight just one incident that happened last summer. This incident is by no means an isolated incident as various newspapers, television news programs and hundreds of academic studies have divulged countless examples of the prevailing practice of racism endemic in Brazilian society. Last July, the teacher and educator of social sciences, Neusa Maria Marcondes (photo), 62, won a suit for the crime of racism against her by the director of the Benedito Calixto School District elementary schools, Frances Silvana Teixeira. The ruling came on July 6 (2011) in the city São Paulo.
“Unfortunately in this country nobody goes to jail, but I’ll continue fighting against impunity”, Marcondes said.
Neusa said that in addition to criminal prosecution, she will demand a position from the Coordinator of Education of Itaquera (state of São Paulo) and the Ombudsman of the Department of Education on the case. The teacher hopes that people have the courage to stand up against any kind of prejudice:
Neusa said that unfortunately there is prejudice against blacks in Brazil, in a veiled way, but it exists:
There are key several things to consider in this case. First, it is important to realize that Marcondes is a teacher, which tells us that she is educated and that she has a certain level of status. This debunks the idea that social status eliminates prejudice. The second thing that caught my attention was her belief that prejudice against black existed in a “veiled way.” Everyday in Brazil, Afro-Brazilians are accosted with all sorts of insulting terms besides the aforementioned macaca (monkey).
Here are only a few of those terms:
Negro safado: shameless, dirty and mischievous
Negro de merda: black piece of shit
Negro nojento: disgusting black.
Another common insult that one hears throughout Brazil is:
Só pode ser coisa de preto or só pode ser preto: Meaning, in a negative situation, “It could only be a thing of the black/black thing” or “It could only have been a black”, or “Only a black would do such a thing.”
Between the years 1998 and 1999, University of São Paulo professor of Anthropology Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães studied complaints of racial insults at a São Paulo police station. He found that racial insults are most commonly used in work environments, neighborhoods and in stores or areas of consumption. The term macaca (feminine) or macaco (masculine) are the most commonly used animal insult against Afro-Brazilians. The objective of this type of insult is to demean the subject, classify them as less than human and/or maintain them in the inferior social place that Brazilian society has historically reserved for the person of African descent.
In my view, there’s certainly nothing subtle or “veiled” about that.
* – Article and court decision from July of 2011
** – Collective group of Black Brazilian civil rights organizations
Pieces of this article were translated from the Portuguese