Note from BW of Brazil: Another day, another report from a Brazil where “we are all equal”. All of the stories featured in today’s post come courtesy of the northeastern state of Piauí, and provide us with still more examples of what it is to be black in a country like Brazil. In reality, the cases aren’t really anything special, but they’re important to demonstrate what ordinary citizens think of black people beyond the façade that denies this these sorts of thoughts and this type of behavior exist. Before I comment on today’s piece, let’s get into what happened…
Young victim of racism assaulted in Dom Expedito Lopes
Young was beaten in a case of racism in southern Piauí (Photo: Mateus Rodrigues)
Fear, pain and anger. These are the feelings of the student Mateus Rodrigues de Sousa Martins, 20, who was assaulted verbally and physically, he said, because of being black. The case occurred in the Buriti Grande region of Dom Expedito Lopes, a neighboring city of Picos.
According to Mateus Rodrigues, he was going to his grandma’s house when the assailant, who is a colleague of his, approached and asked where he’d gotten the shoes he was wearing.
“He wanted to know where I had gotten (the gym shoes) because, according to him, I could not wear that kind of gym shoe nor name brand clothes because I was black. He said that blacks don’t wear name brand gym shoes and can’t display them. I responded by saying that I had bought them with my money, he got angry and started beating me,” he said.
Also according to the student when, during the argument, he tried to defend himself and said he would report it, the aggressor threatened him saying he would kill him if the report was made. This occurred on Monday night (October 3rd).
The same night, the victim and his mother went to the police station in Picos to register a boletim de ocorrência (BO or police report). Matthew was taken to the hospital and the medical team found that the young man had fractures in his face and his nose was broken. By Tuesday morning (October 6th), the publication had over 1,000 curtidas (likes) and 506 compartilhamentos (shares).
After the crime the student’s sister, Mylla Rodrigues, published photos of her brother on a social network after the assault. In a conversation with the G1 (website), she revealed how the family is feeling, and said the attacker always gave evidence of being violent.
“He (aggressor) had verbally assaulted my brother. Everyone knows him in the city and knows he’s aggressive. My family always taught us that no matter what color we have, we are all people, so when they made some joke, just ignore it. But physical aggression had never happened. My family is dissatisfied with everything. We made a B.O and nothing has happened yet. We feel wronged,” she said.
G1 tried contacting the police chief who is following the case, but he didn’t return calls.
On the 27th of last month, G1 reported another case of injúria racial (racial injury/slur) that had repercussions in the state. A young woman also went to the police after being barred with her mother in a shopping mall in Teresina, the capital city of Piauí.
The incident occurred at the entrance of Teresina Shopping in the East Zone of the capital city. Through a note sent to G1, the company said it does not condone any kind of prejudice and always seeks to promote actions and campaigns focused on equality and respect, such as the campaign “Vista-se de coragem” (dress yourself with humility) launched recently. The mall emphasized that the initiative seeks to encourage complaints and raise awareness of the various types of violence against women.
In the video, Ruana argues that others entered at the same time at the mall and were not impeded. “A lot of people went by and you didn’t request (ID), you asked for my ID because I’m preta (black). Is that it? I’ll call the police,” she said during a part in the video.
The case occurred on September 17th, when she, her mother and two friends tried to enter the mall, while still in the parking area. According to Ruana, her two friends, with white skin, who accompanied her were not barred. The student also said she noticed the fact that security guards didn’t ask for the documents of the other people who entered the mall normally.
“He asked for my documents and I said that I was of age. My mother came behind and he asked for her papers. So far so good, but I began to notice that many people passed by and he didn’t ask anyone for documents. I had no ID and we could just go in through another entry. Juliana, my friend, who is white, was not barred. My (male) friend also wasn’t. They passed (through) and we didn’t,” she reported.
The student, who was born in São Luis (capital of Maranhão, state in the northeast) and has lived in Teresina for five months, said she questioned the security about why they many people were entering the mall without any hindrance. According to her, the man apologized saying that it was a normal establishment procedure. The friend of the student, who was not barred, filmed a part of the confusion.
“My friend, who had already entered, returned and began filming. But then another employee came. He said we were barred because we were underage, but my mother had already shown him her document. I said I would call the police. I was nervous and embarrassed. Coincidentally, all who entered were white. Some 10 minutes had passed and I questioned everything,” she said.
The student reports that a third employee got involved, called the two who were already involved and told them to stop arguing “because they didn’t even have a lawyer”. Ruana said has she cried a lot about the situation and even having already suffered acts of discrimination, considers this the worst of all because it was a public embarrassment.
“People passed by, said me not to raise a fuss, that I should let it go. There is a naturalization of this kind of behavior (racial injury). After that I knew of other girls who wear cabelo black power who went through the same thing. That is, people are going through it, there is a procedure to bar blacks,” she denounced.
The student said that she will initiate a suit and will not be silent on the incident. She reports that her mother has gone through something like this for 23 years and is now reliving the past, another fact that motivates her to take the case to court.
“I am determined about it, because the more we naturalize situations like this, the worse it gets. They will say it’s vitimismo (victimhood). People have to know that it’s a crime. I fight because I don’t want to go through this. They tell me to let it go, but it’s me who’s going to sleep with my embarrassment, with my anger,” she added.
In the same month, the model and Miss Esperantina 2016 Kayra Nascimento, said she “felt angry and was being discarded because of color” after an audio was played for her after the Miss Piauí contest, held on September 10th. In the audio Kayra is called ‘negrinha’ twice, according to her, by the event organizer.
The model’s lawyer met with a representative of the Ministério Público (public prosecutors) and the Civil Police so that the Miss Piauí 2016 case is investigated in good faith.
Note from BW of Brazil: So what have we here? Two more demonstrations of Brazil’s desire to keep black people “in their place”. Think about what the aggressor in the first incident said. According to the victim of the assault, blacks don’t wear name brands gym shoes or clothes. Absolutely absurd. For me, there are at least two possibilities in this case. 1) This guy is totally disconnected from reality as Afro-Brazilians collectively spend hundreds of millions of reais every year, an entrepreneur’s treasure chest that has still yet to fully develop or been explored. Or 2) (which I believe is probably the case), the guy was irritated by the fact that he saw a black guy wearing name brand shoes and clothing because, as Afro-Brazilians are still treated as second-class citizens even when they attain an education, have a good job and earn a respectable salary, he didn’t like the fact that someone who he probably looked upon as being beneath him to, may have been dressed better than him. The thinking here is obvious: if one is black they are not supposed/expected to have access to the same things that white people have. We’ve seen this same reaction when Afro-Brazilians live in certain places, drive certain cars or frequent certain places. Can you think of any other explanation?
In terms of the second case at the shopping mall, it is simply a continuation of Brazilian society’s problem with black people going to sophisticated shopping malls just like any other citizen. Two of the young woman’s friends (both white) had no problems entering the mall and apparently countless other white people were entering the mall with no hassle. One of the guards even admitted that this sort of behavior was “normal establishment procedure”. So, if they attempted to impede Ruana from entering but didn’t do it with any white persons entering the same place, what should one deduct from the situation? Well, based on what I read, I would summarize this as the mall’s standard policy to impede black people from the mall, especially if they wore their hair in a natural manner. Yet another example of why we feature so many personal stories of black Brazilians who have decided to stop straightening or cutting their hair very short in order to avoid such humiliating treatment. It is for this very reason that a black Brazilian wearing their hair natural in modern day Brazil is indeed a political stance.
In closing I will stress again that what happened to both of these people is not in the least bit surprising considering the everyday bouts of racism that people go through across a country. But the fact that someone believes blacks can’t possibly have name brand clothes and shoes and security continues to have a problem with black people simply entering a mall tells us quite a bit about Brazil, wouldn’t you say?