Note from BW of Brazil: Yet another area that we can study when considering the racial issue in Brazil are the experiences of Afro-Brazilians in occupations, positions and areas of study that people don’t normally expect them to be in. As billboards and advertisements clearly show us, Brazilian society expects to see black people sweeping the streets, cooking the meals, cleaning the homes or taking care of their bosses’ children, but society still doesn’t know how to deal with those black Brazilians who aspire to be doctors, lawyers, judges, etc. On the one hand, these sentiments are based on the fact that, due to Brazil’s centuries long exclusion of black people from the upper echelons of the society, people really aren’t accustomed to seeing them in certain places. In one report, for example, Afro-Brazilian graduates in areas such as Medicine, Law and Economics were only 2.66%, 5.03% and 5.5% respectively. But the other side of these sentiments is pure prejudice that seeks to keep Afro-Brazilians “in their place”. Don’t believe it? Well, check out the experiences of this dentist, this judge or this real estate specialist. The fact is, the only way to change the society’s views is to continue to show qualifications, results and placing more black faces in every area. Which is why stories like that of today’s post are so important and necessary.
In 124 years, Larissa Rodrigues Mendes Silva will be one of the 10 black students to graduate in Engineering at USP
Interviewed by TVT, the student reports situations she has had to deal with during the course. “The only black people you have here are security guards, the cleaning girls, because there almost no student.”
Courtesy of RBA
Larissa is the only woman, black and the periphery in the USP classroom. ‘We always think that this is not for us’
Larissa Rodrigues Mendes Silva is 19 years old and lives in Capão Redondo, on the outskirts of the south zone of São Paulo. From the age of 10, she’s dreamed of constructing important buildings in the city. The young woman studied in a public school, obtained a 100% scholarship in a renowned course and earned a degree in Engineering at the University of São Paulo (USP).
Facing barriers in the day to day, the university student says that it’s not easy being a woman, black and from the periphery in a college where 82% of students are men and 59% belong to class A (top economic class), as pointed out by USP itself.
“We always think that this is not for us, no matter how much my parents encouraged us to go to a public university. But even so, you have something like that so far away that you think it will never happen,” she said in an interview with reporter Vanessa Nakasato of TVT.
The student states that, as she has always studied in a public school, she suffered from a lack of teachers and an excess of vacant classes. In the meantime, she entered a renowned college prep course. She woke up at 4am to arrive at 7am. In addition to the long trip, she also suffered from prejudice in the classroom.
“I had an anxiety crisis, with the desire to give up, because I had never seen this before. I was in a classroom that had 200 students and it was me and another menino negro (black boy). I always heard some comments of the type ‘aren’t you scared that some bug will get in your hair?’ Or ‘você não tem cara de engenheira (you don’t have the face of/look like an engineer), tem cara de humanas’ (you look like someone from the human sciences).’ see note one) There were even more extreme cases in which a boy was talking to another and said, ‘When I see a preto (black) with dreads I feel like running him over.’ So it was very difficult for me,” she says.
If she can reach the end of the course, Larissa will be one of the 10 black students to graduate in Engineering at USP in 124 years. The lack of quotas in the university makes her feel alone. “The problems of social issues at USP exist a lot, since it has no quotas, there are almost no black people in there, the only black people it has are security guards, the cleaning girls, because the students it really almost doesn’t have. Even the course of Letters, which is considered the most inclusive, doesn’t even have more than four blacks in the classroom.”
The young woman challenges the meritocracy argument about the ‘lack of effort by blacks to conquer the vacancies at USP’. “The vast majority have no notion of the reality of the next one and when we demand something, they say it’s ‘mimimi (whining)’ or ‘lack of effort’, as if it were a matter of effort and not of opportunity.”
Source: Rede Brasil Atual
- In other words, some thought she looked like someone one would find taking human sciences courses rather than the exact sciences courses.