Fátima da Silva denounced an episode of racism that happened to her daughter in a private school.
She received books from the campaign “For a Childhood Without Racism”
by Pedro Ferreira
The battle for Justice of the telemarketing employee Fátima Adriana Viana da Silva, 41, who denounced racism against her 4 year old daughter, has started to show results. At 9am on Monday, the Civil Police questioned witnesses in the investigation that determines the crime. One of them is Professor Denise Cristina Pereira Aragão, 34, that on July 10th saw a woman identified as Mariinha enter the Centro de Educação Infantil Emília (Emilia Early Childhood Center) in the city of Contagem located in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte*, and saw her yelling and calling the girl “black, hideous black and ugly and horrible.” The attitude of the accused, grandmother of one of the students, was motivated by the choice of a black child to square dance with her grandson. Outraged by the attitude of the owner and principal, who didn’t take any action to defend the student and tried to downplay the case, Denise Cristina resigned. Besides her mother and the child, the police chief Juarez Gomes will hear from the school’s director, Joana Reis Belvino, and the accused, who had not disclosed her full name. A fifth witness will be heard Tuesday, when the investigation will be completed and forwarded to the court.
Luiza Bairros, Minister of the Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality, has shown concern over the claim that a black child had been abused in this way. “On the other hand, it draws our attention to a problem which we are aware of, which is the text of the new Criminal Code. It is difficult to typify and prove the crimes of racism, which ultimately results in a low number of penalties. We hope that this is not the case in Minas”, said the minister. She said that she is preparing a document proposing legal changes to prevent the flexibility of the typification of the crime of racism or its dilution in other crimes related to gender discrimination or sexual orientation, for example.
In the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, accusations of racism increased 9.3% from January to June of this year, with a registration of 129 police reports compared to 118 cases during the same period last year. In the entire year of 2011 there were registered 244 cases. According to the coordinator for the Promotion of Racial Equality in Contagem, Maria Luz Heredia Costa Goreth, this type of crime happens almost everyday, but people keep quiet and don’t complain for fear of reprisal or embarrassment. “They suffer in silence,” said Maria Goreth, who is promoting the campaign “For a childhood without racism” in public schools, private schools and the Movimento Negro (black rights organizations) of Contagem. “I am an educator and I realize that this happens all the time among students in the classroom, but teachers don’t know how to react,” she said.
The coordinator of the State Council for the Promotion of Racial Equality, Cléver Machado, the Secretary of State for Social Development (SEDESE), laments the demise of the unit Specializing in Racial Crimes in the police station in Belo Horizonte. According to Machado, it was created by decree in 1996, but was closed down because lack of demand. Last month, the reactivation of the division was at the plenary session of the board and the proposal will be brought to the State Department of Social Defense and Civil Police. “The board is requesting that the division be created again, to receive not only racially motivated crimes, but also homophobia, religious prejudice, xenophobia and crimes related to organized an groups”, Clever said. The Assistant Secretary of Social Defense, Denilson Feitoza said that there is no formal proposal for this, but he considers it an interesting idea, especially with the advent of World Cup 2014.
According to Cléver Machado, many cases of racism are not carried forward. “People are afraid to report it, others don’t because of shame or lack of knowledge about where to go to look for their rights”, he said. He regrets that the episode in Contagem is a denouncement involving a school environment where younger children should be protected. “The state and local coordinators for the Promotion of Racial Equality are preparing to train teachers. The Federal Law itself provides that African and Afro-Brazilian cultures be included in the curriculum of schools. That would be one of the measures in order to avoid racism and make it so that children have a different attitude than adults today who are racists, bigots and homophobes”, Clever said. “It’s necessary that the education professional is prepared to pass on to children these humanist values and to promote peace, tolerance and respect”, said Clever, remembering two campaigns launched in Minas Gerais in May for a childhood without racism and religious intolerance, in partnership with UNICEF.
* – Belo Horizonte is the capital and largest city of the southeastern state of Minas Gerais and the third largest city in Brazil.
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