Note from BW of Brazil: The existence of racism in Brazil’s educational system has been documented for a number of years. Whether we’re talking pushing black teachers out of the school network, denying black children an education, racism driving the black child away from school, white children humiliating black colleagues, or refusing to include them in their social circles, or teachers not reacting or/protecting black children from racist abuse or even showing favoritism towards their whiter students, there are many hurdles that the black child must get over in school and still find the energy to do well in their classes. Against this backdrop, the story presented below shouldn’t be seen as anything new, but rather more evidence that Brazil’s school system continues to refuse to address the issue.
“Leave that little black girl there” – Parents decide to remove their daughter from a traditional school in Rio after the girl was a victim of racism
Courtesy of Notícia Preta
After seeing their 8-year-old daughter being a victim of constant racist attacks inside the Edem school, a traditional educational institution in the southern zone of Rio de Janeiro, considered as progressive, the girl’s parents decided to remove the child from the school. This year, the parents reveal in a letter sent to the directors of Escola Edem, in Laranjeiras, the daughter went through physical aggression. Last year, to try to reduce racist offenses, meetings were held at the school. They didn’t help.
Considered an educational model Escola Edem says on its website that it “carries out a pedagogical project that integrates academic, ethical-political, aesthetic and cultural education, with the objective of favoring the personal growth of each student and the construction of a more cooperative society.” But it’s enough to just look at the photos on the institution’s website to see that there is no picture of black students. How do you guarantee the personal growth of your students without having a pedagogical work focused on respect for diversity?
The school, highly regarded in the South Zone, posted a letter on its website claiming that “the student and the family were welcomed in their sufferings, and strategies were discussed and implemented.” All the strategies proposed by the school, however, seem to have failed.
Read the letter from the student’s parents and then the letter from the directors of Escola Edem:
“Mothers and fathers!
Below is the letter we sent to Escola Edem today. We have resolved to share this experience with you as we believe it is in everyone’s best interest. We took the opportunity to say goodbye to this group, desiring for all of us a world more prepared to deal with the differences!”
“To the educators and managers of Escola Edem!
For more than a year we have been talking practically alone about the need for racial diversity in this institution. And we don’t talk about it just by ideology, we speak out of necessity, because we bet on this school to collaborate in the educational process of our three daughters.
But this letter is a certificate of forfeiture! We are giving up keeping our daughter in this institution.
Last year, 2018, in the first fraternization of the class, we understood that the racial difference between our daughter and her class would be a challenge. There, we experienced the first situation… We heard one of the children say to the other: “Leave that pretinha (little black girl) over there…”. The only black girl in the class! This is a very heavy title. But we don’t fear challenges and believe in the growth and advancement of society and people.
But even before the first month of school, our eldest daughter was already collecting “innocent” racist approaches: “Are you poor? You must be! You’re marrom (brown)!”
We had to teach our 6 year old daughter what discrimination is, and we need to defend ourselves daily. Without hating the different ones!
Throughout the year some other episodes occurred and we delved into various attempts at dialogue… We alerted parents… We made demands of teachers… We created groups… We held meetings… We try to sensitize managers to practical, effective measures to combat racism in school. With no effective success!
Little advance, little dialogue…. We transformed nothing!
This year, 2019, not wanting to expose her to another school change, we kept our daughter at EDEM, hoping it would be different.
And it really has been! Approaches of racism have widened, deepened, and become more cruel. Some of the children in the class discovered that this was her “weak spot” and began to use it on a daily basis, under the gaze of the entire staff of the institution.
Every day in the last two weeks our daughter has been assaulted not just verbally, even episodes of physical violence occurring within the school environment.
Again I had to teach my daughter, now 7 years old, that racism is a crime, and that it is necessary to scream when it affects us. And she sought help! With no effective solution.
Even with our effort, institutional racism has defeated us! That is the fact. And we are dealing with it, in the least painful way, really because we fear the stamp of “mimimi” (whining). It is clear that the pain is ours, and that we have to deal with it.
Our girl does not want to step into the school any more, she’s evasive, tearful, confused, aggressive, hurt…
No! We didn’t come here to accept this place. Any other is better than this.
Effectively, there is no understanding of the extent of the harm being done to our daughter. The size of the wound and the chance to heal it!
After all of this we don’t believe in your ability to collaborate in the formation of our girl. That’s why we’re taking our daughter out of this school.
We really hope that the passage of our girls through Edem leaves some collaboration, at least a reflection.
In our little one there will be marks, sometimes painful, but that we will work on day by day to transform it into learning, and strength… Without hate!
We are not the first to give up on this school as we’ve have already heard of some other cases… We all need to accept the need to evolve, learn, deconstruct… We don’t yet have educators ready to deal with the racial issue… Some who are not even capable of realizing their limitations… And those who don’t recognize their difficulty will hardly be able to overcome it.
A seed has been planted… We left, but today we leave two discussion groups constructed… A collective of those responsible for black children, and an open collective discussing the lack of racial diversity of this school. They still believe in you… We hope you don’t disappoint them…
Elisio and Renata”
Nobody let’s go of anyone’s hand? Reflections on racism in the constructivist school of Laranjeiras
By Siron Nascimento
A 6-year-old girl suffered for two years with racist attitudes from her classmates at Edem, the left-leaning school in the south of Rio. Comments of the type “é pretinha, deve ser pobre” (she’s black, she must be poor) occurred a few times. Parents tried to talk to the school, concrete measures were not taken by the pedagogical body, which didn’t even call those responsible for children who were practicing racism.
The girl couldn’t take it, the parents took her out of school and wrote an open letter, explaining what happened to her daughter. Edem responded with a carta-pano: an attempt to clean the slate of the school’s omission (coordination and its community). The subject reached the pages of the newspapers and the controversy was established. What did the school do or did not do?
Firstly, a child is not racist, he or she reproduce racism; just as he or she is neither homophobic nor sexist. It is in society and it reproduces/verbalizes what it sees, feels. The school, as an institution of learning construction, must do its best to combat prejudice. It’s not a special day, a work of art or folk dance that resolves it. The fight is daily and must be for everyone: from the doorman to the director; in the classroom, in the playground and in the extra classes; murals and workshops.
When a child says that someone should be poor because she is black, it is revealing what Brazilian society tries to hide; she is saying what she sees. For a good educator, it’s a plate full of fruitful debate; but whoever only looks at numbers is afraid of this generate wear and tear.
If there is anything that offends a white as much as, or more than, accusing him of being corrupt, it is calling him a racist. We live in a racist country without racists. Its our thing.
It has become a commonplace to say that structural racism is the fault of slavery, abolished more than 120 years ago. It is almost a “washing of your hands”: no one assumes it; we put blame on the past and live with racism as if it were something inevitable, and immutable. Beyond our reach.
How much longer will we blame the past and fail to see our role in structural racism? The role of today’s guy who works, has family, friends, and commits racism? There is no more place to hide prejudice.
There is also the reflection: doesn’t covering up for cases like this collaborate with the 111 or 80 rifle shots at black people in cars? Does it not legitimize Dilma’s silence, in the first case, or Bolsonaro’s incompetence in the recent case?
Edem is a school of firm progressive positions, fundamental in times of a “non-partisan school”. My son studied there and at 8 he shouted: “sexists, fascists, will not pass by.” In conversation with friends, whose children study there, I could see a genuine concern with the exposition of the fact, and this serves for public lynching of the school.
But we should not understand the exposition of the case as lynching, but rather as a demonstration that society is attentive and doesn’t tolerate racism any more. The school should not hide behind evasive and semi-ready answers, as it now has the opportunity to put into practice the discourse it propagandizes. It has to have more black teachers, open quotas for black students, that is, effective actions to combat racism.
Otherwise, the “no one will let go of anybody’s hand” will need an addendum: desde que essa mão não seja preta (as long as this hand is not black).