Black skin and suspicion: Mother and daughter accused of shoplifting in Rio mall; search proves negative

Leila Cristina da Rocha reacts to being accused of stealing
Leila Cristina da Rocha reacts to being accused of stealing

Note from BW of Brazil: What are some of the characteristics that provoke the “system” to label certain people as “suspect”? How one is dressed? The area in which certain people reside? Yes, of course, but what people in Brazil tend to ignore is the question of race or color. Time and time again, social studies out of Brazil have shown that when two middle class people enter stores, malls, car dealerships, etc, the black customer is consistently treated in a different manner than the white customer. It was the reason why an actor sat in jail for more than two weeks in Rio and also the reason a group of black men and women were harassed by a restaurant manager in Belo Horizonte. No doubt, this suspicion is also the main reason why black youth are nearly 4 times more likely to be killed than young whites. Not that it’s surprising, but more proof of this suspicion provoked by skin color recently made headlines. Below are the video and the report. 

Woman a victim of racism at Bangu Shopping

Mother and daughter accuse store of racism after having been suspected of burglary in Bangu

Video shows indignation of woman after having her purse searched: ‘Discrimination’. In a statement, Aquamar ‘apologized’; case was recorded as an “injury”.

Video had more than 16,000 shares by Wednesday morning

Leila Cristina da Rocha, left, seated with her daughter, 19, was accused of shoplifting in a Rio mall
Leila Cristina da Rocha, left, seated with her daughter, 19, was accused of shoplifting in a Rio mall

Two women say they were wrongfully accused of theft on Monday (11), by an employee of the Aquamar store in Bangu Shopping, in the West Zone of Rio. In a video posted on the internet, which received 16,000 shares on Facebook by Wednesday morning (13), Thainá Cristina Rocha and her mother Leila Cristina Rocha appear very agitated. In the images, posted by a family friend, Leila accuses the store of “discrimination.”

“It’s because my daughter is preta (black) (…) This doesn’t exist”, she screams, very nervous and restrained by mall goers, that advised her to call the police. “It’s discrimination. I never stole.  This is a shame,” she says.

Leila: "She approached me and said that she needed to speak with me because I had stolen a piece from the store. I said that I hadn't stolen, because this wasn't necessary. She said: 'So, open your purse now.' And she held me holding my arm. I never went through this, I always worked."
Leila: “She approached me and said that she needed to speak with me because I had stolen a piece from the store. I said that I hadn’t stolen, because this wasn’t necessary. She said: ‘So, open your purse now.’ And she held me holding my arm. I never went through this, I always worked.”

Thainá told G1 that leaving the store she was approached by the assistant manager of the establishment who asked that her mother’s purse be searched. After the request, her mother became upset at the accusation and removed her belongings from the purse to prove that she hadn’t commit any theft. Thainá also said that the treatment was unexpected because it is a store where she is accustomed to shopping.

“I don’t understand why they distrusted me, I’ve been a customer of the store for some time. Last month I went there to buy my birthday presents, if she [assistant manager] opens the computer she will see that I have a membership,” said the 19-year old.

Thainá da Rocha Azevedo: "In no moment, did she (salesperson) say "I think" or "I must". She affirmed that I had picked up a piece and put it in my purse. I was embarrassed, angry."
Thainá da Rocha Azevedo: “In no moment, did she (salesperson) say “I think” or “I must”. She affirmed that I had picked up a piece and put it in my purse. I was embarrassed, angry.”

Registered as a racial injury

While there was confusion inside of Aquamar, audible warnings were issued to the mall so that the establishment’s security would appear. An agglomeration of people formed in the door of the store to see what happened. Thainá, her mother, the assistant manager, who was not named, and another shopkeeper were sent to the 34th Police Precinct (Bangu), where the case was registered. According to the Civil Police, the case was registered as an injúria (injury) (1) and was referred to the Special Criminal Court (Jecrim).

“I had to open [my purse] because she said I would not leave until I opened my purse. I threw my things on the floor to show that I had not taken anything. I always educated my family so they know what they have to do, I never thought I’d go through such a thing. Everyone who was there saw that I didn’t steal anything, they all saw,” said Leila, 48.

Thainá attempts to console her mother
Thainá attempts to console her mother

Store apologizes

Bangu Shopping said it would not comment because the case, according to a spokesperson, happened inside the store. Aquamar said it has opened an internal procedure to determine the charge and issued a statement “apologizing” on its Facebook page. See full note below.

“Today was a sad day for the AquamarRio store that cherishes so much the truth. Hence, the brand wants to leave a message here for all customers, partners, journalists and those interested in what occurred today in the AquamarRio store of Bangu Shopping. We repudiate any embarrassing act and judgment against our customers. We are a brand always seeking to appreciate the Brazilian woman and we will vigorously investigate to discover the events that occurred on Monday, August 08, 2014. Never has a saleswoman of our workforce received any direction for judging people by race, social status, clothing and age. We sincerely apologize to our customers, we deeply regret the situation and will follow the findings of the authorities, as we are always concerned with socialization and equality of our country. We appreciate your understanding. We are here to meet and resolve the matter in the best possible way. An embrace. AquamarRio team.”

Notes

1. In Brazil, a case being declared an injúria (injury) usually carries a lighter punishment that if the incident is declared racist. See here for more on the topic.

Source: G1, R7

About Marques Travae 2897 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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