Note from BW of Brazil: Salvador, Bahia. Visits to that city always bring back pleasant memories. It was the first city that I ever visited in Brazil. After having become fascinated with Brazil at the end of 1999 and on through to the 21st century, it was Salvador that first captured my attention. It’s 80% black majority. It’s strong cultural ties to Africa. It’s history as a port receiving over 1.3 million Africans that would be enslaved between the 17th and 19th centuries. And as an African-American with roots in the American south, Bahia’s people and feel reminded me of very much of my experiences in states such Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Yes, Salvador will have that effect on any person of African descent with interest in the African Diaspora. But after the initial experiences with capoeira performances, the acarajé, the Pelourinho, the Mercado Modelo, the Ilê Aiyê performances and such, the time comes for cruel reality to set in.
A reality that cannot be ignored.
A reality that shows a black majority city in which black people have almost no political power. A population that is divided between middle class white and almost white people living in the more upper crust neighborhoods while those with darker skin are the majority in the poorer regions. A city in which, during Carnaval, white and near white people take up the luxurious VIP sections while those of darker skin make up the people hold the dividing ropes that separate those people from the masses of black bodies that can’t afford to roll in the VIP section. A city in which, again during Carnaval, those white and near white singers and bands usually get most of the media attention, spotlight and endorsement deals while those of darker skin, often responsible for the songs they record have to scratch and claw to get any attention or perform in prime areas of the spectacle.
And then there’s the idea of place. One would think that with so many dark-skinned people, this presence would be seen as a normal, natural thing, but time and time, we read about white and near white people feeling uncomfortable with the presence of the dark-skinned majority in certain places (see here and here). Some have defined the situation in this historic city as Apartheid Baiano, or Bahian Apartheid. Perhaps one of the most telling signs of this unofficial apartheid is the number of black bodies that fall to the ground, never to rise again after having been gunned down either by official Military Police or the active death squads and extermination groups, often consisting of off-duty police carrying out an agenda of racial hygienization. If the object was the gradual disappearance of the black. population, as Brazil has made clear, is the objective, Salvador is also the best place to put this plan in motion as the skin color of the population is so dark.
In the article I present to you today, you will get just a small sample of how the majority black population is treated on a daily basis. In a city in which the ancestors of the black population were so instrumental in the construction, history and culture of the city, stories like the two below infuriate me. Spend a few minutes reading the stories and tell me how you feel after reading them.
The hungry black child with at the mall to the actor Leno Sacramento: Racism is cruel
By Henrique Oliveira
Salvador, the blackest city outside of Africa is also the most racist
This week the Bahian capital was featured on national news, first for the unbelievable case in which the security of Shopping da Bahia, the former Shopping Iguatemi, tried to prevent a customer from paying for a lunch for a 12-year old black child, named Matheus, who works on the street selling candy. The video that circulated on social networks with thousands of views shows the exact moment in which the security tries every way to impede the lunch from being purchased, including trying to put the child out of the mall by force, but was not allowed by the man who wanted to pay for the meal. The situation was only resolved when the supervisor of security arrived on the scene and ensured that the child could eat.
The Public Ministry of Bahia has opened an inquiry to investigate the civil liability of the Shopping da Bahia in a possible practice of institutional racism. The Ordem dos Advogados (Lawyer’s Guild) (BA) will officiate the mall so that it clarifies what happened an official way, what it will do to fix what happened, how it intends to guarantee the access of young blacks from the periphery and if they have a policy of inclusion of employees.
Matheus is from a poor family, a resident of the neighborhood of Pernambués, o bairro mais negro (the black neighborhood) of Salvador with 53 thousand inhabitants and is located close to the mall. His mother, 57, sells sweets and snacks on the city bus to sustain 8 people, three children, two grandchildren and parents who live in a city in the interior of Bahia.
In a note sent to the press, Shopping da Bahia stated that the individual of security put on leave from work, from contact with the public, and is currently undergoing a process of rehabilitation, returning to assert that there is no orientation for an approach that goes “beyond curtailing informal commerce actions and people (children and adults) who try to approach customers with requests for money, food or products. The client’s decision is sovereign and has to be respected, without any violent action or that creates embarrassment.”
However, this case in which the security of Shopping of Bahia tried to prevent the guy from paying for a meal for a poor and black child should be evaluated from two perspectives.
The first is that we know that all the malls of Brazil have recommendations of a racist and hygienist character, in a manner that the malls should receive black people in situations as workers of the shops or as consumers, as long as they are within an acceptable standard of behavior. Last year, for example, a father accused the Shopping Pátio Higienópolis de São Paulo of committing racism against his son, who was ‘mistaken’ for a beggar, even with the child wearing the uniform of the Escola Sion school which is located in the same neighborhood. The security of mall came and asked the plastic artist Enio Squeff if the boy ‘was bothering him’, precisely because he is a black child.
We also saw how the same malls of Sao Paulo and other cities dealt with the ‘rolezinhos’ when young blacks from the periphery, deprived of public spaces and leisure activities in their neighborhoods, chose to have fun in the malls.
The malls are thought to be the temple of consumption and ostentation of the classe média branca (white, middle class), any foreign body that is highly monitored, because what they are not lacking are stories of persecution of bodyguards, unfounded accusations of theft and contempt of the sellers of shops with black consumers, who are seen as financially incapable of paying for certain products.
I have heard many people saying that the former Shopping Iguatemi, Shopping da Bahia, during the Lula-Dilma governments, in which there was an increase in the purchasing power of workers, was “becoming that of the people.” And what was to become of the people? Receiving black consumers on a large scale. And that is why the newly created Salvador Shopping became a stronghold of the pessoas brancas (white people), it was clear as the Salvador Shopping became much more embranquecido (whitened).
The other issue is the attitude of the security, he even said that he was following orders, as we know who he was. The Shopping da Bahia in a cynical and scoundrel note threw the responsibility on its employee, logical, the rope only breaks on the weakest side. At the same time in order to follow orders it is necessary that this same security agrees with them, because it is not uncommon that public and private agents when they want, to some extent, are negligent with the standards and rules. What security did was to reproduce racism and prejudice of class, forming elements of Brazilian society. Even more in a period in which unemployment is very high, security lives compelled by the threat of not following the rules and being put out, having obligations of sustain themselves, as well as possibly their family. In moments of crisis, the submission becomes a necessary tool for the survival of workers and a form of control for the dominant group.
The second case concerns the black actor Leno Sacramento, of the Bando de Teatro Olodum’s (theater group), who was shot in the leg by civilian police, after being ‘mistaken’ for men who had carried out assaults in the region of the city’s downtown, that, like Leno Sacramento, were also on bikes. The police’s version is that when they receive a call about men carrying out assaults on bikes, they thought that Leno was one of the suspects of participating in the crime and that Leno didn’t obey a stop order. The civil police who took the shot said that he shot at the ground and that what affected the leg of the actor were fragments of the bullet.
In testimony provided to their own Civil Police, Leno Sacramento said that he was riding a bike, going to the theater, when he heard people ordering him stop, when he looked back, long before putting his feet on the ground, and heard a shot, when he looked, his leg was already bleeding a lot and the shot was not just a brush as was said on that day, but that the bullet pierced his leg. The actor said he “was wounded and bruised, but the pain that he felt is from the bullet that he took on Wednesday, but that before got several blacks that cannot speak.”
All it took was the civil police knowing that men on bikes were carrying out assaults in the city’s downtown that the first black man that was on a bike was shot, without even being searched. In the mentality of the police, any crime committed in the public environment has only black people as suspects and guilty. And that there is a relationship between the social place of the crime and those who commit it, only the black bodies are seen as those that can be violated by slaps, kicks, punches and firearm projectiles. The message given by racism is that we black men cannot ride bikes, because, even then, we are considered suspects/criminals.
The Chief Inspector-General of the Civil Police, in a press conference, said that the shooting is the last resource taught in the police academy. And when asked if the case configured racism, the chief responded that investigations are still at the beginning, but that at first, this was not “detected and the police themselves are black”. Leno Sacramento participated in the movie O Pai ó, the theater piece Cabaré da Raça and is currently performing the monologue Encruzilhada, which addresses precisely the racial violence in Brazil.
However, the manifestation of racism is impersonal, it doesn’t only occur when a white discriminates against a black because of their color. For as much as whites are responsible for direct and indirect effects for the existence of racism in our society, race as a social element is the creator of a concept about people, about what they can be or are. And it was precisely based on this concept that a black man could be the thief, that the police didn’t even search Leno, coming to shoot his leg as if the he were guilty and was being punished for it.
If the police are blacks, this only shows how racism is doubly violent, because it removes the self-perception of black people, they don’t recognize themselves as such, carry self-hatred, because the positive representation in our society is the white. Black people do not benefit in anything when they reproduce racism, since they do not cease being black. Even in a society like ours, of a white minority, the social reproduction of racism is necessary to ensure to whites all social, cultural, economic and political privileges that they have. The role of racism is always to guarantee advantages to one racial group.
Interview in Rede Bahia
What happened with Leno Sacrament is not an isolated fact as the advisory bodies of Civil and Military police like to say when these actions happen. We know very well that the practice of Brazilian police is to atirar primeiro e perguntar depois (shoot first and ask questions later), especially when it comes to black people.
The military police who shot the painter Nadinho, on April 21, in the city of Candeias, of Salvador’s Metropolitan Region, ended up being indicted for intentional homicide, shooting the plastic artist in the back, in his studio, after responding to a call of a robbery in which a suspect was hiding in a house.
The initial version given by Military Police (MP) is that the painter Nadinho was armed and shot. Now, after the report of the IML and reconstitution made, the same police say they cannot say with precision that Nadinho was armed, but they say that he held some object. However, the MP presented a .38 caliber weapon, with scratched off numbering, as well as the expertise proving that the victim didn’t have gunpowder on his hands. And there are already reports, evidence and sufficient proof to demonstrate that the Auto de Resistência (resisting arrest) became a police instrument for the “production of a reality”, whose purpose is to criminalize the victim to build legitimate defense and justify deaths, through a narrative that the police are ‘receiving the shot’ and only react to defend themselves. After all, morto não fala (the dead don’t talk) nor tell their story, for this reason, many times what ends up prevailing is the discourse based on police authority.
At the beginning of the month also came to public a recording made by tourists on a truculent and savage stop by Military Police officers carried out in the neighborhood of Santo Antonio Além do Carmo in Salvador, in which a young black was beaten and tortured, for supposedly carrying, a marijuana joint. The 11-minute recording shows 4 MPs trying to put the youth inside a car while the population asks for the police to stop attacking him. Not satisfied, a Military Police officer turns against the people who were shouting and gets on top of a black woman giving her slaps in the face and pulling her hair, even with people saying that she was pregnant.
At the end of the week, between Friday June 8th and the Sunday June 10th, Salvador and its metropolitan region were bathed in blood with 31 homicides, the majority of them occurring after the brutal murder of a policeman in a peripheral district of Salvador in the early hours of Saturday. The serial killings happened in poor neighborhoods, with characteristics of the operation of Grupos de Extermínio (extermination groups), just in the neighborhood of São Cristóvão 5 young people were murdered by hooded men in two cars.
In the regions of the northeast of Amaralina, Santa Cruz, Vale das Pedrinhas and Chapada do Rio Vermelho, in which the MP was killed, more than 5 people have already been killed after the intensification of police action, that are there supposedly after those responsible for the assassination. In addition to these deaths, taxi drivers who work in locations also denounced the violent stops of MPs who accused them of helping drug traffickers escape.
And no wonder the Bahian policemen are among those that most kill on duty, only lagging behind of the police of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, with 456 deaths in 2016. What happened with Leno Sacramento is just one example crystallized by statistics released by the Atlas da Violência de 2018 (Atlas of the Violence of 2018), in which, in 2016, Brazil reached the mark of 62 thousand murders, of which 33,590 victims were male, young, black and had between 15 and 29 years of age.
According to the Atlas, within a decade, between 2006 and 2016, the homicide rate of blacks grew by 23.1. In the same period, the rate among non-blacks had a reduction of 6.8%. These numbers are also the same for women, the rate of black women murdered had an increase of 71%, when compared with non-black women.
And whether it’s security of the mall wanting to prevent a black child from eating or a civil police officer who shoots a black man judged as a criminal because of his natural condition as a black man, what is underway in Brazil is a historic process which is being widely denounced by anti-racist militancy, a genocide, a policy of ‘racial hygiene’, that would Hitler would be proud of our rulers. All this in 2018, the year in which the abolition of slavery reaches 130 years. Who are really the free people in Brazil?
*Henrique Oliveira has a Masters in Social History from UFBA and is a collaborator of Rever Magazine
Source: Esquerda Online