Note from BW of Brazil: “Brazilians aren’t racists!” Ever since I started studying the topic of race in Brazil, I heard and read countless declarations denying the fact that the country’s citizens harbor such sentiments. The head of Globo TV’s journalism department even wrote a book to further this denial. After having seen enough evidence in a very short period of time, I concluded that denying being racist was as Brazilian as being racist. It’s actually pretty amazing to see that people continue to think in a such a way given that Africans and their descendants have been a part of the land’s history for nearly five centuries. But as has been proven time and time again, Brazil as a whole was thoroughly trained in such a manner and continues to look down on its African heritage and ancestry.
Yet even with this shameful history of dehumanization, racist sentiments, jokes and actions, the country continues to receive recent immigrants from the African continent. And while I won’t say that all of them have been victims of Brazil’s brand of racism, incidents such as the one featured in today’s story shows us how Brazil continues to see the African people, even if individuals don’t express such sentiments openly.
Sometimes these anti-African sentiments come out in more shocking ways, such as in the case of the brutal stabbing murder of an Angolan immigrant in São Paulo a few weeks ago. Sometimes the hatred of Africa as well as a continued association of her people with enslavement comes out in outlandish comments as in the case discussed below. Just out of curiosity for those who continue to proclaim that “Brazilians aren’t racist”, where do you think the teenagers responsible for the appalling text messages below got such ideas?
The one positive thing I’ll take away from today’s story that I think black Brazilians should learn from is the way the young woman’s self-esteem and sense of value and history guided her response to the situation. No sadness. No running home crying. No devastation. This is the reaction when one knows the history of her people. A necessary weapon for African descendants in Brazilian society as a whole, but particularly for those attending private, elite schools where they are usually the extreme minority.
Student is the target of racist messages from elite private school students in Rio: ‘Two Indians for an African’
By Kauê Vieira
Racism, once again, made all of its wickedness count. This time, the target was a black student from the Colégio Franco-Brasileiro (school), frequented by the children of members of the upper class in Rio de Janeiro.
Ndeye Fatou Ndiaye was the target of an exchange of racist messages of adolescents in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The records were made in the WhatsApp application and as the G1 news site showed, they are statements loaded with hatred and prejudice against the black community.
Messages exchanged by racist Franco-Brasileiro students
Here are the racist comments from young people of the Rio elite:
“To buy a black, only with another black,” wrote one of them.
“The blacker, the more loss,” published another.
“I give two Indians for an African,” says another student.
“One black is worth a piece of candy,” writes another racist.
There are also messages that mention Ndeye’s name:
“Stinks of slurry”.
“A slave can’t. She’s not a person.”
“Guys, would you sell her or take her to school to show her off?”
“I would sell her on MERCADO LIVRE when she turned 18”
“1 black is worth a jujube (red date)”
“1 black is worth a piece of cardboard”
“1 black is worth a trident”
Ndeye Fatou Ndiaye’s family didn’t hide their outrage at the facts. They said the case was registered with the Civil Police. The young woman, in turn, showed lucidity and absurd superiority when talking about her racist executioners.
“I received messages from my history teachers, they felt like failures. Only that they didn’t fail, because this is a small group of students. We are in 2020, they are dialogues that should not be happening. It was something that made me very indignant and sad for my teachers,” she told the G1 news site.
And the school?
The Franco-Brasileiro school manifested itself on social networks with the famous and already worn out note of repudiation. The school said it regrets what happened and will take appropriate action against the students. It’s not yet known what the punishment of racist students will be. Remembering that racism in Brazil is a crime.
“In the 105 years of our institution’s history, we have preserved several values that are dear to us. Among them, that of racial equality,” states an excerpt from the note that can be read in full at the end of this article.
Fatou also said that she returned to give a class of consciousness and, with forgiveness of the repetition, superiority.
“My school is excellent, one of the best in Rio de Janeiro. We see that, even with people who have all access to education, information, extremely racist things continue to spread. It is a way of showing that racism is everywhere and we are going to fight it not only judicially, but with knowledge.”
On social media, historian Luiz Antonio Simas showed how a white person should position himself not only in the face of absurd cases of racism like this, but so that absolutely embarrassing situations don’t recur with other black women and men.
According to him, it’s up to the whites to undress the “superiority complex”.
“The colonial pathology of whiteness is the superiority complex. The pathology of the colonizing white is that we are, at the same time, colonized. We are no longer European, we can never be, and we don’t want to be South American. We live in erasure.”
Translation of above Tweets
LUIZ ANTONIO SIMAS@simas_luiz May 20, 2020
“The story of the Franco-Brasileiro student who is a victim of racism deserves some consideration. I speak from my experience in teaching. The starting point is to consider that racism and colonialism are socially generated ways of perceiving the world. “
LUIZ ANTONIO SIMAS@simas_luiz May 20, 2020
“Race is not a biomolecular condition, it doesn’t exist as such, but a powerful phenotypic and cultural construction. When I speak of race, I mean a social construction that operates in the dimension of racism and makes me have, as white, the protection of skin color.”
NOTE OF REPUDIATION
“Dear School Community,
We took note today of a fact that occurred involving students from the middle school of the Franco-Brasileiro School, in conversations of a WhatsApp group formed by the students themselves. In these conversations, extremely racist attitudes were found.
We are deeply indignant at what happened and reiterate that the Franco-Brasileiro School strongly rejects all forms of racism.
The act of discriminating attacks Human Rights and the principle of human dignity. It is our responsibility to tackle racism in the different spaces we occupy, including virtual environments.
In our pedagogical proposal, we highlight that: “we educate for democracy and not for authoritarianism, for gender equality and not for sexism, for economic pluralism and not for the dogmatism, for cultural diversity and not for ethnocentrism, for racial equality and not for racism, for religious freedom and not for fanaticism.”
We are analyzing all the facts so that the necessary provisions are taken.
Fatou Ndiaye is more than a victim of racism but rather a beautiful and inspiring young woman and we can prove it
Ndeye has been a Franco-Brasileiro student since she was 5 years old. We’ve already read the racist content disseminated in a WhatsApp group but we choose to exalt Fatou, who besides being beautiful, proved to be a lucid girl, aware of what she is and the importance of fighting prejudice.
Fatou is the daughter of the Senegalese Mamour Ndiaye, a doctor and professor of electrical engineering at Cefet-RJ. The young woman is one of the best students of the educational institution and has won several awards, mainly related to poetry.
Fatou told the Universa website that the family has already registered a police report against the racists. She, however, makes a point of saying that she has always been aware of the (wonderful) person she is and feels for the teachers, who, according to Fatou, work hard for the diversity within the classroom.
“I thought about my teachers, who were always very engaged, always showed a lot of attachment to the racial struggle, always gave me a voice to expose my ideas. A teacher sent me a letter in which she said she felt she had failed. I don’t think she failed and I thought of them first.”
The student’s social networks were flooded with messages of love and affection. Fatou used Instagram to promote Africa Arte, a company specialized in fashion run by a family from Senegal. In one of the posts, she celebrates the opening of a store branch in São Paulo.
“I wasn’t sad because I know who I am, I know what my history is, I am not going to let four people who know nothing about me shake me. I was indignant, but being sad, I am sad for João Pedro’s family, who lost their son. I am also sad for the parents of these boys, because I imagine that these families did everything to educate them,” she stressed.
Mamour Sop Ndiaye, the girl’s father, said: “I don’t know of any black Brazilian who hasn’t suffered from racism. It’s all about race. Because the person who pulls the trigger, who actually does all that, does it because of the system. The problem is not the CPF (ID number), but the system itself.”
Through social networks, Internet users have demanded that students be expelled and celebrities have expressed their indignation. “How wonderful you are! Too beautiful. Never let a person, no matter how stupid and low they may be, diminish your strength and brightness,” wrote singer Iza.
The student also thanked actress Taís Araújo for her message. “No need to thank me. It’s my job as a black woman, mother of a black girl and citizen who works to make the world good for all,” answered the actress.
After the attacks, the family decided to remove the student from the Franco Brasileiro School. Fatou quickly earned two full scholarships at other private schools in Rio. This whole story reminds me of a similar incident that happened just about a year ago in another Rio de Janeiro school.
In a 2014 video (photo below), Fatou is seen presenting a work in which she seeks to show a positive image of the African continent. Africa, you know, is the target of several stereotypes that try to summarize the continent of 54 countries to underdevelopment, poverty, etc.
Fatou is Africa
I’m am Africa with pride
Your Africa, I am greatness
Earth, mother, of various peoples
Of various riches.
I am Africa, I am diversity.
I am Africa with love
The land where I was born
And I grew up and cultivate everything I know
I am Africa, I am peace
I am Africa, I am family
Of the first ancestors
Even the youngest
Being Africa is not being good
It’s coming together to fight for the reason
It’s fighting for peace (Fatou, December 2014)
All of this to say, as Fatou herself pointed out, that the authors of racist offenses must be punished. The Franco-Brasileiro school, which released a note of repudiation but has not yet said what actions it will take, must assume the responsibility of making the space for disseminating more diverse knowledge. Mandela said that no one is born racist, however, it is necessary for people to live in environments, anti-racists, as Angela Davis well remembered.