“When we, middle class whites, steal, it’s not a problem”: Brazilians reflect on white privilege in aftermath of black teen being whipped in supermarket

shoplifter in the electronic store supermarket stealing new gadget

shoplifter in the electronic store supermarket stealing new gadget f

Note from BW of Brazil: I‘ve said this all along. Deep down, probably not even being necessary to go too deep, white folks KNOW they clearly receive a different treatment when they commit crimes or are stuck in desperate life situations in comparison to the treatment that blacks receive. The only way they can’t know this is if they simply close they ears and eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist. Whiteness is a standard that everyone is taught to aspire to especially in a country like Brazil where even many people who consider themselves “white” aren’t necessarily on the global scale of whiteness. It is this privilege of whiteness that so many black and mixed Brazilians see as having a good life.

salvador-ba-carnaval-de-2017_folioes-em-bloco-de-trio_foto-divulgacao

On the recent controversy surrounding a popular black female rapper going public with her white boyfriend, one woman speaking on how whiteness affects black people from very early on put it this way:

“…since you were a kid you turn on the TV, there is the white, being the main, being a model, being stylish, you open the magazine, there is the white with a nice house, nice clothes, car of the year, you watch the movie there is white, in the fairy tale, there is the white.”

Within black families, black children are often taught to try to bring home a white boyfriend or girlfriend and attempt to get access to the white world. All things that people seek in life are generally associated with persons of European descent and these people can’t help but know this. Acknowledging it may be another thing. But enough white teens have spoken on how they enter places with no problems while their black friends are either harassed, denied or followed around. Some of them are honest enough to admit that they have an advantage when applying for a job even being less qualified than their black competition. Many white girls KNOW they have an advantage over their black counterparts even when the topic is the affections of poor, black boys in the favela slums. It ain’t hard to tell. With something so blatantly obvious, this privilege must at some times be difficult to own up to, which is why so many people will quickly claim that “we are all equal” even with so much evidence showing that we are clearly not.

The recent situation involving the 17-year black male being caught stealing a chocolate bar in a store, grabbed, taken to a backroom, stripped naked and whipped like a slave provoked a lot of reflection on this issue of white privilege on the part of white Brazilians. Many admitted committing the same petty crime as the black teen at some time in their lives and hardly meeting with any sort of punishment. As one of these people put very well in a recent tweet, white privilege is being able to steal something, walk away laughing and knowing that nothing’s going to happen to you.

TWEET collage (E)

Angelo • Sep 4 Replying to @andrefran Confession: This case also reminded me of my teenage years. I’ve stolen a lot of chocolate in the market just for fun. One day they caught me, took me to a little room and told me to do it again. Ashamed, I really didn’t do it anymore. Certainly if I was black it wouldn’t be like that. Only today do I understand

Nina Lemos @ninalemos • Sep 5 Replying to @andrefran Confession. Teen, ridiculous. I stole chocolate and makeup with high school friends. We were picked up and taken to the little room. We wore private school uniforms and were white. We were frightened, they threatened to call our parents. They didn’t care. We never stole again. It’s racism, yes!

Ana Cristina – Sep 4 Replying to @andrefran Confession: I stole a CD from a department store as a teenager and got caught by security. They sent me back and I wasn’t even scolded. It was racism, yes!

Ana – André I used to get balinha juquinha (brand of candy) at Lobras. I think the Brazilian stores went bankrupt. I found that all the people I know got caught, none of us were whipped. I also switched the prices in the lanes in Sarney’s time, just for the sake of security saying they would call my parents.

Adriana – I never caught with anything from anywhere, but I saw several friends of mine steal choco cups and even a chair from an establishment and this never happened to them. They were from “good families”. It was racism, yes

Paulo – Blacks at Shopping da Gávea when they enter, they’re followed from start to finish by the security guards.

Paulo – RACISM OUR EVERY DAY As a teenager, me and some white friends committed some thefts: they didn’t call the police and we weren’t even whipped.

So, if the teenager that security caught at that Ricoy supermarket would have been white teen instead of black, we can’t say for certain what would have happened. But we DO know that the likelihood of his being stripped down to bare skin, tortured and humiliated would have been much lower. Can we agree on that?

shoplifter in the electronic store supermarket stealing new gadget f
shoplifter in the electronic store supermarket stealing new gadget

Teenage theft: If you’re white, nothing happens

Would this boy have been whipped?  

A confession. I must have been about 16 when, with friends from high school, we went through this phase of going to a department store and stealing things. Yes, it was ridiculous. And of course wrong (and that must be why we did it). But teenagers are ridiculous. This is a phase where we do stupid things (probably never to do in life again). That’s what happened with this phase of theft.

One day after school, in uniform and everything (from a private school) we stole some chocolates and an eyebrow pencil sharpener (something we didn’t even use). Security saw us. We ended up in the small room, where we spent minutes that seemed like hours. A security guard was super tough, gave us a big scolding and said he was going to call our parents. He didn’t care. And my mother will know after reading this text, me, with almost 50 years of age. We left without being whipped, not arrested, but scared enough to never do something so stupid again.

Andre tweet1
André Fran confession on white privilege

I had forgotten about this episode until I looked at Twitter yesterday and saw what journalist and host André Fran posted: “Confession, when I was a kid I would go with school friends to Shopping da Gávea to steal a adhesive sticker in a clothing store. When the security guards caught us, they reprimanded us, saying they were going to call the person in charge… and we ran out laughing. I was never whipped. It was racism, yes!”.

André spoke of the case that shocked us all this week: the story of the black teenager who was tied up, tortured and whipped in a supermarket in São Paulo. He was 17 years old. The same age as us middle-class whites like André and I were when we committed such offenses. The difference: a gente, branco (we, white people) could play steal (and probably today’s middle-class whites still can). Meanwhile, blacks, just entering the supermarket to buy were already (and are) treated as thieves.

What followed André’s comments on Twitter were several confessions from other middle-class white people like us who stole and were not arrested. “I stole a CD when I was a teenager and got caught by the security guard. They sent me back and I wasn’t even scolded. It was racism, yes,” said another.

Yes, it took me all these years to realize that stealing as a joke in a supermarket is a privilégio branco (white privilege). That you have to be middle class to test the limits with impunity. Talking to another friend, she told me, “But all rebelliousness is white privilege: smoking weed, skipping the turnstile, ringing the doorbell, stealing chocolate.” Of course, obvious. On our white side, we forget that if a black man rings the doorbell, they can call the police. If you steal, he can get whipped. If he hops the turnstile, he can get shot.

As we, brancos de classe média (middle-class whites), spend our teens testing the limits of life authorities as if we were on a playground. And most of us survive.

It is obvious, of course, very obvious that stealing is wrong. Very wrong. I’m not here defending theft. But of course, no one can be whipped and tortured for stealing chocolate (or for any other reason, torture is a crime against humanity). This is an inheritance from slavery that should fill us with shame.

If it is white and rich, it’s a “disorder”

Stealing things from stores, most often without need, even has an English term: “shoplifter”. According to research conducted in the United States, 25% of people who practice the act are children. And most don’t have to. They usually steal silly and expendable things for the pleasure of adrenaline. Of course, adults who grow up doing this may have a serious problem, many are arrested, need treatment. In the case of brancos ricos (rich whites), they have disturbances. In the case of black or poor, they are bandits. Yes, the world is horrible, racist and classist.

In the case of 17-year-old E., he was dealt with with lashes. And we know: It wouldn’t be the same if he were a white boy in a private school uniform in a middle-class neighborhood. Can you imagine the scene? No, neither can I. And of course, that kind of thing (whipping a person) cannot happen. Never again.

Courtesy of the Nina Lemos blog

 

About Marques Travae 3169 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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