Note from BW of Brazil: The so-called “rolezinho” flash mobs and the reactions they are provoking are the topic of hot debate in Brazil right now. Intellectuals continue to debate the meanings, the appropriate actions and accusations of yet another example of “Brazilian-style apartheid”. In reality, the difference of treatment according to skin color has existed for a very long time in Brazil. The existence of such discrimination has long been downplayed or denied because of the image of racism in the United States. But a decade long experiment with affirmative action and quotas, growing consciousness of racism and vocal black rights organizations (Movimento Negro), the country has had to deal with the question of race more than ever in its history. These latest occurrences have only added to the discussion. Recently the nation’s Minister for the Promotion of Racial Equality weighed in on the topic and made some very interesting comments. See the interview below.
Young people participating in ‘rolezinhos’ are victims of racial discrimination, says minister
By Andréia Sadi
The Minister of Racial Equality Luiza Bairros says that young people who participate in “rolezinhos” in malls are victims of “explicit racial discrimination.”
In an interview with Folha, she criticized the court ruling that allowed at least four malls in São Paulo, such as JK Iguatemi and Itaquera, to bar the entry of protesters on Saturday.
In Thursday’s panel, the minister said that the “problems of the rolezinhos” arise from the reaction of white customers who are frightened by the young people.
The PT (Partido de Trabalhadores or Worker’s Party) affiliated minister also accused Senator Aloysio Nunes (of the PSDB party of São Paulo) of encouraging racism for having compared the youth to “horses”.
Nunes was criticized in social networks and defended himself saying that he used the term “as a synonym for grown man, big people, in size and age.”
Luiza Bairros discussed the issue with President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday. Read below the main parts of her interview given on the following day:
Folha: How do you see the “rolezinhos”? What is the role of black youth in the movement?
Luiza Bairros: On one side is the perception of a large section of youth that is not entitled to all areas of the city. Through this event, they demand participation and presence in these places, which were reserved for people of higher income, mostly white.
The manifestation of the youth reveals, moreover, that that they read very well: there is a part of society that does not want their presence in certain places. So you see the manifestation of very explicit racial discrimination in relation to these movements.
In many ways the injunction prohibiting the entry of young people into the malls, or at least giving the right of the selection of who enters or not, is a racist situation. The injunction establishes a process of segregation of space, that these young people managed to realize very clearly.
Are the Polícia Militar (Military Police or PM) racist when they assault young people in “rolezinhos” as in Itaquera Shopping?
The PM, unfortunately, complying with the court order, in a certain way, receives support for doing something that they already did and do every day. That is creating a criminal profile associated with black people, and more particularly with black youth.
Senator Aloysio Nunes (PSDB-SP) called the youth of the “rolezinhos” from “cavalões (horses)”. Is there something to fear in the demonstrations?
I think there will be something to fear if people, and certain parliamentary, continue to make statements confirming the dehumanization of black people. This type of response could intensify, understand? There is an attitude and intention absolutely peaceful in these movements. The problems that there have been are derived from the reaction of white people who are scared by this presence [of young people in the malls].
The senator reported having taken his grandchildren to Shopping Morumbi and wrote on Twitter: “I wonder how I would react and the rest of the grandparents would react if a bunch of cavalões always thought about doing a rolezinho there.: What do you have to say?
Racism dehumanizes the black person. It does not see a human being, it sees a potentially dangerous animal. But I think you have to reinforce the following: I talked with Secretary of Justice of São Paulo and she assured me that the disposition of the governor is to make the work of the police the most correct possible and any abuse is repudiated. I think that’s the tone you have to give to this phenomenon.
And how should the MP behave toward the “rolezinho”?
First, respect the peaceful intent. Second, the departments of safety explicitly recommend to their officers that they do not adopt any attitude of aggression and repression. It’s totally unacceptable. A harsher response from the police is what has the potential of turning this into something that young people normally don’t do.
Do you see similarities between “rolezinhos” and the demonstrations in June?
I don’t make any direct comparison because “rolezinhos” are run by a different social sector and is composed mostly by blacks that in the demonstrations in June were not always present. Obviously, these events need to be inserted in a broader framework in which we now live in Brazil, which is social change and increasing demand for rights that were recently conquested.
Would you compare the phenomenon to any other in history?
Observing the historical differences and the difference in intentionality of the actors, it has a feature very similar to “sit- ins” that black Americans did in the 1950s and 1960s for racial desegregation of spaces, especially spaces of leisure.