Note from BW of Brazil: Have you ever thought about visiting or what it’s like living in Brazil? I’ll be truthful. There are plenty of things to love about Brazil. What’s a shame is that, many of places I’ve visited or wish to visit are places that many Brazilians themselves may never have the opportunity to or even the desire to visit. No biggie. I’m American and I’ve never been Las Vegas. I’ve had plenty of people contact me asking about places to go, beaches, the women, food, transfer of money, safety, etc. Then I’ve had people of African descent from all over the world ask me what Brazil is like for black people. Well….how can I put this…? OK, let me say this. I have never personally had any problems being a black American in Brazil. But even with not having experienced any blatant acts of racial hostility, I KNOW what’s out here. Race is clearly an issue no matter where in Brazil you are. Race might play out in subtle behaviors, or little comments that people make that reveal how they see the issue.
I’ve said for a long time that Brazilians are taught from a very young age that black is something to avoid. Don’t define yourself as black, don’t have black children and try to avoid black people if at all possible. It’s better to be white or get as close to whiteness as you can is the subtle but often times blatant message here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all people think this way. But in terms of the existing racial hierarchy, EVERYONE is affected by it in some way or another.
Some years ago, a friend of mine asked me if I would be willing to teach a class of English to his students in a small English school in the periphery of São Paulo. There were four students, three female, one male, all between the ages of 18 and 23. I ended up teaching this class for a few months. In one session, after the students had gotten comfortable with me, we ended up getting into a discussion of life in the United States, and inevitably, the subject of race came up.
The only male in class, Vitor, an aspiring bodybuilder who reminded me of what the late Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury would have looked like if he would have been of mixed ancestry, asked me a number of questions on the topic. Vitor, who always showed up to class with a protein shake, had showed me photos of his six-year-old daughter. Vitor seemed to be as proud that the girl was pretty as she was white. One day, I was discussing with the class the terms ‘preto’ and ‘negro’, both terms meaning ‘black’ in Portuguese.
In terms of language and color, African-Americans exclusively used the term ‘black’ when describing themselves or others of the same race, while in Brazil, preto and negro were sometimes used interchangeably, but depending on the person, one term was seen more favorably than the other. In terms of Afro-Brazilian activists, the general view was that preto referred to the actual color while negro referred to race.
I explained to the class that African-Americans sometimes would sometimes distinguish between black, as in race, and black, as in dark skin color, by a simple difference in how the word is stressed. Looking at me, Vitor said, “So then teacher, you’re black.” I wanted to be sure of what he was trying to say. In his strong Brazilian accent, he was trying to say I was very dark-skinned. Now sure of what he was trying to say, I responded, “Well, Vitor, on the scale of skin colors, I am dark-skinned, but there are also several skin tones of blackness that are quite darker than me. But then, I don’t have a problem with this.” With that, Vitor slumped back in his seat and remained silent for several minutes.
That incident and several others that I’ve experienced over the years demonstrate how keenly aware Brazilians are of skin color and which team they want to be on vs. the one they want to avoid or escape. Vitor, as I wrote previously, was of mixed race, but it was clear which team he wanted to be on. But what is also abundantly clear is that white Brazilians want black Brazilians to know that they know about an unofficial racial hierarchy that presides over the country. They also want black Brazilians to know this and respect the artificial boundary. Some black Brazilians are coming to the conclusion that under an extreme-right president, white Brazilians are becoming bolder in their expressions of race, place and entitlement. My view is that, this idea of racial entitlement and the ability to exclude non-whites from this entitlement as well as maintaining people outside of their group ”in their place” has always existed in Brazil. It just seems that it’s only been in recent times that masses of black Brazilians are starting to understand this.
Ed Jr. received messages with racist content on social networks (photo: Instagram)
“You’re black! Why are you breathing the same air that I breathe?”: Foundation coordinator targeted with insults and death threats in southern Brazil
A critical publication of Balneário Camboriú’s nightclubs on social networks, due to a lack of representation, put Edvaldo Rocha Junior, Ed Jr, in the target of hate messages. He received racist curses, threats, and found that he had been involved in bias-laden publications in a closed group.
The case is being investigated by the Civil Police, which has opened an inquiry. According to the regional police chief, Fábio Moreira Osorio, the attackers may respond for racial slur. At least one of them has been identified.
Ed is coordinator at the Fundação Cultural de Balneário Camboriú (Balneário Camboriú Cultural Foundation) and a digital influencer. In a post that generated the attacks, he said he was the only black at a party with hundreds of people in the city. He drew attention to the fact, and extended the subject to the city’s nightclubs – saying that it didn’t have black or fat people in their publications.
He was startled by the content of the messages and threats he received – some of them with reference to the place where he lives. Balneário Camboriú is a city in the southern state of Santa Catarina, one of three states with the largest percentages of people who define themselves as white. The assistant who works with him, and is also black, was equally a victim of threats on social networks.
“I’m receiving death threats with my home address.” I work with the cruise reception, and I’m afraid to walk down the street,” says Ed.
One of the first messages came last Saturday from a woman via Instagram: “Dude, you’re black and poor. You live in Balneário Camboriú. Do you think it’s easy for us to see people like you on the street walking and breathing the same air I breathe?”
Left: “Dude, you’re black and poor! You live in Balneário Camboriú! Do you think it’s easy! We see people like you on the street walking and breathing the same air I breathe? Put yourself in our place man, man! You’re black, dude you come from the culture of slavery! Do you think it’s easy? We have to live with another of you all every day! Dude, just breathe, work, period. Dude, you’re fucking black and you don’t have a turn! You’re black monkey! Hahahha later! Bye black black”
Right: “Hey. to DO (Eduardo). Hello. What gives with that black? He wants to talk about representation! Living in bc! He’s black, brother, poor monkey! He doesn’t deserve to live in BC. Poor stinky black, how disgusting I throw cachaça (sugar cane liquor) in his face haha and then I set fire to it. He wants to talk about representation! but he doesn’t present facts! simple!”
Ed was later contacted by a person who didn’t want to identify himself, and sent him prints of messages exchanged in a message group. In one, he’s called a “monkey” by a social network user who claims to be “disgusted” by him. The profile is of a college student in the area. Other group members also expressed themselves.
Born in São Paulo, but a resident of Santa Catarina for over 20 years, Ed says this is not the first time he has felt victimized by prejudice.
“I lived on Avenida Atlântica and I was asked to use the service elevator. At work, they think I’m the intern, not the coordinator,” he reveals.
He claims, however, that this is the first time he has received such heavy attacks and threats:
“I think it is a result of this political polarization, people are more comfortable to expose what they feel.”
Police chief Gustavo Reis, responsible for the case, said the message images are valid evidence and will be used in investigations. The crime of racial injury provides for a penalty of up to three years in prison.
With information from NSC Total