Racism has always been silenced in Brazil

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By ANA MARIA DE NIEMEYER*

Racist insults have been present for centuries among Brazilians of different ethnicities in the most varied social contexts

“Macaco” and “ratinho” were insults directed at a colleague by a 13-year-old student from a public school in the city of São Paulo, who would later murder a teacher (CF.FSP, B1, 28/03/2023). Racist insults have been present for centuries among Brazilians of different ethnicities in the most varied social contexts. Neglected, they can turn from words to actions, often with deadly consequences.

 The one who is humiliated internalizes a feeling of inferiority, and even of not belonging to humanity, when, for example, they are treated like things (Examples of insults directed at black men and women: “Bombril hair”, “Cabo hair mouse”, “charcoal” – data collected in the project mentioned below). The one who curses and attacks with impunity embodies a feeling of superiority: I belong to a better group, I can act, attacking or eliminating those inferior to me.

What is the role of schools, the scene of these verbal and physical attacks? Treat each case punctually and then forget? What is the role of the state? Decree official mourning for the murder of the teacher. And point.

And, in the heat of the last deadly attack on a day care center (RS), rush to create surveillance and policing policies, inside and outside schools.

But what about the day-to-day life of schools, families, and “communities”?

I share an experience in public schools – one state and one municipal – in the south zone of São Paulo (Financiamento/FAPESP/1997 to 2001). With an interethnic group of educators and collaborators, we studied racism in the daily life of schools, focusing on elementary school. We involve all disciplines.

Boys and girls, at our request, made drawings where they conveyed the insults they received and the reactions they had. The drawing methodology is powerful: it brings information, both unconscious and conscious, not revealed orally. In all the drawings, those who were offended were crying.

Most of the advice they received at home after they reported the offenses was: “let it go, don’t call”…

During the project, by bringing to light situations of discrimination and racism in the school space, students, teachers and staff felt authorized to expose their feelings. Spontaneous letters appeared reporting, for the first time, those events. Not only. The means of expression encouraged by us were multiple: poetry, song lyrics -rap-, videos and testimonials at public events in schools.

Male and female students, formerly excluded, were transformed into subjects of their own learning.

We provide educators with alternatives to deal with crucial issues in the teaching and learning process, such as: prejudice, discrimination and racism, from an ethnic and gender point of view.

We aim to contribute to an improvement in teaching/learning at the target schools of the project, and to public policies.

We invite you to meetings at the municipal school, the “community”: an expression used in the school region to designate the inhabitants of different types of housing (“favelas”, “backyards”, “buildings” of the BNH). We talked about the project when we shared information we gathered. We heard, then, reports of racism directed at blacks, in the family, in commerce, at work and in police approaches.

And this statement: “It is enough to live on the periphery that human beings lose their value”.[1]

*Ana Maria de Niemeyer is a retired professor at the Department of Anthropology at Unicamp.

Note


[1] About this project see: “Caldeirão de Injustiça”. Art and Anthropology Notebooks: vol.1, n.2, 2012: p.9-38. Accessible at: www.notebooksaa.ufba.br. also in https://www.academia.edu

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