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Racial courts in universities: the drama of those judged by their skin color

Racial courts in universities: the drama of those judged by their skin color

A 25-year-old student named Victor Neves was standing in a queue, waiting for his turn to be called. His hands were sweating and chills ran down his spine. He had already failed in another assessment like this, but this time he hoped it would be different. He was slapping his face so that they would understand his message, so that they would recognize him the way he saw himself.

Throughout his life, Neves recognized himself and was recognized as brown. As a result of the union of a white woman and a black man, Victor grew up in a family of browns and riverside indigenous people on the banks of the Amazon River.

For him, the chance to change his life was to go to university, something that only one person in his family had ever achieved. Neves entered the university in 2013 and graduated in Literature, thanks to a scholarship offered by the institution. Then he took a course in Social Sciences at the Federal University of Amazonas (UFAM), this time through the quota system, declaring himself brown. He attended a whole year without any news. But everything changed when, in search of expanding his line of research, he decided to move to the south of the country, in order to study at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS).

Victor Neves was unable to transfer and continue the course; had to start over from scratch. That was when he discovered that he would have to go through an evaluation panel to prove that he was really brown. At a first bankroll, he was refused. They said he was not what he said he was. Now Victor tried a second time and, as the line progressed, those waiting there analyzed each other, already anticipating what would happen.

Upon entering the room, Neves noticed that everyone was watching his color, his hair and the features of his face. Photographs were taken of Victor and he had to fill out a form explaining why he considers himself brown. A process that takes a few minutes seemed like an eternity and, in the end, disappointment: Victor was again dismissed. In the months that followed, he had to feel the bitterness of being rejected for what he was.

“After the process, when I was dismissed, I felt very bad and I was very sad. It affected my psychological a lot and I even had to do therapy. I felt bad, not only because I gave up on a dream, but because I was judged in a way that the bank thought I was, ”he said. “They just didn't accept my statement and I felt like I was being seen as a fraudster, someone of a bad nature. In a way, it was a type of racism that I suffered. Where does the brown one fit in? What does it mean to be brown in Brazil? ”, He asks.

Victor Neves' story is just one of several reports by people who have been submitted to the Heteroidentification Commissions, also called Racial Courts. These are painful and traumatic stories. This process is gradually being established in federal universities across the country and also in public tenders.

History and legislation

Racial quotas were established through a long process. First, special vacancies were created for the disabled. Then, social and racial quotas were created.

But racial quotas, which were already being applied in universities across the country, were only ruled in 2012, by law sanctioned by Dilma Rousseff.

According to the Quota Law, the people able to enter a university through this expedient are the Blacks, the Pardos and the Indigenous People (PPI). The criterion for defining whether someone fits these definitions must be the same as that of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the self-declaration.

As soon as the system was put in place, however, allegations of fraud emerged. White people are said to be entering universities via racial quotas, declaring themselves brown. In order to try to solve this problem, in 2016 the then Ministry of Planning and Management (MPOG) published a normative guideline establishing that the criteria for assessing the veracity of self-declaration should be only the candidate's phenotypic aspects. That is, your physical appearance.

Thereafter, “Racial Courts” were created at all federal and some state universities. The criteria and form of application of the Quota Law varies from place to place.

"Schrodinger Brown"

There is still much controversy as to the criteria that should be used to determine whether a person is mixed race or not. The concept that pardos are light-skinned blacks was spread over the years by the black movement and gained official character in the 2010 Racial Equality Statute. The statute made browns and blacks like blacks. Since then, there has been even more confusion in the definition of who the pardos are.

Browns, who were previously considered black by the Racial Equality statute, have come to be accused of being fraudsters of racial quotas. Activists denounce this strategy as a way of using browns as a maneuver mass for the black movement, in order to include them in their narratives and to increase the ranks of their militancy.

According to the writer Leandro Narloch, this artifice makes the brown one to exist and not to exist at the same time. Importing the concept “Pardo de Schrodinger” by youtuber Clarion de Laffalot, Narloch explains that, according to IBGE, the Brazilian population is composed of 46% of browns, 44% of whites and only 8% of blacks.

"When measuring the black population in universities, browns are left out and when measuring the number of blacks in prisons browns are included. Then browns would be thrown back and forth depending on the convenience of the movement's narrative. "

This is the case of law student Stephanie Araujo, a resident of São Paulo who tried to be part of the black movement, but was excluded and offended. “When I was a child, I always saw myself as a brunette. I started to study the history of Brazil and, in sociology classes, I began to question my place in society. I started to get involved with black militancy and, influenced, I started to see myself as a black woman with fair skin. But I started to see myself as a maneuver mass. Because you are cornered when you complain about racism. It is the question of the place of speech. You feel barred because of the lighter color. They make it clear all the time that you are not really part of it ”.

Bahian cultural producer Daniela Aquino also tells of her experience of when she discovered brown skin and what was the reaction of the black movement to this. "I was asked who I was and told me mestizo. And they said I was black and that was a blackout. I am not the result of a rape and I did not go through the blackout process," he said.

According to Daniela, the black movement was very effective in instilling in people the idea that the pardo is black and that mestizos and pardos do not exist. And it is time for browns to conquer their spaces of speech.

"In theory, all browns are black, but they are not accepted as browns at the time of the quota. We must accept our diverse reality. I am not saying that racism does not exist, but the best way is the truth, accepting the naked reality. "says Daniela, who feels silenced due to stereotypes and prejudice. "My intention is to bring a democratic debate and not to bring a single opinion. People are silenced and silent for thinking outside the box. I see an undemocratic environment. They say that you are either racist white or alienated brown."

Difficulty in definition

There are three ways to define the brown: ancestry, genetics and phenotypes. These are the definitions used by racial courts.

The ancestry criterion is defended by the Amazonian physician Leão Alves, member and former president of the Brazilian Pardo-Mestiço Movement. Leão explains that mixed people are mixed-race people, be they Indian, white, black or any other group. In addition, Leão adds that the brown has no appearance pattern.

“The term 'pardo' appeared in the first census of 1872 and was later replaced by 'mestizo' in the 1890 census. In the 2016 statistical yearbook, 'pardo' is quoted as' mulatto ',' mameluco ',' cafuzo 'or' mixed race'. In other words, pardo refers to miscegenated people, regardless of their appearance ”, says Leão." The first Brazilian pardos emerged from miscegenation between Portuguese and indigenous people. And this happened before there were blacks in Brazil, before the first slave ships arrived ”, complements.

Eli Vieira, geneticist and scientific disseminator, explains that a person's physical characteristics are defined through genes and their markers. Over time, a population adapts to a specific region and climate, and this is reflected in physical appearance. Even so, a person with predominantly African DNA can look like a European.

"Skin color has two objective elements: the amount of melanin and how the approximately sixty genes control it. And, correlated to these genes, markers that tell a story of the origin of this phenotype", he explains. Still according to Eli Vieira, the debate about the existence of races still does not have a winner. There are plausible arguments on both sides, but this debate is tainted by political dispute.

“There are geneticists and biologists who argue that there are no human races and others who argue that there are, in fact, sufficient differences between human populations to speak of race. It is a debate that is ongoing in biology and genetics and that, unfortunately, is contaminated ”, says Eli Vieira.

The phenotype refers to the physical characteristics of a person. It is the least accurate criterion for classifying someone according to race and it is precisely the one chosen by the racial courts.

The panel examines the candidates' bodies for “negroid” characteristics, which are common in people of African descent to a greater or lesser extent. The problem is that there are not only browns who are descended from blacks. This is the case of the caboclos, who are the result of the mixture between whites and indigenous people.

In 2018, UFRGS tried to offer quotas based on ancestry. But, under pressure from the black movement, he had to go back .

Black Gestapo

Denunciations reach hundreds in Organs competent bodies of universities. Most are made by members of the black movement who hunt for alleged fraudsters in the quota system and, in some cases, expose data such as the name and photo of these people on social networks . Like a modern Gestapo, these militants do not care what happens to the accused.

The Cota Frauders profile, for example, was very successful on social media in 2020, even with the support of personalities and influencers, such as bloggers Kauê Vieira and Breno Laerte , who demonstrate support for the criminal actions of these groups.

The group's actions only stopped when they came up against justice. This was the case of student Brandow Sandor , from the University of Brasilia (UnB), who had his name exposed as a fraudster on social networks. He sued both the attackers and Twitter. The judge determined the exclusion of the contents and breach of the confidentiality of these profiles, under penalty of a daily fine of R $ 1,000.

Another case was that of Larissa Sá , an indigenous medical student at the Federal University of Maranhão (UFMA). She was exposed on social media, accused of not being indigenous for having bleached hair. Seeing the accusations, Larissa fired : “I woke up, I'm laughing at you. Can't the Indian dye his hair? ”.

After criticism for false accusations, the Cota Frauders profile went offline.


Students and university students, submitted to these commissions, report embarrassment and trauma. Most report fear of aggression or violence by the black movement. Therefore, one of them asked that his name not be revealed.

Public servant Juan Martinez participated in these commissions, this time to enter the public service. He talks about the embarrassment of being analyzed by people he didn't know. “When I went there at the place [of the evaluation], they took a picture of me, made me look like I was a work of art to be analyzed. I stood in front of about five or six people, who were mostly black in color. In the end, I was not approved by this board ”.

Another student at UFRJ, who we will call João here , says that when he entered the university, self-declaration was enough. With the change in college policies, he had to go through the commission, which led the student to go into depression. “When I was disapproved by the racial court, I thought it was impossible for this situation to continue. I believed that the university would revoke the decision at some point or that the Public Ministry would intervene to return our vacancies. However, time passed and the plug fell: the vacancy was left behind ”, he says.

João says that, later on, he understood the university's intention not to allow brown students to enter via quotas. “After talking to other students and reading a little about the ideas of racial advocates, I realized that they only want students who feel 'black'. If you feel brown without feeling black, you have a very dangerous idea and someone with that idea cannot enter university, ”he says.

A predictable problem

According to anthropologist Yvonne Maggie, writer of the book “Dangerous divisions: racial policies in contemporary Brazil '', to establish in the Brazilian legislation the distribution of rights by race would reverse our entire legal system and would only cause more division and conflict.

“The Brazilian nation was one of the few slave nations that, at the end of slavery, opted for arracial legislation. This does not mean that there is no racism, but it is not in the letter of the law and it makes a huge difference. The United States emerged from the Civil War and the abolition of slavery by producing more violent race-based legislation. South Africa, in 1948, was creating the Apartheid system ”, explains Maggie.

The anthropologist harshly criticized the creation of racial quotas in 2001 and started to be persecuted because of that. “What is common between the racialist and the supremacist is not racism; is hate. And it is racial hatred that produces genocide, ”he says.

Another anthropologist criticizing the quota system is Antônio Risério. “Today it is difficult to be mestizo in this political, social and educational plan because there is no social policy for that. It has social policy for black. So it's better to be black, ”he says.

How Racial Courts Work

The analysis of heteroidentification stands is qualitative, not quantitative. That is, the criteria are subjective and not measurable. There is no color palette to establish the acceptable limit. That is why there are so many cases of inconsistency in the evaluation. The two cases of twin twins in which one was approved and the other did not clearly demonstrate the deficiency in the "eyepiece" evaluation.

As there is no central rule that determines how commissions should be carried out, each institution uses its own criteria. The board, in most cases, is made up of professors or employees of the institution, but may include external guests, such as members of the black movement.

In a transmission made through social networks , the coordinator of the committee to combat fraud in the UFRJ quota system, Denise Góes, explained that the criteria to be used in the newsstands are exclusively phenotypic and that they are taught in a training course offered by the university itself .

“We are based on the texture of the hair, on the nose, on the mouth, on the color of the eyes and objectively on the skin tone. This does not mean that only black inmates enter the university. We are not a racial tribunal ”, he defends himself. However, Denise also states that the preference, according to her, is the black phenotypes present in browns. The closer to the Negro, the more likely the brown is to pass.

Denise also talks about the candidates' aesthetic and cultural issues. She says that a woman with straight hair is more likely to fail than one who keeps her hair natural. "Women who went through chemical processes, straightening, often these candidates are disapproved because of this incessant search for bleaching," he says.

The drops in the is

To clarify what actually happens in the newsstands, Gazeta do Povo talked to an UFRJ employee who has already participated in some heteroidentification newsstands. Afraid of reprisals, she also declined to identify herself. Here we will call her Maria .

Maria, who is black and entered the university via racial quotas, believes that commissions only exist because there are people who defraud quotas and that errors in racial courts are rare.

She also says that most of the browns are approved and that, in case of doubt about the person's race, the principle in dubio pro reo is used , a legal concept in which the defendant is acquitted in case of doubt. But she confesses that, for her, it would be better for browns to be excluded from the process, because they suffer less than people with dark skin.

“In fact, it would be very good if the quotas were only for black, straight people. It would be really good. Browns have to be aware that they suffer much less. He will suffer less racism in society. I have three bank accounts and I have no black manager, there is no black doctor at the post. A brown person doesn't go through a lot of things ”.

Maria goes further and says that anyone who is rejected by the commissions should be grateful that he can finally live as a white man. “If a person is evaluated as white, that’s good for them. You are not condemning, you are freeing the person. You are saying: 'you are white, be happy' ”.

As for the embarrassment and humiliation reported by people who passed by these stalls, Maria says that she regrets, but that frustration is a natural part of life. Finally, on the conflict generated by racial quotas and whether this problem would not be better solved with the expansion of social quotas, which have more objective criteria and which would serve both low-income whites and blacks, Maria concludes that, however much it may be painful, racial quota is necessary. “I think there has to be a racial quota, because I think the issue is racial. There is no point in masking, saying that it is social, because it is not. You solve it in a way because you avoid conflict, but you don't solve the problem. You really have to confront people, put the drips on us correctly ”.

"Courts of exception"

According to Minas Gerais lawyer Caio Tirapani, who represents more than 50 students who passed through these boards and who questioned the result, universities are giving way to purely political and ideological issues and leaving the law out. Caio also points out that applying new legal understandings to old cases is illegal and that the legislation that is used as a basis to justify these commissions guarantees this in his text.

“In 2018, the federal public administration issued a normative guideline that foresaw the possibility of creating hetero-identification commissions and using the phenotype criterion in federal public tenders. From then on, the phenotype criterion started to be used in all competitions, including some entrance exams. And what is interesting is that this orientation, says that the terms established for this standard will be valid only for the competitions whose notices were not released. In other words, only from then on ", says Tirapani.

"Almost all universities that cancel enrollment of students use this normative orientation as a basis even though there is provision in the norm that it is not applicable to old cases. It is something that makes us somewhat scared, because the law is in the background and political and ideological aspects come into play. "

"Universities are turning a blind eye to what the federal legislation establishes on the subject, because in the federal law there is still no provision for the phenotype criterion. This is due to infralegal rules. In other words, rules made by the public administration itself and by the public notices. Only the universities simply want to apply today's understanding to old cases. And that in law is something totally illegal. "

"New understandings are created new norms new laws. A new court, because the commission is also created later. All this to judge previous facts. It is a typical court of exception in which both the laws and the judges are known after the fact it happens."

Caio says that there is a great injustice in comparing people who really think they are brown with people who have no brown or black ancestry.

“They treat everyone who does not have the phenotype traits as if they were a quota fraudster. Which is certainly not true. There is a great deal of confusion between a self-declaration that you disagree with. It is a self-declaration that is in fact false. These two types of students cannot be treated the same. Those students who effectively, and are the minority, declared themselves even without having any relatives that fit as brown or black, those students who declared themselves confident that they are in fact brown because they have the traits or because they are children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of people who fit as brown or black. "

Caio tells the drama of a student, who has already graduated, and would have completed her degree on Wednesday (10), but had her enrollment canceled the day before.

“She had her enrollment canceled after a procedure that went on for almost a year. Totally illegal, totally arbitrary. We are very amazed by everything that has been seen by the universities, "he says." I filed an administrative appeal about ten days ago and today the final decision of the rectory came out. It is a fully prepared model with a few blank spaces just to fill. It is a model that is suitable for any student and that does not individualize the demands raised in the defense of each one. There is no point in appealing, you must present arguments because in the end it will be a totally generic decision. “

The lawyer also says that this whole process caused a lot of pain to the students who came in contact with him, and that many started to use controlled drugs.

“Last year, between June and July, there was an intense exposure on social networks. Even students who had already achieved archiving were once again the target of these charges of fraud. It is a very painful process, "he says." Unfortunately, I realize that almost half of the students who come to me are experiencing psychological problems. Several of them with medical follow-up, taking black-stripe medicine from so much suffering that is caused to them. These students avoid all types of exposure as much as possible, because they suffer from the prejudice issue. ”

According to Edilson Nabarro, Follow-up Coordinator of the Affirmative Action Program at UFRGS, the university's affirmative action program follows the legal basis of the Quota Law and the STF's opinion in favor of the constitutionality of the heteroidentification commissions.

“The procedure for heteroidentification stands is legally based on the 2012 quota law. Whether in our program or in the quota law, the heteroidentification commission was not foreseen. Only the percentage for reserving vacancies was established. Our permanent commission comes in 2018 to be a legal instrument, and even mandatory, of the public power to ensure that its policies do not deviate from the purpose. As of 2019, all students enrolled as PPI were subject to the hetero-identification that was approved by the UFRGS Board of Trustees (Concur), which is a prerequisite for enrollment.

Self-declaration has no absolute value and this was enshrined by the supreme court who considered this heteroidentification to be constitutional. And in Lewandowski's vote, the rapporteur said: 'We are not talking about formal equality, but about equal opportunities'. So, by unanimity of the Supreme, this heteroidentification was judged to be constitutional. ”

Nabarro also explains that the commission is formed by a plural team and that the main criterion for choosing its members is adherence to the policy.

“[The commission] has teachers, technicians, whites, browns and blacks and students enrolled at UFRGS. And also people outside the black movement, who do not participate in the commission, but follow the process to see if there is any deviation. The criterion [to choose the members of the commission] is first adherence to the policy. Because a heteroidentification commission, which ensures that the purpose is not deviated, must have as a minimum prerequisite adherence to this inclusion policy. ”

According to Nabarro, the biggest reason people might want to defraud the quota system is the advantages and facilities they will have.

“We were very impacted and our role is the principle of justice that must always be achieved. We dismissed in atrocious doubt, that guy who is in the middle of the field, the one we call a low-ink or low-ink black . Why the most objective and indisputable criterion is the color of the skin ", says Navarro.

"When you are going to compete in the reserve of vacancies, you have a competitive advantage and you get a lower cut grade than those who compete in universal. Some opportunists see this competitive advantage of signing up as a pardo so that they don't pass through the competitiveness that they have in the vacancies, mainly in specific courses like medicine. And in the verification, it turns out that they are actually white, some ostensibly white, others are dark white.

Finally, Nabarro explains the process that the university is going through based on complaints sent by members of the black movement.

“In 2017, black groups at UFRGS made a complaint about 304 students who allegedly entered the reservation of places for PPI students. And they were the target of verification. Of the 304, and I chaired the commission, 280 were dismissed and the commission judged them unequivocally not black. They went to the Public Ministry, and the MP intervened at the university listening to these reports of injustice. And so, until today, we have not resumed the conclusion of the investigation, because there was no decision by the university to carry out a new measurement procedure for these students. They are regularly enrolled, some will graduate. ”

According to UnB, "in its selection processes for graduation, self-declaration is used as a criterion for the allocation of vacancies reserved for black candidates (which includes blacks and browns, as defined by the IBGE), following the Quota Law. post-graduation and in the selections for new servers, there is the use of hetero-identification commissions before the final approval of the results. "

"The criteria [of benchmarking benchmarks] are those established in the current legislation (in particular, the Quota Law) and in the internal regulations that regulate the subject. In the case of graduate studies, the one established in the Resolution of the Research Chamber is used and Post-Graduation nº 09/2020, according to which the heteroidentification commission '(…) will exclusively use the phenotypic criterion to assess the condition declared by the candidate for the reserved spot ", says the UnB.

Also according to the University of Brasilia, "in the post-graduation period, a public notice was opened for the formation of the commissions. 43 people were selected, among UnB servants and students. They went through a training course. The administration does not have the course material In the case of competitions, there is a list of effective civil servants who apply to compose the boards. For each selection, a specific commission is appointed, composed of five civil servants. There is no training course, but the debate between members, following what is established in the current legislation. ”

Regarding the transmission on YouTube of one of the trials, UnB declared that it is not a live. "This is a meeting of the University Council (Consuni), the highest collegiate body of UnB. According to the Statute and the General Regulations of the University, the meetings are public, open to the community and are always broadcast by UnBTV (since before the pandemic) , including). The students who appealed to the Council were informed that, from that point on, the processes would no longer be classified. "

The University is unaware of cases of candidates "traumatized by the experience of being judged for their skin color". According to UnB, "everyone who participates in the institution's selection processes agrees with the rules established in the notices. If someone has a complaint, it must be formalized with the UnB Ombudsman."

Although UnB denies that it makes commissions for scouting undergraduate courses, they do exist. For admission to the university, in fact, only self-declaration is required. But if a complaint is made, students are investigated for fraud. One of the students, who preferred not to identify herself as she was exposed on social media, says that she was not even able to introduce herself and that the assessment was made from photos taken from social media. He also said that throughout the process he did not have the right to a full defense.

“UnB does things in a totally arbitrary way and without informing those involved about the progress of the process. The expulsion decision came out in the newspapers before I was even notified. I have been exposed on social networks by UnB students on Twitter, publishing my photo and registration number. UnB did nothing about these issues, "he says.

"There was also no broad defense, I was not allowed to speak at any time, only yes / no questions were asked. To have a trial, there must be defense, argumentation, against argumentation. They only evaluated my defense after the expulsion, before all those expelled received only a general refusal decision. "

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