Monday, March 23, 2015

More Questions

Now some more direct questions that I will answer based on my experiences mostly or people who I know very well. 

1.) Have you ever been discriminated for living in the favela?
Yes, Favelas still have this stigma.  People outside think everybody here is a drug dealer, thief or violent. It is true that we have bad people here. When you have a huge population, of course there will be some bad ones in there too. With poverty of any level of insecurity can exist. That, and lack of education can lead to young people to get involved in trouble. The public school system is very poor and is not equal quality to what the middle and upper classes receive. Every child when they are young have dreams to be somebody, a football player, a fireman, a veterinarian, a teacher, many things. But sadly many of favela children will not have that opportunity. Many families live on one or two minimum salaries and this is not a lot of money. When a child grows up in the favela, he usually goes on to be a service industry worker. The most common jobs for favelados are housekeeper, construction worker, bus driver, cashier, moto-taxi or owning a small business in the favela. There are many children that would like to have other options but the public school system does not prepare these kids to go to university. The discrimination comes from the middle and upper classes and their treatment of service industry workers. They think because we earn less money that we don’t have value. But favelados run the city. If I were to make a phone call to everybody from a favela and tell them not to go to work tomorrow, this city would shut down. We do have value, we just don’t get treated with value.

My personal experiences, I have noticed when talking to people who I don’t know from outside, as soon as they find out I live in a favela, they treat me differently. Its like they don’t want to talk or be seen with somebody from the favela. I don't like to lie about where I was from or where I live. Why should I be ashamed of the place I am from? For example, I will meet somebody outside and they find out I speak English and they will want to talk to me and seem happy, smiling etc.. After a while when the conversation turns to where I live, then things change. Then its as if the person tries to find a reason to not talk to me or they will make excuse why they need to leave.  I have had this happen. Its very strange. This is sad because I read every night and I am constantly learning. I know that I can be an interesting person to talk to. Why is where I am from so important that people judge me in a negative way and they don't even know me?

I have experienced discrimination many times but its not obvious, but I pick it up in how people treat me. My skin color is white as my roots are from Ceara, the northeast of Brazil. Over 70% of Rocinha is of northeastern descent so seeing white people here is not rare. Color percentages also depend on each favela. Some have more darker skin people and others like Rocinha have white, black and brown with different shades mixed in.

Another time I was asked to leave a upper class shopping mall by security. I think the security guy saw my tattoo “Rocinha”, on my arm and wondered why I was in the mall. I tried to explain to him that I had money but still, he insisted I leave. I think he thought I didn’t have money and that I might steal something. I am white skin color but I know it must be worse for those of darker skin or black people. If I didn't leave, he said he would call the police. Being from a favela, I did not want to deal with the police as they would assume I did something wrong.

My neighbor went to a job interview and was qualified for the job the company was offering but he didn’t get the job. With him, he is mixed race guy. Again on his resume you need to put your address and if it says Rocinha, some employers can choose not to hire you. So, now I have friend in Rocinha that use outside address so they don't need to experience this kind of prejudice.

I overheard one store employee say they would never hire people from the favela because they are not reliable. Anytime inside there’s a shoot out the favela resident may not be able to leave the favela and they be late or miss work. They also said that the favelado may steal from their place of employment. People have this assumption that if you are poor, automatically means that you will steal things.

Inside the favela there is discrimination with the police.  Especially, if you are darker skin and between the ages of 14-25, expect the police to stop and search you at least two to three times a week. My friend Dembore has had police machine guns pointed at his head several times.  I think they stop him because he has tattoos and a beard.

I know I can walk by Ipanema beach in the late afternoon or evening especially near Arpoador, and you can smell marijuana being smoked and the police there do nothing. But inside the favela, if the police catch you smoking this, they will physically beat you up, thinking that you must be a drug trafficker. Two sets of rules, one for the favelado and another for the other people. So, yes discrimination appears in two forms, social class and skin color. 

I think this happens because of the media’s image of favelas is one of drug trafficking and crime. Yes, we do have these problems in our favela, but it is a very small percentage of the population that do these things.  Everybody else just wants to live an honest life, have a good job, get married, have children, go to the beach and be able to walk in their favela without a problem. That’s all we want.

We have over 1020 favelas in the state of Rio, over 780 within the municipal district of the city of Rio. At any given time the police are making “operations” in these favelas to catch drug dealers and to find drugs. Sometimes in these operations, people are killed, mostly drug traffickers, but stray bullets do make innocent victims. So, for the outsider watching the tv news every night, their images of favelas are of shootings, violence and death. Favelas are places you don’t go, dangerous areas.  All the media shows is the negative things, no wonder why most people are afraid of the favelas. Their only reference about these communities is what they read in the newspaper or see on tv.  This is the continuing cycle of discrimination.

2.) Do you feel different for being a favelado/favela dweller? What makes you different from people who live in the "formal city"?? 
Sometimes, I do. But I know I am different. I am nothing like the guy who lives in Copacabana or Ipanema. I don’t share their life experiences. They are raised in stable household, have a financially secure family, go to good quality schools, have opportunities and are connected to others like them. How can I have a conversation with a guy like this? I do not hate him. But, I don’t share his same interests or life experiences. I guess we could talk about football but you can’t build a friendship on one thing. I think also the people on the asphalt are concerned more with how others think of them. If a guy from Ipanema was found out by his friends to have a friend from the favela, some may look down on him or wonder why. This is a general statement but I have found this true in my life. I know maybe 3 people from outside the favela but we don’t hang out or anything. And they never come here in Rocinha.

Sometimes people will look down on you or treat you like they think you are stupid. When I need to go outside the favela, I just do what I need to do and then come back.  I like the favela because its real people and you can’t pretend to be something you are not.  So, if people start acting like they are better, others will put them in their place.  “You are from the favela too, so put your nose down.”  I don’t like leaving the favela. I prefer to stay inside where I feel comfortable.

What makes me different is I am humble and I appreciate everything I have. I am thankful as life could be far worse.  I don’t value material things over people. I am also not ashamed to live in this favela!

 3.) Do you feel uncomfortable when you go out of the favela to other neighborhoods in the city? 
Sometimes I do because outside is so big and be confusing. Inside the favela we know where everything is and if you get lost or need help there are people who will show you the way. I do leave my favela as have many friends in other favela communities so I like to visit them. It's sad because we are all human beings that share this planet. We all need to get to know each other and work together for a better world.