The Fate of Little Black Boys in Brazil Who Go Where They Don’t Belong

Last week, the newspapers reported that the Regional Labor Court of the 6th Region had sentenced the former mayor of Tamandaré, Sergio Hacker Corte Real, and his wife, Sarí Mariana Costa Gaspar Corte Real, to pay R$2.01 million in damages to the family of Miguel, who died after falling from the 9th floor of the luxury building where the couple lived and the child’s mother worked as a maid. The verdict, which will still be appealed by the couple, came more than three years after the child’s death. This brings me to an article I wrote on the impact of yet another crime against black people in Brazil.  Below is the text published in Vermelho on 05/06/2020…

The case of little Miguel, the son of domestic worker Mirtes, reveals the horror of class injustice in Brazil. And in this crime, the current custom of killing black people among Brazilians.

I’m not exaggerating. There can be no exaggeration in the face of the black child who was despised for falling from the ninth floor to the ground. We can’t even talk about this death as a tragedy, such is the vulgarization of how black life is nullified, from the slums in Brazil where they are hunted, to the domestic servants who work and serve under “friendly,” and therefore false, relationships. The case of Miguel Otávio and Mirtes Renata, son and mother, is a model of a crime that is not punished, a didactic crime before the boy’s blood, during and after.

In the first lesson, we see the comfortable happiness of the relationship between masters and domestic workers. I should say, the comfortable happiness of masters who translate it into the happiness of their maids. “They have nothing to complain about. I give them everything,” they say. “Here at home, a maid is a member of the family,” they shamelessly boast. The curious thing is that, in these kind words, they are almost sincere. They want to say, without daring to express it, that for little black girls, they have more than they get from other cruel caricatures. And indeed, in their homes the maids eat – “and how they eat!”, they observe. They eat like animals, which means they have a centuries-old hunger that has never been satisfied. The maids sleep! Well, they even sleep – “they sleep better than me, poor me, because I have insomnia”. Very good. And in this chapter, in this lesson, those who have gained insight into the experience of suffering will see best.

A taxi driver once told me, out of the blue: “I can recognize on the street, just by looking at them, who is and who isn’t a maid”. But what do you mean? He said: “At the bus stop, they always have wet hair and a little bag. Do you know what it is? At the end of the day, they take a shower and take home the leftovers from the boss’s lunch. To this day, I haven’t missed one. I know because my wife is a cleaner. He continued: “She’s exploited! Often, at 7 o’clock at night, when it’s time to leave the house, the madam arrives and asks her to prepare the master’s dinner. That’s when she doesn’t come with some friends to have a drink. Then my wife goes from cleaner to cook. She does everything for the lady.

In the case of Mirtes Renata Santana de Souza and her master Sari Corte Real, their affection and good friendship even merited a beach house. In Tamandaré, on the south coast of Pernambuco, where master Sérgio Hacker Corte Real is mayor. Are you accompanying the Excellency? That means: that to escape the coronavirus outbreak in Recife, the master went to the beach house and took her maids and little son Miguel. Notice how the Big House of slavery from the good old days is reproduced. The masters “employed” an entire family in their home: Mirtes, her mother and Miguel. In addition to affection, they also received the coronavirus, because the mayor fell ill and was cured. Meanwhile, the contaminated maids continued to work, because cleaning and cooking can’t stop. Madame was going to work as a black woman? That’s all it took. And to hell with civilization!

The second lesson is in blood. Minutes before Miguel fell, Madame was painting her nails at home. She had been left with the little son of the maid Mirtes, who had gone out with her Mistress’s dog. The child was left to play with Madame’s daughter. (Remember the little black slaves who distracted the children of the plantation owners? ) But Miguel’s misfortune was that he loved his mother too much. When she left, he started crying, begging for her shelter and lap. But why did the little boy, besides loving his mother, suddenly miss her affection so much? Only those who feel and have felt this lack would be able to tell. The fact is that the boy, stubborn, rebellious, “full of desires”–as if he wasn’t the son of a black woman–annoyed her so much that the boss had no choice but to leave him to his fate. Bad luck, bad luck, bad luck. In other words: you want your mother? Go on. Good luck. In the video footage, the madam appears to be taking the convict to his fate as a little black boy. And back to her beautiful nails. Suddenly, a thud, a small crash. When bones hit the ground from a great height, they sound like bombs. I’ve seen the sound of a man who threw himself from the top of the Holiday Building in Boa Viagem, Recife. But never a little boy. That’s why I give him a little bang for his noise of broken bones.

And so we come to the third didactic lesson of a class crime in Pernambuco. In the first interview, after the “accident”, one of the investigators, when asked if there were people in the apartment where the child’s mother worked, replied somewhat annoyed: “That will still depend on the investigation”. Simple question, hidden answer. Let’s wait and see what the boss says, would be the best understanding of what the investigator said. The case was then treated as a tragedy, a fatality, in other words. the fate of little black boys who go where they don’t belong. Then come the statements from the relatives of the five-year-old victim, who say: “The boss and her manicurist were in the apartment”. Ah well, in the face of the outcry, the devil took an unexpected turn. We had to investigate further, and go to the unaccountable elite family. So, it’s true, the boss was held responsible for a culpable crime. Those who don’t know about the world of law even think that culpable crime is the crime of guilt. But no, it’s a minor crime, because the perpetrator didn’t intend to kill. He killed unintentionally, by accident, a “fatality”, as the police inspector said in an interview. So Mrs. Sari paid a bail of 20,000 reais and left.

But the justice of the people of Brazil demands more investigation and less fatal death. Instead of sadness and pitying looks, everyone wants to know: what did the manicurist, witness to the little child’s “wiggles” and the madam’s words, say before taking Miguel to his scaffold? If the manicurist was heard, what did she say? What’s more, has a psychologist been called in to interview the madam’s little daughter who played with the little boy in the apartment minutes before the fall? These are paths that could be taken, prior to the lesser classification of the mistress’s crime, which could be punished as a crime of intentional misconduct, because she took the risk of disposing of a child, throwing him into an elevator for the last ride.

And finally, the fourth and terrible lesson. Mirtes Renata Santana de Souza’s successive interviews reveal a progression of lights in her consciousness. What at first seemed like a tragic accident was later revealed to be a strange, almost pitying feeling when her beloved boss told her that she was going to be arrested. Mirtes asked her: “How can you be arrested if you haven’t committed a crime?” In that question, there was a suspicion that passed in the distance, higher than the ninth floor of the Twin Towers, from where Miguel fell. But suspicion is a pain that comes and goes, even if it leaves some confusing clues. At first, Mirtes didn’t want to see the images of Miguel’s last minute in the elevator. But then she did, and what she saw caused her to revolt: the madam led the most beautiful little black man in her life and squeezed a floor of the elevator. She squeezed it or showed it, which doesn’t diminish her crime. And she went back to her manicure. Suddenly, there was a small bang. But not so sudden, because it was predictable.

Urariano Mota is the author of Never-Ending Youth.