Cellphone video of a Black boy naked and whimpering while being whipped in Brazil allegedly for stealing four chocolate bars is dredging up a painful history in the country for Black Brazilians.
The unidentified 17-year-old boy’s trousers were around his ankles when the footage showed him being beaten with an electric cable inside a private jail in São Paulo, according to the Brazilian daily newspaper Folha de S.Paulo.
“Are you going to come back?” someone can be heard asking the child in the 40-second video.
He shook his head, unable to speak because he was gagged.
“It is like a scene from centuries ago,” detective Pedro Luis de Souza told The Guardian.
He described the victim as “a defenseless, homeless black man … A victim of society, I would say.”
De Souza told The Guardian he was “extremely shocked” when a journalist sent him the video on Monday regarding the alleged theft at a Ricoy supermarket. He started looking into the incident, interviewed the victim and identified the two security guards, he told the British newspaper.
The boy told de Souza the guards stopped him as he was leaving the supermarket.
“They tied him up and whipped him until he promised to not do it again,” de Souza told The Guardian.
He added that the crime of torture carries a prison sentence of up to eight years.
The boy told TV Globo the guards threatened him if he spoke up about the incident.
“They said if I spoke to anyone, they would kill me,” he told the news source.
He said it was the third time the same guards assaulted him allegedly for stealing from the supermarket and that he’d been living on the streets since he was 12 years old, Folha de S.Paulo reported.
The supermarket said in a statement to the media that the supermarket no longer contracts with the company that employs the guards.
“We were shocked by the gratuitous and meaningless torture on a teenage victim,” the company said in the statement. “We will give all the support needed.”
For some Black Brazilians, the video shows how deeply rooted racism is in Brazil, where more than half of the population identifies as Black or of mixed race, The Guardian reported.
“It’s not an isolated incident. But it was filmed,” Humberto Adami, a Black lawyer from Rio de Janeiro, told the newspaper.
Adami, who’s also president of the Brazilian bar association’s Black Slavery Truth Commission, said the fact the guards filmed “the torture” showed they were sure they would not get caught.
“All this is connected to the slavery past in Brazil where Blacks were whipped night and day,” Adami told The Guardian.