A Black man in Brazil was the victim of a racist encounter during a flight operated by Brazilian-based Gol Airlines last August. Biologist Bruno Henrique Dias Gomes, 25, said that during a domestic flight to Marabá, located in the state of Pará, to Brasília (Federal capital of Brazil), ticks fell on him and the passenger who was sitting next to him.

After informing the flight attendant about this, a Gol Airlines employee said that the insects might have fallen from Gomes’ afro hair. 

It all started after Gomes, who was watching a movie from his cellphone, saw a tick land on the phone.

“I was sitting in the chair next to the aisle. All of a sudden, I saw something falling on my cell phone out of nowhere. The passenger who was sitting next to me saw the same. Four  minutes later, another tick fell on her shoulder. I took it off, with my hand, placed it on the bench and called the flight attendant. I told him what was happening, and he replied, ‘Are you sure?’ I showed him what was in my hand, then he left”, Gomes told Uol News, a Brazilian media outlet.

However, another tick fell on the table of the seat.

“I tried to catch it, but it escaped and fell to the ground. I called the flight attendant again, and many people on the plane started to see if there were ticks on their seats,” the passenger said.

He said that two flight attendants came, and moved people to other seats.

“I remained in my seat. Then, at that moment, one of the flight attendants said: ‘It could have fallen from anywhere, even your hair’,” Gomes said.

Surprised by the flight attendant’s comments, he said he felt extremely embarrassed after the racist offense during the Gol Airlines flight.

“The flight attendant made me feel like a filthy person, who doesn’t have up-to-date hygiene. And that affected the judgment of the people around,” the Biologist told Globo, a Brazilian newspaper.

After disembarking, he looked for the airline desk at the Brasília airport, but he was not able to file a complaint because he could not remember the name of the flight attendant who mocked his hair.

“I did not pay attention to her physical characteristics either. I was terrified by the ticks falling, and I didn’t remember the flight attendant’s face,” he said.

“The airline service clerk said: ‘Unfortunately, we have nothing to do’. Then I went back home, but as I was shocked by this issue, I didn’t even think about registering an occurrence. Afterwards, I was talking to my aunt, and she warned: ‘This is racism,’.”

He filed a complaint on the Gol Airlines website. Gol contacted him, offering a R$500 bonus ($100) for the purchase of another ticket. However, he did not accept the offer.

”I told them I didn’t want the money. I wanted an apology for the embarrassment I went through,” he said.

Now, the biologist wants more than a mere apology from the company. He said he has reported the case to the police in Brasília, where he lives.

“Initially, I thought it was a bad joke, but when I told my aunt the whole story, she said that the flight attendant was racist towards me. When I got feedback from them (from Gol), I understood that if they accepted the mistake and decided to pay (the bonus), they knew they did something wrong,” he said. “

The Brasília police department said that the case is under investigation.

Racist offenses are considered hate crimes in Brazil. An offender can get 1-3 years in jail if convicted. However, few people face legal punishments for racially offending a Black or Brown person in the country.

Travel Noire tried to contact Gol Airlines, but the company has not answered our invitation to talk about this case.