Brazil has never been able to jump the barrier on race - to be candid, have we?
Sadly, no other country on that side of the world with the historic significance has competently figured out how to navigate the matters of race, even if we are in 2020.
The politics of being a black person in Brazil -though, I would add, in many other countries- is complicated even for those within South America’s most populous nation. Often, the question is more basic like, “who is black?”
Brazil's people who identify as black are some of the most persecuted in the country. Image credit Brazilreports.com
But since the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s right-wing hardliner, the rest of the world is waking up to what to them is latent baggage.
The rude awakening of Bolsonaro’s election can sometimes obscure structural deficiencies which are important to understand contexts and politics.
We could compare it to the United States and Donald Trump. Some liberal elites and “colourblind” conservatives claim they did not know America was this racist until Trump ran for president. Curious, isn’t it?
The most important but silent part that makes a more complete narrative is often ignored. When the elections do not go according to the hopes of the more refined class, mayhem is officially decreed.
Talking about important but silent parts, it's worth considering the rate at which Brazilian black youths were killed, as contained in a petition to the UN.
Image credit The New York Times
In 2017, the Permanent Forum Racial Equality, a Brazilian coalition that fights on behalf of black and anti-racist movements, petitioned the United Nations’ Human Rights Council on the rate of targeted homicides of young black Brazilians.
The Forum’s case was based on a Brazilian Senate’s investigation that took place in 2016. The conclusions of the lawmaking body were shocking.
The report found out that a black youth is murdered in Brazil every 23 minutes. In toto, 77% of murder victims in Brazil are black and 93% of the time, they are men.
On top of this, the investigation body had a critically damning claim. They “came upon a cruel and undeniable reality: The Brazilian state, directly or indirectly, perpetrates the genocide of the young black population.”
For anti-racist campaigners, the report was an opportune acknowledgement from high up the power chain.
But that wasn’t the end. The report also revealed that Brazilians had come to expect young black men to be killed – as a lawyer, Daniel Teixeira, told Agencia Brasil, the situation had become “naturalized”.
Image credit AFP, Kena Betancur
This is where the socioeconomic lot of those who identify as black in Brazil matters.
Black Brazilians for the majority of the times take up low-wage jobs and cannot afford urban housing in big cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. According to the statistics, 70% of people in all of Brazil’s favelas or ghettos are black.
What a shame...
It has been revealed that the Permanent Forum Racial Equality hoped that the 2016 Senate report would mark a new turn in their cause for Brazil. As things stand, it seems they may have set their hopes a bit too high.
This is a vicious cycle underpinned by intentional neglect by those in power. The miserable truth relies on the question that remains unanswered: when is this going to be ended?