Black Lives Matter: The Call for Racial Democracy Resounds in Brazil

After the brutal murder of George Floyd by U.S. police, a wave of protests has called for all of society to descend into the streets in order to fight for the eradication of systemic racism. In a world affected by the fragmentation of political and institutional powers and in the midst of disorder worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which launched a global healthcare crisis, the veil of racism that sustains privilege and forms of neocolonial capitalist exploitation has been pulled back. In the face of such a scene, antiracist reactions have flared up in various countries. In Brazil, a country that daily relives the trauma of colonial racism, the call for racial democracy resounds throughout the Black population.

It is important for us to emphasize that, due to different contexts of colonialization and to the racial policies adopted in their respective histories, any analysis seeking to compare the reactions of the Brazilian and U.S. populations to the George Floyd case confirms once more strategies of oppression within politics of domination. In this hierarchical global system, the United States functions as a reference point for comparisons between the two countries and depicts yet another expression of symbolic violence.

Yet racism is the common denominator in this structure of oppression. It is the connection which summons the descendants of the Black Diaspora in every corner of the world through the motto “Black Lives Matter.” Capitalism’s failure has put so-called democratic regimes in check since a democracy which maintains itself through a necropolitical system that eliminates Black, indigenous, and other non-white bodies cannot be considered as the power of the people per its etymological meaning. Upon being normalized as a form of social organization in Brazil, racism has a great effect daily in the death and the exclusion of Black people and in their access to human rights.

Consequently, any supposition that the fight to end racism in Brazil gained momentum with the current North American demonstrations is to be ignorant of its history. In the 1930’s, the Frente Negra Brasileira (FNB, Black Brazilian Front) [1] strove for equality throughout society but was eradicated during the Vargas dictatorship. Since the 70’s, the Movimento Negro Unificado (MNU, Unified Black Movement) [2] has been combatting all forms of racial discrimination. These movements do not include the armed revolts and creation of quilombos since the days of slavery. During abolition, partnerships between Black communities confirmed their agency and anti-racist political organization.

With the assassination of City Councilwoman Marielle Franco [3], protests against racism erupted in Brazil. Thousands took to the streets to seek justice for Marielle and for all she represented: Black Brazil’s resistance struggle. Her cowardly assassination unveiled the structural and institutional racism enrooted in Brazilian society, as a political strategy of domination that sheds the blood of thousands of Black families. And yet, in Brazil, it is still necessary to prove that racism exists, murders, and incarcerates the black population on a systemic level.

This year the COVID-19 pandemic ignited the social inequalities which manifest in racist ways. At a time when the global population is called to practice social distancing, in Brazil, staying home to protect oneself from coronavirus is a privilege reserved for a small sector of society that is obviously white. Ironically, the choking of George Floyd acts as a metaphor in times of COVID-19 in which the poor and Black population dies the most because of the virus’ fatal respiratory consequences. In that sense, the memory of captivity is made present once more in Black bodies that, upon stepping into the streets every day to go to work, are turned over to the invisible hands of the disease which hangs in the air.

Seeing as how the country will not shutdown, the racist government policy has intensified in face of the virus through the arbitrary use of police violence. Military police operations, with the authorization of the Rio de Janeiro state government, have continued to take place including the killing of 14-year-old João Pedro in the city of São Gonçalo [4]. Due to the publicity the case has gained in society, the Federal Supreme Court had to ban the continuation of police operations in communities during the social distancing period [5]. Taking into consideration from a racial perspective that the police who engage in favela confrontations are mostly Black and are residents of the community, the weight of racist violence reveals that the Brazilian police kill the most but also die the most [6].

In the midst of all this, the significance of George Floyd’s and João Pedro’s deaths resulted in a wave of solidarity and anti-racist struggle that called on white supremacy to take an anti-racist stance. Thus, antifascist movements have joined the anti-racist struggle through the call of Antifa sports organizations. Protesters took to the streets to condemn the genocide of Black people and to demand full democracy [7]. With acts under the banner of Black Lives Matter occurring throughout the country, the hegemonic media, dominated by the Brazilian elite, has not been able to avoid the topic of racism because protests are happening on a global scale and not just in Brazil [8]. Large television networks invited Black journalists and researchers on for the first time to discuss the magnitude and consequences of racism in the world and in Brazil.

Therefore, the anti-racist movement is strategically intensifying and with the help of a manifesto, published in print newspapers with a large readership as well as electronically, that calls on all of the Brazilian population and its institutions to sign and commit to a democratic program that aims to eradicate current racist practices in Brazilian society [9]. “With Racism There Is No Democracy”, the manifesto released by the Coalizão Negra (Black Coalition), which brings together members of the Black movement from around the country among other civil society organizations.

If the suffocating effects of the pandemic outbreak are able to snuff out violence opening the way for a possible racial revolution, then taking to the streets will not have been in vain. The lives of João Pedro, George Floyd, along with the more than 450,000 Coronavirus deaths globally, should be honored through struggle and resistance so that in the future we can rewrite history exalting Blackness through its powerful figures.

In this vein, Race and Equality supports the antiracist and antifascist demonstrations occurring in Brazil and throughout the world and recommends that the Brazilian state support the Black population in the following ways:

  • Implement a democratic governing proposal that guarantees the eradication of structural and institutional racist practices;
  • Ensure full access to the public health system;
  • Ratify the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance [10];
  • Ratify the Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance [11];
  • Create antimilitarist strategies in the fight against crime within communities;
  • Adopt public policies with an intersectional perspective that takes into consideration the special characteristics of the oppression that Black people face.

[1] https://www.geledes.org.br/frente-negra-brasileira-2/

[2] https://www.geledes.org.br/movimento-negro-unificado-miltao/

[3] https://theintercept.com/series/caso-marielle-franco/

[4] https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-52731882

[5]https://radioagencianacional.ebc.com.br/justica/audio/2020-06/stf-proibe-operacoes-policiais-em-favelas-do-rio-durante-pandemia

[6] https://jus.com.br/artigos/74146/policia-brasileira-a-que-mais-mata-e-a-que-mais-morre

[7] e [8] https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2020-06-06/vidas-negras-importam-chacoalha-parcela-de-brasileiros-entorpecida-pela-rotina-de-violencia-racista.html

[9] https://comracismonaohademocracia.org.br/

[10] http://www.oas.org/es/sla/ddi/tratados_multilaterales_interamericanos_A-68_racismo.asp

[11] http://www.oas.org/es/sla/ddi/tratados_multilaterales_interamericanos_A-69_discriminacion_intolerancia.asp

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