On May 25, the death of George Floyd in the United States sent shockwaves internationally. That same week, in Rio de Janeiro, 14-year-old João Pedro was shot dead by police – with few repercussions. In Brazil, where 56 percent of the population is Black, compared to 13 percent in the US, racism is deeply rooted in society. Brazilian police, understood to be some of the most violent in the world, kill 17 times more Black people than American officers. Miles from Minneapolis, a Brazilian Black Lives Matter movement is gaining momentum. Our correspondents report.
Although the issue of race helped successive Brazilian governments win votes at the turn of the 21st century, the Black population in Brazil is now witnessing a setback. The country, which has the world’s second-biggest Black community, is now run by an openly racist president. During his presidential campaign in 2018, Jair Bolsonaro declared descendants of slaves “good for nothing, not even to procreate”, while using the slogan “my colour is Brazil”.
The Black struggle is making inroads in educational circles, in politics and in the press. For the first time in the country’s history, this November, there were more Black candidates than White in municipal elections. Yet progress is colliding with entrenched White superiority and relentless acts of racism: the end of 2020 was marked by the death of a Black man, beaten to death by security guards at a Carrefour supermarket in the southern city of Porto Alegre, sparking a series of protests up and down the country.
Will 2020 be remembered as a year synonymous with progress in the fight against racism? From Rio de Janeiro, where millions of slaves first arrived from Africa, to São Paulo, the country’s economic megalopolis, we dive into the Brazilian racial struggle. “Vidas Negras Importam” means Black Lives Matter in Portuguese. A cry of a people with a deep colonial past.
Reporting by Laura Damase