op-ed: five black boys executed by police in rio de janeiro. how much is a black life worth in brazil?

December 7, 2015

Five more Black young men were brutally murdered inside a car on November 28, hit by 111 shots from the Rio de Janeiro’s military policemen. They were Wilton, 20 years old, Wesley, 25 y/o, Roberto, 16 y/o, Cleiton, 18 y/o, and Carlos Eduardo, 16 y/o. According to their families and witnessess they were going to meet with friends and prepare a meal to celebrate Roberto’s first salary, when they were surprised by military policemen who instantly fired their car with 111 shots that they couldn’t protect themselves from. We can’t give it any other name than “terrorist shooting”. But, unlike the treatment given to the victims of the recent shootings in Paris or any shooting in the USA and in first world countries, Brazilian public opinion and our press doesn’t think they deserve the same attention. After all, those are Black lives.

By Robin Batista – AFROGUERRILHA, AFROPUNK Contributor
 + Photos by Vinicius Gomes taken at the Act Against Black Genocide in Brazil in São Paulo (Ato 1 contra o genocídio da população preta brasileira), 12/3/2015

Although more than 100 years passed since the official end of slavery, Black people in Brazil never stopped suffering a genocide that is becoming more latent, comprehensive and deep in the country with the world’s largest afrodescendant population outside Africa. According to Amnesty International, 30 000 young people are murdered each year in the country and 77% of them are Black. Only less than 8% of cases are judged. It shows that, based on a culture of violence that only goes against the blackness most of times, killing a Black person always means to kill an insignificant and less valuable life, taking into account the official pronouncements of public authorities or the almost nonexistent public reaction to slaughters so usual. And what happens after episodes like these? Nothing. Killing black people in Brazil, especially young men, is the normality in this country.

So, why there isn’t a wide black revolt in Brazil?

This public apathy before the genocide of the Black population in Brazil, laden with an evident acceptance of our murder, is strange for those who realize that more than half of the Brazilian population is Black. So why don’t we rebel against it? The fact is that we have always been away from positions of power, we have always been away from the center of politics, we have always been away from the most basic social, civil and human rights. In Brazilian society, our shout is worth less than a white man’s whisper. And, most importantly, the majority of Black people in Brazil has always been away from knowing their history and their own identity.

As they know too little about the story of the longest-lived system of slavery in the Americas, the Brazilian one, our Black people don’t connect its genocide and its social relegation condition with everything that happened in the past. Most of them don’t even call it genocide, as this has always been considred natural. Most Blacks in Brazil don’t even identify themselves as Black persons, which has deep social and political implications and is a legacy of a racist system that has always separated african-brazilian people by their skin tones, ethnic mixes and other classifications in an attempt to preclude the existence of deeper bonds among afrodescendants that could form a Black socio-political community in the fight against the everyday and structural racism of our society. Therefore, when Black people don’t identify themselves as Black, they also don’t recognize as racist the oppression they suffer so brutally every day.

Protests against black genocide in Brazil.

Nevertheless our shout begins to gain some strength. More and more Black women and men assert their Afro-Brazilian identity and history and reach what we call in Brazil “Black consciousness” – to know where we came from, why and how we came, why we live a marginalized life and how to set ourselves free. It means gaining political consciousness of what it means to be Black in a racist society like ours.

In protest against the death of these five young men who were brutally murdered for being Black, there were protests last week in Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, Campinas and Brasilia. Most protests weren’t so massive, but what matters at this point is that they occurred. So, instead of representing a few utopian fighters against racism in Brazil, they are the sign that the awakening of a black consciousness in Brazil is gaining each day more content and strength.

The white elite of our country, since the slavery days, has always done everything to separate us. It tried to kill our identity, our history and our culture. The greatest fear of the Brazilian elite, since the Empire times, has always been that here could happen a large black revolt that would end up turning into a revolution that could change absolutely everything, so it was necessary to exterminate any traits that may unite the diversity of Brazilian blackness. This is why to see Black people politicized and aware of who they are is a danger to our racist society. They, who have always told us that we are the the cheapest meat, are afraid that we discover and show our worth. They have always educated us to be docile, servile and obedient and we kept on like that for a long time.

So, today I wish that our blackness become dangerous again. And this is the time when we can’t stop.

For the five black boys murdered. For the other thousands of Black men killed by the State. And for all the Black women and men that our fight will keep alive.


* Robin Batista: https://www.facebook.com/robiefreakcode
AFROGUERRILHA Collective: http://www.guerrilhagrr.com.br/afroguerrilha/