A young black man dies every 23 minutes in Brazil. Sixty-six lives are claimed daily, adding up to 4,290 deaths a year. A black youth is up to 12 times more likely to be murdered than his white counterpart. Behind all these cases lies racism. This is the premise of the Black Lives campaign, launched by the United Nations (UN) on Tuesday (Nov. 7), in Brasília.
The initiative aims to turn the attention of governments, parliaments, courts, organizations, and society to the problem of violence against this section of the population, which accounts for 54% of Brazilians. According to UN data, black people saw its homicide rate grow 18% from 2005 to 2015, whereas non-black Brazilians faced a 12% increase.
The increase in inequality can be seen to be based on gender also. The 2017 Violence Atlas, put together by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), shows that the murder of black women rose 22% in the same period, whereas non-black women observed a decline of 11%.
“The last genocide formally acknowledged in Europe took place in Bosnia, in which 1,500 were killed in 1995. When we talk about black youths killed, we're talking three times as much every year,” lawyer Daniel Teixeira, of the Center for Studies on Labor Relations and Inequalities, said during the launch ceremony of the campaign.
Rather than the work of chance or simply a series of unfortunate events, the issue is described by the UN as a clear sign of racism and of the selective outrage historically built in Brazilian society. In a survey conducted by a federal body for the promotion of racial equality SEPPIR, 56% of respondents said the death of black people is less shocking than that of whites.
In addition to publicizing the issue, the initiative aims to bring to the attention of the government the need to acknowledge the existence of racial discrimination in the country.
“Brazil has signed international deals committing to the eradication of racism, xenophobia, and racial inequality. We hope that this campaign manages to raise awareness among authorities and optimizes the efforts in this connection,” said Ana Cláudia Pereira, program official at UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and one of the campaign coordinators.
In the opinion of Jacira da Silva, of the Unified Black Movement, introducing the Statute for Racial Equality and ensuring that funds are earmarked for government initiatives aimed at addressing the problem are among the challenges in public policy making. These measures, she added, entail efforts to curb violence against black people and subsequently to enforce the rights of these people.
“These youths are also attacked inasmuch as they're not given access to the labor market, often come across closed doors in school, and have no representation in the media,” the activist said.
SEPPIR adviser Luana Ferreira said that over the last years important strides were made in the area, like spots reserved for black people in public service and universities, and special health care policies directed at this portion of the population. But, she argued, further improvements must be made so the problem can be permanently solved.
“SEPPIR's everyday challenge is saying that black lives matter, that racism is part of how ties are forged, that institutional racism is to be found everywhere power relations are built, and that this is the historical source of the lethality with which these youths are forced to cope,” she declared during the ceremony.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira