In Brazil, African immigrants suffer racism and police harassment; experience different treatment than Europeans, Americans and Asians

African immigrants often face obstacles and different treatment than other immigrants
African immigrants often face obstacles and different treatment than other immigrants

Note from BW of Brazil: One could argue that Brazil has maintained an anti-African posture for centuries. After all, the country was the greatest recipient of slaves (estimated between 4-5 million) during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and was said to have one of the more brutal systems of slavery in the Americas. As Brazil was situated closer to the African continent than the United States, for example, it took much less time and less money to transport slaves. Thus, instead of preserving the slaves and prolonging their lives, Brazil’s system was simply to work a slave to death to death and then import more.

According to historian Stuart Schwartz, at the end of the 18th century, the average life expectancy of a slave in Brazil was 23 years. When slavery was finally ended, slaves were forced to fend for themselves as the nation implemented a massive immigration system to replace slave labor with more desirable European workers who took the vast majority of the jobs. The idea was to “whiten” the country and actually make “invisible” the African contribution to the history of Brazil. With this in mind, in 1890, Minister of Finance Rui Barbosa ordered the burning of all papers, books and public documents related to slavery. The anti-African sentiment has continued throughout the nation’s history in the form of racism, exclusion and invisibility of the Afro-Brazilian population and the outlawing or severe suppression of African oriented cultural practices such as the Candomblé religion and the martial art of Capoeira.

In recent years, this anti-African sentiment has also appeared in the treatment of African immigrants. It’s been over a year since the cold-blooded murder of Angolan student Zumira de Souza Borges Cardoso in São Paulo. This followed the September 2011 murder of Toni Bernardo da Silva, an immigrant from Guinea-Bissau who was attending the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso (Federal University of Mato Grosso) in the country’s central region. Da Silva was beaten to death by Military Police in a pizzaria in the Boa Esperança neighborhood of the city of Cuiabá. From this historical perspective, it should come as no surprise that Africans continue to have problems in Brazil. Below is another article taken from the Partido da Causa Operária website detailing the treatment that African immigrants have received in the country with world’s sixth largest economy. 

There are few jobs for African immigrants, and they also experience Federal Police persecution

The Instituto do Desenvolvimento da Diáspora Africana no Brasil (IDDAB or Institute of the Development of the African Diaspora in Brazil) through Carmen Victo Silva, affirmed on the  O Mirante site that even Africans with higher education haven’t managed to find work with good pay.

“The issue of race is the first hurdle for Africans in Brazil,” said Carmen. “It creates other barriers, seemingly bureaucratic, which do not exist or are relativized for other population groups”, she complains.

Africans waiting for service at immigration office
Africans waiting for service at immigration office

The IDDAB is a non-governmental organization created in São Paulo five years ago, and gives support to African immigrants as well as Haitians.

Carmen also stated that “there are foreigners and foreigners,’” referring to the treatment of other foreigners coming to Brazil in search of jobs and housing. “The European immigrant, for example, is always judged as a skilled worker,” she concludes.

The bias has been demonstrated by a number of companies in hiring, pointing to Africans as disqualified and illegal and involved in criminal practices such as drug trafficking. But the reality is exactly the opposite: the largest number of immigrants arrested for drug trafficking in Brazil is European.

One of the examples of racism against Africans is a young Congolese man, a son of a diplomat (and possessing a degree in medicine from Russia), who managed to get a residence visa in Brazil, but chose to immigrate to Canada for not being able to find work in the country.

The greater ease indicated by Carmen regarding immigration is experienced by the Portuguese, then emphasizing the Chinese, Americans and Spaniards.

Federal Police on the trail

The differential treatment for the African begins in reception inside the dependences of immigration services, who have a whole different approach for Africans and with higher punitive powers.

Haitian immigrants are also not treated receptively by the Brazilian government. Since the earthquake that devastated the country, there were several Haitians who sought a better life in Brazil, but which today are working in slave labor, undocumented or guaranteed stay in the country.

Even in the face of these facts, the Federal Police performs the disservice of making life even more difficult for the immigrant in Brazil.

An operation of the Federal Police (PF), in downtown São Paulo, in 2012, surrounded by a spectacle and flashes of the bourgeois press, arrested about 600 Africans. However, a white South African was approached by police, but was not taken to the premises of the PF.

Carmen says that she is “ashamed of the behavior of the authorities of my country, how it treats immigrants and the lack of a specific policy for the care of these populations.”

The life of the African population in Brazil is equivalent (and often worse) than the black Brazilian. Similarly, black people suffer from unemployment, wages below the official minimum salary and police repression, showing that racism is in full swing in Brazilian lands, to the contrary to what the bourgeois press tries to prove.

Source: Partido da Causa Operária, Diário Liberdade

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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