Note from BW of Brazil: We can never discuss this issue too much. The genocide that Brazil has apparently declared against black youth is a serious problem in a number of cities throughout the country. The rates of murder affecting this demographic has even been recognized by Amnesty International. And the Federal District region of the country is unfortunately one of the areas that needs much attention and investigation. Violence and racial discrimination in the nation’s capital was the topic of a recent award-winning film and a recent public hearing sought to shine more light on the problem.
A black youth in the Federal District is six times more likely to be murdered than a white youth
Courtesy of the Câmara dos Deputados
Of every 100 young people killed in the Distrito Federal (DF or Federal District), 85 are black. This mortality of young blacks stems largely from latent racism, said Larissa Borges, representative of the Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial da Presidência da República (Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality of the Presidency of the Republic) in the public hearing held by the Commission on Human Rights and Minorities that discussed on Wednesday, April 22nd, the situation of these young people in the DF and the surrounding region. Overcoming this violence requires the deconstruction of the culture of violence, strengthening mechanisms of social participation and cooperation and joint work of the institutions, she said.
“There are people who are more killable, their lives matter less,” she said. According to the manager, the numbers were collected between the years 2000 and 2011 and show a genocide. In the country, she said, two young black men die per hour.
In 2011, 27,471 young people between 15 and 29 years of age were victims of homicide in the country – 71.4% of young people killed were black. In facing this social trauma, the management presented a series of campaigns by the government, such as: “Reaja ou será Morto” (React or be killed), “Viver sem Nada, Morrer por Nada” (Living without Nothing, Die for Nothing), “Do luto, à luta” (From mourning to the struggle), “Eu pareço suspeito?” (Do I look suspicious?)
The public hearing was held in conjunction with the Defense Commission of Human Rights of the Legislative Chamber of the Federal District. Representative of the Secretaria do Enfrentamento ao Racismo no DF (Secretariat for the Combat of Racism in the DF), Carlos Alberto de Paulo asked: “What brought us to this situation? How did we build such an effective model of a racist society in which the violator and violated don’t feel themselves as such?”. Carlos Alberto cited a situation that he experienced in South Africa, on a visit to that country eight years after the abolition of apartheid. When faced with a situation where young blacks, whites and Indians did not mix he questioned why this distance was maintained after the fall of apartheid. Young people then said to him that their generation was the victim of a cultural construction. But one young man said that Brazil had the most sophisticated racist system. “How did you get to be so effective?”, he asked.
In the opinion of Carlos Alberto, Brazil was not only silent, “it was an inducer of racism.” “The past constitutions had negative policies for the black population,” he said. For the DF manager, “the model of a racist social will not be extinguished if a nation project were not prioritized,” in this sense.
The Secretário da Comissão de Defesa dos Direitos Humanos, Cidadania, Ética e Decoro Parlamentar da Câmara Legislativa (Secretary of the Defense Commission Defense of Human Rights, Citizenship, Ethics and Parliamentary Decorum of the Legislative Chamber), Hamilton Pereira, said the violence is institutionalized. The exercise of power is practiced by the State or by private companies for whom violence is outsourced. “There are particular forces repeating the tradition practiced by large landowners, now in the cities, with gunmen and capitães do mato (sell-outs) (1),” he said.
Professor Evandro Piza, of the University of Brasília, said the police approach in the country and compared to the reality in the United States, where the lethality, it is said, is lower than in Brazil. “The police cannot have that absolute power. This absolute power is what justifies the right to kill.” He said. To the scholar, “there is an indifference of the police institution in relation to the rights of the black population.”
Voices of protest
The singer and musician Genival Gonçalves, better known as GOG, said Brazilian society is currently experiencing a “great mental intoxication.” There is an inversion of values, in his opinion. “Today we discuss outsourcing of work and not the PL 4471/12 (that amends the Criminal Procedure Code and provides for the investigation of deaths and injuries committed by police during work), which is an issue of life.”
According to the musician, society is more interested in discussing the life of blacks who achieved professional success than discussing the situation of blacks in the country.
Neemias MC gave a personal life account. Abandoned by his mother, adopted by a dysfunctional family, he said that he lived on the streets and in shelters in the DF. He was picked by police and suffered threats. He experienced harassment, embarrassing and inhumane treatment. “The State didn’t guarantee education and food to me, but prison yes,” he said. Neemias, as well as all components of the hearing were against the reduction of legal age. The MC also said that the Court is silent on the issue of racism and the media is biased.
Táta Luangomina, priest of African-oriented religion in the Caxuté community, reported an experience of violence against freedom of beliefs that he suffered in Bahia.
Deputies in opposite positions
For the Deputado (Congressman) Jean Wyllys (PSOL/RJ), the black populations suffers in the presence of the state, when police act in a violent, militarized way; and in the absence of the State, when it opens space for activities of (drug) trafficking and militias.
For Deputado Erika Kokay (PT/DF) said that the fight against racism becomes even more difficult with what she called the process “symbolic dehumanization” and “naturalization of violence” that happens in everyday life.
Deputado Major Olímpio (PDT/SP) said that references to the police action at the public hearing were “prejudiced”. “We cannot say that the police are causing this (racial profiling).” In the opinion of the deputado, who was against the exacerbation of police violence, racism exists in society.
Source: Câmara dos Deputados
1. Capitão do mato (in the singular) was the title given to the black man whose main task was to hunt down, capture and return fugitive slaves to captivity in Brazil’s slavery era. Brazilians use the term to define blacks who collude to disrupt the success of other blacks, similar to the manner in which African-Americans refer to the “crabs in the barrel” mentality, “Uncle Tom” or “house negro”.