Shocking! Brazilian police killed 17 times the number of blacks than American police killed in 2019

São Paulo Military Police immobilize black man who was participating in a demonstration against the death of a another young man
São Paulo Military Police immobilize black man who was participating in a demonstration against the death of a another young man

Note from BBT: With a number of controversial murders of black men by police forces happening in the United States, racial inequality in overall terms is once again on the minds of people in the African-American community. In reality, I shouldn’t even use the word “again” as this discussion and the accusations have never gone away.

Speaking specifically of police approaches in the US, the issue can’t really be fully understood until one sees other videos in which American police agents seem to do everything they can to avoid shooting white suspects no matter what threat they may actually pose. I mean, how many videos can you see of police killing unarmed black men who didn’t present any particular threat and then watch videos of white men who are actually armed but police executing negotiating tactics, calm actions and conversation to avoid any uses of force to realize there is a clear difference in treatment?

The funny thing about all of this is that, if one were to analyze the police killing of Americans according to just those police homicides that make the headlines, you would think that only black people were getting killed. It’s actually not true. Analyzing the stats in the period between the years 2013 and 2019, we see that white people are consistently killed more often by police than any other racial group, including blacks.

Number of people killed by police by ethnicity U.S. 2013-2019; Published by Statista Research Department, Jun 10, 2020. In 2019, 259 Black people were killed by police in the United States. This compares to 182 Hispanics, 13 Native Americans, and 406 White people.

In 2019, for example, 406 white people were killed by American police compared to 182 Hispanics, 13 Native Americans and 259 black people. In 2018, the numbers were 490 white, 259 blacks, 187 Hispanics and 21 Native Americans. In 2015, 544 whites, 305 blacks, 195 Hispanics and 13 Native Americans were killed by American police. Of course, this doesn’t tell the whole story because, in the US, there are 4.5 times more white people than there are black. Thus, while police kill more whites in sheers numbers, they kill African-Americans at a higher rate.

So, perhaps a just as important question as why do police seem to hesitate to use forces against whites when they don’t seem to think twice about killing black Americans would be, why does the media’s coverage seem to present the idea that police kill more blacks than white when in fact, numerically, they kill more white people? Makes you go hmmmm…

Now as depressing as all of that may be, let’s now consider the Brazilian situation which is a whole different matter. Not only do Brazilian police kill more pretos (blacks) and pardos (browns) than brancos (whites) numerically, they also kill more in populational proportion or per 100,000 people. Following a report I posted in 2014, Brazilian police kill at least five times more people than American police. But according to a recent report, as shocking as that may sound, when we consider these facts according to race, the story gets several times worse.

As I have maintained for several years, high profile murders of African-Americans have led to worldwide media exposure and protests around the world while in Brazil, where the problem is clearly much worse, most people outside of Brazilian borders know very little about the situation. As many have pointed out since a highly publicized murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2020, in Brazil, there’s a George Floyd type incident everyday.

Left (in yellow) – “What happened to George Floyd in the USA happens in Brazil every day”
Right – “In Brazil, there’s a George Floyd every 23 minutes” (a black/brown youth in killed every 23 minutes in Brazil)



Need examples? There are too many to choose from.

Last year, in July, we saw a São Paulo Military Police soldier put his foot on a black woman’s neck. There was a similar incident in April of this year, also in São Paulo. Then there was a similar report from the city of Carapicuíba. Both of the last two included video of cops using excessive force which included putting their knees in the back or chest of citizens. At least in those cases, the people didn’t die. But then there was the security guard murder of João Alberto in Porto Alegre last November which led to protests and property destruction in various locations.

The numbers of Brazil’s Military Police murders of young black Brazilians are simply shocking but they still seem to fly under the radar of the international media. The question is why? Check the story below and remember, the next time you hear about African-Americans and police violence, remember the situation is far worse in Brazil.

Military Police of the Federal District during a search of a black man in a demonstration held at the Esplanada dos Ministérios, in downtown Brasília, in May 2018 (Sérgio Lima)

Brazilian police killed 17 times the number of blacks than the US killed in 2019

There were 4,353 people killed by police in the country. Skin color triples chances. Market shows face of racism

By Weudson Ribeiro and Hamilton Ferrari*

The United States police killed 1,099 people in 2019. Of these, 259 were black (24%). In Brazil, the police killed almost 6 times more victims: 5,804 last year. Of the total, 75% (or 4,533) were black.

  • 333.9 million (number of inhabitants in the USA)
    211 million inhabitants (number of inhabitants in Brazil)

The Military Police of the State of São Paulo killed 218 people in an alleged confrontation in the first quarter of 2020. Of these, 63.5% were preta (black) or parda (brown). In the same period, 31 blacks, 41 whites and 13 Latinos were killed by the American police. In Rio de Janeiro, 80.3% of the 885 killed by the police in the first half of 2019 were black.

In 2018, 343 Brazilian police officers died on the job. Of these, 51.7% were black. Most were victims of intentional homicide (60.6%) or robbery (32%). In the U.S., 106 police officers died in 2018, according to the FBI, between blacks and whites.

Blacks are also a majority in the population deprived of liberty in Brazil. According to data from the 1st semester of 2017, in June of that year, blacks represented 61.6% of the contingent of prisoners.


Blacks are the majority in the job market only for apprentices and trainees: 57% and 58%, respectively, according to a study by IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics).

In terms of income distribution, the black population also falls short of whites: the average earnings of blacks was BRL$934 in 2018. In the same period, whites eared almost twice as much: BRL$1,846. Unemployment rates among pretos (blacks) (14%) and pardos (browns) (15.2%) are higher than among whites (9.8%).

According to the Brazilian Yearbook of Basic Education 2019, the literacy rate that grew most in the period from 2012 to 2018 was that of blacks: 87.7% knew how to read and write up to the year 2017. In 2018, the group’s literacy rate hit 91%. Even so, at all levels of occupation, pretos and pardos receive, on average, 57.5% less for professional work.


Black women are the most recurrent victims of homicides. According to the Atlas of Violence, their murder rate grew 29.9% in 10 years, until 2017. In the same period, the homicide rate of women from other demographic groups increased by 4.5%. Black women are also part of the group that suffers the most from femicide: the most recent data available show that they were 61% of the fatal victims in Brazil in 2019.

*This report was produced by the journalism intern Weudson Ribeiro under the guidance of editor Nicolas Iory

Note from BBT: Although this report is disturbing no matter how you slice it, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly in previous reports, when dealing with reports on race in Brazil, we always have to be careful with how the numbers are presented. Standing by my change in position on the idea that Brazil’s population is majority black, I must also challenge when skewed numbers are used to make situations appear either better of worse than they are.

Similarly, I must point this out in regards to this article as well. Although black leaders and organizations have successfully been able to convince agencies to combine pretos (blacks) and pardos (mixed/brown) as representation of Brazil’s população negra (black population), sometimes reports become quite misleading when they switch and then not make this known.

Pretos and pardos in the Brazilian census are two separate categories although agencies that release statistics and reports based on race often combine the two into one category. This is problematic in this report as it can be in others. Here’s why.

There are about 98 million pardos in Brazil, while there are about 19 million pretos, this based on official statstics. Combining the two and the total for the populaçaõ negra is about 117 million. With this in mind, one phrase above is outright wrong. That phrase is:

“In 2019, the Brazilian police killed 5,804 people. Of the total, at least 4,353 were black. The country has 19.3 million people who declare themselves black (9.3% of the population).”

The problem here is making it seem that 4,353 people were killed out of a total19.3 million people, when in fact, this 4,353 number represents the number of people killed of the 117 million figure. According to black activists, in Brazil, pretos + pardos = negros (blacks), so this same sum must also be used when making reports such as the one above or else it makes the situation above appear severely worse than it already is. The numbers prove this.

In the report, “A Cor da Violência Policial: A Bala Não Erra O Alvo”, we consistently see that in the states of Bahia, São Paulo, Bahia and Pernambuco, pardos represent a much larger number of people murdered by police in those states. This is the case in ALL 26 Brazilian states as well as the capital region of Brasília DF. And this makes sense because, as I just wrote, statistically, there are about five times more people who define themselves as pardos than pretos.

Color of the population (in %) (top left)
Color of those killed by police in 2019 (in %) (top right)
Total numbers of people murdered by police in 2019
Branca (white), Preta (black), Parda (brown) Negros/blacks (preta+parda), Outros (Others)
BA = Bahia, CE= Ceará, PE = Pernambuco, RJ = Rio de Janeiro, SP = São Paulo
Source: “A Cor da Violência Policial: A Bala Não Erra O Alvo”

For example, in Bahia, pardos are 59.5% of the population but 76.7% of those killed by police. Pretos in that state make 17% but 20% of those killed by police. Similarly in Rio, pardos are 39.6% and pretos 12.1% of the population, being 54.7% and 31.3% of those murdered by police respectively. In São Paulo, pardos make up 29.4% of the population and pretos 5.4%, being 53.6% and 9.3% of those murdered by police, respectively.

In both cases, the percentages of two groups being murdered by police forces are higher than their representation in the population although substantially higher for pardos, again, because there are more of them. Even if you only considered the estimated total of only pretos murdered in Brazil in 2019, that figure would still be around 870 people, which is still 3.3 times more than black people murdered murdered by American police. 

I point this out simply for purposes of accuracy and the dishonest manner in which the terms negro and preto, both meaning black, are sometimes used in statistics. 4,353 people murdered by police in one year is an outrageous number no matter how you slice it, but it is far less shocking when speaking of a total number of 117 million preto/pardo people versus 19 million pretos.

Source: Poder 360

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

1 Comment

  1. I’ve told people that Brazil is the only country that tops the U.S when it comes to the genocide of Black people.

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