U.S. Protests Bring Brazil Racial Inequality To The Fore

U.S. protests trigger outcry about racial discrimination globally. Under this trend, being a country with enormous disparities among races, Brazil is criticised for violating black people’s human rights during the pandemic.

The disproportionate death toll of black people is the most recent evidence of Brazil’s racial inequality. According to the official data, COVID-19 causes a higher mortality rate of black Brazilians than whites. A report in May shows that among 30,000 patients, 55% black and mixed-race people have died while it’s 38% to white patients. The severe racial inequality is exposed by this figure.

The outbreak first hit white superior classes, then swept through shanty, slums, and less developed rural areas. Residents in these places are struggling with overcrowding, low-earnings, and poor sanitation. Self-isolation becomes a luxury to them. One Health Ministry research shows that 80% of black Brazilians depends on Brazil’s overstretched public health system. The medical resources then become very unlikely to be accessed by them amid the pandemic. Fernando Bozza, a researcher of the government research institute Fiocruz, said: “There is clearly a difference in lethality for whites and non-whites, confirming the enormous disparities in access and quality of treatment in Brazil.”

Similar to the United States, fair legal enforcement in Brazil has long been suspected because of police violence. In the last decade, over three-quarters of the close to 9,000 people killed by Rio police were black men. After the lockdown policy was issued, brutality surged. One shocking tragedy happened on May 21, the police recklessly opened fire without a warrant when volunteers were handing out food packages to families threatened by the pandemic in a Providência slum. Rodrigo Cerqueira, a 19-year-old, was unfortunately killed. However, since most of the abuse targeted at the poor citizens take place in remote and shabby neighbourhoods, victims’ accusations are often oppressed. 

As a country with the world’s second-largest black population, Brazil’s government should have a well established legal system to alleviate tension among different races. However, President Jair Bolsonaro is blamed for his populism and ineffective response to racial issues. Brazil’s long slavery history rationalized racism, and the antiracism protest can be a chance to reveal this deep-seated problem of Brazil.

Relying on two existing institutions, Brazil can improve racial equality. Special Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality Policies (SEPPIR) is an executive agency report directly to the Office of the President of the Republic, and National Council for the Promotion of Racial Equality (CNPIR) is a consultative collegiate institution in charge of raising policies to fight racism. Both of them can consider enhancing the presence of black people in decision-making spaces. Moreover, human resources and financial support should be provided to consolidate the mechanisms of these institutions.

The media is also crucial to eliminate discrimination. Since there is no institutional segregation of the black population in Brazil, invisible racism becomes harder to overcome. However, the media industry in Brazil is dominated by political and economic authorities and conveys race-oriented stereotypes. For example, black people are always displayed as maids or slaves in TV dramas, which intensities prejudice. To raise the awareness of establishing a more diverse and inclusive society, independent discourse right should be put on the agenda.

Yuexin Li
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