Knowledge is Power Series: Afro-Brazilians

Black Lives Matter is global.

Activists have formed bonds with Palestinian activists under Israeli occupation and inspired countless others around the world to stand up and speak out.

One of those places is Brazil, where there is a large Afro-Brazilian population. In case you don’t know, Brazil was the last country in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery and since then, professes to be a color-blind society (where have we heard that one before…). For the longest time, however, Afro-Brazilians did buy into the idea that their high levels of poverty and incarceration wasn’t a product of who they were, that there was no such thing as being Afro-Brazilian to being with. Essentially, unlike black Americans in the U.S. and places like the U.K. even, there was no collective consciousness of their identity as black.

The raising of one’s consciousness, of someone finally able to see their location in the social structure, is an idea formed by Marx. Marx of course was referring to class consciousness, when a worker realizes he or she is a part of the capitalist machine and begins to connect the dots in terms of their oppression.

Similarly, Afro-Brazilians are currently experiencing a revolution of thought, and understanding that there place in the social hierarchy has been based on a fabricated logic of a post-racial regime and European settler colonization. For example, “Brazilian police have killed an average of six people per day between 2009 and 2013.  Much like the U.S., these victims are disproportionately Black.”

In some cities, the homicide victim rate “among Afro-Brazilians is as much as 10 times higher than the national average, according to Amnesty. In the northeastern city of Maceio in Alagoas state, for example, 2012 figures show the victim rate for black men under 29 years old was 328 homicides per 100,000.”

To learn more about the history of black and Afro-Brazilian identity, read Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post-Abolition Sao Paulo and Salvador by Kim Butler, who is an acclaimed professor at Rutgers University.

freedoms given freedoms won actual image
(Image from Google)

The book discusses how and why Afro-Brazilians were left impoverished and constantly facing obstacles. Most importantly, Butler shows how Brazilian society managed to contain black identity and continue pushing forth the myth of a color-blind society.


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