In 2004 dentist Flavio
Sant’Anna was shot to death without even a chance to defend
himself, in a cruel demonstration of the São Paulo Police
modus operandi. It was later revealed by the investigative
process that being black was the sole reason for his killing.
Persistence of Racial Discrimination in Brazil
the last decade of last century highly reliable quantitative,
as well as qualitative, data have been vigorously produced,
describing, in a certain way, the conditions of inequality and
racial vulnerability existing in Brazil.
country internationally known as the most unequal in the world
shows, according to the data, what Helio Santos, an
intellectual and member of the black movement, has called the
vicious circle and absence of discontinuity of the structural
elements racially separating blacks from whites, which, at the
same time, feed back into the existence of “two Brazils”.
data analyzed by Marcelo Paixão, professor and researcher at
the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and at the
Afro-Brazilian Observatory, uncover the intricacies of
Brazilian inequality in comparison to other countries in the
world even further.
if the HDI (Human Development Index) data on colour/race were
not enough, other quantitative and qualitative works have
revealed everyday situations where racial inequality manifests
itself. From different perspectives, these show the
substantial elements that frame the specter of persisting
discrimination in Brazil.
data collected so far attempt to answer the recurring
question: “Does discrimination in Brazil occur because of
race, or because of social class?” Some might even update it
to “Are people discriminated because they are black or
because they are poor?”
data, coming from different sources and clippings, should
endure this initial stage of the realization of the the
problem, which is throwing us in the middle of such recurring
issues. We could position ourselves in a different place,
confronting racism in any of the various fields within the
social realm. But the vision of a country that sees itself as
an “island of tranquility” remains, not only in the minds
of the people but also in those of the intellectuals whose job
is to think about Brazil.
the World Conference Against Racism, which took place at the
dawn of the first century of the new millennium, in 2001, we
achieved visibility for the racial problem in Brazil, and had
some success in discussing discrimination.
committed to the “Durban Action Plan”, and since then we
have seen the building of strategies for overcoming racial
discrimination and institutionalized racism at the government
realization that we must overcome institutionalized racism has
allowed the creation of legislation such as Bill 10.639, which
establishes the teaching of African history in Brazil, among
other measures. However, we are still waiting for the desired
changes delineated in the Action Plan to occur. We want to see
them become a reality in our daily lives.
2004 dentist Flavio Sant’Anna was shot to death without even
a chance to defend himself, in a cruel demonstration of the São
Paulo Police modus operandi. It was later revealed by the
investigative process that being black was the sole reason for
his killing. In 2005, in turn, assassinations were
“wholesale”, in the words of a columnist with a daily
newspaper in Queimados, Nova Iguaçu, a poor suburb of Rio de
of people were killed in the most banal fashion, by men with
connections to the Rio de Janeiro Military Police, for motives
that are still under investigation.
Images in the daily media present the problem as a
merely regional phenomenon. The cruel circumstances in which
people who live in that region died, along with the data about
them that has been released, allow us to conclude that these
are the people who are experiencing the worst HDI ratings. For
obvious reasons, our only chance is to establish a racial
hetero-classification, by watching the published images of the
people who were victims of the greatest racial slaughter
modern Brazil has seen.
2005 we continue to see, at the national level, the occurrence
of events such as that in Queimados, and, at the international
level, the death of Brazilian citizen Jean Charles at the
hands of the London políce, a victim of the same racial
October 18, 2005, the officers who shot Flavio, the dentist
killed in São Paulo, were sentenced to prison terms varying
between 4 and 17 years. Information arriving via internet has
shown a favorable outlook regarding the conclusion of the
sentencing stages of the trials.
have seen, in 2005, measures being taken that aim only at the
tip of the iceberg, and have not had legislation to
effectively address the root of the problems that have, for
centuries, been engrained in society as acceptable everyday
practices, which keep many people from exercising their
citizenship to the fullest. By looking at data on social
vulnerability for a city like São Paulo, we can see how urban
landscapes can contain such large inequality. In certain cases
and situations, not even the most basic levels of individual
freedom are allowed to be exercised – the one that gives us
the right to come and go without being discriminated.
need to produce data, analyses and discussion based on facts
is as critical as ever, despite the feeling of impotence felt
against occurrences such as the slaughter at Queimados.
2005, yet another realization has been made: that distorted
images of black men and women remain crystalized in the social
realm, after being constructed and accumulated throughout the
centuries, and are, still today, reinforced on a daily basis,
remaining unchallenged under the “racial democracy myth”.