Submission from the Black Coalition for Rights to the Third Permanent Forum on People of African Descent

The Black Coalition for Rights (Coalizão Negra por Direitos), a national articulation of the Brazilian Black Movement composed of 293 organizations and collectives of Black individuals, presents in this document its contributions to the 3rd Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (Geneva, April 16-19, 2024) – Reparations, Sustainable Development, and Economic Justice; Education: Overcoming Systemic Racism and Historical Harms; Culture and Recognition; and the Second International Decade for People of African Descent: Expectations and Challenges.

Preliminarily, we reiterate the importance of including the issue of reparations in discussions on racial justice and ensuring equal rights and opportunities for the Afro-descendant population, as we have emphasized since the establishment of this Coalition. Therefore, considering the convening of the 3rd Forum and the renewal of the International Decade for People of African Descent proposed by the United Nations, it is essential to strengthen the international public dialogue on the systemic, systematic, growing, and daily violations of social, economic, cultural, political, and environmental rights faced by Afro-descendants in Brazil and throughout the African diaspora.

We are a country with the largest Afro-descendant population in the Americas and the largest black population outside the African continent. In Brazil, officially, 55.5% of the population self-identifies as ‘black’ or ‘brown,’ thus Afro-descendants – 113 million people. However, this fact is the result of a crime that this 3rd Permanent Forum on People of African Descent and the international community need to recognize as an extreme violation: the transatlantic slave trade, the trade of human lives perpetrated for four long centuries. Consistent historical records indicate that between the 16th and 19th centuries, Brazilian ports received approximately 3.6 million slaves – or four out of every ten Africans (women, men, and children) trafficked to the American continent.

The enslavement of millions of Africans and Afro-descendants in Brazil over nearly four centuries represents the greatest forced displacement of the modern era. The remnants of this history are visible today, where the victims of slavery and their descendants were responsible for generating wealth for the colonies, metropolises, and a portion of the national and international bourgeoisie, yet they never enjoyed the benefits of this labor. On the contrary, after the abolition of slavery, practices of racism and eugenics objectively hindered Afro-Brazilians’ access to land, work, education, health care, housing, religious practices of African origin, among other essential aspects of just and dignified social inclusion.

Post-abolition in Brazil was marked, and continues to be marked, by the criminalization of the existence of Afro-descendant people in cities, in the peripheries, and in quilombos when they are denied recognition and formalization of their rights to ancestral lands. The Brazilian State, aligned with global trends, exposes its face of horror without disguise, daily attacking black lives. A significant portion of society no longer hides its mask of hypocrisy, openly assuming its racist, prejudiced, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, lesbophobic, intolerant, and fascist character. The policy of death – known as necropolitics – and the dissemination of hate speech align alarmingly. Current data indicates that out of every 10 homicides in Brazil, 8 are against young black people, as shown in the annual publication of the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea), 2023.

Brazilian black organizations have turned to the international community to denounce racism as a serious violation of rights, exposing racial discrimination as the basis of social inequalities in Brazil and to reaffirm that we are not the country of racial democracy. The black civil society has been active and decisive in the organization and negotiations of the 3rd World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerances. The Declaration and Plan of Action of Durban are considered guiding documents in the fight against racism and for the preservation of people of African descent.

What concerns us most in this array of major human rights violations against the Afro-descendant community in Brazil is the leading role played by the Brazilian State itself in practices that subject this community to terror and the inefficiency of public policies that should address the interests, needs, and rights of the Afro-descendant population. Regarding public security policies, the main target has been this portion of the population. Police brutality has an undeniable characteristic of necropolitics in all Brazilian states with a predominantly black population – namely Bahia, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, for example. The current governor of São Paulo state, after being reported to international human rights mechanisms for his responsibility in the deaths of 28 people within 40 days by police forces under his command (“Operação Verão”), stated: “Honestly, we are very comfortable with what is being done. And then people can go to the UN, they can go to the League of Justice, to wherever, I don’t care.”

This points to a firm certainty of impunity in the face of the dehumanization and extermination of the black population in the country, not only in relation to the structure of the Brazilian justice system but also in the face of international human rights mechanisms, especially within the systems of the United Nations. It is worth mentioning that in mid-March 2024, the Brazilian state was condemned by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a case involving another police operation carried out in the state of São Paulo, which resulted in the deaths of 12 people.

The Court’s ruling requires Brazil to adopt various protocols to reduce police lethality, as well as to provide reparations to the victims’ families. Nevertheless, at least so far, there has been no action from the Brazilian government. It is worth noting that cases like these, where police operations result in the deaths of dozens of people, occur daily in all Brazilian territories and place the country among the highest rates of police lethality, with the Afro-descendant population being the primary victims of this violence.

As if the severity of Brazilian police lethality were not enough, in 2021, 2,601 Afro-descendant women were victims of homicide in Brazil, revealing the facet of sexism entrenched in our territory. The living conditions of the Afro-descendant population are further exacerbated by the denial of the fundamental (and human) right to health, by the insufficient investment in public health and the treatment of diseases with higher incidence in the black population, and by the exposure to risk factors for illness and death due to conditions of social vulnerability.

In this regard, data from the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrate that in Brazil, Afro-descendants have been the most affected by the disease. This is evidenced by research conducted jointly by Vital Strategies, Resolve to Save Lives, and Afro-CEBRAP, based on data analysis from 2019 to 2020, which compared life expectancy data with the numbers of deaths recorded. It concluded that there was a 57% higher excess mortality rate due to COVID-19 among black and mixed-race people compared to white people. The black population over 80 years old showed twice the number of deaths, and the data further asserts that black men continue to be the preferential victims of lack of access to healthcare, as the mortality rate among black men was 55% higher compared to white men.

In the same vein, data shows that the black population in Brazil is the major victim of food insecurity. It is crucial to reaffirm here that in Brazil, hunger and poverty have color and gender. The experience of famine is a reality for our people. According to data from Vigisan, starvation is a problem affecting one-fifth of households headed by self-declared Afro-descendants in Brazil (20.6%). This percentage is twice as high when compared to households headed by white individuals (10.6%)

Environmental racism, which assumes catastrophic proportions in Brazil, profoundly impacts the Afro-descendant population, as they are the majority among residents of high-risk areas and therefore the most affected by climate change. Their traditional territories are constantly violated, with a particular emphasis on the ongoing attack on quilombola populations and territories. It’s worth mentioning that even discussions and actions regarding climate mitigation and adaptation in Brazil are far from prioritizing the black population, which is more exposed to climate change.

In the face of this perverse scenario for Afro-descendants in Brazil, the Black Coalition for Rights aims with this document not only to denounce but also to demand a stance from the Brazilian State regarding the numerous violations committed and presented here.