Note from BW of Brazil: Let’s real about something. Afro-Brazilians living in poor neighborhoods know the deal. They know that simply being black and poor is reason enough for one of their loved ones not to come home one day. We’ve seen endless stories of black Brazilians being killed for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, we’ve seen people be killed because police mistook umbrellas and drills for weapons, we’ve seen police and the Army riddle cars with 80 and over 100 shots, and if these murders weren’t shocking enough, the sheer numbers of murders, both by security forces, death squads and everyday street crime most certainly is. The collective silence of the public after the Brazilian Army killed a 51-year old black musician as he was driving his family to a baby shower speaks volumes about how people see the lives of black people. As such, when mothers kiss their black children, teens, husbands, uncles, etc. goodbye, they often think of whether this will be the last time they see them. This is what was on one black mother’s mind when she left a note for son before he left home one day.
This note from a worried mother exposes the harsh reality of racism in Brazil
Courtesy of Hypeness
Racism in Brazil is structural. This means that this prejudice is often more veiled, often imperceptible to those who do not feel it up close. In the country’s laws they talk a lot about equality, but whoever is minimally aware of what is happening around them knows that reality is very different.
The favelas and peripheries experience this racism every day. There, a poorer population lives, and not coincidentally, black.
Bruno Rico, a resident of Madureira, in Rio’s north zone, shared a note left by his mother, who says “My son, do not wear black clothes.” (see note one) “This note symbolizes the concern of a mother who has a son living in a war zone and leaves a warning message so he can reduce the chances of being killed when he returns home.”
Bruno’s account brings light to a reality so cruel but so common that even his mother, who does not live in the bubble of problematization and theoretical discussions, sees clearly. It’s a matter of survival.
In Rio de Janeiro, in particular, racism has long been institutionalized. It’s historical. By 2019, though, things are clearer than ever. In an audio released in March, the mayor of the city, Marcelo Crivella, said that Rio is “a complete reprobate”. The governor of the state, elected in 2018, campaigned for the use of snipers to kill criminals. The promise was very clear: “The police will do the right thing: it will aim at the head and… fire! So that there is no mistake.” The policy leaves room for irreparable flaws.
Last year, Rodrigo Alexandre da Silva Serrano, a resident of the Chapéu Mangueira favela, was killed while waiting for his family on the street. According to residents, the police of the Community Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP or Pacifying Police Unit) confused the umbrella he carried with a rifle.
On Facebook, Bruno told a bit about the reality of the black in Brazil
This year, in Manguinhos, in north zone Rio, people were shot in quiet places, free of conflicts at the time of the shootings. Residents believe that the shots have come from towers of the Cidade da Polícia, the main complex of the Civil Police.
According to data from the G1, Rio de Janeiro is the state with the highest absolute number of deaths by police officers (in 2017, 1,127) and murdered police (119, also in 2017).
The data are alarming, but society in general does not discuss them much, since for a large part it is a distant reality.
For these, Bruno leaves the reminder: “If your mother does not have or has never had this kind of concern, feel privileged; the problem is that the more privileges the person has, the less he or she relates to that kind of thing and the more he denies their own privileges. You know of the mimimi (whining) that you all always say that black people do? Mimimi means crying, and my queen only wrote this note so she doesn’t have to cry at a funeral without honors and condolences from the authorities.”
“I left home to go to work and I came across this note after another tense night. This note symbolizes the concern of a mother who has a child living in a war zone and leaves a warning message so that she can reduce his chances of being killed when he returns home.
My mother is not a militant and has never read a book in her life, but she is black and has a black son who lives in the favela, and that is enough for her to understand the structural racism of the country and to know that, depending on my clothes, my chances of getting back alive and safely diminish, since I can easily be mistaken for a bad guy.
If your mother does not have or has never had this kind of concern, feel privileged; the problem is that the more privileges the person has, the less he cares about this sort of thing and the more he denies his own privileges. You know of the mimimi (whining) that you all always say that black people do? Mimimi means crying, and my queen only wrote this note so she doesn’t have to cry at a funeral without honors and condolences from the authorities.”
- In Rio, when there are police actions that lead numerous Military Police to “invade” a particular favela, they usually wear black clothes/uniforms and as there are often shoot outs between drug dealers and police forces, shots can often be taken at people who are dressed in black, as it is assumed they could be police agents. Nowadays, police forces may appear in either black or green, the reason being that the dark color can often blow the cover of the police when entering a favela as these regions are often surrounded by green weeds, forest, etc. Besides the fact that the black color often lead to the dehydration of police forces in Rio’s heat, being that the color is easy to see from a distance, it can make them easy targets.