By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Events in several cities across Brazil took thousands to the streets to celebrate Consciência Negra (Black Awareness Day) on Tuesday. Most of those celebrating the day criticized the social and political conditions of Afro-Brazilians today.

Brazil, Rio de Janeiro,Rio de Janeiro's Black community celebrates Black Awareness Day in front of Zumbi dos Palmares statue,
Rio de Janeiro’s Black community celebrates Black Awareness Day in front of Zumbi dos Palmares statue, photo by Fernando Frazão/Agencia Brasil.

“Our people are dying. If you go to any hospital, there are a lot of people dying and most of them are black, but the main threat today is violence: there is a cruel genocide of our youth,” said Fátima Malaquias, from the Rio’s Black Rights Defense Municipal Council to government news agency Agencia Brasil.

According to the Atlas of Violence, in 2017 out of every 100 persons murdered in the country, seventy were black and 61.6 percent of the prison population are blacks and mulattoes. In terms of employment, data shows that 63.7 percent of the unemployed in Brazil are black and mulattoes.

Afro-Brazilians are not only the largest number of victims of violence, but are also behind when it comes to education and economic indexes. The most recent annual survey conducted by Brazil’s IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Statistics) shows that only 22 percent of blacks have a university diploma in Brazil. In terms of employment, data shows that 63.7 percent of the unemployed in Brazil are black and mulattoes.

If in education and economic indexes they are behind their white counterparts, in politics the difference is even greater. According to Congresso em Foco (magazine focusing on Brazil’s Congress) only 77 of the 1,790 politicians elected in October declared themselves black, according to the parameters established by the IBGE.

The number represents only 4.3 percent of all elected officials in the Legislative and Executive branches at the municipal, state, and national levels.

“One hundred and thirty years after the end of slavery, the state is still not reconciled for this abolition,” Claudia Vitalino, of the Black and White Union for Racial Equality and the Rio de Janeiro State Council for Rights of Afro-Brazilians said during a presentation to celebrate the day in the center of Rio.

Adding, “A social apartheid was built, and the enslaved labor force was replaced by a European labor force. This has led blacks straight from the slave quarters to the favelas and to prisons.”

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