Brazil’s massive demonstrations have been streaming across news outlets for the last week. Since the protests began, millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets to object to their government’s massive spending in advance of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic games, while education funding, social services, and local infrastructure spending have all taken a hit.
While images of the protests have been seen around the world, one voice has been conspicuously missing: black Brazilians.
For a country that has the largest population of African-descended people outside of Africa, you’d think images of black Brazilians taking to the streets would be splayed across social media feeds and TV screens, but they haven’t. Not because black Brazilians decided to opt out of the protests; they’ve been right in the mix. But the lack of coverage about the concerns of black Brazilians could be due in part to the very thing they’ve taken to the streets to protest: racism.
While the international media has failed to cover the concerns of black Brazilians, blogs, artists, and local Brazilians have been spreading the word.
Filmmaker and blogger Vilma Neres and photographers Antonio Terra and Afronaz Kauberdianuz documented black Brazilian protesters in what has been dubbed, “Revolta dos Turbantes” (Revolt of the Turbans).
The blog Black Women of Brazil explains the desires of black Brazilian protesters:
The list of demands to the State and to Brazilian society reflects the invisibility of blacks and the violation of their rights in various sectors of the country. These demands cover even basic rights, still nonexistent in some regions, such as access to health care, education and decent housing. Among other specific demands of the black population, and in support of PEC of the Domestics (domestics law); against the extermination of black youth, for the demarcation and titling of Indigenous and Quilombo lands, for the effectiveness of Law 10.639/2003 and 11.645/2008 that established the mandatory teaching of African, Afro-Brazilian and indigenous history and culture in the school curriculum for respect of religiosity of African origin; access to income and the labor market; against the removal of families in areas where there is real estate speculation; against the Statute of the Unborn, for the demilitarization of the PM (military police); against lowering of the age of being tried as criminals in court and the end of racism in SUS.
Though Brazil prides itself on being a democracy that welcomes and engages all of its citizens, black Brazilians are often shut out of opportunities that their white counterparts enjoy.
Afro-Brazilian groups have been advocating for more rights, access, and opportunities for black Brazilians for decades, and if the recent protests are any indication of their commitment to their cause, the Brazilian government may have no choice but listen.