Say their names: Marielle Franco and Marcos Vinícius da Silva, black Brazilian lives taken by police brutality
In June, 14-year-old Marcos Vinícius da Silva walked to his Rio school, as he did every day. He wore his school uniform and carried a backpack filled with books. It was a sunny day. He probably expected to see his friends, talk, play, write notes in class, then enjoy the sun on his face during a break. Instead, he was shot during a “security operation” in which the police shot “indiscriminately” into a densely populated area near Marcos’ school. Marcos was taken to the hospital, but didn’t survive. His last words to his mom were: “He did not see that I was wearing school clothes, mom?”
The answer was clear: Skulls don’t wear clothes. They are, however, still identifiable by the color of their skin. Every 23 minutes, a black person is murdered in Brazil. This day was therefore normal in terms of how routinely boys like Marcos die in Rio and in favelas, or impoverished communities, all around Brazil. Marcos wasn’t the first young Brazilian person of color to meet this fate and unfortunately he will not be the last.
Just a few months before Marcos died, Marielle Franco — a sociologist, feminist, defender of human rights, and, most recently, elected Brazilian politician — was killed in her car while leaving an event in Rio. There is evidence that suggests Marielle was killed by the police because she constantly denounced abuses of authority by police officers against residents of poor communities. Like Marcos, she was just living her life, being herself. But being black is a felony no matter what that life entails — whether you are a schoolboy from a favela or a politician. So Marielle was silenced.
The Black Lives Matter movement in Brazil has largely focused on the basics: human rights and affirmative action. This is because talking explicitly about racism here is like trying to teach math to a three-year-old — pointless. White, middle- and upper-class Brazilians are not capable of understanding what racism means in this country, what more than 300 years of slavery has done to the mental health and economic status of black Brazilians.
This reality is reflected by the new president Brazil just elected: Jair Bolsonaro. He hates the LGBTQ+ community and thinks that women and black citizens are second-class individuals. He considers these marginalized groups not only inferior, but unnecessary in this country. He was elected because his thoughts and ideas represent the white part of the population. The poor and non-white population who voted for him were likely deceived by fake news spread by a large group of rich businessmen that wanted Bolsonaro to win for their own financial gains.
No one openly says so, but black Brazilians intrinsically know that we are allowed to be killed. We are the robots in this Westworld fantasy. We are not human, just commodities to trade. Our bones are in high demand among policemen and rich white people. As the singer Elza Soares once said, the cheapest meat in the market is the black meat and every police car has the same appearance of a slave ship. Slaves were killed and hurt with no consequences. It was legal. Sometimes it seems it still is.
I apologize if it seems easy for to me to write about this genocide. But if I stopped and thought about it, as a young black Brazilian woman, I would probably be hiding, or locked away in a mental institution, using a strong medicine to forget. We are accustomed because if we weren’t, it would be impossible to survive.
Marielle and Marcos. I say their names for the sake of their memories. I can only hope they rest. I can only hope I’m not the next one.
More articles by Category: Race/Ethnicity
More articles by Tag: Black Lives Matter, South & Central America, Activism and advocacy, Racism, Women of color