As the world's eyes shift to Brazil, community activists discuss pervasive racial challenges


Brazilian activists Andreia and Hamilton dos Santos discuss the impact of state violence on Brazil's black community. The talk they gave extends to police brutality and issues in the prison system. 

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

As Brazil prepares for the World Cup this summer and the Olympics in 2016, the country is doing its best to show the world an image of happy, healthy citizens — a far cry from life for the black majority, according to community activists Andreia Beatriz Silva dos Santos and Hamilton Borges dos Santos at a talk Friday.

Andreia and Hamilton dos Santos said racism is a pressing issue in Brazil, largely ignored and somewhat facilitated by the government, at the talk organized by the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Benson Center.

Kate Layton, a Latin American studies graduate student, translated the discussion from Portuguese to English.

Hamilton said while Brazil has made many economic strides, these new advances aren’t necessarily good for the people of Brazil. Hamilton said that while people now have access to consumer goods like cars and refrigerators, more important resources like health care and education are still unavailable.

“This development hasn’t changed the systems of inequality in Brazil,” Hamilton said. “This development has fortified the banks, system of credit, foreign companies and their exploitation of the country.”

Andreia dos Santos said the Brazilian government imposes many forms of oppression on black Brazilians.

“What they’re talking about here is a conjuncture of actions that have impeded four generations, and in many ways black folks, and she’s talking here of direct or indirect violence, the absence of the state and imprisonment, which has led to an eradication of a people,” Layton said. “Another factor, of course, is the absence of state and the absence of access to appropriate services like education [and] health.”

Christen Smith, assistant professor of anthropology and African and African diaspora studies, said being able to hear from people involved in this struggle is a rare occurrence because they barely ever get a chance to take a break to talk about their work.

“Both of them have a considerable history of action and struggle in the community that goes from organizing around questions of police brutality and of police violence all the way to organizing in the prison system,” Smith said.

Hamilton and Andreia dos Santos gave the talk in Portuguese — which was then translated into English by Kate Layton, a Latin American studies graduate student — and Hamilton said the main barrier to their campaign right now is language.

“[The purpose of this discussion is] to amplify the voice to these fights that are pretty anonymous and unknown in most parts of the world and to affirm the importance of this fight of being able to speak for ourselves,” Hamilton dos Santos said.