Message from ABEPSS in defense of the anti-racist movement


The Brazilian Association of Teaching and Research in Social Work - ABEPSS, aware of its role in the construction of an anti-racist professional training project in a crucial moment where the phrase "I can't breath" trembles the world, comes out to reaffirm that “black lives matter!” and that it is necessary to qualify the systematic death of black people of all age groups and gender as black genocide, often due to state violence, in its multiple expressions.

Racism is a structural element of capitalism at world levels and in the particularity of Brazilian life, its institutionalization reiterates eugenicist, hygienist and punitivist practices aimed at the black population historically. There is an organic relationship between slavery and worldwide capitalism, where the suppression of one undoubtedly presupposes the extinction of the other. Racism structures everyday-life since the forced displacement of african people to Brazil, with traces of cruelty that are very similar to what we see in the deaths of George Floyd (2020) and Eric Garden (2014) and the agony present in their cry for help: “I can't breathe” , in the North American context. Here, there and every part of this world, capitalist domination has as a structural element the hierarchy of people based on white supremacy. What varies are the strategies that guarantee this capital accumulation, ranging from the enslavement of latin-american and african people, passing through the financing of dictatorships and violence inciting in african territories, that were officialized with the Berlin Conference at the end of the 19th century, the massacre of the Namibian people at this same time, the Jewish holocaust, racial segregation in the United States of America or apartheid in South Africa.

At the local level, we have witnessed the brutality of the deaths of: Luana Barbosa (2016), a black lesbian woman who was beaten during a police approach in Ribeirão Preto / SP, she said: “I am a woman; I'm doing nothing wrong! I want to be inspected by a female police officer! ”; Cláudia Silva Ferreira (2014),  whose body was “rescued” from a shootout and placed in the trunk of a police vehicle and they dragged her body in Rio de Janeiro / RJ and; Rafaela Cristina Souza dos Santos (2015), a 15-year-old teenager who due to postpartum complications, in a combination of obstetric violence and institutional racism; Marielle Franco (2018), councilwoman, brutally murdered in the center of the city of Rio de Janeiro / RJ, among so many other lives abruptly interrupted. As if the violence against them isn’t enough, black women also experience violence in their families more often (with their children, brothers, sisters and partners). This is another expression of structural racism, whose state actions are not articulated in the perspective of equally protecting all people from violence in its various expressions or of developing actions to maintain/preserve life under satisfactory conditions within the scope of social rights.

Brutality particularly affects young black women, children and teenagers, something we can see in cases as: João Pedro Mattos Pinto (2020) murdered during a joint operation by the Federal and Civil police in Rio de Janeiro / SP, by Ágatha Vitória Sales Félix (2019), 11 years old and victim of a stray bullet when returning home with her mother, Jenifer Silene Gomes (2019),. Kauê Ribeiro dos Santos (2019), 12, was shot during a police operation, Kauã Rozário (2019), 11, was also hit by a stray bullet, Kauan Peixoto (2019), 12, was shot during a police operation - among these children there is a similarity of names, the same age group, their death in the same year, the brutality of these losses and the fact that they are black children living in communities that have been historically neglected by the Brazilian state.

Racism takes off the right of black children to live their childhood only with the typical concerns of this phase of life, attributing to them countless responsibilities and concerns about the provision of material life, through child labor; early maturation processes, which affects girls in a more perverse way when they are forced to take care of the house and younger siblings when their parents or responsible family members, due to the precariousness of the working world (among other issues) need to leave home to work and usually don’t have resources to pay someone to look after their children.  

Racial violence, not only in Brazil but worldwide, uses the narrative of white supremacy in relation to "others" and, in this category, black people suffer the most diverse violations of human rights, among which the right to life, figures as central. This narrative authorizes the dehumanization of black bodies and minds and also of ancient native people, therefore, genocide in its multiple expressions such as the extermination of their cultures, the devaluation and/or demonization of their religious rituals, the expropriation and environmental destruction of their territories and the murder whether in urban or rural areas as well as quilombola communities and other traditional native villages. 

At the intersection of race/ethnicity, gender and social class as producers of hierarchization among people, the burden of the stigma of intellectual disability, low morality, inbuilt violence, deviant conduct and hyper sexualization falls on black bodies. Statistical data exhibit the modus operandi of Brazilian extermination: every 23 minutes, a young black man is murdered in Brazil; about 71% of the people murdered in Brazil are black; black people are 2.5 times more victims of firearms than white people; more than 75% of those killed by Brazilian police are black; between 2016 and 2017, the number of quilombolas killed grew by 350% and, in Rio de Janeiro, between 2012 and 2015, 71% of the registered religious attacks were against african-brazilian religions.

In a pandemic context, structural racism is confirmed in both american and brazilian realities. A study of the APM Research Lab called “Color of Coronavirus” showed that the number of deaths of black people is up to three times higher than the deaths of white people. There are some states where the numbers are way more alarming, as in Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama. In the state of Kansas, the number of black victims of the covid-19 are seven times higher than for white population. In Brazil, a study published by PUC-RJ showed that the process of social and racial inequality is pretty visible in the data about the victims of the covid-19. The research, released in late May, revealed that black people are 80,35% of the deaths when compared to victims with basic education and white folks. 

At the moment we were writing this note, another loss made us think about the value of life: Miguel Otávio Santana da Silva, 5 years old, died after falling from the 9th floor of a building in Recife, because his mother, a black housemaid was forced to keep working even in a pandemic scenario, and had to leave the boy under the responsibility of her mistress while completing the task of walking the dogs. Slavery culture remains rooted in Brazil and, in this case, it wasn’t just a boy calling for his mother. He was a black boy, whose body was racialized and dehumanized since his early childhood. The evaluation of black bodies is negative and therefore, from this racist perspective, doesn’t require protection.

Therefore, the racial debate is not a fake issue, since racial groups build concepts about other racial groups, in order to establish differences. From a biological point of view we are all belonging to the human race, but daily manifestations of discrimination and ethnical-racial prejudice are built inside the sociability process from the elaboration of a joint of physical, intellectual, cultural and religious attributes that put black population into a place of disqualification. It is necessary to apprehend the concept of race based on social construction, as many researchers have already demonstrated.

Therefore, ABEPSS reaffirms it’s commitment to fight against all forms of oppression, including racism. We also recommend to higher education institutions that have Social Work courses to stimulate critical debate on ethnic-racial relations as part of professional work’s foundations; to be aware of the effects of racism on the trajectory of students, teachers and researchers that belong to historically discriminated populations; and promote, within the limits of their possibilities inside undergraduate and graduate courses, projects and initiatives of knowledge production that allow students to approach aspects that are yet poorly discussed of this expression of the “social question”.

Brasília (DF), June 08, 2020.

Brazilian Association of Teaching and Research in Social Work – ABEPSS

Currently managed by the group: “Resist and move forward, in the boldness of fighting!”