How to use your privilege to effect change?
Work of civil society gains increasingly more prominence as the government evades its responsibilities
Gabriel Prazeres Gomes, aged 19, did not have much time to use the motorbike his mother gave him in July. The young black man, a resident of the northwestern region of the city of São Paulo who worked as a motorbike courier, dreamed of building a future for himself with his girlfriend. But the police stepped in before the dream was realized and arrested him for drug trafficking.
In prison, Gabriel got sick with Covid-19, recovered, but ended up dying from meningitis less than two months after his arrest when, according to what his mother told the Ponte journalism website, he was framed by the police.
By exposing the failings of the Drug Law in the country and the disregard by public authorities for prisons, Gabriel’s story also illustrates how historically marginalized populations are treated in Brazil. Besides representing 67% of the prison population, according to Depen (National Prison Department), people of color are also more likely to be killed outside prison. According to the 2020 Atlas of Violence, black people represented 75.7% of the victims of all homicides in Brazil in 2018.
Privilege beyond skin color
Structural phantoms also haunt other sections of the population. According to research conducted by the Brazilian Public Security Forum, in the state of São Paulo alone, in the months of March and April, at the start of the pandemic, cases of femicide increased 41.4% from the same period a year earlier.
Moreover, according to Antra (National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals), in January and February of 2020, Brazil saw a 90% increase in murders of trans people and transvestites compared to the same period last year.
Inequality, which is also class-based, seems to have found some relief with the emergency basic income payments made by the government during the pandemic. But this relief is superficial. “It is undeniable that cash transfer programs are necessary to combat inequality in Brazil. But they need to be combined with other social policies. Inequality is manifold and requires remedies from various sectors. What is Bolsonaro’s policy, for example, for reducing racial inequality?” asked the political scientist Fernando Abrucio in the newspaper Valor Econômico.
Be a change agent!
In addition to being necessary, change is a matter of survival, as demonstrated by the cases of xenophobia against Venezuelan refugees in the state of Roraima and the attempt to exterminate indigenous populations.
But what can people not in the crosshairs do to help? Awareness is a good start. Expanding references beyond what is traditionally encountered, by listening, reading and watching what is produced by people outside the mainstream is one way of altering the imagery.
“It’s not right for them [white people], who have access the best schools, books, libraries, to delegate to us [black people] the burden of educating them. Especially when we are concerned with staying alive,” said Aza Njeri, a researcher of African philosophies, to the website Catraca Livre. “We need whiteness involved in the cause honestly so that we can take a society-wide step to tackle the issue,” she said, reinforcing an idea that also accommodates gender and class.
The role of NGOs
In this regard, the work of the third sector has also been gaining more prominence as the government evades its responsibilities. Together with its various partners, Conectas is one of the organizations attempting to change the reality of the most vulnerable populations, by proposing solutions, taking legal action, denouncing abuses and contributing to the advancement of human rights.
Don’t forget that you too can be part of this change. Learn more about our work and join us!