Demands to dismantle institutional racism must also be heard in Latin America

Photo: Michael Candelori/ Shutterstock

June 11, 2020 – The most recent cases of police brutality against Black people in the United States have brought racial discrimination to the forefront of the public debate. Large demonstrations across all fifty states are a clear sign of a considerable shift in public opinion. Demands for racial justice go beyond reforming the police but are instead calling for a rethinking and remaking of the systems used to maintain public safety. An important component of the current discussion is the need to understand and dismantle systemic oppression that has historically determined the economic, political and social participation of the Afrodescendant population in the United States.

 

Actions against racial injustice are also fueled by the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on racial minorities: Black people, along with other marginalized groups, such as the Latino  community, have reported the highest number of infections. This is due in part to the fact that communities of color make up a large portion of essential workers and the uninsured. Racial disparities are also present in the current economic recession. In the U.S., Afrodescendant persons and Latinos have been especially vulnerable to job loss during the pandemic. In May, unemployment among the Black population rose to the highest level in over a decade. These same populations are also less likely to receive government support. Millions of immigrants and their families were excluded from economic relief programs, which is why we have advocated for their inclusion in future aid packages and for an extension of work permits for TPS and DACA beneficiaries. 

 

The economic recession caused by the pandemic will have a transnational impact. Unemployment among people of Latin American origin will affect remittances commonly sent to their countries of origin. In Mexico remittances have dropped 2.6% in comparison to April of last year, and 28.5% from March to April of this year; in Guatemala the drop has been less but still significant. In the first four months of the year, the amount of remittances fell 3.1% compared to the same period in 2019. Honduras and El Salvador have also suffered decreases in remittances: 7.1% and 9.8% respectively when comparing the same period in 2019. This indicates a severe blow to the families and economies of people’s countries of origin. For example, in El Salvador, the fall in remittances will have an impact on liquid assets and therefore an increase in poverty.

 

Racism and police brutality are also present in Latin America. In Brazil, eight out of ten people killed by the police are Black. While protests demanding justice for the murder of George Floyd  took place across the U.S., the case of Anderson Arboleda, a young Afro-descendant victim of police brutality in Colombia came to light and in Mexico the case of Geovanny Lopez, who died after being beaten by police officers for not wearing a mask, generated outrage. 

#Alianza ForBlackLives: A digital action led by members of Alianza Americas to denounce racial injustice and institutional violence.

Discrimination against Afro-descendent people in Latin America is similar to the United States. Afrodescendant people in Latin America have also been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and as pointed out by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in 2018, Black women face additional barriers and discrimination that stem from racism and sexism.

The hope now is that demands to dismantle institutional racism can be heard transnationally and will reach Latin America. These demands come at a time when people across the Americas have been impacted by the pandemic and the economic consequences that followed, causing societies to reflect on their political structures and the importance of protecting people’s rights, regardless of race, national origin, immigration status, social class, age, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. This process must begin with us. We must examine our prejudices and internalized racism and work to deconstruct these beliefs and actions in our families, our communities, our societies and our countries.

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