Race or ethnicity in South and central America: Do Black Lives Matter there?
According to informations from countries of South America and Central America, most of the censuses conducted by the authorities define citizens in relation to their ethnicity and not in relation to their race. It should be noted that some of these countries define more than seven different ethnicities. A very refined system whose aim is, among others, to reduce the actual number of Blacks. This is one of the reasons why the official numbers of black people in some of those countries are by far below their actual numbers.
Race and ethnicity may in some cases mean one and the same thing but not always! Scientists make a fundamental difference between race and ethnicity. Let us take the case of a Sino-American who, from a race point of view, will certainly position himself in the East Asian side. But if he does not identify with the culture and customs of this part of the world, he might not regard himself as belonging to that ethnicity, but rather as an American.
Let us return to the case of the Blacks, for example, in Colombia. How do you expect descendants of Black people who have lived there for over 400 years to identify themselves as Afro-Colombians when "Afro" means that they have the same culture and customs like black Africans? The large majority of them have never neither been in black Africa nor have ever come accoss a black African. As a result, the majority of them identify themselves as being without ethnicity like 86% of the population according to a recent census done in this country where only 10% of the population identified themselves as Afro-Colombians or mulattoes and 4% as indigenous people. But whether they identify themselves as Afro-Colombians or mulattos or even of mixed ethnicities, Blacks of these countries have no access to education or health care and are confined to performing the least attractive and poorly paid jobs. In the case of some countries such as Brazil, Blacks who are killed by police are mostly killed by black policemen, contrary to what happens in the United States, for example. But is it a reason why one can say that Blacks Lives Matter there? No, no and no! The system that kills Blacks has not been set up by Blacks even if it is black policemen who kill other Blacks, those murdering are indeed ordered by Whites and it is known to all even beyond the borders of Brazil for example.
Why is there not a dynamic and international organization or movement in Central and South America that claims fair treatment for Blacks like for instance Black Lives Matter in the United States? There are several reasons for this. One of them, and not the weakest, is the classification of populations into a jungle of ethnicities where it is easy to get confused about one's own racial identity. It is therefore not easy to come together in one and the same movement that fights for the rights of Blacks, Mulattoes, Whithout-Ethnicities and so on.... This may be a problem that needs to be solved before moving on to the next step. But let us not forget one thing: time presses and in short or medium term it might be too late.
January 21, 2017
Vance, SimeonYou can also contribute! Your financial contribution, as well as your contribution through articles or translation are very appreciated.