For Black Brazilians, Like African-Americans, COVID-19 is Deadly

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[Black Brazil\COVID-19]
The Conversation: "The Brazilian Health Ministry had already flagged high COVID-19 death rates among Afro-Brazilians, a category that includes people who identify as “Black” or “Brown” in the census."
Photo: Youtube

Black Brazilians, like African-Americans, are dying of high rates of COVID-19. Brazil is second to the U.S. as the worse in the world regarding COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The United States and Brazil have much in common when it comes to the coronavirus.

Both are among the world’s hardest-hit countries, where hundreds die daily. Their like-minded presidents, Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, have both been widely criticized for their poor handling of the pandemic.

And in both countries the virus is disproportionately affecting Black people, the result of structural racism that dates back to slavery.

Legacy of slavery

Brazil forcibly brought some 4 million enslaved Africans into the country over three centuries, more than anywhere else in the Americas. About half its 209 million people are Black – the world’s second-largest African-descendant population after Nigeria.

Modern Brazil never had legalized racial discrimination like Jim Crow, but race-based inequalities are deeply entrenched. Despite a persistent myth of Brazil as an integrated “racial democracy,” employment discrimination and residential segregation limit opportunity for Black people.

These and other factors translate into lower life expectancy, education and standards of living for Afro-Brazilians. Black Brazilians live, on average, 73 years – three years less than white Brazilians, according to the 2017 National Household Survey. The U.S. has a nearly identical life expectancy gap between races.

Because government data in Brazil is not automatically collected by race or ethnicity, though, the health impacts of racism can be hard to measure. Bolsonaro’s administration did not require the collection of COVID-19 racial data until late April, well into the pandemic, after much pressure. It has yet to release that information.

Regardless, by April the Brazilian Health Ministry had already flagged high COVID-19 death rates among Afro-Brazilians, a category that includes people who identify as “Black” or “Brown” in the census. Officials in hard-hit São Paulo had also announced that mortality rates among COVID-19 patients were higher among Black residents.

Now, data collected in May by outside researchers for over 5,500 municipalities shows that 55% of Afro-Brazilian patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 died, compared to 34% of white COVID-19 patients.

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