Luana's Story and the Continued Assualt on the Black Population of Brazil

Boys watch others flying kites from a rooftop at the Vidigal slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Despite th
Boys watch others flying kites from a rooftop at the Vidigal slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Despite the recent wave of violence in other pacified favelas, Vidigal has been peaceful and is today a popular tourist spot. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

"But she had a criminal record"
"It was God's will, she became a little angel"
"A good thief is a dead thief"

When a black person dies in Brazil, these three sentences are often used as the best response to transform the continued assault on the black population into a euphemism.

Therefore, we must talk about Luana.

Luana Barbosa dos Reis was a black lesbian mother who lived in the outskirts. She died after being brutally and cowardly attacked by the Military Police of Ribeirão Preto (SP).

When Luana was approached by the police (something usual for any black person thanks to an unrepaired, racist, sadistic and corrupt public security force), they didn't believe she was a woman. She was frisked in an invasive, truculent and illegal way. Her defensive behavior, which was a justified reaction to the abuse of power by the police officers, became an excuse for her beating. Luana was brutally beaten in front of her 14-year old son, then arrested. A few days after she was admitted into emergency care at a nearby hospital, she died due to complications caused be traumatic brain injury.

Luana's mere existence was oppressed and criminalized. She was black, lesbian and poor. Luana had a motorbike that "could only have been stolen." Luana had a home that "could only be a hiding place for drugs." Luana apparently had a worthless life.

In Brazil, the police force considers itself above the law and good and evil. Luana was virtually executed and what we see (once again) was an attempt to blame the victim for her own death: "she had a criminal record," they said. This is one of the excuses the general population has accepted for the arbitrary murder of black people in this country, where it is seemingly encouraged by the state and often implemented by the police.


Criminalizing and blaming the victim is a common device used to trivialize the fact that black and innocent women, men and children die every day in Brazil and become statistical data.

According to the study Violence Against Women: Femicides in Brazil, conducted by IPEA (Institute for Applied Economic Research), each year 5,664 women are killed violently, which corresponds to 472 murders per month, 15.52 victims per day or a death every hour and a half.

Of the women murdered in Brazil between 2001 and 2011, more than 60 percent were black women, and that is not a coincidence, representing the main victims in all regions, except in the South of Brazil.

In Brazil the femicide against black women raised by 54 percent, while the percentage of white women killed violently dropped 9.8 percent, according to the 2015 Map of Violence. Finally, the number of incarcerated black women increased significantly nationwide.

Black women are constantly marginalized and oppressed just for being black. Thus, Luana's case cannot be considered an isolated one. A crime committed by her in the past does not justify the homicidal and racist treatment she suffered. Nothing justifies her brutal beating in front of her son and without the right to a defense.


Black children don't "become little angels" after being killed by a stray bullet. They become statistical data, figures and victims of a never ending situation....

Criminalizing and blaming the victim is a common device used to trivialize the fact that black and innocent women, men and children die every day in Brazil and become statistical data.

"It was God's will, she became a little angel," we often hear.

The culture of relativism and trivialization of the death of innocent people often attributes the death to "God" and the so called "Divine Providence." Black children don't "become little angels" after being killed by a stray bullet. They become statistical data, figures and victims of a never ending situation that haunts the collective unconscious of every black person in Brazil.

I am absolutely convinced that these murdered children didn't want to become "angels," they just wanted to be children. And that means playing in the streets, flying kites, collecting marbles, going to school, having friends, growing up, working, among other things that build the narrative of a dignified, full and healthy growth that should be guaranteed by the state.

We must stop using euphemisms to talk about the history of those who are dying at an increasingly young age: they are black, poor and live in the outskirts.

The 2014 Index of Juvenile Vulnerability to Violence and Racial Inequality shows that the rate of young black people killed per 100,000 inhabitants raised from 60.5 in 2007 to 70.8 in 2012. Among white young people the rate of homicide victims also increased: from 26.1 to 27.8. In absolute numbers, this means that 29,916 young people were killed in 2012, of which 22,884 were black and 7,032 were white. The difference is blatant. Is it pure chance? Shouldn't one conduct a socioeconomic or racial analysis?

Caio Daniel was shot while he was playing soccer, Ana Beatriz was shot in the head at a party in an uncle's house, Ryan Gabriel was playing at the doorsteps of his grandparent's house when he was shot and Matheus Moraes was playing marbles when he met the same fate.

They were simply being children. Even though we consider it an absurd for children to be killed by policemen while playing in front of their houses, we remain silent.

"God is always to blame."

We trivialize and remain silent about the murder of black people to an extent that we become accomplices to these deaths. The main factor to change this reality is breaking the silence around racism. We must debate gender, race and class issues. Brazilians must face their reality head on.

There is no collective reaction when a black person is killed. Such stories don't capture the headlines of our major newspapers. The families of the victims don't get the support of the general population. Facebook doesn't generate a filter to be used on a profile picture or a hashtag.


The assault on the black population is not a theory, it is not God's will and it will never be justified.

Deep down, we know that the state allows the killing of innocent black people. And yet we remain silent. Why? The answer is in the lack of empathy from those who will not be murdered in their homes or living-rooms. The determining factors? The region where one lives and one's color, as well as the lack of indignation with the perpetrators and the lack of historical knowledge about the racist structure in this country. The collective indignation is limited to blaming "God" for these deaths, after all:

"He wanted it this way; He wanted these angels by His side."
"God loved these children so much that He called them to sit by His side."

Brazil is one of the countries where the Christian faith is most evident and even participates actively in politics. We are raised within religions that place God in power, and as the One with the answers to everything. In the name of faith in this punitive God, many crimes have been justified. In our history, the native population was virtually decimated and the black population was enslaved "in the name of God."

Today we blame Him for the "lack of discomfort," for our collective amnesia and for the indifference to the many deaths which we fail to care about. The other is always to blame. The blame for the death of a black person is never ours and we will never take the blame collectively.

I would like to believe that by saying that "children become little angels" and by making God responsible for everything would solve the problem. I would like to believe that the 111 shots were "unintentional," that Amarildo is not missing and that Cláudia didn't suffer at all while she was dragged for miles by a police car. I would really like to think that Luana didn't feel the pain of dying simply for being what she was. But I can't take into consideration any effort make these stories any less cruel than they are.

Children are being murdered, women are being beaten and dragged behind cars, and boys that walk on the streets with their friends are being shot to death. Another child died today. Another child will die tomorrow. At least one black woman will die every day, despite being innocent. Black boys will play soccer next to dead bodies, because they are used to it.

And if you don't see how serious the situation is, don't just say that someone "became an angel" so that you can sleep peacefully at the end of the day. And you won't be able to say "a good thief is a dead thief" about these young and innocent victims because they are your "little angels," right?

Every day, every hour and every minute, in Brazil, the neglect and the debt to the black population only increases. This debt will never be paid off, this wound will never heal. The assault on the black population is not a theory, it is not God's will and it will never be justified.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Brazil. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.