Murder footage of Congolese refugee exposes enrooted racism in Bolsonaro's Brazil
When one flees a war-torn country to a more stable one to avoid death, yet ends up being beaten to death.
"Here we have a George Floyd every 23 minutes," said Douglas Belchior, one of the leaders and organizers of the protest scheduled for today, Saturday.
Brazil has been grappling with a legacy full of slavery, as Moise Mugenyi Kabagambe, a Congolese refugee, was murdered in cold blood on one of Brazil's most busy beaches, Barra da Tijuca.
The murder exposed the structural and systemic racism and hate violence that runs deep in Brazilian society as a result of the country's racist legacy, and now fascist President, which has exacerbated the case.
Eleven years ago, Moise sought refuge in Brazil after abandoning his home in Bunia, Congo, after his grandmother was killed in the conflict. On January 24, 2022, at the age of 24, he lost his life after being set up by a group of men on Barra da Tijuca. The murder was caught on footage, sparking national outrage.
Moise was beaten and knocked repeatedly to the ground by the group of men, resulting in fatal chest injuries as a result of the fists and wooden sticks hurled at him. So far, three men have been arrested for the attack.
According to his relatives, Kabagambe went to a seaside bar on the beach to demand some $37 in unpaid wages where he had worked informally as a waiter.
“My cousin never hurt anyone, he was always smiling. It’s abhorrent. It’s a nightmare,” said his cousin, Chadrac Kembilu Nkusu, also a refugee who is considering leaving for Canada after the attack.
Nkusu expressed dismay, “Brazil is a mother, a country that embraces everyone. I cannot understand how this mother could have killed a son as good as Moïse.”
Como negro, eu sinto NOJO dessa sociedade que faz questão de nos separar!! O RACISMO MATA e esse é o grito da família e amigos que clamam por justiça. Justiça por Moise Kabagambe!pic.twitter.com/cVTHIz1aW2— GIL DO VIGOR (@GilDoVigor) February 1, 2022
On Saturday morning, civil rights activists and citizens held protests against the murder in Sao Paulo, Recife, Belo Horizonte, and Porto Alegre.
Belchior, a leader from the Coalizão Negra Por Direitos network which is contributing to the organization of the protests, said, “The barbaric murder of black people is shamefully commonplace in Brazil … Here we have a George Floyd every 23 minutes. We have a Moïse every 23 minutes. We are constantly being killed.”
He wiped tears from his eyes, and rejected the notion that Brazil is a safe space for Black refugees, calling it a lie, “The image we sell of Brazil is a lie. It’s not true that we are a mother who offers shelter. Brazil is a country of race war. What’s happening here is a war – black people die every single day. It is a state of terror – and we have to expose this.”
Bolsonaro, although owning a home minutes away from the crime scene, did not comment on the killing. However, when it came to Joe Rogan's racist remarks, which led to his episodes disappearing from Spotify, he commented, "Stand your ground! Hugs from Brazil."
Former leftist President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, however, condemned the murder, calling it a "cowardly murder". He said, "This isn’t normal. This isn’t human. It’s the result of a country that is being governed by a fascist," attributing the violence to Bolsonaro's radical politics which are bringing forth violence.
Slavery, a legacy
Activists, furthermore, attributed the event to deeply rooted structures of racism, which black slavery left behind many years back. Brazil was known to enslave up to 5 million people from Africa and was the last to abolish it among the Americas.
“Brazil is a country built on slavery. It’s the country that endured slavery for the longest, was the last in the Americas to abolish it – and the way Brazilian society was organized post-slavery was designed to perpetuate the social dynamic by which black people were subjected to the slave owners’ way of thinking," said Belchior.
He explained that it isn't merely required of the Black community to protest, but rather a must of all Brazilian society to revolt over its slavery past. “There wouldn’t be space in the news for any other topic if this was a white person from Europe or the US. But it was an African person from the Congo – so no sweat,” he said.