But here is the catch: because there is so much African blood in the veins of Latin Americans, they can equally deny that there are any special problems facing those who are quite evidently of African descent. As someone once said to me in Venezuela, “…we all have African blood…” While this may sound quite revolutionary when thinking about what it would mean for White Americans to say such a thing, in Latin America it essentially means that no special attention needs to be placed on race.
There are organizations throughout Latin America of Afro-descendants that are trying to bring greater attention to the situation facing Afro-Latinos. In Brazil, there has been an explosion of Black consciousness organizations, but there have also been important developments in Venezuela, Colombia, Uruguay, Ecuador and Central America. These are efforts to watch carefully, and where possible, support. These groups are calling attention to the manner in which White supremacy developed over time in Latin America and the lasting impact on Afro-descendants and the indigenous.
In Colombia political dissent is punished quickly and brutally. Trade unionists are killed in record numbers, and so, too, are Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders. The U.S. government likes to pretend that the Colombian government is taking steps to address these crimes, but what is closer to reality is that the Colombian government has a very effective public relations campaign underway.
I would join with others in suggesting that the covers must be ripped away from this farce so that we are all made aware of the utter brutality of the Colombian system. We must also be aware of those who have had the courage to stand tall in the face of such repression in the name of human rights and social justice.
(Follwo Bill Fletcher Jr. on Facebook and www.billfletcherjr.com.)