LatinaLista — Brazil is a country home to over 202 million people, 51 percent who identify as black; 48 percent as white. Unfortunately, Brazil isn’t unlike its South American (global) neighbors in treating their non-white citizenry as second-class citizens.
In fact, racism is such a destructive part of Brazil’s culture that since 1992, a group of black women have been fighting to raise awareness about the issue. The women formed a group calling themselves Criola. All these years, they have created campaigns to try to get people to think twice before they say or do something hurtful against a person of color.
It’s been an uphill battle.
It wasn’t until a recent incident happened that spurred Criola to create one of their most effective campaigns yet.
In July, journalist Maria Julia Coutinho’s photo was posted to the Facebook page of a local news outlet. Almost immediately, the young woman, who is black, was bombarded with racist taunts on social media. Though people came to her defense, Criola decided to do something that hadn’t been done before — call out the abusers.
Criola created a campaign called “Racismo Virtual, Consequencias Reais” (“Virtual Racism, Real Consequences”) to show the harm done by racist comments. The campaign consists of republishing racist tweets and installing them on billboards — not off the side of some highway — but near the commenter’s own home.
Criola uses geo-tags on the comments to find out who the commenter is and where they live. On the billboards, the offensive commenter’s face and name are pixelated but their comments are big enough for everyone to read and (hopefully) be disgusted into action.
Criola founder, Jurema Werneck, told BBC Trending, “Those people [who post abuse online] think they can sit in the comfort of their homes and do whatever they want on the Internet. We don’t let that happen. They can’t hide from us, we will find them.”
The campaign has done five billboards and though Brazil has laws against spreading racist hate, the organizers at Criola don’t feel the government is doing enough to curb the racist comments littering Brazil’s social media. As a follow-up to each billboard, Criola members go out into the streets and neighborhoods where the billboards are erected to get feedback from the public.
The campaign has proven to be a success.
“The action is intended to show that the web is not a free territory for the display of messages of hate, racism and prejudice and that actions will have consequences for their authors,” wrote Criola organizers on their website.