SSN Commentary

Racism is Fueling Brazil's COVID-19 Crisis

Policy field

Connect with the author

SUNY College at Old Westbury

Originally published as "Racism is Fueling Brazil's COVID-19 Crisis," Newsweek, May 4, 2021.

Brazil is now ground zero for COVID-19 mortality rates. With over 400,000 deaths, it surpassed the U.S. death toll. The country's over 3,000 daily deaths collapsed the health care system. Twenty-four hour funerals are the norm. Highly contagious variants continue to spread unchecked and mutate. Despite all this, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to oppose public health advice and upend local efforts to contain the virus.

Like the U.S., COVID-19 is exacerbating racial disparities in Brazil. Afro-Brazilians are 38 percent more likely to die of COVID-19 than white Brazilians. Pregnant and postpartum Afro-Brazilian women die from COVID-19 at twice the rate of white women. And the mortality rate of Indigenous populations in the Amazon due to COVID is 32 percent higher than the general population. Bolsonaro's rejection of COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measures is massacring Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous peoples in horrifying numbers.