State-sanctioned violence is part of everyday life for many Brazilians. This is true, especially for those who are unlucky enough to be poor, live in a favela and have “the wrong skin colour”. Indeed, poor Black and brown people living in precarious situations are the preferred victims of the Brazilian police – a force that is seemingly committed to eradicating not poverty, but the poor.
Brazil’s first favelas appeared in the 19th century in Rio de Janeiro and they grew exponentially after the end of slavery. Over time, poor migrants escaping armed conflicts also joined the former slaves and their descendants in these communities. Soon, similar favelas started to emerge and expand in other parts of the country. And the police forces, which had served to protect the elites, their property and lifestyles from dangerous “plebs” from the very beginning quickly focussed their attention on favelas.