Grassroots Perspectives on Hate Speech, Race, and Inequality in Brazil and Colombia

Across Latin America, online and digitally mediated racist speech directed at Afro-descendant youth has intensified existing racial stigma and contributed to the marginalization of minority groups in both online and offline contexts. Racist speech is not a new phenomenon in the region.  However, such speech is often amplified through digital media platforms, including social media, and some claim its increasing prevalence may be contributing to the normalization of racism.

While racist speech online is prominent in both Brazil and Colombia, studies focused on Latin America are extremely limited and have addressed the overarching theme of online hate speech.  Through interviews with leaders of civil society organizations (CSOs) and a review of existing literature, this study discusses efforts and interventions that CSOs have employed to counter racial stigma faced by the collective population of Afro-descendant youth in an attempt to understand and examine signs of impact related to hate speech in Brazil and Colombia, distinct from existing overarching studies of online hate speech.

Informed by in-depth conversations with practitioners working in the field, and working closely with collaborating institutions that directly serve Afro-descendent youth, the case study presents an overview of the environment and context within which Afro-descendent youth impacted by racist speech exist.  The interviews illustrate that most CSOs view digital racism as an extension of historical racial inequality. This case study documents the efforts of CSOs in the region who are helping to support the actions of young Afro-descendants to occupy roles historically denied to them, thereby deconstructing negative perceptions and re-claiming representations of their identities and realities.