Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
May 3, 2023
QUESTION: (Via translation) Ambassador, why did you choose Salvador to celebrate the return of JAPER?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I came to Salvador, where Condoleezza Rice, our Secretary of State, was here 15 years ago to launch JAPER. And so, I thought it was appropriate that we come here to reaffirm it and reinvigorate JAPER, because where we will be focused is on issues of racial equity, and this is the place for looking at those issues because it has the largest population of Afro-Brazilians in the entire country.
QUESTION: (Via translation) And Ambassador, in relation to JAPER, how can we explain it to the general population? What is JAPER?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s an opportunity for the United States and Brazil to work on common issues of racial equity. So, it will be focused on dealing with issues of violence, which both of our countries have had an experience with. It will look at issues of education. We will be working with historical Black colleges and universities as well as other universities to work with the universities here in Brazil so that we can do mentoring and training of journalists, for example. And then, third, we will be looking at building knowledge of the culture here in Brazil so that people don’t forget their past, so that children can learn about the issues of their past, but also there is an exchange of learning between Americans and Brazilians.
QUESTION: (Via translation) How do you view the current scenario here in Bahia in relation to racial discrimination?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This is my first time here, and I had an opportunity to engage with the governor, with several ministers, with professors, and it was a learning experience for me to see the extent of racism and really the divisions between the races – the lack of opportunities that Afro-Brazilians have experienced here in this country. But what is extraordinary is that your current president has made a commitment that he wants to address these issues. He has named some key ministers in his government who will be working on these issues. So, I see this as an opportunity – as an opportunity for Afro-Brazilians and other Indigenous people here in this country to really have the – for the first time have the opportunity to assert their rights and their privileges in this country.
QUESTION: (Via translation) Are there similarities between racial violence in the United States and here in Brazil?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I do think there are similarities. You know that we have had a number of violent attacks against young Black men in the United States going back many years. The George Floyd killing was the most known example of that, and it started the Black Lives Matter movement. I heard here that a Black person is killed by a policeman every 23 minutes. I mean, it seems really extraordinary to me, but it is an issue I think we need to deal with, and I think your motto is “Don’t kill me, kill racism.”
QUESTION:(Via translation) What can we – what can we learn from the United States? What can you all bring in terms of knowledge for us to combat that violence?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The American experience is an interesting one because we really were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and many countries have looked to the United States and the experiences of African Americans to learn from those experiences and see what they can do to emulate what occurred in the United States. And what is so important is that many of those movements elsewhere in the world, African Americans were at the forefront. There were African Americans demonstrating in the United States against apartheid. African Americans have come here to Salvador to engage with the Afro community.
So, I think there is a lot to learn from our experience, but also to improve on what we were able to do.
QUESTION: (Via translation) Just a last one. What can we teach you all in that fight?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: What can you teach me?
QUESTION: (Via translation) To the United States, Brazil to the United States.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m sorry, I’m –
INTERPRETER: That’s okay, that’s okay. What can Brazil and Bahia teach you Americans in fighting against racism and discrimination?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, one, I was so impressed with the absolute commitment of your women. I met women who were at the forefront of your fight for equality and for equity. And what it has taught me is that women around the world are at the forefront. So, it’s not any different from the experience that we had in the United States, when I look at Africa having the first woman elected president, when I look at women leaders across the world. This country shows me and affirmed for me that women are always at the forefront of these fights, and Salvador is no different.
QUESTION: (Via translation) Okay. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you very much.