Black paternities on the agenda – Challenges and perspectives
July 31, 2020
Black paternities on the agenda – Challenges and perspectives
By Luciano Ramos
“It is very difficult to be a black father, because in addition to all the challenges that a father normally encounters, I still need to educate my children to live with racism.” (report by a parent attending a workshop on Parenting and Care in 2019)
I find myself looking at Laura (my 5-month-old daughter) and thinking that many black men will not be able to be parents. I understand that I am privileged. A privilege threatened every minute, because I am a black man. And every 23 minutes a black child is left without a father or every 23 minutes a young black man will not become a father, according to the 2017 Violence Map.
According to the facts that will be presented below, this text explains the almost impossibility of the black man to paternalize in Brazil due to the social and historical contexts.
Structural racism does not allow black men to exercise paternity because they have been kidnapped to the West to be only an enslaved workforce and not to be paternal.
Thus, it is important to conceptualize Structural Racism, which, according to Carl E. James (1996), is, therefore, the formalization of a set of practices, institutional, historical, cultural and interpersonal within a society that often places a social group or ethnic in a better position to succeed while at the same time harming other groups consistently and consistently causing disparities that develop between groups over a period of time.
The philosopher Silvio de Almeida explains in his book “Structural Racism” that racism is far from being an anomaly. Racism is “normal”: “Regardless of whether we accept racism or not, it constitutes relationships in their standard of normality”. I have said for some time that if the black man survives to father, he has other challenges to experience this fatherhood, for example, being forced to create a larger repertoire compared to white parents to empower their sons and daughters to develop in a society that is related based on racism.
When we talk about paternity, what paternity are we talking about? Where do black paternities connect to the socially addressed model of parenting? What elements of black paternities are found in the paternities studied and addressed socially?
I do not intend to answer these questions in the following lines, but to question further about it.
About part of the history of the enslavement of black men in Brazil:
It is important to think about a timeline that will help us understand the organization of racism in Brazil, based on the enslavement of men and women from and from different territories on the African continent. Countless times the philosopher Marilena Chauí points out, in her statements, that Brazilian society mistakenly transforms differences into inequalities. This is a fundamental point in this text for the understanding of racism in such a plural scenario, just like the Brazilian reality.
1500 – the Portuguese arrived in Brazil. There is no discovery process for something that had already been discovered by those who inhabited these lands. There is an invasive arrival.
1550 – trafficking in slave ships. Laurentino Gomes (2019) in the book Escravidão reports that “The slave ships caused the fish sharks to change their migratory routes, starting to accompany the vessels crossing the ocean, waiting for the bodies that would be launched on the waves”.
What justifies this trafficking in black bodies and the enslavement of bodies of the same color?
Scientifically, it was believed that blacks were inferior because they were black. They remove from the blacks any and all capacity for thought, reflection and even feelings.
Frantz Fanon, in the book Peles Negras Mascaras Brancas (1952), addresses this white hijacking of the black man’s capacity for reflection and intelligence. Thus, we could make a second statement in this text that white masculinity dehumanizes black men. We can portray this by talking about Hegemony x Subalternity. Later on, our text will address this element.
About the legal framework, according to the timeline:
1824 – Law that prohibits blacks from studying – socially strengthens the fact that blacks are intellectually inferior, lacking in intelligence and are objectified.
1850 – Land Law – which prohibits blacks and indigenous people from acquiring land in the country – legally creates the impossibility for blacks to acquire goods.
Here, I open a parenthesis, to say that one of the founding elements of fatherhood, white and hegemonic, is in providing. Failing to provide, in the realm of virility – which is an essential virtue of the organization of rigid masculinity commonly called toxic – mischaracterizes the masculinity of the black man. Soon, it is noticed that the white man creates a series of norms
to delegitimize the masculinity of the black man. Sociologist and historian Georges Vigarello (2013) approaches virility as follows:
“… virility is marked by an immemorial tradition: not simply the masculine, but in its very nature, and its most noble, if not the most perfect part. Virility would be a virtue, fulfillment. Roman virilites, of which the term comes from, remain a model, with their qualities, clearly enunciated: sexual, those of the active, powerfully constituted, procreative husband, but also thoughtful, vigorous and restrained, courageous and restrained. Coming is not simply homo; manly is not simply man: he is an ideal of strength of virtue, security and maturity, certainty and domination. Hence this traditional challenging situation: to seek the perfect, the excellence, as well as self-control. Numerous qualities, in short, intertwined: sexual ancestry mixed with psychological ancestry, physical strength with moral strength, courage and greatness accompanying strength and vigor. ” (Vigarello 2013, p.7)
We need to think here of virility as a series of demands, understood as virtues, that must be constantly practiced for the exercise of masculinity, as it is socially put. Since this black man does not reach this place of purchasing power, his masculinity does not exist.
Following the timeline
1871 – Free Womb Law – the children of slave women in Brazil from the date of approval of the law were free
1885 – Sexagenarian Law – determined that after its approval, all slaves over 60 years old were free
1888- Signature of the Golden Law – Abolition of Slavery – Brazil is the last American country to abolish slavery
All of these laws are organized to ratify the racism that, over time, has been structured in Brazilian society. In any case, in different aspects of the Brazilian organization (laws, signs, aesthetics and Brazilian ethics), society organized itself based on racism, making it a natural and transgenerationally taught practice.
What place do black masculinities occupy in Brazil?
This text does not have the function to talk about masculinities, but to question the structures that prevent the black man from paternalizing. However, it is very difficult to talk about black paternities without talking about masculinities, once they are related.
Here, in this part of the text, we can resume the confrontation between Hegemony and Subalternity. Raewyn Connel (1983) portrays the term of Hegemonic Masculinity considering that, first of all, it is an ideal, as a set of actions that would define a real man. What is allied to the virtues, previously brought up in this text. These, in fact, are a small group of men, who organize the way men, in general, need to be categorized. These determine the subordinates like everyone who is not part of this select group.
Black men, in turn, occupy the spaces of subordinate masculinities. It is important to understand that these hegemonic and subordinate masculinities are directly related, and that one exists only through the existence of the other. According to Kimmel 1998, the hegemonic and the subordinate emerged in a mutual interaction, but unequal in a social and economic order, divided into genders. ” He also claims that inequalities are built within masculinities. Which states that white men dehumanize the masculinities of black men. Fanon (1952) constantly addresses the inferiority relationship between black men and white men.
Within this scenario, the black body is not seen as a valued body, but is seen as an object (in the perspective of objectification) without historical and social recognition. Thus, the historical racism mentioned above, here gains a place of legitimacy by the State. The black man is seen as a suspect, as the potential criminal by the armed power of the state. In this constant struggle between hegemony and subordination, where this black man is summoned, daily to fight for a place in that chair that does not exist for him, he is given the false hope to reach hegemony, through the possibility of killing his color brothers. In this scenario, the “faithful squire” (a virile, strong man, large-sized penis appears. A threat to the white man for his irresistible sensuality to white women, but asexual.) Who is one of the representations of the black, according to Souza (2009) or the figure of the captain of the bush.
In this duel, there is no room for the black man to be a man. He is unable to occupy this place in this current model of masculinity and society.
What is the place of the black father?
Black paternity cannot be analyzed from the same place as white paternities. If you made it this far, there are several elements that have shown you that.
The first step is to deconstruct paternity as a unique movement. Fatherhood occupies different places in this arena. Analyzing paternities without cutouts of race, class and gender is an empty and unnecessary movement. Intersectionality is an important concept as a starting point for understanding the different parenting exercises.
Who is this father? What understanding does he have of paternity? What does it mean to be a father to this man? What experience of being a son did he have? What network does this man have for the exercise of fatherhood?
All of these are fundamental questions for understanding black masculinities and supporting them in this important movement for the construction of the black man.
In the book “Contemporary dialogues about black men and masculinities”, organizer Henrique Restier reminds us that the black man’s paternal memory is very recent. If we return to the timeline of this text, we will realize that the black man was only able to “exercise” paternity, with all the social difficulties for that, after the Abolition of Slavery. Therefore, this memory is less than 150 years old in the history of the Brazilian black man, which in the organization of a society is little. This man is socially charged with even more harsh exercise of paternity than is charged of the white man. This is due to the white and heteronormative and cis hegemonic organization of Brazilian society. This man is required to take some attitudes without considering the basics: that it is his fear of dying or that his black sons will die or that his daughters, because they are black, have their bodies violated, since the black woman’s body is not respected within this model of society. The right to life is the fundamental and basic right for social coexistence, but these men are still fighting for it. These parents are still trying to survive. This black paternity care movement needs to exist, collectively, but based on a condition of life promoted by the State and society.
“It takes a village to raise a child.” This African proverb reminds us of the fact that quilombos have collective movements. Villages have collective movements. White society has individualist movements and charges men and women who traditionally come from community movements with individual attitudes of care and protection. In this regard, it is important to respect squatting as a care experience. Think of a movement where the responsibility for care is everyone’s without removing what is proper to each one. And fatherhood finds its place of care in this community, whose starting point is to take care of life. The black man, in the illusory quest to achieve hegemonic masculinity, which also allies with his physical and social survival, has moved away from this collective care movement. It is necessary to summon this man to this drop in care, while it is necessary for the non-black community to respect and understand this process, in addition to disseminating this practice among their own. This would be an important anti-racist attitude. Thinking about public policies that think of the community as an important care space for the black father, without removing his individual responsibility is something urgent.
Finally, it is not possible to think of black paternities apart from the characteristics that organize this black man in a racist world and without making an intersectional reading (gender, class, race).
In this community of black parenting, I will only start dreaming when my brothers can also dream.
James, Carl E. – Perspectives on racism and the human services sector: A case for change 2nd revised – University Of Toronto Press p.27
Silvio de Almeida is a lawyer, philosopher and university professor
Marilena Chauí is a Brazilian writer and philosopher, specializing in the work of Baruch Espinoza
Laurentino Gomes is a Brazilian journalist and writer
Frantz Fanon was a French Marxist psychiatrist, philosopher and essayist from Martinique, of French and African descent.
Bell Hooks – American author, teacher, feminist theorist, artist and social activist
Racism – set of theories and beliefs that establish a hierarchy between races
Privilege – rights, advantages, prerogatives valid for an individual or group, to the detriment of the majority;
Paternar – exercise paternity
Hegemony – supremacy, predominant influence exercised by city, people, country, etc. over others;
Subalternity – state or feeling of dependence, inferiority, subordination, subservience, subordination;
Toxic masculinity – stereotyped characteristics, which present violent attitudes, aggressiveness among other elements of machismo, attributed to men;
Intersectionality – is the study of the overlap or intersection of social identities and related systems of oppression, domination and discrimination;
Heteronormativity – is a term used to describe situations in which sexual orientations other than heterosexual are marginalized, ignored or pursued by social practices, beliefs or policies.
Cis – a cis person is a person in which the sex designated at birth + internal / subjective feeling of sex + gender designated at birth + internal / subjective gender feeling, are ‘aligned’ or ‘on the same side’ – the cis prefix in Latin means “on this side” (and not on the other).
Aquilombamento – meeting in quilombo
Text by Luciano Ramos
Masculinity Consultant; Paternities; Gender-based violence; Black Masculinities and Fatherhoods