Education and the Importance of Networking
Keilah da Silva, the lead organiser for Quilombo Praça XIV[i] was telling us about the importance of education for her community. She said that many people looked down on her and her other female activists as being uneducated black women, when in fact, the majority of them are university educated. Keilah herself is currently studying for a degree in Public Management. There is something very interesting in how Keilah’s education is playing a direct part in building (her) social capital that is enabling her to draw upon extended professional networks, in order to access and bring services to her community.[ii] In this way, we can actually directly cost the value of Keilah’s education in terms of the social capital generated and then in terms of economic capital generated through service provision.[iii] So, when we consider the power of networking; the question is how to make this sustainable beyond Keilah’s classes. Perhaps LABINS could organise forums for the types of professionals Keilah is working with so that other community leaders could also meet them to discuss how they could help. This ties neatly into the Alci Matos idea for a LABINS-designed community leadership course, previously discussed.
Keilah Da Silva (Quilombo T-Shirt)
Black Women and Maternity
Black women empowering themselves through education and using these networks to empower their communities is very powerful. The need for community empowerment is especially important in the area of maternity and child-birth. The story that Keilah’s colleague told us about the lack of anaesthesia in her last experience of giving birth [iv] resonates with the now well-known recent story of tennis legend, Serena Williams and the care she had to insist on.[v] It reminded me of the racist trope of Black women and the darker they are the more they are regarded as mythical beasts of burden who can withstand inhuman levels of pain. This also reminded me of the question, “Ain’t I a woman?” that the anti-slavery campaigner, Sojourner Truth asked in a speech that she delivered in 1851.[vi] So, Quilombo are obviously also working in the area of intersectionality[vii] and black feminism more widely where due to their colour, their very womanhood is brought into question.
Posters about the Maranhão slave heritage of Crioula Quilombo Association of São Benedito
So, to what extent are black women actually gendered as ‘women’? Maybe only in relation to black men as their inferiors but are they really gendered as ‘women’ in relation to white men and white women? If, in a racial patriarchy,[viii] the ‘white woman’ is property to be protected, kept pure and safe, as Sojourner Truth implied in her speech and the ‘white woman’ also represents universal womanhood, then it follows that the ‘black woman’, not worthy of protection[ix] or worthy of being deemed ‘pure’ therefore cannot be fully gendered as a ‘woman’.
Links to the Research of Andreza Costa, Master’s Research Student at UFAM (LABINS)
See supervision notes, here.
These thoughts that spontaneously sprung to mind as I listened to Keilah and her colleague are particularly connected to Andreza Costa’s research because she is researching three generations of black women from Quilombo Praça XIV and looking at precisely these issues as they affect them in their everyday lives. So, this got me thinking more deeply about the nature of racial patriarchy and the status of white men at the top of the system.
Within racial patriarchy, if we begin to talk in archetypes,[x] it is the ‘white woman’ (as property) who gives the ‘white man’ his status; her protection and purity directly correlating to his status within the hierarchy. Only the ‘white woman’ can fully play this role because the ‘black woman’ is not seen fully as a ‘woman’. This is fascinating as, on the other hand, the ‘black man’ is not seen as being fully human because he is seen as a hypermasculine/sexual/violent beast, causing him to be objectified as sub-human. The ‘black woman’ is also objectified but as a sub-woman but is she still viewed as human? Or does ‘sub-woman’ only refer to her status as a type of property i.e. one that is not inherently valuable just functionally valuable (for the reproduction of human capital[xi]), as opposed to the inherent value of the ‘white woman’ as property?[xii] I suppose the ‘black male buck’ trope poses similar questions for the ‘black man’ but whereas his reproductive powers are inherently seen as threatening to white purity and needs to be violently controlled, the ‘black woman’s’ reproductive powers are seen as functionally important for producing further capital for exploitation.
So, if both the ‘white woman’ and the ‘black woman’ are important to the ‘white man’ for different reasons, their differing functions actually begin to define who the ‘white man’ is. The ‘white man’s’ humanity seems to be defined by the purity of his ‘white woman’ whereas the ‘black woman’, perhaps, defines his economic power in terms of potential accumulation of human capital.
Merchandise for Black Consciousness Day
If the ‘white man’ represents whiteness[xiii] then from a psychoanalytical perspective, this puts its (whiteness’) pathological desire for mastery into an unusual context where it needs to position itself as the universal symbol of humanity hence the need for its racial patriarchal substructure. So, from this base of ‘humanity’, it then needs economic power via its mastery over human capital, so follows its need for a ‘black sub-woman’.
So what is the role of the subhuman ‘black man’ (subhuman because of his lack of agency as a (hu)man)?
Could it to be to make sure that the ‘black sub-woman’ is compliant in the economic aggrandisation of her ‘white master’? Does making the ‘black man’ complicit in the subjugation of the ‘black woman’ earn him agency in the eyes of his ‘white master’? So, could we say that there exists a fragile[xiv] unity of patriarchal control between the ‘black man’ and the ‘white man’ as long as it benefits the latter, economically?
In a conversation about this, Claudia Sampaio said that in Brazil, “racism has different faces and attributes different functions according to how dark your skin is”. Claudia thinks that there is scope to unpack these aspects of white masculinity in further joint research in this area!
[i] See Amazonas Atual. Quilombo da Praça 14 recebe placa de Patrimônio Imaterial, November 20th, 2015, Viewed on March 16th 2018, http://amazonasatual.com.br/quilombo-da-praca-14-recebe-placa-de-patrimonio-imaterial/ and L. Carvalho. Comunidade quilombola da Praça 14, em Manaus, sente orgulho de suas raízes negras na Amazônia, November, 20th , 2014, Viewed on March 16th 2018, https://www.acritica.com/channels/manaus/news/comunidade-quilombola-da-praca-14-em-manaus-sente-orgulho-de-suas-raizes-negras-na-amazonia for good accounts of this 125 year old group of Maranhão slave-descendents known as the Quilombo, who originally settled in the village, Bairro Praça 14 de Janeiro. This village community was recognised as the second urban Quilombo by the Palmares Cultural Foundation. Keilah da Silva who is the president of the Crioula Quilombo Association of São Benedito is pleased that her Quilombo community, Quilombo Praça XIV has been granted Intangible Heritage of the Amazonas state-recognition. However, L. Carvalho reminds us that many similarly state-recognised Quilombo communities across the country still face intense challenges as regards their sustainability.
[ii] For one of her cultural (black) awareness days, Keilah told us that blood pressure and blood sugar monitoring would take place as part of other services that she managed to coordinate for the day.
[iii] We are talking about Social Return of Investment (SROI). See Cabinet Office of the Third Sector, Social Return on Investment – an introduction. London: Cabinet Office of the Third Sector, 2009. Available at https://critracemmu.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/social-return-on-investment-guide.pdf.
[iv] She had suffered preeclampsia during her pregnancy
[v] See Guardian Sport. Serena Williams: I almost died after giving birth to my daughter. February 20th, 2018, Viewed on March 17th 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/feb/20/serena-williams-childbirth-health-daughter-tennis Also see C. Ronsmans & W.J. Graham, ‘Maternal mortality; who, when, where, and why’ The Lancet 368(9542), 2006, 1189 – 1200. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/80bd/b82d64d1aa29c2dd538251f3d2b51852d4c9.pdf for a global perspective on this phenomenon that overwhelmingly affects women of ‘colour’
[vii] See P. H. Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment (Second ed.). London: Routledge, 2000, p. 352
I use and distinguish between both terms in examining how oppression affects Black women. Intersectionality refers to particular forms of intersecting oppressions, for example, intersections of race and gender, or of sexuality and nation. Intersectional paradigms remind us that oppression cannot be reduced to one fundamental type, and that oppressions work together in producing injustice. In contrast, the matrix of domination refers to how these intersecting oppressions are actually organized. Regardless of the particular intersections involved, structural, disciplinary, hegemonic, and interpersonal domains of power reappear across quite different forms of oppression. (p.18)
[viii] See O.D. Clennon, ’What’s the problem with Black masculinities?’ In Yasmin Gunaratnam (ed.). Media Diversified [website] November 18, 2013, Available at:
[ix] E.g. less need for painkillers during childbirth, as per Keilah’s colleague’s experience.
[x] Here I am using a psychoanalytical register to deconstruct the pathological structures of whiteness (gendered, male). See O.D. Clennon, ‘The Black Face of Eurocentrism: Uncovering Globalisation’. In O. D. Clennon (ed), International Perspectives of Multiculturalism: The Ethical Challenges. Nova Science Publishers, New York, 2016, pp. 91 – 128
[xi] Here I am specifically alluding to infanticide as a form of slave resistance with it obviously being perceived as an economic threat. See J.M. Allain, ‘Infanticide as Slave Resistance: Evidence from Barbados, Jamaica, and Saint-Domingue’. Inquiries Journal, 6(4), 2014, 1-2. Available at http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/893/infanticide-as-slave-resistance-evidence-from-barbados-jamaica-and-saint-domingue for an excellent account of the evidence for this type of economic subversion/resistance.
[xii] See O.D. Clennon, Urban Dialectics, the Market and Youth Engagement: The ‘Black’ Face of Eurocentrism? New York: Nova Publishers, 2015, p. 123 for a full discussion about Baudrillardian symbolic and functional value and how these forms of value act to commoditise cultural and historical narratives that then can be used by the market for capital accumulation.
[xiii] I am speaking from the perspective of the modern world system (i.e. (proto-)capitalism onwards).
[xiv] Fragile because if black masculinity affects the ‘purity’ of white humanity then it becomes a threat itself to be ‘cut off’. Of course, I am echoing the sentiments of F. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks. (C. L. Markmann, Trans.) London: Pluto Press, 1986. p. 222
Still on the genital level, when a white man hates black men, is he not yielding to a feeling of impotence or of sexual inferiority? Since his ideal is an infinite virility, is there not a phenomenon of diminution in relation to the Negro, who is viewed as a penis symbol? Is the lynching of the Negro not a sexual revenge? (pp. 122-123)