Note from BW of Brazil: Why does this seem to be such a common story? Black person struggles, achieves success and reaches the pinnacle of their career but as soon as they get there, they either remain neutral on issues affecting black people, say one thing and do another, serve the interests of the white power structure or completely sell out their people? Of course I’m not saying this is always the case, but it happens enough that one really has to wonder. A few days ago, a woman who has occasionally appeared on this blog as a source of great pride for black Brazilian women was unfortunately added to this list.
On April 12th, Luizlinda Valois, the current Minister of Human Rights of the Michel Temer Administration shocked numerous black women when she said to the following words to the president: “President, I bring a message from the black woman, mother and grandmother. They requested for me to say that starting today, you will have the denomination of ‘Godfather of black Brazilian women’.” I actually received the news through a social network and within an hour or so, the comments of repudiation started to pour from every direction.
My first through was, “what was she thinking about?” I know that people often times misspeak or have a slip of the tongue, but watching the video of her words, she seemed a little emotional in proclaiming her words and as such it seems she meant what she said. But the problem here, for those of you not familiar with the current political climate in Brazil, is how could she possibly mean these words? The current president, Michel Temer, has been the subject of outrage, disgust and protest since the moment he officially took the reigns of the Presidency after the impeachment (which many call define as a coup d’etat) of the nation’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff and a short period as interim president.
Temer’s policies, proposals and actions since taking command seem to have taking Brazil back to the stone ages as his objective, rolling back a number of rights and rescinding the progress that many Brazilians had seen over the past decade plus. For anyone keeping an eye on the situation in Latin America as a whole over the past few years, this seems to be a well planned assault by forces outside of a number of countries. As Asad Ismi pointed out in 2015:
“The Latin American revolution seemed unstoppable until recently. From El Savador in the north to Argentina in the south, leftists elected since 1998 have implemented the greatest redistribution of wealth in the region’s history, providing millions of jobs, free medical care and education, land reform and public subsidies, thereby lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty. Now, in Venezuela and Argentina, a resurgent right is using economic hardship to foment resentment and secure legislative victories.”
For a more in-depth analysis on what’s going on in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, take a look at the article “Imperialism Strikes Back The Rise of Latin America Reaction”. But in regards to Luislinda Valois, in some ways, I’m not totally shocked by this controversy surrounding her referring to Temer as the “godfather” of black Brazilian women as I was scratching my head over not only the fact that she was affiliated with the powerful center-right PSDB party, which some have labeled “Brazil’s invisible government” and then the announcement of her appointment as Minister of Human Rights in the Temer Administration back in February. I mean, how does a black woman serve within a party whose drastic policies have the potential of devastating the very parcel of the population that she (supposedly) represents? We already know that in such an unequal Brazil, black women earn the least money but pay the most taxes. Yet even with these concerns in mind, Valois did the right thing a few weeks back when she called for fair treatment of all female prisoners and not just elite, rich women. So what gives?
In a Brazil in which race relations remain in a sort of Casa Grande e Senzala (Big House and Slave Quarters) type of relationship between the races, how does a black woman speak on behalf of black women and refer to one of the leaders of an almost completely white, elitist party as a
massa “godfather”? Is this a case of the house negro always looking out for her master simply because he/she has a decent place in the basement or attic, as Malcolm X once famously quipped? Is this only way that she feels can exist in such an environment dominated by white male, elite power? Which black women requested that she bestow such an exalting title upon Temer? These are just a few of the questions on the minds of many Afro-Brazilians. See below…
Excerpt from piece by Nilma Lino Gomes
“It’s not fitting at this time to disregard the minister’s trajectory and her history as a black woman in the select, sexist, misogynist and racist juridical field. But it should be said that the thought, the political and ideological stance that makes us believe that we black women need a godfather and, by the way, a white man (and golpista!) as a godfather, does not represent us.
If we needed godparents, and more of white men as our godparents, we black women would be even more invisible than the power relations have already make us. We would be even more violated than we already are. We would see our black youths die even more than they already die. We would be even more underrepresented than we already are.”
Note of Repudiation of the statement of the current Minister of Human Rights Luizlinda Valois
By Iraildes Andrade
The Coordenação Nacional de Gênero do CEN – Coletivo de Entidades Negras (National Coordination of Gender of CEN – Collective of Black Entities), vehemently condemn the statement of the current Minister of Human Rights to Luizlinda Valois, which shows total ignorance of the thinking of most black Brazilian women, complementing in her speech, that Michel Temer is the godfather of Black Brazilian Women.
Minister, speak for yourself, you do not speak for me, you do not speak for my cousins, sisters, friends and companions of militancy.
The coup president Michel Temer IS NOT MY GODFATHER, he may even be your godfather, minister … but he is not ours.
We black women do not understand how a white man, patriarchal, misogynist, sexist, coup-plotter, usurper of rights, can represent us, much less Vossa Excelência (Your Excellency) that in an insane attempt, tries to rip away the history of the black women of this country.
Speak for yourself. Have him as YOUR GODFATHER, do not use the struggle of black women for your own benefit, to legitimize before a government that does not respect us and not even recognize our ancestral struggle.
Our footsteps come from far and wide.
Discrimination suffered by us, black women, over the years, discrimination and racism that that takes away from us basic rights ranging from the right to live and to have our daughters live, to conditions of poor health care and education that our people face up to this day, does not give you the right to compliment Temer as our godfather.
The lack of jobs in the labor market, the rights that have been denied us, the disrespect for our specifics, only reinforce that this white man and even his partner (even though she is a woman) do not represent me.
The day a white woman and a white man give up privileges, thinking of our race, I may be able to foresee a possibility of representation and permission that they speak for me, something that I find difficult in order not to say IMPOSSIBLE.
You certainly know what it is to be a black woman in a country like Brazil and the African Diaspora. It is not possible that you have forgotten, just as you also know that you should not compliment this man as the godfather of a black woman.
Respect us, respect our struggle, respect our ancestry.
Iraildes Andrade, Black Woman, Mother, Grandmother, National CEN Gender Coordinator, Ekede of Oxumarê House, Facilitator of the Secretariat of Policies for Women of the State of Bahia, Bachelor of Science in Gender and Diversity Studies
Temer is NOT the “godfather” of black women, our struggle and history!
After the statement by Luislinda Valois, Ministra de Direitos Humanos (minister of human rights), that Michel Temer was the “godfather of black Brazilian women” (Video below), Marcha de Mulheres Negras de São Paulo (March of Black Women of São Paulo) emit strong Public Note
Courtesy of the Núcleo Impulsor da M.M.N-SP Facebook page
On April 12, minister of human rights Luislinda Valois spoke on behalf of black Brazilian women stating that Michel Temer was “the godfather of black women.” The March of Black Women of São Paulo does not recognize this position. Stating that Michel Temer has done well for us black women of this country ends up demonstrating deep ignorance of what has been the position presented by our movement in recent years.
The policy of sponsorship refers to the times of colonels. It was through this way of dealing with people that the Casa Grande (Big House) showed its strength with the local and black population. Claiming this is to claim black that Brazilian women are second-class beings who must lower their heads to white “padrinhos” (godfathers) so that they can thus be in spaces of power and politics.
The minister may feel patronized by Michel Temer, she can speak in her own name, but not in ours!
It is inconceivable for us to recognize a man, white, heterosexual, of the coup government and representative of the right of the Casa Grande and the withdrawal of rights of the black population as a godfather. In São Paulo, more than 3,000 black women occupied the streets of downtown on July 25th, 2016, denouncing the racism and machismo in politics and also putting ourselves in the street against the Temer government. Luislinda may believe that the coup-plotter Temer is her political godfather, but she cannot ignore the intense political movement that the black women’s movement has been making against the attacks that we have suffered and that have deepened with the coup.
To say that our steps come from afar and that one rises and pulls up another has a value for us black women to recognize ourselves in the daily fight against racism and machismo. It is our bodies and the ones we love that fall every day at the hands of the racist and misogynist state while those who support the government of Michel Temer deny racism and machismo, they shout for the genocide of our population to continue happening and for us to die imprisoned. Our footsteps come from far away because we don’t bow our heads to those who insist on exterminating us.
The attacks that Michel Temer has made since taking office directly affect us. Luislinda should have remembered this by placing in our mouths and in our names a position that we don’t claim. There was a cut of 61% of the federal budget to combat violence against women and we black women die more because of feminicide and the action of this coup government is to relegate us even more to death.
The dismantling of education and health through freezing investments for 20 years is yet another demonstration of how much Temer cares about our lives. We have the closing of programs like the Farmácia Popular (popular pharmacy) and the increase of the cost of registration for PROUNI (University For All program). It is black women who resort to public services the most and who will have their health and education neglected for 20 years.
We also can’t forget the flagship of the Michel Temer government: Pension Reform. The proposal to change the minimum age for retirement is a proposal to kill us from working. Our average life expectancy in Brazil is practically equal to the minimum age proposal presented by the government. In some regions it is less than 65 years old. Temer doesn’t only deepen the precariousness of our lives, but includes refinements of cruelty for our death.
The minister may feel patronized by Michel Temer, she can speak in her own name, but not in ours! Being a black woman in Brazil, with everything that that the forced African diaspora and the process of enslavement in this country means, is not easy. We face daily violence and Luislinda also experiences this and by experiencing she cannot put us in this subservient position to the Big House. We will not accept it! We continue the steps of our ancestors in the fight against racism and machismo, we continue the resistance, we aquilombamos (get together in the quilombo) and don’t kneel in front of those who take our life from us.
We continue our daily struggle against racism, machismo, misogyny, lesbophobia and transphobia. Against the genocide of black youth, the demarcation of indigenous and quilombola lands, against the sexist violence that kills and rapes us every minute and against the withdrawal of rights that Temer has been doing!
Temer is not our godfather! We are here to say that we do this daily confrontation for ourselves!
March of the Black Women of São Paulo
Ah, Linda..Luislinda Valois. What happened to you? It’s not her fault. The fault is psychological racism, you see.
By Arísia Barros
The magnificent black paulista (native of São Paulo) Luh Souza dissects in a most magnificent text, about the insidious power of racism in blacks that circulate in the hegemony of the power of the world of branquitude (whiteness).
Bravo, Luh. Bravo!
Read on …
Post by Luh Souza
“When I discovered myself as a black woman, I remember immediately falling in love with Luislinda Valois, and when she decided to become a judge and put her racist teacher in jail, she made me love her intensely. The first black Brazilian woman judge In the first place in the contest, she could choose her place of work, she was sent to a small town in the interior, when she could go anywhere she wanted to be, and she was the first judge to pronounce a conviction for racism. Her struggle to become a judge, whose words I will never forget: “I was often able to get there. Many who were born and raised when I was already a judge, are appellate judges. I am a woman, a Bahian and a black woman, and the doors of the judiciary are not closed, they are sealed to blacks.” She only became the Judge after so much that the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) and Negros/as em Movimento (Blacks in Motion) shouted along with/by her, they did so by Decree, after judgment. Or when she defended the young blacks from police violence and said, “It’s always the black man’s fault.” Ah, Linda (her name, also meaning ‘beautiful’)…Luislinda..What happened to you?
Of the multiple forms of racism that she suffered on this path, even after all her history, of being nationally and internationally known, with published books, was prevented from entering a ceremony in her own honor where they expected a blonde with a French phenotype and not a negrona (straight up black woman) with tranças (braids) She was mistaken for Globo TV’s chambermaid, who was taking care of actress Natalia do Vale and actor José Mayer. There are many stories to tell and I had her as one of my references, I intended to be like her someday.
Although I still do not think I’m going to bury someone’s past because of a bad move, there have already been two very wrong. I was disappointed when she joined and was a candidate for the PSDB (party). Now she calls our white sexist devil the godfather of black women. What do I take away from this lesson? She is still a reference. A reference of struggle and now reference of how we should take care of ourselves, cure ourselves of the psychological disease of racism and understand that this disease can follow us for the rest of our lives. See, she ascended ALONE, wrote her life pages from the age of 7 and walked the path pursuing her dreams… Ah, Linda.. Dear, Luislinda …
She got there, alone, without help from those who are now getting close to her. Something was not defined in the maturity of Racism vs. Merit relations for her during that journey. She needs to return the ‘benefit’ she was invited to participate in a largely white, racist, elitist party. She needed to return her gratitude for coming to the Ministry and where she needs to bow her head to give thanks, forgetting that it was really her place, it always was. She fought alone to enter all the spaces, and lost everything, forgot where she came from, forgot who she was and had to show ‘Loving her Master because she lived in the basement or the attic’, as Malcolm X would say.
I feel so ashamed for her, for me, for all the women and children of black women, that she has taken all the medicines throughout her life and has not been cured of the psychological racism that inflicts us in the veins, the eyes, the skin and in the brain since birth. Her previous legacy cannot be questioned. It is a beautiful, powerful trajectory and will always be, but from the disease of the psychological racism of reverence, gratitude and servitude to your masters from which she did not heal, yes! It’s not her fault. It’s the fault of RACISM, you see. We know that this disease exists, we have Celso Pitta (see note 1), (Fernando) Holiday (see note 2) and her to prove it.
My heart doesn’t allow you to trample her. No, no..She’s my black mother from afar, you know? I had adopted her years ago! A woman, black, poor, northeasterner, old woman. I cannot kill her in me, I can not. I feel so much pain because I did not want her nailed to a stake being stoned at such times in my life. Racimachismo is the culprit (a word I invented in the junction of Racism + Machismo). If she really were my mother? It’s as if she were. She is. It’s not her fault. It’s not.
Let’s medicate ourselves in higher doses from now on.”
- First black mayor of São Paulo (1997-2001).
- Current councilman of São Paulo.