Note from BW of Brazil: For many people, certain stereotypical images come to mind when the words homem negro, meaning black man, come up. In Brazil, when people think of black men, they may subconsciously, or even consciously, think of a doorman, a street-sweeper, a futebol player, security guard, criminal, drug dealer, or even a sexual fantasy. It’s bad enough that black men are generally not thought of when one thinks of a CEO, banker, lawyer or doctor, but how often does a black man come to mind when the image is that of a father? As there are and have been millions of black children in the history of Brazil, there have also been millions of black fathers. But if one were to consider the images presented by the mainstream media’s depictions of what a father looks like, you could certainly conclude that black fathers are non-existent. But guess what: there are many black men in Brazil daily assuming one of the most important roles they will ever accept over the course of their lives: DADDY.
Black fatherhood: being a black father means taking extra care
by Mayara Penina
“What are the most effective weapons to combat racism? The reverence for our African origin, the aesthetic affirmation, political measures? These questions were always with me, but one event made them vital, even if it were life or death: the birth of my children.”
Excerpt from the book, Na minha pele by Lázaro Ramos, Editora Objetiva
Stop for a few seconds and do this exercise: try to imagine a super father, partner, who cares for and loves children and who also shares the care of children. Which parent comes into your head? Think of ad campaigns, do a Google search. What is the image of this father?
“Although in the mainstream media, in general, in both the representation of white men and black men, a movement for gender equality is being born, black men are still mostly represented as sub-ordinated subjects or linked to high armed violence, for example. Positions of social power that are perceived as positive in Brazilian society are still represented as spaces occupied by mostly homens brancos (white men),” says Mohara Valle, a communications consultant at Instituto Promundo, an organization that encourages men to participate in parental care to promote gender equality, preventing violence against women and children, and contributing to better maternal and child health.
She argues, therefore, that it is important to portray men as inspiring characters in stories of caring, nonviolent parents who share household chores with the mothers, bringing a look at their humanity and the capacity for affection that racism often erases and re-signifies the idea of what it’s like to be a homem negro (black man).
Josimar Silveira: “Our greatest concern is developing self-esteem through mainly representativeness, putting them in contact with a positive, beautiful, intelligent, great black universe. Black dolls, super heroes and artists, for example, are always present in our day to day.”
There is a premise that black parents are more absent in their children’s lives. Economic conditions of pais negros (black parents) who do not live with their children and therefore cannot see them frequently or provide consumer goods and education, have created an image that the black father does not value paternity. “I don’t know the data that indicates this situation of absence. Both black and white men are absent in relation to their children, I believe that this situation also happens due to the lack of planning. And this ends up creating a very serious problem for the woman who takes up the upbringing by herself. Now, unstructured families may be more recurrent in spaces that have incomes below poverty levels and this directly affects the comunidade negra (black community) because it has not yet reached a level of schooling that allows us to achieve better incomes. And the situation of lack of perspective, with unemployment and abuse in the use of alcohol and drugs are factors that can explain this situation,” thinks Leonardo Bento father of Aísha, five, and Naíma, three.
However, these figures and this imaginary cannot be ignored, they contribute to make invisible the large number of black parents who are present and participatory in the lives of their children.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in August of this year data on the role of African-Americans as parents and the work was posted on the American website Defender Network.
The study deconstructs stereotypes about black fatherhood, showing that black parents are indeed involved in the routine of their children. Read the full study here (in English).
We invited three black parents to tell us a little about their experience with parenting and their relationship with children. Read the testimonials.
At first, it was scary to discover yourself as father of a girl. We grew up in an extremely macho environment. Where everything for the woman is restricted. I am the only son (from my father’s second marriage) among four children of this marriage. Even though I am the only man and much younger than my sisters (the youngest of whom is seven years older than me), I have always been much freer to do things than they are. When I was the father of a girl, all those questions jumped in my face. I learn more every day with my companion. I have to learn. I have to control myself at all times so as not to let the load of machismo with which I have been raised reach my daughter.
While she did not speak and interact, I was living in fear of being accused of kidnapping her at all times. Now this fear is less, as it is easy to prove that she is my daughter. But just knowing that a charge like this can still happen, leaves me super low. That’s it. In the history of our country we are behind in everything and always being accused, only to find out if the accusation is true or not.
Hélio Gomes is an insurance broker and father of Elis, one. He participates in the Podcast Balaio de Pais and writes in the section “Pai Supimpa” of the blog, Paizinho, Vírgula!
We live in a country where the inequality of race, gender and class is very ingrained. So here, the black man has to be born fighting for his rights. There is no other way. The black man who wants to be treated equally has to be militant every day, to be resistant. And if you are a black father, you have to, in addition to fighting against the sistema de privilégio branco (system of white privilege), you have to teach your child that racism, machismo and social inequality are not values that fit into a democratic society. And this discussion is little made because the branquitude (whiteness) that comes from colonial times, which dominates the three powers, does not want to have its privilege questioned. As I was born and have been afrobetized (see note one) by a matriarchal family, where black women are the ones who decide, machismo has always been something much discussed. I’ve never had a problem arguing about it and recognizing my slips.
Junião is the author of the children’s book Meu pai vai me buscar na escola (My father is going to pick me up at school): when Bernardo was born, I saw an opportunity to tell a children’s story in which my son and I were the characters.
To be a black father, present, who takes care of his children full time, sharing with his wife all the responsibilities of the home and the family, is above all a breakdown of paradigms if we take into account the stereotyped image attributed to the black man and, most often introjected on him, of an irresponsible, womanizing, sexist man who cannot care for his children. I believe that the lack of discussions about black paternity is mainly due to the disbelief in the black man’s ability to be a good father. I confess that at first, when I knew I was going to be the father of a girl, I was quite scared. But it went very fast. I know I have a responsibility to teach my daughter that she can be anything she wants as a woman, independent of machismo and as black, independent of racism.
The privilege of being a man in a sexist world makes it possible for a man to choose whether or not to be present in the lives of his children. And this happens regardless of the color of the skin. But of course, it is emphasized and becomes much more serious if the guy is black. It is very painful to know that all the care we take to strengthen our children, all the strategies we have developed to prepare them for the world, none of this will prevent them as crianças pretas (black children) from suffering the bitter taste of racism. It is very bad to have to be always alert because at any moment it can happen. A white child’s father will never know what that is.
Josimar is the author of the Youtube channel Família Quilombo (Quilombo Family): the channel was born with the intention of occupying a place where the black family was not represented.”
The difference of being a black father is that the care should be doubled in relation to the offspring. We live in a complex society where it is necessary to be aware of the construction and elevation of our children’s self-esteem, aware that our posture will reflect many of our children’s actions, especially when faced with situations where racism is present. We men, especially we black men, carry the stereotype of strength, of exaggerated masculinity, of hyper-sexualization, and this causes many black men don’t get involved in support or dialogue groups to exchange experiences about what it is to be a father and other subjects that permeate paternity. But I know of some black parents who recognize the need to start a frank dialogue about specific situations. To be the father of a girl and a boy is to be aware of the gender impositions that society places on us. As much as we are aware of the colors that are imposed on one and the other, clothes, just as toys are for children and not for boys and girls. A father of a black girl learns from early on the importance of teaching that independence and freedom are values that are above many things. As well as showing daily how smart they are and pointing it out so they recognize how important they are.
Source: Catraquinha, RIBEIRO, D. M.; LUCENA, A. F. “A ressignificação de uma pedagogia: construção da identidade da criança negra na educação infantil.” 2015. Monografia (Aperfeiçoamento/Especialização em Educação para Diversidade e Cidadania) – Universidade Federal de Goiás.
A concept based on the necessity of working with a different pedagogy, that would make the people discover their own bodies through recognizing the beauty of being black and thus reversing the historical process that has always placed the black as being inferior in relation to white.