The black woman, Christianity and the myth of redemption

Actresses
Actresses Halle Berry (left) and Camila Pitanga, with their daughters

Note from BW of Brazil: The post that we feature today on the blog is pretty deep. It touches on a number of topics and issues, a few of which are common here at BW of Brazil race, miscegenation), others little, if at all, touched upon here (religion). For those not familiar with the question of Brazilian elites 19th century planning for the eventual disappearance of the black race out of Brazil through the process of embranquecimento as portrayed in the famous “Redemption of Ham” painting, see here. How self-identified black women who have white or nearly white children see this is another unexplored topic. Aline Djokic touches on this a bit in the beginning of the following post before delving into how sex, race, motherhood, sin and Christian ideologies are applied to black and white women in different manners. Christian, feminist or not, it’s an interesting read. 

The black woman, Christianity and the myth of redemption

By Aline Djokic for Blogueiras Negras

Embranquecimento (whitening) is a problem. It was I that said it! Weeks ago they tried to steal my son, in the figurative sense, but anyway. A white woman began to interact with us in a doctor’s office and within seconds, it was clear that she accepted my son, who has a predominantly white phenotype and rejected me for being black. It was exactly at this moment that owes itself to such a “theft”. She, through her behavior, showed that I, a black woman, even being that individual’s mother, had no claim on him; for he no longer looked enough like me. At that moment, the racist world, represented by this woman was telling me: “Thank you receptacle, mission accomplished, the son of the redemption was accepted. Your child will be recognized as white and starting from now will be part of our league.”

With this text I would like to give a response to this “theft” and such a generous offer of redemption. Today, I would like to say: Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want your redemption, I’m not the incarnation of your Christian fantasy. I’m not Mary.

A Redenção de Cam (The Redemption of Ham) by Modesto Brocos, 1895. The painting has been used to propagate miscegenation
A Redenção de Cam (The Redemption of Ham) by Modesto Brocos, 1895. The painting has been used to propagate miscegenation

In the construction of the myth of redemption through miscegenation, there is also a strong charge of Christian mythology, as throughout the construction of racism. The white man made ​​in the image and likeness of God, and thus, he is God himself; however devoid of divinity, that he recuperates the dehumanizing of the black man. But, delving into this subject would bring another text, so I shall confine myself to the question of black women and the construction of her affection for Christianity.

Christianity separates women into Evas and Marias (Eves and Marys). Ie, sinners or redeemers. The woman who challenged the laws of God, who dared to make decisions without consulting the man, who experiencing her sexuality, is considered an Eve, the sinner who is responsible for the fall of man, by the loss of his divinity. The curse that God imposes on women is nothing fair, she loses control over herself, her will belongs to her husband; and her sexuality, represented by the reproducibility, will forever be associated with pain. The non-acceptance of female sexual pleasure is a Christian fantasy. The curse that weighs upon the man is immensely lighter because it can easily be outsourced. When the white man enslaves the black man to live from “his sweat,” he reestablishes his divinity and delivers himself, thus, from the imposed curse.

But what about the white woman? To her was given a second chance in the figure of Mary, the woman – receptacle, who rejoices in an unintended pregnancy. When the angel appears to Mary, he congratulates her for the pregnancy. He does not say, “God requested me to ask if you want to give birth to the redeemer.” If Mary became pregnant against their will, we can consider the moment of conception, a time of violence, albeit symbolic. Yes, this really was not a good exchange…Instead of the denial of the right to sexual pleasure, the woman now carries the curse of justified sexual violence. Any connections to the obsession of Christian in preventing battered women have access to abortion is no coincidence. Just as it is no coincidence that the vision of how miscegenation originated in Brazil, through the rape of slave women, has actually been something consensual, and not violence.

When the woman, through the feminist movement, begins to question her subordinate position and her distorted image in society, she begins to deconstruct all of the stigma that had been inflicted by Christianity. The black woman however, was not included in this process and sees rested upon her all of the stigma that before slavery belonged to white women. Combating racism and the system that supports it is in this way is also a task of feminism. A society founded upon Christianity, and that until the arrival of the Renaissance saw God as the center of the universe, now sees the man as the center of this. And that’s where the problem lies, because this man, center of the universe, is the white man.

Now, if the man was made ​​in the image and likeness of God, then he is God. The only thing that separates them from total equity is the mortality of the white man, his humanity. You must make him superhuman status that he reaches through racism. By dehumanizing the black man, the white man ascends to the divine category. God continues being the center of the world and the world continues being Christian. And as mandated by the Christian tradition, it is necessary that another carry the blame for the fall of man.

The solution found was to project everything the white man and the Christian associates with evil, the fall of Adam, the loss of immortality, with the black man. And the black woman fits into the role to take the place of Eve, when the question is forbidden sexuality and the place of Mary when she shows herself sufficiently capable of redemption. That’s why society sees in me and in my miscegenation an act of redemption. As such it sees in a black women giving birth to a black child, the perpetuation of sin. And we all know that the wage of sin is death.

The power of this collective memory is immeasurable and society acts according to it without questioning it and reproduces the prejudice even not belonging to this religious group. Questioning Christianity and its power in building the stigmatization of blacks in Brazilian society is something that can no longer be understood as a mere religious issue.

Source: Blogueiras Negras

About Marques Travae 2900 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

4 Comments

  1. I love this passage:
    “The solution found was to project everything the white man and the Christian associates with evil, the fall of Adam, the loss of immortality, with the black man. And the black woman fits into the role to take the place of Eve, when the question is forbidden sexuality and the place of Mary when she shows herself sufficiently capable of redemption. That’s why society sees in me and in my miscegenation an act of redemption. As such it sees in a black women giving birth to a black child, the perpetuation of sin. And we all know that the wage of sin is death.

    The power of this collective memory is immeasurable and society acts according to it without questioning it and reproduces the prejudice even not belonging to this religious group. Questioning Christianity and its power in building the stigmatization of blacks in Brazilian society is something that can no longer be understood as a mere religious issue.”
    I also think that picture is very powerful! Looks like she’s praising the Lord for a light-skinned baby! How crazy is that? White supremacy has truly destroyed the minds of our people. It’s so sad. But we have to keep fighting against it though. No struggle,no progress.

    • Hallo Kushite Prince!

      I have the feeling that you misunderstood me… Or my english is not good enough. I hope you undertand that I’ve tried to say with my text that miscegenation as a redemption is a lie. Unfortunately is this the way many black and white people think in Brazil. Many black people really think they are discriminated because they are black, because their skin are black and not because of the racism and white supremacy. So I’ve tried to say “don’t think miscegenation keep your baby safe, and don’t think your dark-skinned baby is a malediction”, white people have no right to decide what we are and what our babies are. We are not a fetish of white culture! White people in Brazil have to understand that they have to stop to think black people still being their slaves so that they have the right to take our light-skinned children and offer them the white society as an exotic present. And they have to stop to kill our dark-skinned children like they would be the reincarnation of “evil”, that is what I mean when I say (ironically) “And we all know that the wage of sin is death.”

  2. Is Camila Pintanga the biological daughter of Antonio Pitanga? Because I don’t get how she can be that white (yes, she is a tanned White woman to me) when her both parents and her brother are Black. Moreover she looks nothing like her father or mother. Just asking.

    • In reality, Camila looks ALOT like her mother when her mother was younger. Take a look and compare in one of the photos here: http://wp.me/p1XDuf-im

      Also, I thought the same thing. I know that racial mixture can cause any type of phenotype but I still wondered. Insiders that I know who know Camila’s mother tell me that Antonio is not her biological father. Her biological father, according to these sources, was a French man.

      Also, I can see how some people would see her as white in some photos, but there are others photos and angles where her African ancestry is quite apparent. I think her look has changed over the years making her look perhaps whiter than she really is. Makeup? Cosmetic surgery? Who knows…

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