Fighting racism – A Review by Simone Rodrigues de Carvalho Silva’s (SEMEPD/Uneb) review of “Writings of a Life” by Sueli Carneiro.
Abstract: The work deals with themes such as gender, race, female power, and racial discrimination in Brazil. The author explores the role of black women in Brazilian society, addressing issues related to the worship of orixás, social ascent, multiculturalism, and ideology. In addition, the book discusses the relationship between racism, religion, and crime, as well as the importance of racial quotas in Brazilian universities. Throughout the work, the author presents analyses and reflections on the struggle of black women for equality and social justice.
Keywords: Racism, Black Women, Autobiography.
Escritos de uma vida is a collection of articles produced during the trajectory of the philosopher and activist Sueli Carneiro. The book is a compilation of the philosopher’s speeches, the dialogues by letter between the author and her colleagues and even readers, dealing mainly with social issues related to race and gender in Brazil. The book has a presentation by Djamila Ribeiro and a preface by Conceição Evaristo and is composed of 18 articles that make up the chapters.
Sueli Carneiro is a philosopher, writer and anti-racist activist, born in São Paulo, who has engaged in struggles for the recognition of black women since 1988, being considered one of the main authorities on black feminism in Brazil. She was the founder of Geledés, the first independent black and feminist organization in the State of São Paulo, has participated in 17 books and published more than 150 articles.
The writing process makes her reflections and moments of struggle and indignation in the face of injustices related to racism and sexism organize and qualify, becoming an instrument of combat.
The first chapter – “Mulher Negra” – was originally published in the book of the same name, inaugurating Carneiro’s studies on inequality among women. The author studies the inequality between black and non-black women, considering their socioeconomic status, educational structure, labor market and occupational structure. The study is based on figures provided by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), relating to the State of São Paulo and Brazil in general. The study is extremely important to map the scenario of inequality between black, white and yellow women.
The text leads us to conclude that color works, in relation to black women, as a determining factor for the lack of study opportunities and minor occupations in the labor market. We also conclude that there is a double form of discrimination against black women, racism and sexism. This chapter 1, however, could be enriched with a revision, adding information about the Quota Law, sanctioned in 2012, since the author concludes the chapter with the idea that the negative picture of inequality between black and white women can only be reversed , among other things, with an educational effort aimed at black women.
The second chapter – “Feminine power in the cult of orixás” – is a survey carried out with daughters of saints in candomblé, in São Paulo, between 1980 and 1982. It provides an understanding of the role of women within Afro-Brazilian cults. The author says that the mythical system of candomblé has a feminine condition. The Iyá, female mythical ancestors (witches or sorceresses), are the grandmothers, the mothers, without whom life would not exist. By bringing this theme, Sueli Carneiro emphasizes the importance of women in society. Black women, within Afro-Brazilian cults, take responsibility for preserving cultural traditions, particularly religious ones. The image of valuing the feminine can be clearly perceived at the conclusion of the chapter, “Although Oxalá is the great male parent, he bows in adobale before Oxum, the female genitourinary power”. (p 87).
Chapter 3 “Gender, race and social ascension”, in its original publication, in the journal Estudos Feministas, is a response to the article in Dinâmicas das Culturas Afro-Brasileiras, by Joel Rufino dos Santos and Wilson do Nascimento. The authors compare black women to fuscas and white women to monzas. Sueli Carneiro combats the idea that black women are devalued, accessible to all, in short, it is up to the objectification of women. Upon concluding the chapter, we realized that the title could be more striking for the issue addressed in the text. During the writing, Sueli Carneiro seeks to respond incisively to the way in which the authors Rufino dos Santos and Wilson do Nascimento place the white woman as a social ascension status of the black man. Thus, it would be pertinent for the title to place the reader on these issues.
The next two articles – “Terra nostra only for Italians” and “Feminine time” – respectively deal with the invisibility of the media promoted in relation to the black population. As the title itself suggests, it criticizes the telenovela “Terra Nostra”, stating that there are stereotyped constructions, where the black characters have no relevance in the plot, while the white immigrant characters are placed as examples of bravery. In “Feminine Time”, Carneiro talks about her anguish over the absence of current black women in the struggles that still need to be fought. Considering “Feminine time”, it is important to remember that the author leaves the passage of time a little aside and, like struggles, claims can happen in other spaces, such as social networks. The voice of the black woman today happens in the collective of virtual spaces.
Chapter 6 – “Expectations of action by companies to overcome racial discrimination” – is the result of a lecture given at the National Conference of the Ethos Institute, in 2002. Sueli Carneiro, talks about the Myth of Racial Democracy, analyzing how black Brazilians live in social practice. The research brings data on the extermination of children and adolescents, revealing a phenomenon of racial violence. Other results also contribute to the myth of racial democracy not being sustained. Data show that, in hospitals, white newborns and pregnant women receive more care than black women. The life expectancy of black people is lower than that of white people. The author also states that socioeconomic factors disaggregated by color demonstrate that being born white in our society already consists of an initial advantage, a privileged access to social goods. In the end, the author reveals belief in the possibility of transforming the myth of racial democracy into something real. For the most demanding reader, there remains the desire to know, in the voice of Sueli Carneiro, how this transformation would happen.
Chapter 10, “The Battle of Durban”, makes reference to an important milestone in the anti-racist struggle that was the Durban Conference. At the same time, the author draws attention to the growth of the female protagonism of black women in Brazil. Assertively, Carneiro clarifies that it is necessary to transform the good intentions proposed by the Conferences into concrete actions for gender and race equity to happen.
“Women in Movement” is the title of chapter 11, where Carneiro presents a portrait of the feminist movement in Brazil. The author uses the expression “blackening feminism” to draw attention to the need to look at the particular demands of black women. Sueli Carneiro points out that despite the continuing wage inequalities between men and women, feminist criticism plays an important role in occupational diversification. The author places herself positively at the conclusion of the chapter, in relation to the black feminist movement, understanding it as a contributor to the broadening of the meanings of democracy, equality and social justice. It would be enriching to bring self-reports of experiences as a black feminist.
Chapter 12, “The civilizing work”, presents an analysis of texts from the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo that corroborate the devaluation of the black population. Sueli Carneiro criticizes the newspaper’s position for disregarding achievements of the black population and mainly, in a biased way, disqualifying them. To generate a reflective action by the reader in relation to the role of the media in affirming or deconstructing prejudices, today’s readers can even make a parallel with the news linked in digital media.
The next two chapters “Long live the citizen constitution” and “Racism, religion and crime”, make reference to constitutional points. They show the importance of the 1988 Constitution to indicate a time of overcoming the idea of racial cordiality. This can be seen when Sueli Carneiro cites item 42 of article 5, which made racism a crime unbailable. Chapter 14 begins by quoting item 1 of article 215 of the Culture section of the Constitution: “The State shall protect the manifestations of popular, indigenous and Afro-Brazilian cultures, and those of other groups participating in the national civilizing process”. Both texts criticize the reduced intervention of the State in relation to racism in Brazil.
Chapter 16 – “Secular State, Feminism and Religious Education in Public Schools” – discusses how this topic is addressed in the book Religious Education in Public Schools: Impacts on the Secular State. The construction of the chapter leads us to a necessary reflection, as it places the secularity of education as something non-negotiable. Sueli Carneiro concludes that Religious Education in schools conspires against the full emancipation of women.
In this chapter 16, the engaged reader could and can make a parallel between religious teaching in public schools and law 10.639/03, which makes the teaching of Afro-Brazilian culture mandatory in primary and secondary education, since the religions of African practices can and should be worked on in an interdisciplinary way, thus diversifying religious teaching classes.
Chapter 17 – “Cultural politics and political culture: contradictions and/or complements?”, as defined by the author herself, brings concerns and not conclusions on the subject. The author launches discussions from the point of view of militant political action to strategically integrate the cultural dimension. The chapter does not provide an answer to the explicit question in the title. During the reading, the lack of a conclusion to the initial problem reinforces the perspective that there is a complex relationship between politics and culture.
In the chapter “Black women and power: an essay on absence”, Carneiro uses an event that occurred behind the scenes in politics – the departure of Minister Matilde Ribeiro from the Special Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR) – to reveal the social denial of black women . The author argues that there was racism in the use of the alleged irregularities committed to deny the racial issue. The association of the Minister’s blackness with her actions shows the racism and machismo that black women suffer in different environments of power.
The event chosen by Sueli Carneiro to exemplify the situation of erasure of black women is important due to the scope that the fact took, but it could be compared with similar situations in other command environments. Erasure as a form of racism against black women constantly occurs in various power relations.
“For the permanence of racial quotas in Brazilian universities” is the last chapter of the collection. It is the result of a presentation by Sueli Carneiro at the Public Hearing on the constitutionality of quotas for blacks in higher education. The author’s position envisages social transformations of the black population, but the absence of data regarding black access to universities can be noticed and becomes a gap in the text.
To conclude the evaluation of the book, we believe that the large number of chapters, 18 in all, makes some discussions tiresome. Articles with complementary themes could be incorporated, making the text more fluid. At the end of each chapter, the bibliography used by the author is presented, some references are repeated in more than one chapter. To facilitate the reader’s access to the references and avoid repetitions and breaks in the reading flow, the editors could have composed a single block at the end of the book. We note, finally, that no slip in terms of authorship or editing of the work tarnishes the excellent instrument in confronting racism and sexism that are these Writings of a Lifetime.
Summary of Escritos de uma vida
- Apresentação | Djamila Ribeiro
- Prefácio | Conceição Evaristo
- Mulher negra
- O poder feminino no culto aos orixás
- Gênero, raça e ascensão social
- “Terra nostra” só para os italianos
- Tempo feminino
- Expectativas de ação das empresas para superar a discriminação racial
- Por um multiculturalismo democrático
- Ideologia tortuosa
- Gênero e raça na sociedade brasileira
- A batalha de Durban
- Mulheres em movimento
- A obra civilizatória
- Viva a constituição cidadã
- Racismo, religião e crime
- Estado laico, feminismo e ensino religioso em escolas públicas
- Política cultural e cultura política: contradições e/ou complementaridades?
- Mulheres negras e poder: um ensaio sobre a ausência
- Pela permanência das cotas raciais nas universidades brasileiras
To broaden your literature review
- See book reviews on
- Biografia | Biografias
- Economia política do racismo
- Feminismo | Feminismo Camponês | Feminismo Decolonial | Feminismo Negro | Feminismo Popular | Feminismo Transnacional | Feminismos
- Pedagogia da resistência
- Racismo | Racismo antinipônico | Racismo Cotidiano | Racismo Estrutural | Racismo nas Américas | Racismos
- Consult dossiers of articles on
- Biografia | Biografias
- Escritas (Auto)Biográficas
- Feminismo | Feminismos
- Raça | Raça e Pós-Abolição em perspectiva comparada
- Resistência Escrava | Resistências Africanas
- Racismo | Racismo Estrutural | Racismos
Simone Rodrigues de Carvalho Silva holds a degree in Vernacular Letters (Uneb), a specialist in Linguistic and Literary Studies (Uneb) and is a Master’s student in the Graduate Program in Estudos Africanos, Povos Indígenas e Culturas Negras (PPGEAFIN/Uneb). Social media: @simonerodriguesde.carvalho ; ID Lattes: https://lattes.cnpq.br/3911788950920392; ID ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1346-5424 E-mail: [email protected].
To cite this review
CARNEIRO, Sueli. Escritos de uma vida. São Paulo: Pólen Livros, 2019. 2906p. Resenha de: SILVA, Simone Rodrigues de Carvalho. Combatendo o racismo. Crítica Historiográfica. Natal, v.3, n.10, mar./abr., 2023. Disponível em <https://www.criticahistoriografica.com.br/combatendo-o-racismo-resenha-escritos-de-uma-vida-de-sueli-carneiro/>. DOI: 10.29327/254374.3.10-5
© – Authors who publish in Historiographical Criticism agree to the distribution, remixing, adaptation and creation of their texts, even for commercial purposes, provided that due credit is guaranteed for the original creations. (CC BY-SA).