These stereotypes reveal the multiple oppressions that cross the experiences of women for being Black, poor, lesbian, trans, mothers, grandmothers, indigenous, migrant, Palestinian, Latinas, confined in prisons and jails, or joining the ranks of these spaces on the outside, “pulling jail together.” This criminalization of Black motherhood – often their parental rights are suspended because they are treated by the courts as promiscuous, pariahs, morally corrupt, and dangerous drug dealers – is part of what Patricia Hill Collins has aptly called the strategy of image control of Black women. These strategies of pathological representations are given a new lease on life when they are widely shared by public authorities. Other official statements give us the dimensions of the disastrous consequences that fall on them. Jair Bolsonaro, Hamilton Mourão, and Sérgio Cabral, respectively, justify their political projects by affirming that: “the children of social welfare programs beneficiaries have a slower intellectual development than the world average”; or “the home that only has a mother and grandmother is a factory of misfits for trafficking”; and also, “the fertility rates of mothers from the favelas are a factory of delinquent production.” These pathological scripts attributed to racialized mothers, such as “factory of delinquent production” and “mothers of drug dealers,” take up space and action in the social imaginary in general, and they are produced in the editorials of the hegemonic media and commonly justified in court sentences to motivate punishment. These are the distinct methods of criminalization that articulate and operate the militarized policies of public security.
This reveals the macabre side of the anti-Black genocide that acts not only in the extermination of children, but also in the mother’s illness and premature death. They struggle against the multiple manifestations of Black genocide. The prevalence of symptoms of sickness is an example of that: profound sadness, anxiety disorders, symptoms of depression, stress, and health problems in the organs related to maternity, such as uterine, breast, and ovarian cancer, are all prevalent among them and confine them to a vicious cycle. The deaths of their family members produce deleterious effects on their personalities. Rute Fiuza, representative of the Mothers of May in the northeast region and mother of Davi Fiuza, who disappeared under democracy, informs us of the destruction of maternal identity: “[T]oday I am no longer Rute Fiuza, I am Davi’s mother. This is how people call me. This is how society knows me.” Criminalization, racism, and punishment are part of the same processes of racial subordination.
Consequently, the struggle of the mothers is not limited to the penal aspect, or to the re-establishment and maintenance of social tranquility, or the facilitation of reconciliation processes to preserve the democratic rule of law. Barbarism cannot be humanized. No! The standpoint (lugar de fala) claimed by them is the standpoint of multiple voices, of the Black rebellion forged from the ground up, in the underground of their experiences of pain and grief. I want to point out that the “standpoint” that I talk about here is not associated with a version of the concept that is blatantly emptied of political meaning, which habitually hijacks other voices in the name of personal projects and in the limited anti-racist discussion, which ends simply by including discriminated people in the capitalist-punitive society. The arrogance in defining “being a Black woman” from a capitalist hegemonic view in no way challenges the neoliberal discourses. In fact, this trend presents itself as a prescription of predatory neoliberal policies that only replenish the needs of the consumer market and commodify the historical agendas of the truly radical Black feminist struggle committed to another form of sociability. Here it is essential to recall the words of Audre Lorde, according to whom “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
The numerous voices in the fight for justice, reparations, and memory refuse the racial production of official truth. They propose to dismantle the racist structures fortified by the myth of racial democracy. They invite different forces on the left to overcome their civil rights agendas and work toward the construction of another possible world, insofar as abolition is the claim for the life of the wretched of the earth. It is in this sense that the demands, built in these 15 years of struggle and hope, embody their historical experiences of resistance, worldviews, knowledge, pain, and subversion. If the elites manage the tools of the state and produce fables of justice and truth, it is this subversive, maddened, and brutalized corporal cartography that demystifies these conceptions and poses the challenge to give birth to another Brazil.