Lilia Schwarcz, Beyoncé, George Floyd and João Pedro

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By RONALDO TADEU DE SOUZA*

New angles of controversy in the light of the work of Frantz Fanon

I would like to start these brief lines by emphasizing that their author is a black man. And I do so not to confer authority or legitimacy, arising from some kind of ethnic or racial belonging, to the issues I raise, but rather to reaffirm the plurality and multiplicity of black perspectives. Obviously, as a black person, I vehemently place myself in the trenches of the anti-racist struggle in its various reproductive aspects in Brazilian society.

Having said that, I move on to the current controversy, the text published by Lilia Schwarcz in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul about the movie Black is king by Beyoncé. I affirm in this sense that I do not have the unnecessary pretension of doing something that the researcher herself did not do: defending her text. The historian and anthropologist admitted her mistake and apologized to the Brazilian black community in general. Furthermore, I do not have the competence and talent of my black male and female colleagues to deal with the subject from the perspective they did, because, fortunately or unfortunately, the research agenda to which I dedicated my training as a researcher in the academy is another.

My voice here is dissonant, which is why I started these lines by emphasizing the plurality and multiplicity of black perspectives. The starting point of the controversy is the film Black is king of Beyoncé and Schwarcz's criticism of him. In itself both the film and the review, and the review of the review, are fundamental and positive for our public debates about burning issues. In this case, racism in American and Brazilian societies.

When criticizing Beyoncé's resignification of black ancestry – now, according to the anthropologist's scrutiny, glamorized via the current standards of the so-called cultural industry – Lilia Schwarcz received disapproval from black intellectuals, researchers, activists and public figures. It has been argued that it speaks of the white woman's space; that she does not problematize her whiteness (a misplaced concept, but this is a topic for another debate); that she, in an arrogant and arrogant way, wanted to teach and tell Beyoncé how to fight against racism; that she, being privileged white, does not understand the importance of the position of the greatest living pop artist, as well as the educational and representative power of her staging the beautiful past of black peoples in Africa.

Thus, because she is located in the territory of whiteness, Lilia Schwarcz is not authorized to express her criticism in these terms, that is, to criticize a black artist theatrically and musically elaborating the past of her ancestors in Africa. Whatever. But some are, as Frantz Fanon's legacy shows us. The problem of claiming the past of blackness has already been dealt with by him in his work [Black Skins White Masks, Edufba, 2008] and intellectual activity. (Obviously not from the same place that Lilia Schwarcz makes her enunciation.) Tracing the trail of the work of the Martinique psychoanalyst, we see the warning that he made, when active in congresses, meetings of black writers and working in psychiatric hospitals, about the ruse of considering oneself the past produced somewhere in (African) historical time as a resource for struggles against racism. Following, also here, the researcher who has best interpreted Fanon in Brazil, the sociologist Deivison M. Faustino from Unifesp [see Frantz Fanon: A Peculiarly Black Revolutionary, Ciclo Contínuo Editorial, 2018] it is important to note that this way of waging the struggle is a dubious inconvenience, given that the positive consideration of aspects of African culture done entirely is to act like the European white. These approach their culture as a general and complete existential foundation for all “humanity”. Fanon saw this as an insinuating and problematic effect of racism. In Faustino's terms: it was (and is) a fetishism that “inverts the poles of the hierarchy”. It's like incensing Black is king we were innocently transforming the anti-racist struggle into praise for the essentiality of our “musicality”, “rhythm”, emotion – these being “superior and desirable compared to” white European culture. In other words, an ineffective inversion from the political point of view.

It would be wrong, therefore, argued Fanon to go in search of a distant cultural and symbolic place to the “detriment of an objectively dehumanized reality” (Deivison M. Faustino). Indeed, it is urgent, says Fanon, that we are driving our actions from real people who suffer racism and who, in a certain way, produce a culture of resistance. In other words, it is “necessary to go beyond the affirmation of cultural specificities, historically denied” .

This means saying that Beyoncé's position (although it is not known effectively what her intentions) can be called into question. If not by Lilia Schwarcz, at least by those who disagree with this cultural event initiated by her and who are also not unrestrictedly enchanted by the wits of the mainstream.Black is king (and those who defend it) presupposes blacks as living in the same historical and contemporary “same bag”. It is as if all black men and women had existed (and lived) in a past of glory and wealth, as the pop singer wants, and as if in contemporary times (and in the future) all black men and women intended to claim a virtuous place Completely and “unconditionally” (Fanon/Faustino) cultural-historical praise. It would have to be asked, in an imaginative exercise, to Rafiki the historical-existential meaning of his having held Simba with the strength of his arms at the top of the mountain; and returning the question to us, black men and women spread across the “Black Atlantic” if the anti-racist demands of Beyoncé and those who defend her are the same as those of George Floyd, João Pedro, Miguel, the app delivery men and so many others and others?

*Ronaldo Tadeu de Souza He is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science at USP.

 

 

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