Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Young white woman stirs up debate on cultural appropriation; after being confronted by black woman, reveals being a cancer patient dealing with her hair loss


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Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s story caused quite a debate when the incident took place a few weeks ago. At issue here is a topic that has been approached on a number of past posts, the question of cultural appropriation. With the rise in the politics of black identity among Afro-Brazilians, many young black people are increasingly taking issue when they see white people participating in cultural practices and elements that they believe to be part of their cultural history. A quick glance at just a few of the memes we’ve seen posted online gives us a hint of just how heated this debate is getting.

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TOP – These are turbans, symbols of representation of black culture. RESPECT (this), MIDDLE: These are scarves, fashion accessories with different possibilities for wrapping. BOTTOM: DON’T CONFUSE THEM, DON’T BANALIZE AND DON’T APPROPRIATE THEM

The issue took a special twist a few weeks ago when a young white woman who was confronted by a black activist over her use of a turban removed the headpiece to reveal that she is a cancer patient experiencing hair loss. The issue had already been a hot topic of debate online for some time and this recent incident had the effect of throwing a few logs into an open flame. 

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LEFT: This is prohibited. Cultural appropriation BOTTOM: A turban is NOT fashion

Where do you stand on this issue? Is it wrong for a dominant group to appropriate items and/or practices of another, historically oppressed group or is culture for everyone to partake in? I’ve stated this before but as the topic continues to be hot and still, as of yet, not resolved, I will touch on this again. My problem with persons of the dominant culture using items that are associated with groups that have been historically oppressed by said group is a lack of the acceptance of hegemonic power and recognition of privileges and penalties involved. Black people have long been under the colonial yoke of white supremacy, rejected, belittled, disgraced and dehumanized by persons of European ancestry. This cruel ridicule says that anything connected with Africa or blackness should be considered inferior or uncivilized by the dominant white society.

As such, it is similar to rubbing salt on an open wound when white people have traditionally rejected culture symbols such as Samba, Jazz/Blues, Hip Hop, dreadlocks, braids, etc. as evidence of the backwardness of black people and things associated with Africa and its descendants but then it becomes somehow “fashionable”, “cool”, “foda”, “legal” or “hip” when these same people rock these items. It’s a slap in the face when black women continue to be humiliated and forced to assimilate European standards just to make it in a white world when the white world can freely exercise its power to “borrow” these same items/practices and not only not face such exclusion, but even become references of fashion trends. We’ve even seen this phenomenon with the rise of white women using cosmetic surgery techniques to enhance their lips and butts to increase their sex appeal. The problem here is that, historically, on black people, these physical features have been deemed animalistic, but on white people they suddenly become desirable. As long as white women don’t acknowledge such privilege that allows them to make such choices while simultaneously ignoring the oppression that it brings black women, a problem will exist. 

Keep this in mind as you form your opinion on this issue in the piece below…

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A situation involving Thuane Cordeiro provoked yet another debate about cultural appropriation

Controversy involving use of turban use by white girl with cancer divides opinions on the internet

Thuane Cordeiro made a post questioning the concept of “cultural appropriation” after revealing that she was reprimanded by black women on the subway for wearing a turban, which for her serves to disguise her loss of hair caused by cancer. Her attitude divided opinions and sparked debate.

The posting of a young woman named Thuane Cordeiro questioning the concept of “apropriação cultural” (cultural appropriation) because of her use of a turban has already passed 30 thousand shares. She says she was on the subway wearing the piece on her head to disguise her loss of hair caused by cancer and was rebuked by black women, who thought Thuane, being white, was appropriating cultura negra (black culture) and therefore, couldn’t use the cloth.

Excerpt from her post:

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“I’m going to tell you what happened yesterday so that you understand why I’m angry about this thing of cultural appropriation: I was in the station with the turban, all beautiful, feeling like a diva. And I began to notice that there were a lot of mulheres negras (black women), beautiful in fact, who were looking at me crooked, like ‘look at the branquinha (little white girl) appropriating our culture’. Anyway, one came to speak to me and say that I shouldn’t wear a turban because I was white. I took off my turban and said, ‘Look at this bald head, this is called cancer, so I wear what I want! Goodbye.’ I picked it up and left and she stood there looking embarrassed.”

“Everybody will wear a turban, yes,” said the girl at the end of her outburst, which sparked the debate over the term “cultural appropriation” in social networks.

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Translation of above photo: “A white girl using an excuse of cancer for cultural appropriation. What? Orient yourself sinhá (see note one)! Being sick doesn’t give you this right no. There are still caps, scarves and hats. Put a watermelon on your head, but that your hands off of that that doesn’t belong to you. Go treat your physical illness and take advantage to deal with your sickness of the soul, this sickness of white people that think they can steal everything black.”

Opinions are divided within the Movimento Negro (black movement) itself. There are those who have criticized the girl, accusing her of victimhood and endorsing the thesis that whites can’t adopt elements of black culture. Others were on the other side, trying to understand the concept of cultural appropriation, but explaining that it is necessary to analyze case by case.

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“A white girl in a turban, can she?” – From the ‘Afros e Afins’ YouTube channel

On the case, the feminist philosopher and activist of the Movimento Negro Djamila Ribeiro, wrote:

The girl has cancer and it’s complicated if this really happened. Yes, I question  this because it seems to  be interests there. The debate on cultural appropriation cannot be done individually, in my view. I’m more interested in discussing why companies profit from black culture while the black population dies. Why mediocre white singers enrich themselves singing samba while genius black composers and singers die or die in poverty. I want to discuss our erasure and annihilation. However, what happened to the girl (if it happened) can NOT be used to delegitimize such a costly debate. This girl cannot reduce the question to saying “there will be white girls with turbans, yes” emptying such a serious question. And, finally, suffering is NOT the same thing as oppression.

On the other side, a text of 2015 from the blog Colunas Tortas, whose title is “The lie of cultural appropriation” has been shared to discuss the subject. A piece from the article reads:

Cultural appropriation, as is said on the internet, does not exist. What exists is consumption in late capitalism (…) What exists is the cultural industry. But there is a problem, the long discussions in blogs (because it was only on the surface of blogs – in the internet world, in the discourse itself of the Internet – that discussion came to life) about the origins of the turban not taking into account that this element has always been used by the peoples of the Middle East, beyond Africa, which already proves the multiplicity of meanings that the same material object can contain in different places over time.

Check below for some other reactions on the subject.

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Pedro, o Maldito @malditopedro

You cannot take the turban off of the white schoolboy’s head. Learning about cultural appropriation has a significance that goes beyond that.

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Diana Figueredo @dianafigueredoo

What does the team of experts thinks about whites wearing a turban /// what does an African think

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the baddest female @freakfeminist: You have cancer, ok, sad but ok, does this give you the right to appropriate a culture you want to hide? Wear a cloth, who knows, but use a turban.

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Bidú Azeez BidúSo much bullshit in this search for identity…Here in Africa when white women come here we make an issue of offering our clothes and dress them equally, this is to inform them that they are welcome and integrated with the family that received them…since when can’t a white or green wear a turban??? Since when would a black man wearing a suit and tie be usurpation of white identity??? This world is crazy with lost people that harnesses itself to segregation and never seek respect, mutual admiration, mutual acceptance…As much black as white have many people doing harm to others

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Preta. ™ @empoweredblack

While black women are called macumbeiras and ugly women who go out on the street in a turban, white women get famous doing the same

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When you’re doing well and suddenly you see a white girl wearing a turban

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Merope Riddle @mymainoffender

If I think of this logic and appropriation, I as a descendant of Arabs can wear a turban well, right?

Rogerio skylab @rogerioskylab

To appropriate and pervert, to turn the taboo into a totem, as old Oswald once said. Starting today I will wear a turban on my head.

Π @pinhodepietra

Difficult being white and not being able to wear a turban and dreads, huh friend, difficult being white, huh? Very difficult, huh?

SourceRevista Fórum

Note

  1.  During the slavery era, the term “sinhá” was used in reference to the slave’s master wife.

3 comments on “Young white woman stirs up debate on cultural appropriation; after being confronted by black woman, reveals being a cancer patient dealing with her hair loss

  1. Realist
    February 26, 2017

    When one hears cultural appropriation as opposed to borrowing one thinks of cases in which due appreciation. recognition or respect is not paid to the culture of origin. This was the case of Elvis Presley who imitated black musical styles and became famous largely because he was white, This was at a time when there was no appreciation of that type of black music. In addition Elvis was known to say that black people were only good enough to clean his shoes. That sort of borrowing is clearly exploitative. The Argentinian tango has African roots but yet we find a former President, Menem (Lebanese-Syrian) stating that there are no Blacks in Argentina (and adding that that was Brazil’s problem). So one can understand that some pop singers, for example, who have no real link to a culture, can be accepted by the dominant society ahead of others who might be more representative of the culture.

    The case of individual White wearing turbans in Brazil and being accosted by Blacks reduces the concept of cultural appropriation to the banal. Especially so, when as far as I see the vast majority of black and pardo women would never put on a turban for any formal occasion. It is closely associated with Bahian identity as far as I can tell. Way back in a foreign country I wore a dashiki and my Brazilian friends were surprised because they didn’t expect me to associate with Africa in such a direct way. I wonder how many black Brazilian men today have ever thought of wearing one, even informally..

    Would black women in opera or European classical ballet be justifiably accused of engaging in cultural appropriation? Should Cuba discourage Blacks from learning ballet (as the Castro government has been accused of)? Can Ariana Grande or Madonna who sound black be now criticized for sounding so, especially if they incorporate a reggae beat into their productions? Female North American tourists in the Caribbean often have their hair braided on the beach. Should this practice be discontinued? Should East Indians object to anyone else wearing nose-rings. Better still, should .black people everywhere reject Christianity and Islam because fundamentally the accompanying cultures are non-African? This can easily get ridiculous. There will be borrowing by peoples in contact with each other. Can we condemn UB40 outright? Is Japanese reggae a contradiction in terms?

    Let more black Brazilians get around to identifying with Africa and then we can talk. The poor cancer sufferer can cover her head however she wants without some overzealous busybody accosting her. And I can play the violin without any a-hole telling me I should be beating drums instead.

    • Realist
      February 26, 2017

      Asians have never had a problem borrowing from other people and perfecting it. They don’t seem particularly perturbed when aspects of their culture are borrowed e.g martial arts, Chinese food, Japanese gardens. Don’t know if the Italians are complaining about the pizza joints increasingly being owned by Chinese in North America. Even K(orean)Pop is getting more international. The world is moving at a fast pace so hold on to your turbans, folks.

  2. Maylo
    March 1, 2017

    This is terrible attacking that the lady. What is wrong with admiring & wearing afro-style dressing? It is such attitude that retards our progress as black people in the diaspora. Look at the Indians (from south east Asia), they were also used as slaves by the British but they continuously welcome anyone & everyone into their culture (including dressing) without ridicule or complaint which possibly explains why Indian is so successful in almost every country outside India.

    By encouraging & welcoming more non-Blacks into afro-culture, other people (whites in particular) will develop a closer familiarity and a sense of kinship with us/ Blacks while we as black people will incur higher sense of pride in afro-culture, self-racial dignity and admiration which tramples the racial inferiority self-victimization complex within many of our/black people.

    There is nothing wrong with people admiring our/Black culture.

    To admire is to adore as well as to love; you can’t hate what you admire therefore why should we be hostile towards people who adore our Black culture? Would it be better is we/Blacks received hatred instead of admiration?

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This entry was posted on February 26, 2017 by in black women, Uncategorized, white women and tagged , , .
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