It comes as no surprise that people were outraged by what they saw as a blatant case of disrespect toward and racism against the black community when stylist Ronaldo Fraga decided to “homage” the entry of black players into Brazilian soccer leagues by featuring models who wore steel wool/scouring pad-like wigs during the São Paulo Fashion Week. As we have featured on a number of posts since November of 2011, the issue of society’s standard of cabelo bom (good hair) and cabelo ruim (bad hair) has plagued Brazil’s black community for centuries and continues to be a sensitive issue particularly for those who have experienced racist taunting or comments in regards to their hair texture. The consistent verbal and psychological assaults on the self-esteem of the African descendant are reasons that many black activists point to for the fragmentation and/or destruction of black identity in Brazil. This is an important issue that will always be featured on this blog.
Another important issue that is often tiring or frustrating in having to deal with are the type of comments as one that was posted yesterday in regards to the steel wool/scouring pad hair display at the São Paulo Fashion Week and reactions to said display. This is the comment that I speak of:
“Well we still have a lot of issues in Brasil…but plz we do not NEED or WANT that histerical atittudes of americans have when someone say or do something about the blackness of someone.what in USA can be seen as offensive has in Brasil sometimes an affectionate meaning and not racist at all. The racism that exist in Brasil is SOCIAL, we do not have separations like in US…black suburbs, black Schoos etc. When others understand that…maybe we could have a better outlook in life, than being offendid for any little thing as people from color does or feel in USA. We in Brasil have a much different culture and story. I guess very few people can understand how RACE ISSUE is taken/treated in Brasil.”
I don’t take issue with anyone sharing their opinion whether it supports or challenges the articles on this blog. But let’s make a few things clear. The arguments in this comment have been the kind that have hindered the process of attacking racism in Brazil for years. No matter how blatantly racist an incident is, there will always be those who make the same tired, disproven arguments.
“Brazil is not like the US”
“We never had segregation in Brazil”
“The problem in Brazil is social, not racial”
“People in the US overreact to situations in Brazil”
This blog responded to these types of beliefs back in December of 2011 after a black intern at a college in São Paulo was harassed by the school’s director because of her hair. It’s incredible that with all of the studies about race and racism in Brazil by Brazilian scholars no less that have come out in the past 50 years, people continue to use these types of weak arguments. The numerous reports of racist incidents on this blog alone are not enough to disprove these beliefs? Be that as it may, this is not the focus of this post.
My focus is the point that the anonymous commenter made here:
“plz we do not NEED or WANT that histerical atittudes of americans have when someone say or do something about the blackness of someone… what in USA can be seen as offensive has in Brasil sometimes an affectionate meaning and not racist at all…. maybe we could have a better outlook in life, than being offendid for any little thing as people from color does or feel in USA. I guess very few people can understand how RACE ISSUE is taken/treated in Brasil.”
OK. So let me break this down. First of all, as numerous studies have shown, racism in Brazil is perhaps as efficient as or even more so than that of the US because it has managed to achieve the exclusion of black Brazilians in so many areas of Brazilian society WITHOUT resorting to legalized segregation. This widely divulged idea that racism can only function through legal mandates is so persuasive that it is often the first thing many white as well as black Brazilians spew when the topic is racism.
But here I want to focus on the point of the “histerical attitudes of Americans” alluded to in the comment. Assuming this person is speaking about the numerous comments of denouncements posted by assuredly Americans about the story, let me clear something up immediately. First of all, it’s bad enough that many Brazilians often point to the “big, bad US” when the topic is racism while totally ignoring Brazil’s own long history of racism. But what’s really appalling is that when reactions to racist incidents start to appear, it can only be “those Americans” who feel this way, completely ignoring Brazilians, most often black, who repudiate the racist acts that are directed at them.
Second, for anyone who insists on assuming that this blog is simply an American view of Brazilian society, let me share one thing with you: More than 95% of the information and articles published on this blog comes from BRAZILIAN SOURCES, ARTICLES, NEWSPAPERS, SCHOLARS, ACTIVISTS, etc. Read that again! BRAZILIAN! For those of you who see this blog as another example of American interference, please take the time to read the sources posted at the bottom of the articles posted on this blog. Brazilian authors and websites are clearly cited.
Third, obviously, in making the accusation that these repudiations are made by only “histerical americans”, this person has not read the numerous protests and denouncements of racist acts and depictions made BY BRAZILIANS! If you are a new reader of this blog, let me give you a quick tour of Brazilian styled protest.
1. Let’s see, a few days ago, the repudiation of protestors who were outraged by a comment made by a former mayor in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul led to jail time and a huge fine. See here.
2. We had the repudiation of the comments about Africans made by Pastor/Deputado (Congressman) Marcos Feliciano. See here.
3. We’ve seen students protest against comments perceived as racist in regards to a black woman’s hair at the federal university in the state of Maranhão. See here.
4. We saw the leader of Olodum denounce the dominance of a particular white artist during Carnaval in the majority black city Salvador, Bahia. See here
5. How about the black Brazilian women who mobilized and voiced their outrage at a controversial marketing strategy suggesting that if one had afro textured hair, it should be fixed by the hair product Cadiveu? Did you see that one? See here
6. Or how the outrage that led to the removal of an ad associating afro textured hair with a popular brand of scouring pad (Bombril) in Brazil; the very same association made at the 2014 SPFW. See here.
7. We saw several bloggers and writers repudiate the negative depictions of Afro-Brazilians on the Globo network TV series Suburbia. See here.
8. We saw students protest in another incident involving a black female and her hair in the state of Maranhão. See here
9. We saw protests against what was deemed racist treatment against the black female intern at the college in São Paulo. See here.
10. We’ve featured numerous protests against the invisibility of black models high profile Brazilian fashion events. See here.
11. And in this latest incident involving the Bombril/scouring pad-like hair wig display in “homage” to blacks, there were so many protests that Marie Claire magazine had to interview the stylist responsible for the event to get his views and reasons for why he chose this type of display. Marie Claire, while they defended the actions of the stylists, also posted a few of these comments in their article. See here.
Here are a few more comments that Brazilians, presumably mostly black, made in regards to this incident. They are taken from Facebook as well as the Vogue Brasil article about the SPFW debacle. (The original comments in Portuguese can be found at the end of this article)
Cleyton: Naturalization of racism in the form of “homage”. Fix what is a type of cabelo ruim (bad hair), fix what is really bombril (steel wool), we blacks must interject this racist reading and smash (whoever) says he is honoring us! Racism interjected becomes the sculptural beauty! SUCH FUCKING DARING! GO TO HELL!
Everton: “The supposed bad hair is actually a sculpture in potential”, ie the black hair is only beautiful when transformed, right? Naturally it’s ugly, it needs care and only then it becomes something wondrous … regrettable this thought! I agree with Cleyton, it’s the naturalization of racism in the form of an homage. I anticipate his response, common to anyone else who does this kind of ‘homage’, he will probably say that we see prejudice in everything.
Leo: Intentions are things too subjective to be a subject of discussion. The issue is that the joke was extremely unfortunate and of bad taste. Clearly whoever did this knows nothing of the subject and, worse, is not afraid to show it to everyone. As always, blacks are portrayed from the perspective of (what is considered) non-black, portrayed as an other, as something exotic. That would be comparable to Americans making a parade referencing the Middle East with bath towels on heads of models because the Americans call Arabs Towelhead. I grew up being called hair-of-steel wool in school and it was just what I thought when seeing these images. Messing with this metaphor was insensitive, ignorant and superficial. Typical of Brazil.
JONATHAN PEREIRA QUEIROZ: Homage?? This is disrespect, once again it’s the imposition of prejudice Without delay, ridiculous and racist.
CLAUDIA CAMPOS: It was pejorative the use of steel wool. It has an entire historical and sociological explanation in relation to the hair of blacks.
MARIA PERPÉTUA CUNHA: Unfortunate moment. Reparation is fitting! After all the work of Ronaldo (beautiful and insightful), may suffer the consequences of this reckless act.
LUCAS: Homage? To who? The industry? Ridiculous!
ALINE FERNANDA: Vogue, if you wanted to honor the arrival of blacks, the descendant of Africans in Brazil, why not put elements of capoeira, Candomble, of our wonderful samba and so many other incredible things that would serve as an homage? Since when is comparing MY hair with steel wool an homage? What will be the next homage, will you decorate the walkway as a concentration camp in honor of the arrival of the Jewish people in Germany? Disgusting and blatant racism!
RAFAEL:I’m black and I hated this tribute, you want to make an homage put only black models on the catwalks… Period! (It would be) better than this bullshit homage … I want to know who had this bright idea.
THIAGO:Ridiculous this event, but still more ridiculous the message that they “tried” to pass. And what’s more, Ronaldo Fraga having put his name in play representing THIS that they called an homage to blacks?? Sorry but I found it to be the culmination of cluelessness … I forgive the people who liked this story or even this event, but I personally did not feel even a little honored with this crap!!
Márcia:It’s the cruelest and in the meantime, a portrait of an existent racist society in the world. The culture of the straightening iron the spreading of African disqualification. Actions like things re-enforce racism.
Elena:Simply ugly. I didn’t find it funny in any sense. After all, what does seeing bombril have to do with black hair?
RODRIGUES:My God! How far we are from actually having our civil rights respected in our country! I realize that seeing the naturalness with which the stylist, models, journalists, publishers and advertisers let pass this piece of such tremendous bad taste, stupidity and racism!
ROBERVAL SERAFIM: Wow…..this so ridiculous that I cannot accept it. the arrival of soccer to Brazil, the sport was only for whites. the first black to practice this sport had to subject himself to such to get by and disguised himself using rice powder. today to honor soccer they use black and white models using steel wool as hair, and still find it to be a tribute….lol
ROBERVAL SERAFIM: well you see they do not know any(thing) about the black race … the idea would be great if it had been taken advantage of; it’s a shame subjecting soccer and blacks to this type of ridiculization; …. Did they not know (about) black power (afro) wigs? braids? rastafari? dreads? They already used white models at least they would have afro hairstyles yes that would be would be fitting tribute
LINPERFECT:It’s like this, Brazil? From a distance I thought it was an advertisement for “Brombil”, “Assolan”, “Minuano”, or any other (brand) … I’m perplexed now. People, where are the ethnic values? (And) still called it an homage… Such hypocrisy!
ANA PAULA RIOS: I think that a nice tribute would be to put black models on parade with their authentic hair … that would be more conherent … This reminds me of that scandalous episode where they painted a black man with rice rice so that he could play for the Fluminense team at the time that soccer an was elite sport and only whites could play. Then repeating the same shameful situation is an homage to blacks and soccer?
WILLIAM: Totally devoid of critique and judgment. I pity and am disgusted from the alienation in which the creative mind of this imbecile idea lives immersed. And it’s amazing that no one had warned that gang of useless (ones) about how devoid of intelligence this rascality was.
ROBERVAL SERAFIM: much lack of creativity .. it’s not enough that soccer coming to Brazil the first black to play had to disguise himself using white rice powder all over his body .. all this because the sport was only for whites … today fully in 21st century appears something that to homage blacks coming to soccer by putting steel wool on their models? affi such horror
FREDERICO: Of incredible bad taste!! I don’t see any kind of homage!
ALEXANDRA UCANDA: the same look of Slaves! tears, many tears … one word: DISRESPECT!
Marilac Raiol: Ridiculous. Really ugly. I see no homage in this manner. This was very bad taste.
RICARDO PAIVA: What is this “artistic expression??” that utilized “fashion?” It cannot be interpreted by people as a kind of homage to black people and brown, almost all of us Brazilians, but as the result of a joke in very bad taste and very frivolous attitude of the entire team that participated in this insanity, I as a Brazilian and descendant of Africans leave here my disgust with this Ronaldo Fraga team
Or maybe you heard that popular rapper Emicida also saw this display as racist when he tweeted: “For you that thought that painting a white model black was the height of racism look at this other ‘homage’”
Or how about singer Serena Assumpção who posted this on Facebook
“It’s not a question of question controversy at random…Whoever lives in Brazil, (and) reads a few newspapers and has any critical sense understands that ‘cabelo de bombril (scouring pad hair)’ re-enforces a racist and very old stereotype, so not to say inelegant. I don’t believe Ronaldo is a racist. But it was quite unfortunate in the conception of the style for this runway parade. And whoever doesn’t see this needs to take a trip outside of Higienópolis.”
The women of the blog Meninas Black Power also took issue with Fraga’s idea for SPFW. Meninas Black Power is the same group of women who challenged the controversial marketing strategy of the Cadiveu hair product featured here a few months back. The Meninas also voiced their objection to Fraga’s SPFW presentation in a piece entitled “Não, Nós Não Temos O Cabelo de Bombril (No, We Don’t Have Scouring Pad Hair)!”
These are only a few of comments online in regards to the Ronaldo Fraga steel wool/scouring pad display at the SPFW. Did you happen to get a look at the many groups that signed on in repudiation of the photos taken by the Law students at the UFMG(Federal University of Minas Gerais)? These were the photos where in one several white students thought it would be funny to give a Hitler salute while another person painted in blackface was tied to a pole and in the other where a person, again in blackface, with a sign that read Chica da Silva on the front was being led in chains by another white student. Well, there was a long list of organizations that signed onto a letter of repudiation against what they called a “repulsive ‘joke’” saying that “Where justice doesn’t exist, there cannot be law.”
Below is the list of activists and organizations that signed on to this letter of repudiation. The full letter is available on the website of the black women’s organization, Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra. See it here
List of organizations
Associação dos Ciclistas Urbanos de Belo Horizonte – http://bhemciclo.org/
Ativismo de Sofá – http://ativismodesofa.blogspot.com.br
Bidê Brasil – http://bdbrasil.org/
Biscate Social Club – http://biscatesocialclub.com.br
Blogagem Coletiva da Mulher Negra – http://blogagemcoletivadamulhernegra.wordpress.com
Blogueiras Feministas – http://blogueirasfeministas.com
Blogueiras Negras – http://blogueirasnegras.wordpress.com
Cecília Santos – http://www.cozinhadaceci.com.br/
Centro de estudos humanistas, libertários e anarquistas – http://reinehr.org/cehla/
Chopinho Feminino – http://chopinhofeminino.blogspot.com.br/
Cinezine Cineclube – http://cinezine.com.br
Cozinha da Matilde – http://www.cozinhadamatilde.com.br/
Denise Arcoverde – http://sindromedeestocolmo.com/
Editora Artesanal Monstro dos Mares – http://monstrodosmares.com.br
Entre Luma e Frida – http://entrelumaefrida.com.br/
Escreva Lola Escreva – http://escrevalolaescreva.blogspot.com.br/
Feministas do Cariri – http://www.facebook.com/feministasdocariri
Gilson Moura Henrique Junior – http://natransversaldotempo.wordpress.com/
Gizelli Souza – http://twitter.com/gizasousa
Gordas e feministas – https://www.facebook.com/gordasefeministas
Homem Feminista de Verdade – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Homem-Feminista-de-Verdade/
José Ricardo D’Almeida – https://www.facebook.com/josricalmeida
Larissa Santiago – http://mundovao.blogspot.com.br/
Liga Humanista Secular do Brasil – http://ligahumanista.org/
Lucia Freitas – http://ladybugbrazil.com/
Luciana Nepomuceno – http://borboletasnosolhos.blogspot.com.br/
Luluzinhacamp – http://luluzinhcacamp.com
Machismo chato – http://machismochatodecadadia.tumblr.com/
Marcha das Vadias BH – http://slutwalkbh.blogspot.com.br/
Mulheres em Movimento Mudam o Mundo – http://mmm-rs.blogspot.com.br/
Mulheres Notáveis – http://mulheres-incriveis.blogspot.com.br/
Niara de Oliveira – http://pimentacomlimao.wordpress.com/
Ofensiva contra o machismo – http://contramachismo.wordpress.com/
Ogums Toques – http://ogumstoques.com/
Oyá Feminista – https://www.facebook.com/OyaFeminista
Preta & Gorda – https://www.facebook.com/PretaeGorda
Questões Plurais – http://questoesplurais.tumblr.com/
Rádio Caruncho Fm Livre – http://caruncho.radiolivre.org/
Renovação Negra – http://renovacaonegra.blogspot.com.br/
SlutShamingDetected – http://euescolhifornicar.com/
Transexualimo da depressão – https://www.facebook.com/transpatologico
Vertov Rox – http://we.riseup.net/vertov
In conclusion, please consider this. Racism and any other form of discrimination should be repudiated wherever in the world it exists. Racism is not something that only happens in the US. Americans who viewed the post about the ridiculous and racist display at the SPFW have been accustomed to such disrespectful acts for many years thus they were outraged as were black Brazilians.
But don’t get it twisted. By pointing the finger at what you believe to be “histerical atittudes of americans”, you discredit, undermine and delegitimize an entire history of Brazilian activism against injustice. This includes abolitionists of the 19th century, those who fought and died in struggle against the brutal military dictatorship in the hard line years between 1968 and 1979, the people involved in the MST (Movimento Sem Terra or Landless Movement), the Women’s Liberation movement, recent protests against the extermination of black youth, the struggle for the lands of the peoples of the Quilombo Rio dos Macacos in Bahia and countless other displays of activism.
Recognize something. The black struggle in Brazil goes back to the struggle of quilombolas escaping the brutality of Brazilian slavery. It goes back to João Cândido and the Revolta da Chibata (Revolt against the Whip) in 1910. It goes back to the 200,000 member strong Frente Negra Brasileira of the 1930s. It goes back to the Teatro Experimental Negro (TEN) of the 1940s. It goes back to July 7, 1978, and the formation of the Movimento Negro Unificado. Maybe you’re not accustomed to seeing black Brazilian militants, but they’ve been there all along. If you’d stop pointing the finger at the US and notice the blatant disregard of black life in your own country, perhaps you would notice this.
Take notice: EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE ABOVE MENTIONED PROTESTS AND ORGANIZATIONS HAVE BEEN INITIATED AND CARRIED OUT BY THE BRAZILIAN PEOPLE!
The purpose of this blog is simply to share this struggle with a world that is dominated by news in the English language. You would do well to remember this the next time you point the finger at Americans when the voices of dissent that made these stories news worthy are coming from your own country: Brazilian people taking a stand against all forms of racism, oppression and discrimination. Instead of pointing the finger at “histerical atittudes of americans” maybe you should study, learn and join the struggle in your own country!
Original comments taken from Vogue Brasil and Facebook