Teacher requests that mother tie down, braid or straighten child’s hair so that classmates accept her; isolated by other children, girl usually plays alone
By Marques Travae
And once again, coming from the land of “we are all equal” in a “racial democracy”. The mother of a four-year black girl was asked by the girl’s school to change her daughter’s hairstyle so that her classmates would better accept her.
Janaína de Oliveira Martins, 32, is the mother of four-year Gabriela, a student at the Escola Municipal de Educação Infantil Estrada Turística do Jaraguá, in the city of São Paulo. Gabriela goes to school with her cabelo afro (natural black hair) down and free, but apparently the girl’s classmates don’t approve of her hair. Such as issue is the child’s hair that the child’s teacher asked her mother if she could change the four-year old’s hairstyle because, the class wasn’t “adapting” to her visual.
Janaína noted that there could have been a problem with Gabriel’s day to day at the school when the child complained that no one would play with her at school. Expecting to get support from the girl’s teacher, Janaína instead got a response that is typical from teachers in the Brazilian school system with the topic is the experience and treatment of black children.
“The teacher asked if I could get my daughter’s hair straightened, tied down or braided, because the children were not adjusting, they were finding her hair type strange. I said no,” said Janaína.
Gabriel’s experiences at the school got to be an everyday thing as whenever the mother would ask the child how her day went at the school, the response was always the same. The other children wouldn’t play with her, isolated her and left her playing all alone on the school playground. To top all of that off, the children also took to defining Gabriela as “feia”, meaning “ugly”.
The situation described in today’s material is commonplace for black children in a society that has rejected traces of the African phenotype for nearly five centuries. Even though this rejection of the black child can be found in endless stories posted in this blog, it brings to mind a recent story by the entrepreneur Ana Paula Xongani, who detailed how her daughter had gotten accustomed to playing alone because her classmates wouldn’t play with her. It is yet another serious example of how experiences with racism affect our children from a very young age, as was another recent case involving the daughter of actor André Luiz Miranda after a 4-year old refused to play with his daughter specifically because of her skin color and hair texture. While Brazil’s school system continues to ignore this issue, we must ask the question: “Who will defend our children against whiteness?”
Most parents would simply shrug this sort of behavior off as an “isolated case” or just a “child’s thing” or “child’s play” but how often do we need to read these sort of stories until people will acknowledge the truth: In a Brazil that has preached “embranquecimento” (whitening” and the superiority of raça branca (white race) since colonization itself, anyone whose hair, features or skin color denote a recent connection to African ancestry, will be rejected by society. The message to black children/people? It would better if you seek out a white partner so that the phenotype of your offspring is closer to the white ideal and won’t have to go through this same ordeal.
Although clearly frustrated, Janaína is determined to fight the good fight. After all, why should her child have to conform because of the prejudice of others? Further the discussing the situation, Gabriela’s mother said that her daughter shouldn’t have to change how she looks to please others around her.
“I told the teacher, ‘What is your role, is it not to teach, so why don’t you teach children that prejudice is ugly, and that they have to play with her (Gabriela) the way her hair is? And I don’t have to braid (it) for others to like her, pleasing half a dozen of the school. I said I was going to look for the directors of the school, and she said it wouldn’t be any use, that this doesn’t happen in just the classroom. She commented that her hair is “ruim” (bad) and that I straighten. Except my daughter is 4 years old, it makes no sense for me to straighten my daughter’s hair, I will not straighten it to please anyone. She’ll come just the way she is. I will not mess with her scalp because it is sensitive and can hurt. She’s going to come with her hair loose, yes.”
So, what was the school directors’ reaction to all of this? Well, it was typical of all of the other stories of this type. The occurrence was unfortunate, they regret that it happened and that it would take disciplinary actions against the teacher. Of course. The reality is that the school will probably give the teacher a slap on the risk and sweep this situation on the rug as has happened so many other times. This is the conclusion I would come to due to the school preferring to request that the black child adapt to her the prejudice of her classmates rather that the school addressing the issue of prejudice. The reaction is typical of how Brazilian society as a whole deals with issues of race.
The statement issued by the school read as follows:
“In a meeting held on Monday (9/3) by the Conflict Mediation Commission, the DRE hosted the family and provided all the clarifications. In addition, it is carrying out pedagogical actions with the students in the class in which the child studies, where issues such as respect for diversity are being addressed. The parents have already informed the school board that they do not want the child to be changed from the class or period so that there is no pedagogical loss.”