Brazilian society continues to ostracize natural black hair: woman followed by store security simply because of her hair.

Manoela Gonçalves was followed in supermarket by a security guard because of her hair
Manoela Gonçalves was followed in supermarket by a security guard because of her hair

Note from BW of Brazil: Here we go again! If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know that the issue of hair texture and standards of beauty are frequent topics here at BW of Brazil. Brazil has blatantly shown its preference for persons who appear physically closer to the European aesthetic which often has devastating consequences on the self-esteem, identity and preferences of Afro-Brazilian children (and later in their adulthood). This obsession with whiteness reproduces itself throughout the society and even within the very homes of the population that it oppresses. Today, from São Paulo, yet another story of prejudice against afro textured hair from a supermarket chain, Carrefour, that has made headlines in the past because of its treatment of Afro-Brazilians. Women from another of Brazil’s major cities, Belo Horizonte, also chime in on prejudice they’ve because of their hair. With all of this prejudice against natural black hair, is there any wonder why there is a need for a “black hair revolution” in Brazil?

Young woman wearing “black power” hairstyle accuses supermarket of racism in São Paulo

by Vanessa Beltrão and Etiene Martins

She says she was followed by security in the store; company affirms it will investigate the facts

When she went to the supermarket on the afternoon of May 28th, the public relations employee Manoela Gonçalves, 29, didn’t imagine she would end the day with a complaint at the police station. The young woman, the owner of a voluminous “black power” (afro) hairdo said she was the victim of discrimination in the Carrefour store on Ribeiro Lacerda street in the neighborhood  of Vila do Bosque  in São Paulo’s south zone.

The consumer affirms that she was followed in the store by an employee.

“The security guard came out of the entrance and began to follow me all the whole way. Then I asked him, are you following me?”

According Manoela the professional replied: “You’re here calling attention and you don’t want me to go after you?”

The young woman says that she asked the security guard if the fact that she has curly/kinky hair would have been the reason for following her. Manoela said that the answer was a straightforward: “Yes.”

Manuela says she was discriminated against because of her hair and clothes
Manuela says she was discriminated against because of her hair and clothes

The embarrassment became even worse when the victim asked the man if he the reaction would have been the same if she was “that blonde with a cart full of groceries” [referring to another consumer who was on the scene]. He said “no.”

“I think it was discrimination because of the size of my hair and the clothes I wear. I am discriminated against, prejudice exists yes, people are not familiar with it.”

According Manoela, in the confusion, the security even stated that he would remove her from the store. The consumer said that, at that time, she sought the manager to try to report the situation, but he was at lunch. She ended being attended to by the head of the cold cuts section, who promised to take the complaint to a superior and return to the young woman.

“I felt embarrassed. Nobody intervened. That was what bothered me the most.”

The case was registered on the 11th Police District as libel, threatening and illegal embarrassment. Manoela says that she will go to court against the store chain for moral damages and embarrassment.

According Manoela, the company called two days after she denounced the situation on social networks. A spokesperson for Carrefour reported that contact was made in just over 24 hours. The delay, according to the company, was in locating the customer, since the employee didn’t ask for her contact information.

Below is the full note from Carrefour:

“Carrefour doesn’t tolerate any kind of discrimination, racism or disrespect, and therefore, since it took knowledge of Ms. Manoela Gonçalves’ story it has conducted an extensive and rigorous assessment. Upon learning the facts, Carrefour contacted the consumer to apologize because she felt offended or disrespected, regardless of what happened. The company has the greatest interest in clarifying what happened and is permanently attending to any misconduct of its network of collaborators and suppliers. And will do its utmost to strengthen the practices already adopted in unconditional respect of people under any circumstances. The company reiterates that the 40 thousand employees corroborate their values ​​and receive training and constant updating to ensure the well being of consumers. Carrefour also supports and relates to entities specializing in diversity, which reaffirms the commitment of the network with the theme.”

Note from BW of Brazil: Discrimination and displeasure due to popular hairstyles for afro textured hair are not restricted to only security guards in large chain supermarkets; negative reactions to “cabelo black” also come from prospective employers, clients and, as has been shown in previous posts, even from within one’s own family. 

Friends Ingrid Rosa, Ana Flávia, Silvana Inácio and Luana Serena at a mall in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais
Friends Ingrid Rosa, Ana Flávia, Silvana Inácio and Luana Serena at a mall in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais

In Belo Horizonte, they wear their hair natural and show that the blackness of each of them can’t be straightened. Wherever they go, girlfriends Ingrid Rosa, Ana Flávia, Luana Serena and Silvana Inácio call attention to their “estilo black” (black hair style or afro) as they themselves define it. The girls’ beauty and originality attracts looks in a mall in the east region of the state capital. There are Jamaican, African, loose, root and contemporary braids, dreadlocks, Rastafari and “black power” (afro)…A huge variety of styles available for curly/kinky hair. But there is society’s intolerance. Black hair, worn naturally, still causes amazement and prejudice. Ingrid, 23, and Luana, 29, for example, have lost count of how many times they were repressed in the labor market.

“I participated in a selection process for pharmacy clerk, and the psychologist told me clearly that the public would not accept my hair style and suggested that if I changed it, we could talk again.” The kindergarten teacher Silvana, 29, says she has never been discriminated against in a job search. In her case, intolerance came from her family. “My aunt always sent me tie my hair down. Loose straight hair doesn’t bother her, only mine.” Silvana’s choice of wearing her hair without chemicals came after her pregnancy “When I had my daughter, I wanted her to have someone with whom to identify, I wanted her to realize that her hair is beautiful and not the pejorative characteristics that were imposed on me as a child,” she says.

More than vanity, it’s an attitude!

Ana Flavia, a 26 year old vendor, embraced a natural style due to an incentive of her hairdresser when she went to salon for a procedure that was normal in her life: straightening her locks. “I decided to make a change and ‘go black’. When I returned home, everyone told me I had ruined my hair, but I didn’t care, after all, the culture for my family until then had been long, straight hair,” she recalls.

For Nilma Lino Gomes, the first black woman of a Brazilian federal university, anthropologist and author of the book, Sem Perder a Raiz (Without Losing the Root), throughout the history of African descendants, hair has been used as a tool by activists. According to the writer, afro textured hair, also considered by some as “black power”, was seen as a political style by the black power movement that arose in the 1960s. “This movement, attributing curly/kinky hair in the place of beauty, symbolically represented the time of removal of blacks from the place of racial inferiority.”

Hair stylist Cássia Valéria is accustomed to getting strange looks because of her dreadlocks
Hair stylist Cássia Valéria is accustomed to getting strange looks because of her dreadlocks

The hairdresser Cássia Valéria, 25, has worn dreads for a year now, sufficient time to realize the bias and strange looks of society. “Nobody admits it, it’s that veiled kind, you know? I’ve surprised the store saleswomen looking at me crooked.” When asked what she would say to a customer who asked her to dread her hair, to Cássia, think for a moment and responds: “I would ask her why, and tell her the consequences if she regretted it. To remove dreads one must shave the head, so it’s not just a matter of vanity, but of attitude,” says Cássia, who not even for a second regrets having adopted the style for her hair. “I took a while getting the attitude to do it because I was afraid of people’s reactions, but now that I did it, I won’t take them out again,” she says with confidence.

Source: R7 Notícias, Raça Brasil

About Marques Travae 3584 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

3 Comments

  1. How can I get in touch with Cassia? I’m moving to São Paulo from the states & need someone to help maintain my locs!

  2. Everyone knows that there is no racial discrimination in Brazil since Pedro II. She must be mistaken somehow. Maybe it was just her very weird hairdo.

  3. Well, I’ve to admit that there still exists a lot o prejudice against keeping black hair. After straighting my hair for all my life I had to have it cut since “progressive treatment” have destroyed it. One of my sister, who is blonde and have a natural beautiful hair questionned me when she saw me with my shortest, curled and natural (bad) hair. Some people ask me why not to mending it with artificial hair. Even my ex husband looked me with despise. I’m obliged to say that brazilians are racist. Yes, that’s true and it is a pitty.

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