Fear of the fro? Dancer is the target of Brazil’s anti-blackness
Note from BW of Brazil: When I first saw this photo I thought to myself, “Dude has a banging ‘fro.” His hair reminded of the year I went down south to my birth state of Georgia and re-united with a few of my cousins. One of them, who I’ll just call “B”, had been wearing a jheri curl for a few years. I didn’t have a jheri curl because moms just wudn’t havin’ it, but due to my hair texture, when I used some spray and gel, people swore up and down that I really had a curl. Anyway, one night, my cousin and I decided to wash and dry our hair, pick them out and see who had the biggest ‘fro. To my surprise, my cousin blew me out the water. His ‘fro had to be at least three inches higher than mine.
We both could have easier replaced one of the Jackson brothers on the inner jacket of their 1978 platinum album Destiny. It was the 80s and rockin’ the h-bomb shaped afros had given way to shorter naturals and curly perms, with Michael Jackson and his brothers later becoming symbols of the shower cap crew look. NBA legend, the Doctor, Julius Erving, had cut several inches of his classic afro of the 1970s. African-Americans had already experienced a range of hairstyles just in the time I had grown up. As I grew up, I saw afros and jheri curls give way to high top fades, waves and creative cuts. In the 90s America, it seems that just about anything went in terms of black men’s hair.
Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving in the 1980s (left) and the 1970s
Meanwhile in Brazil, society continue to ridicule black and brown men to the point that they didn’t dare grow up their hair, that is, if they didn’t want to be seen as respectable. The widespread belief in Brazil was that natural black hair was “cabelo ruim”, ‘bad hair’ and everybody knew it, as such, most black and brown men simply shaved their heads as short as possible to avoid cruel criticism. It’s really only been in recent years with the rise of “orgulho negro”, ‘black pride’, that first black women and then black men began taking bold steps in daring to wear the hair they were born with.
Right now, it’s a great time to be black and love your hair in Brazil. The black hair revolution is quite noticeable in large cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and other cities across the country. This doesn’t mean anti-black sentiments have suddenly disappeared, as one black teen learned when he was approached and attacked by Military Police in the state of Bahia, but it does mean that many black Brazilians today are resisting society’s imposition of what is considered “cabelo bom”, or ‘good hair’, and creating their own standards of beauty. And with pride comes solidarity, which is what we recently saw when another young black man become another victim of Brazil’s hatred of its black roots.
If you don’t know, in Brazil, folks call afros ‘black power’, derived from the style associated with 60s/70s African-American revolutionary icons. And it was a sign of black power when a number of Afro-Brazilian celebs rose up and showed the brotha love and support.
Dancer is the target of racism because of his ‘fro and receives support from celebrities
Dancer Allan Bastos suffered racist attacks because of his ‘black power’ hair
Dancer Allan Bastos, who participates in the Mangueira samba school as part of the ‘front committee’ at Carnival, was the target of racism because of his black power hair. The attacks on social media grew, but they were also countered, with celebrities like Taís Araújo defending the young man. Actor Babu Santana, whose pick two white contestants on a reality show made fun of, also expressed his support.
Allan went viral on social media when he posted a montage of himself with the famous meme: “the beginning of a dream/everything went well”. In the first image, he appears starting to let his hair grow; in the second, his ‘fro is much higher.
According to Allan the attacks started on Saturday, August 1st, when he was the focus of an article about the positive repercussion of his post.
“I thought it would stop there, but it was increasing, the proportion was growing a lot. It went from one day to the other. Many fakes have appeared spreading racist images,” he said.
In addition to Taís Araújo, he received support from actress Cacau Protásio and the choreographer, also from the Mangueira samba school, Priscilla Mota.
“They gave a voice to that. Cacau called me by video call and gave me a lot of advice. I wanted them to stop making memes with my photos,” he said. “Several artists started to see. A lot of people that I didn’t expect started posting.”
Allan registered a police report and is awaiting a response to press charges.
“It had a very big negative point, but a much better positive point came later. I am quite happy now. It is as if my voice has echoed. This reached people who inspire me,”he said.
The dancer was interviewed on Encontro com Fátima Bernardes talk show on TV Globo and explained that he never gave space to be told not to post his photos or to give suggestions regarding his hair.
“Racism is ingrained in our society. It wasn’t just that day, it wasn’t just yesterday or just today. That’s why we decide to speak. I don’t leave space. I said: ‘I’m going to talk, I’m going to scream, because when people listen, maybe it will stop’. My mother saw it, she was devastated. And to this day I hear this, that I posted (the photos) just to show up, to get (something) with it, or to victimize myself,” he said.
Fátima ended the interview with a message from her audience: “I wanted to take advantage and speak to people like me, white women: stop giving suggestions on the hair of others”.
“Stop talking about what a person has to wear or not wear. This is an intimate matter, everyone knows how they want wear it. It’s not for us to say that. We have to look at other people as they are, and as we like to be looked at, as we are. We have to be respected for what we are,” said the host.
Primotinha: “Friends, this is Allan!!! A dancer of our Front Commission, handsome, good people and loved by everyone who knows him!! He is the target of many prejudiced attacks on Twitter!! Go to the side and see the absurdities that these people are capable of doing !! I have known Allan since he was a child full of dreams, and one of them, thank God, we helped to accomplish, being part of a front committee !! Now, we are in this battle together and I count on the help of all my friends here on Instagram. I invite you to go to Twitter to report all these profiles that promote hatred and the lack of freedom. Prejudiced oppressors and fascists will not pass. Please go to his Twitter, allan_basttos, report it and do it justice !! Thanks a lot!!”
A post shared by Priscilla Mota (@primotinha) on Aug 3, 2020 at 10:39 am PDT
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