“I’d love for you to sing at my wedding party, but could you straighten that hair?”: In nation’s capital, singer offered a gig but only if she straightened her hair

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Note from BW of Brazil: What is Brazil without its anti-black, racist sentiments? I guess it wouldn’t be Brazil as these attitudes have existed since the first African arrived. But again, why deny this? Everyday, across the country, people hear all sort of comments that support the idea that beauty can only be defined according to European standards. This is why we’ve long heard about Africans and their descendants around the world resorting to clean bleaching creams, hair straightening techniques, cosmetic surgery, etc. to make themselves appear closer to this standard. And it’s not only black people affected by this dictatorship of whiteness. We also know that people in Asian countries will often undergo eyelid surgery to make themselves look less Asian.

In Brazil, we see a situation in which, not only do the number of cosmetic surgeries consistently placing the country near the top of the most procedures done annually, but we also know that many people encourage their children to marry and have children with persons of a more European appaearance so that their children look whiter, or at least less black. Quiet as its kept, there are also millions of white and near white people in Brazil who undergo such procedures as well. It would interesting to know how many of these people, while identifying themselves as white, because of a history of racial admixture in their families, don’t feel white enough. 

Some years ago, black Brazilians were accustomed to straightening their hair in order to fit within the accepted standard, as they also believed that, not only was straight hair more attractive, they also believed it improved their chances of being accepted for jobs, being asked out on dates, etc. That was as recent as just 10 years ago and to be honest, many black Brazilians do still accept this standard. But now, in 2020, many more black Brazilians are coming to accept their features and reject trying to change how they look to please a society that doesn’t like such features that are associated with African ancestry.

Today’s story is another example of not only the standard, but also how Afro-Brazilians are resisting. 

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Singer Laís Raquel, 22, was asked to straighten her hair if she wanted to sing at a wedding (photo: Disclosure / Social Networks)

Racism: Bride-to-be asks singer to straighten hair to “look better in photos”

Singer from Brasília was contacted by social networks and received the proposal from the bride who planned the wedding. She refused to straighten her hair: “If you liked my voice, this is me”

By Jaqueline Fonseca

A singer from the nation’s capital of Brasília DF experienced an episode of racism when being contacted by a possible client. Through Instagram, a woman said she was organizing the wedding party and had been interested in Lais Raquel’s work. However, she established a condition for her contracting to be agreed on: the singer would have to straighten her hair.

Lais Raquel is 22 years old and has been singing since she was 7 years old. Currently, she works at a school with music education for children and has also sang at events, such as weddings, for three years. The prospective contractor asked for a photo of Laís at some wedding and, upon receiving the image, asked: “Do you usually sing with your hair like that?” The singer promptly answered yes. That was when he received the proposal: “If you are going to sing at my wedding, could you straighten your hair? I loved your voice and I really wanted you to sing, but just that detail to make it better in the wedding photos.”

The singer didn’t accept and replied to the possible client who didn’t understand the proposal: “If you want a singer of this profile at your wedding there are several. Now, if you liked my voice, this is me.”

In an interview with the Correio news site, Laís Raquel tells how she felt about the proposal. “I hadn’t noticed, until that question, that I was a victim of prejudice, of veiled racism, indirect racism. I hadn’t noticed because I already experienced with this type of situation. My family has always told me that my hair is more beautiful straight. That it matches better and I become more beautiful. I needed a week to think and expose everything that I went through, thinking about the people who still can’t impose themselves in these situations.”

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Laís Raquel, 22, was contacted via her Instagram profile and asked if she’d sing at a wedding profile

The singer explains that if it had been some time ago, she might have straightened her hair, but her posture has changed. “If it was up to last year, I would have done my hair to sing at her wedding, but, once you love who you are, (it doesn’t matter) what other people would say otherwise,” said Laís.

Legal analyst Stéphane Alves explains that the situation experienced by the singer violates the principle of human dignity. She herself, as a black woman, encourages women and girls not to submit to the wishes of others to the detriment of their own characteristics.

“I am black and went through the hair transition, it was a very difficult process to accept, because my whole life I straightened my hair to be part of the standard. When I read Lais Raquel’s report, I was moved, because I have been through several similar situations too, and although it was subtle, it’s still a prejudiced attitude. Surely the client wouldn’t ask someone to curl their hair as it would go better with the photos. We are in the 21st century and many people continue to have attitudes like this, violating the principle of human dignity,”says the analyst.

Structural Racism

Lais Raquel didn’t file a police report, so the police didn’t investigate the case. The singer said she blocked the bride and they have no further contact.

Police chief Ângela Maria dos Santos, responsible for the Special Police Station for the Suppression of Crimes for Racial, Religious Discrimination or for Sexual Orientation or Against the Elderly or Disabled (Decrin), explains that the discrimination suffered by Laís Raquel is a classic case of structural racism.

“She didn’t say directly that she wouldn’t hire her, she said, ‘Wouldn’t you wear it any other way?’ She didn’t say her hair was ugly, she said her hair is beautiful, but I would like it to be straight because it would look better in the photos. So it is, in a very subtle way, on a very fine line. It is, yes, a form of racism, but it’s that structural racism, the person had no intention of offending. But she already has that inside of her, that she prefers straight hair in her wedding photos. So much so that she asks, ‘Would you wear it?’ There was no direct offense. So, we call this structural racism.”

According to the police chief, the registration of the incident allows an investigation and eventual penalization of those responsible. Complaints must be made to the Civil Police. The registration of the occurrence can be done over the internet. Another way to report cases of racial injury or racism is through Dial 100, from the federal government, by phone or through the application.

Source: Correio Braziliense 

About Marques Travae 3474 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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