We are empowered black women! We will not whiten ourselves anymore

Women of the Encrespa Movement in Paranã, Tocantins.
Women of the Encrespa Movement in Paranã, Tocantins

Note from BW of Brazil:This is the type of inspiring material we love to bring you hear on BW of Brazil! I’m sure somewhere out there, in Brazil as well as outside of the country, there are people who are scratching their heads and going, “why so much focus on the issues of hair and identity?” Well, simply put, if you didn’t grow up in Brazil, or really anywhere where Africans and their descendants live, you wouldn’t understand the pressure of growing up under a system that silently tries to destroy your very existence, emotionally, psychologically and in the case of Brazil’s policy of whitening its population, literally physically! Millions of Afro-Brazilian women (and men) grow up with an ideology of whitening themselves from the time that they are very young. Whitening by means of attempting to camouflage any physical markers of African ancestry. “Don’t play in the sun so much!” “If you straighten that hair you would be beautiful!” “Get a branquinha/branquinho (white girl/white boy) and maybe your kids will come out prettier!” These ideals are of course strongly re-enforced by the media with daily representations of what beauty supposedly looks like. But through it all, with a number of blogs, organizations, projects and eventsmore and more women of African descent are overcoming this oppression and seeing themselves as beautiful, even as their country refuses to recognize them as such. 

We are black women! We will not whiten ourselves anymore

by Laura Astrolabio 

Over the weekend I had an accident and now have to stay practically the whole day in bed. Then I began to appreciate the beauty of the black women of my list of friends, really for all of them being so stylish, creative and inspiring to me. I feeling like putting all of them in one album, spending the day publishing the photos as according to those that were interested in the proposal and giving the ok in the proposal thus beautifying the news feed with all those little queens who are little represented by the media, that few see themselves in magazines, novelas (soap operas), walkways. That despite the great beauty they possess, few  are recognized as such and few serve as a reference of beauty for children and young people of this country that exalts the Eurocentric standard.

I was going through the albums of each to choose the pictures. During this viewing I was realizing how almost all of them have suffered with embranquecimento (whitening), just as I have also suffered.

The oldest pictures showed women with cabelos escovados (Brazilian Keratine Hair Treatment).

Then photos began to appear that revealed the revolt against the imposed whitening. A revolt that certainly happened from the inside out and that was infecting other and other and other queens. The photos show eras and while the picture of a particular year showed cabelos escovados (Keratin treated) and huge hair, the photo of another year showed very short hair with the caption “me libertei” (I liberated myself). In other cases the cabelos escovados, straightened and flat ironed were traded for beautiful braids or dreads.

Image: Domenica Antonio, from the 'Que nega é essa?' page
Image: Domenica Antonio, from the ‘Que nega é essa?‘ page

The queens began to make a point of showing that they were loving their hair that was there being reborn and that there had a while since even knew anymore what they looked like without the chemicals. Old photos show an oppressed beauty and more recent pictures showed a free beauty. Black powers (afros), pink afros, braids, turbans, negras loiras (black blondes), negras livres (free black women), black masters of themselves and dictating their own rules and being beautiful.

From one photo to another the twinkle in their eyes was different. From one photo to another it was possible to see that the queens were taking consciousness of the power that they have.

Empowered black women, proud of their culture and their origins. Black women who have learned to say “NO” to the slavery that wants to impose a standard of beauty that is not ours and wants to oppress our beauty, the beauty that is born with us, a slavery that has as an objective nos embranquecer (whitening us).

I realized that those pictures were also sending a message to the racist society that does not accept the texture of our hair, or the tone of our skin or our physical traits, or our culture.

Somos todas negras! (colorism) 2
“We are black women! Without (any of) this mulata, parda, moreninha…”

In the photos, I realized that those turbans, curls, braids and afros were “screaming”: não somos pardas, nem mulatas, nem morenas. Somos negras e com muito orgulho de nossa beleza e cultura (we are not mixed/browns or mulattos or mixed/light-skinned/browns. We are black and proud of our beauty and culture). We do not allow being whitened anymore.

After all, we are all Lupita.

Laura Astrolabio is a lawyer, major in Public Law, woman, black, loves animals, humanist, amateur photographer, a human being who acknowledges being in a permanent state of evolution and believes that beyond the fight love has the power to change the world.

Source: Blogueiras Negras

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. I love this! Sistas from all over the world are changing their attitudes and loving themselves the way they are, seimpre naturalista!

  2. Sistas the way God made them… As a brutha I can;t argue with that!
    As I get older, I appreciate black beauty more and more. I’m glad that sistas are embracing in Brazil and also in the U.S. etc

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