Brazilian Society Continues To See Black Hair As A Joke: After Racist Incident, Black Woman Fight Back!

Brazilian Society Continues To See Black Hair As A Joke: After Racist Incident, Black Woman Fight Back!
Thayná and activists enter store to discuss situation with store officials

AFRICANGLOBEAs has been documented continuously,Brazilian society has a problem with natural, afro-textured, Black hair. In American comedian/actor Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary Good Hair, veteran comedian Paul Mooney stated: “If your hair is relaxed, White people are relaxed, if your hair is nappy, they’re not happy.” Needless to say, he could have easily applied that statement to Brazilian society as well.

As a plethora of jokes and cruel comments prove, Brazil is the “racial democracy” that dislikes African features. The difference between today and Brazil of 20-30 years ago is that nowadays more Black people are likely to stand up and denounce racism, racist comments and actions. The incident below actually took place nearly a month ago with an in store meeting taking place on March 8th, coincidentally, International Women’s Day. Add this incident to the thousands of comments and incidents that happen everyday throughout the country.

Here is how Globo news reported the incident: 

On Wednesday (February 26), a stroll through Plaza Mall, in Niterói, ended in a frustrating way for salesperson Thayná Trindade, 25. The young woman says that she passed in front of the Ponto Frio store, on the 1st floor of the shopping center, when one of the employees started making prejudicial comments about her hair.

According to Thayná, the man, who identified himself only as Tito, pointed to her and said “she had to be a sponsor of Assolan!”(1), referring to her Black power (afro) hair style. He would have still made a gesture by pointing his finger on the backs of his hands, in reference to Thayná’s skin color.

After the comments, the young woman says that other employees laughed at the situation. She searched for store management, but without success. One witness went with her to the Delegacia de Atendimento à Mulher (Precinct for the Assistance to Women) police station of Niterói, where the case was registered as “injúria por preconceito (injury or slur due to prejudice).” The case was also forwarded to the Coordenadoria Especial de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial (CEPPIR or Special Coordinator for the Promotion of Racial Equality) of the city.

Asked what would have led the man to make such prejudice comments, Thayná had no doubt.

“Racism, what else could it be? Would I come out laughing at someone wearing long, straight hair, down to their back? No, right? There are still serious debates about racism in Brazil. People are used to closing their eyes to everything, this story of a ‘mixed race and happy people ‘ is a lie! Veiled racism is what happens here. It’s enough to compare public policies that take place in the United States and what is done here,” denounced the young woman.

In an online interview with the Prioridades femininas blog, Thayná also revealed these details:

How did you know he was about you? Was anyone else around?

Because everyone was looking at me and he said the offenses looking at me and some people looked in a mocking manner and others sympathized with me.

How did you feel at the time? What went through your head?

I was frustrated, embarrassed! But I was cool-blooded enough to go after him and ask for his identification. But he refused and I also couldn’t speak to the manager, who was unavailable to meet me.

Have you ever gone through a similar situation before?

Yes, but not as directly and that had left me disconcerted before.

In the aftermath of the incident, this is how the Mama Press blog reported Thayná’s actions:

Racism in Niterói Plaza Ponto Frio store: Women’s Day of a black woman that fighting for her rights

By Marcos Romão

Brazilian Society Continues To See Black Hair As A Joke: After Racist Incident, Black Woman Fight Back!
Thayná (pink pants) with her group of activists

Thayná Trindade, a young Black woman of 25, mother of a baby a few months old, was racially discriminated against on February 26th by a salesperson at the Ponto Frio store at Shopping Plaza in Niterói (Rio de Janeiro state).

She sought the store manager and didn’t find him. She also didn’t find solidarity with other employees for her pain and suffering. A passer-by who had witnessed the racist situation, offered to help Thayná, a Rio resident who was passing visiting Niterói.

As she didn’t know the city well, the person who was now prepared to be a witness, walked her to the 76th precinct station and had to get back to work, leaving his personal information and address to register the occurrences.

At the police station they directed her to DEAM (Women’s police station), where she reported being very well attended, and as such began to tell what had happened, all her strength sapped and collapsed into tears remembering the humiliation that she went through and not having received any help from any store employee Ponto Frio, present at the time of the aggression. “Some even laughed,” she reported.

Even in the middle of Carnival, she sought friends and competent organs of the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) who were made available to help her. And she put her mouth on the whistle, because as each one would say, “they cannot get away with it.

Every day it’s happening and people discriminated against prefer to let it go.”

The process is moving forward and the police summoned the management of Ponto Frio to present the name of the suspect for confrontation.

By monitoring the social networks, the communication sector of Ponto Frio of São Paulo learned about the case and contacted her, so that she could have a meeting that would happened, Saturday, March 8, International Women’s Day, when management of the region of Niterói and São Gonçalo would make  known the steps that were being taken against the employee for whom Thayná Trindade seeks dismissal.

In this meeting with the regional manager, besides Thayná’s lawyer, Dr. Bruno Alves, were representatives of young Black activists from Rio and the staff from Ceppir- Niterói as well as townspeople who had demonstrated their solidarity against racism.

Part Two