Your Hairstyle Can Cost You Your Life In Brazil
Brazil’s Black hair revolution continues — despite increased danger of police violence
Diego loved his strawberry-blond tapered Afro. In the 16-year-old boy’s hometown in Brazil, the hairstyle is referred to as a “Black power” (pronounced “Blackee power”), named for the political movement that made it popular. For Diego, it was a badge of Blackness that he wore with pride. The attention it attracted from the opposite sex didn’t hurt either.
But Diego’s feelings toward his hairstyle changed on a Sunday in early February. As he was walking a friend home in his neighborhood in Salvador, an impoverished, predominantly Black city in Northeast Brazil, a policeman approached Diego. This was an abordagem — a stop-and-frisk. While that’s an all-too-common experience for Black Brazilian men, the graphic nature of this particular incident was caught on camera.
Without any provocation, a Black policeman pushed Diego into a wall and began hitting and kicking him. “You are a thief to me,” the officer said in Portuguese. “You are a bum! With that disgrace of hair. Take [the hat] off. Go! This disgraceful hair here. What are you? Are you a hard worker or a faggot? Is this what you are?”
It hurts to keep seeing the dirty looks that you get when you have an Afro, or when you have designs in your hair. I don’t want to live with this fear… I can be stylish with blond hair and not be a gangster.” — Anderson Mulatho
The clip, recorded by an unknown videographer, quickly went viral, spread by activists to highlight the racism and police brutality that runs rampant in Brazilian communities like this one. The profiling of wearers of politicized hairstyles has long been believed to exist, but it had never been verbalized so explicitly, or enforced so brutally, as on the video.