Black and White Brazilians are currently embroiled in a racial debate, following a controversial Facebook post published by Thauane Cordeiro, a young White Brazilian woman, earlier this month, explaining her confrontation with a Black woman for wearing an African-style head wrap.
On February 4, Cordeiro, who says she is a cancer patient, recounted how a Black woman criticized her for wearing a head wrap and accused her of “cultural appropriation,” writing on Facebook originally in Portuguese:
I’m going to tell you what happened yesterday, to understand why I was angry with this bid for cultural appropriation:
I was at the station with the turban all beautiful , feeling like a diva. And I started to notice that there were a lot of Black women, beautiful in fact, who were looking at me crooked, like “look at the white woman appropriating gives our culture,” finally, came to talk to me and say that I should not use Air turban because I was White.
I took off my turban and said “look at this bald man, this is called cancer, so I use what I want! Goodbye.”, I picked it up and left it and it looked like a tacho. And frankly, I do not see what the PROBLEM of our society is in, my God!
The posting sparked a vitriolic debate, with some White Brazilians using it as an opportunity to insult Black people:
Tribal mentality continues to divide us. Cultural appropriation is a ridiculous term. Are 7 billion people supposed to stick to strict tribal traditions? Are the ones that are culturally allowed to wear a head dress also allowed to wear shoes?” Lonny Harris wrote on Facebook.
A Symbol of Pride & Purpose
Some Black women take offense when they see White women wearing African-style head wraps because, to them, it represents more than just a piece of fabric wrapped around the head to look cool; it’s a symbol of defiance and a reminder of the slave era.
In the ongoing struggle against Black oppression in America — as well as in other parts of the world — the head wrap is a unifying symbol among Black women and often worn during popular Black freedom movements, such as the Black Lives Matter Movement in the United States.
Therefore, when some Black women see their White counterparts wearing head wraps, it is seen as mocking Black culture.
Who Are the Real Originators?
As the debate continues, some are questioning the true origin of the head wrap, with some suggesting that it is not African; instead, they say there is evidence to prove that the head scarf came from ancient Asian societies.
However, some scholars contend that the head wrap originated in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, when many think of a head wrap or gele, African women are likely the first people to come to mind:
And for some Africans of the diaspora, it is thought that White slave masters imposed the head wrap on their Black slaves as a badge of enslavement.
Regardless of its origin, though, what is obvious is that many African women — as well as their counterparts in the diaspora — continue to wear the head wrap as a symbol of African pride, courage, and identity.