Black hair bears the brunt of racism all over the world. Music giant Sony was recently ordered to pay retroactive compensation back to 1997 for the release of the song, “Veja os Cabelos Dela (Look at Her Hair) by the singer known as Tiririca. Here are a few lyrics from the song:
Veja veja veja veja veja os cabelos dela (4x)
(Look look look look look at her hair (4x)
Parece bom-bril*, de ariá panela
(It looks like a scouring pad for pots and pans)
Quando ela passa, me chama atenção
(When she goes by, she catches my attention)
Mas os seus cabelos, não tem jeito não
(But her hair just isn’t right)
A sua catinga quase me desmaiou
(Her stench almost made me faint)
Olha eu não aguento, é grande o seu fedor
(Look, I can’t take it, her smell is so bad)
Essa nega fede, fede de lascar
(This black woman stinks, she stinks horribly)
Bicha fedorenta, fede mais que gambá
(Stinking beast, smells worse than a skunk)
Pause for dramatic effect. How could a song with such incendiary lyrics even be released? As a young black woman with natural hair, I am appalled and disgusted that this type of prejudice could be packaged and sold as music. I can’t believe that even in this day in age that there is such extreme negative attention towards black women and the texture of our hair, if it’s not fried, dyed and laid to the side. And not only does this song attack the black woman’s hair, it ridicules and dehumanizes us by lowering us to the title of a stinking beast.
What this song reveals is that sentiments of Brazilian people, who have a wide variety of tones and hair textures, mirror negative perceptions of black beauty that are rampant here in the United States. It’s clear that loving our hair as it grows from our scalps is an international issue. This song is damaging to all black women with natural hair, and even more damaging to our younger girls. Will young girls begin to reject their hair, and try to conform to the masses of women with perms and weaves? Songs like that make it all the more probable.
The Court of Justice in Rio de Janeiro judged the song, distributed by Sony on the CD entitled Florentina, as racist. The CD sold about 250,000 copies. The settlement forces Sony to pay $1.2 million Brazilian reais (worth about $656,000 American dollars) in retroactive pay back to the year 1997 to the Diffused Rights Fund of the Ministry of Justice. The suit was brought forth by 10 non-governmental organizations that fight against racism (though they won’t be compensated). In my opinion, this judgment was long overdue.
What do you think of the song and lawsuit?