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Black hairstyles are more accepted on non-black women

Black hairstyles are more accepted on non-black women

Black hairstyles are more accepted on non-black women
October 17
17:12 2019

Since the beginning of black civilization, from African tribal styles, to locs and the afro, hair has been an integral part of the black community. Hairstyles were utilized to express an individual’s social status, family background and tribe in early African civilizations. During the Atlantic slave trade, enslaved Africans would plait maps in the form of intricate cornrows to escape from slavery. Additionally, hair has been unanimous with the identity of the black woman.

As a collective, black women of today have used their African roots accompanied by their own craftmanship to assemble styles that reflect the beauty of the black diaspora.

Black women also continue to illustrate the versatility of their hair through the celebration of their natural hair and the many styles that derive from it.

Though a multitude of hairstyles that range from wigs, weaves, braids, relaxed hair and more are celebrated and accepted, the natural hair movement that began in America during the civil rights era of the ’60s illustrated to black women the complex beauty of their hair. Prominent civil rights activist Angela Davis and the Black Panther movement promoted the afro. Black women and men in America began putting away the dangerous relaxers used to chemically change the structure of black hair to fit European standards and began rocking their courser, natural hair.

It is through this movement that the embracing of one’s natural hair became a common aspect of black culture.

Despite this rich and complex history, black hairstyles are often viewed as “ghetto” on black women until proven fashionable or trendy on non-black women. You see this today in a high fashion where the runway models of a Marc Jacobs show will wear fake afros to sell an “exotic” line or in Hollywood where Kim Kardashian will turn traditional African braided styles into “Kim Kardashian braids.”

Cultural appropriation is not limited to attire and customs, but to hair, too.

What infuriates me the most is how black women are ridiculed and tormented for representing aspects of their culture through their hair, while non-black women are praised by the media for just simply copying those styles. It is extremely dehumanizing and unfair, and a reflection of the racism that still runs deep in society.

Many celebrities in Hollywood are notorious for appropriating cultures that are not their own for profit. Oftentimes their blatant appropriation coins them as “trend-setters” even if the styles have existed for a number of years. Despite the backlash they always receive from it, they continue to do so anyway completely disregarding the lack of respect their actions have.

In 2015, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star Kylie Jenner posted on Instagram an image of her wearing cornrows with the caption, “I woke up like disss.” Naturally, the post got the attention of many who deemed it offensive.

Among those who called her out for this was Amandla Stenberg of “The Hunger Games” movies.

“When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter,” Stenberg said in a comment on Jenner’s post. The hashtag that Stenberg used in her response to Jenner’s post was to highlight a trend on Twitter in which white women paraded that they wear or do things commonly done by women of color better than the women of color themselves.

Jenner then fired back, “Mad if I don’t. Mad if I do.. Go hang w Jaden or something.” Jenner’s response shows no remorse for her action and is very dismissive in regards to Stenberg’s concerns. This is a perfect depiction of how black women are swiftly dismissed when they attempt to speak out against the appropriation that negatively impacts them.

The dehumanization of black hair on black women goes far beyond Hollywood and fashion. It is also prevalent in schools and the workplace, too. The education of so many young black girls has been interrupted due to them being sent home from school for the hairstyles they chose to wear. Most often, they get in trouble for wearing the natural hair that grows out of their heads because it is deemed as “wild” or “unruly.”

While their educational futures are being threatened due to this, little black girls are also forced to change their hair into mainstream styles that suppress the nature of their cultures. This discrimination is something their non-black counterparts are never questioned about.

Malden Charter School of Boston gave out detention slips to two black female students for wearing box braids. Deanna and Mya Scot, 15-year old twins, were also eliminated from the charter school’s sports teams and told that they were prohibited from attending their prom. It angers me but does not surprise me that the Scot twins were punished for expressing themselves through box braids, a staple hairstyle of their culture.

What good does it do to society when schools are forcing black girls to assimilate to a certain look in order to be accepted?

In South Africa, Lawson Brown High School implemented a policy that said black girls should “tie” their afros in order to make their hair “more beautiful.” If students failed to comply with the policy, they were punished. In 2017, senior Unathi Gongxeka, was not allowed to take her exams until she followed the hair policy.

The measures that school officials will go to in order to regulate black hair is frankly disgusting.

If you google “professional hairstyles,” images of non-black women will appear. In the same manner, if you google “unprofessional hairstyles,” images of black women wearing hairstyles common to their culture will flood your search results.

Hair discrimination in the workplace is something that has plagued black women for years. Though some states like California have implemented laws where it’s illegal to discriminate against hair, the stigma that black hair is unprofessional is still very much alive. This leads black women to shy away from owning who they are in fear of getting suspended or worse, getting fired from their jobs.

The natural hair that grows from a black woman or how she decides to style it should never be policed under any circumstance, whether it be in Hollywood, school or the workplace.

Black women should be given the credit of their versatile hairstyles when non-black women choose to appropriate them. It is highly insulting to praise a non-black woman for wearing a hairstyle that a black woman is simultaneously degraded for. Instead, we should celebrate black women and their contribution as a whole to society and world culture.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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Michelle Monari

Michelle Monari

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