By: Leticia Latrice
What is it about black hair that makes people so uncomfortable? It is sad when a black woman with an Afrocentric hair style has to feel uncomfortable among a group of another culture. Have you ever had to be the spokesperson for black people to explain why and how our hair looks different? Society has put black people in a situation where long, thin, and blonde hair is the standard that we have to compare ourselves to. Black people have been made to feel like just because “nappy hair” isn’t long, thin, or blonde it is ugly. Maybe in Africa long, thin, blonde hair is unusual and ugly. African American’s hair structure is completely different than that of Caucasian, Asian or Hispanic cultures so how could there be any comparison? No matter how hard we try, logically how can we alter our hair to become a completely different texture? However needing to fit into a culture that does not reflect our heritage has caused black people to feel awkward if their hair isn’t “presentable” enough for society’s standards.
So as history evolved black people wanted to make their hair more “manageable” and similar to long, thin, or blonde hair. We began to process our hair with chemicals or wear wigs that resembled this type of hair. Madam C.J. Walker understood the dilemma that the black women faced of trying to blend into the American culture so she created innovative hair straightening techniques such as the hair relaxer (perm). Decades later we have learned the harmful effects of the chemicals used to straighten the hair. Chris Rock’s infamous movie “Good Hair” helped open people’s eyes to explore why straight hair is considered “good hair” and “nappy hair” considered bad. It helped black people understand it is not bad it is different, as it should be.
Unfortunately, black people are still struggling with this issue to this day. Black people who work in corporate America are afraid to wear styles that are too “ethnic” in fear of being judged or overlooked. There was a recent article where a black woman quit her new job due to the discrimination she faced over her hair. She wore extensions and a more European look for the interview. However when she started the job she wore her hair naturally and in a bun. Her manager told her she could not wear her hair like this and sent her home.
Why does society have the power to control our image? Why does a black person’s work ethic have to be discredited because of how they wear their hair? In the past there was a big issue when Zendaya’s hair was criticized by Giuliana Rancic on the E! show Fashion Police about her dreadlocks. It was great to see E! Network stand up for what was right and show that they will not tolerate any racism, by removing Rancic from the show. Hopefully corporate America can adopt this attitude one day, but don’t hold your breath. Instead, learn how to accept and embrace your natural beautiful African hair.
Recently natural hair has become a trend that black women have openly embraced. We are finally unapologetically getting back to our roots. The big chop movement was symbolic because it represented black women cutting off the processed hair and the need to fit into society’s image of who they should be. Now wearing your hair naturally is popular and more accepted. Thank you to celebrities like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Ledisi, Whoopi Goldberg and others that provide beautiful images of black hair and represent black women’s natural beauty. Never apologize for who you are!