To anyone who has ever told a person of color, African American, and or black individual, with afro hair, that their hair is simply just “hair,” read this because you are seriously mistaken.
Natural Afro hair, especially, in this country are not just these fibers of protein that grow out of our scalp. Afro hair is a historically debated and controversial topic, dating back to the times of slavery in 1619 to present day, that has prevented blacks from obtaining jobs or any status in America.
In the article, The History of Natural Black Hair, Plus How 2014’s Hair Has A Whole New Meaning, the author, Cherise Luther, discusses how in the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement transformed into the Black Power Movement. Luther as well discusses how this Black Power Movement was not only about revolutionary reform for black rights, that was prevented by the government, but it was about fighting for the acceptance and embracement of the visual Black aesthetic.
According to Zine Magubane, author of Why ‘Nappy’ is Offensive, afro-wearing civil rights activists, such as Angela Davis, was declared as one of the nation’s top ten most wanted criminals in the late 60s by the FBI. Not long after Davis was declared as a wanted criminal, thousands of law-abiding African American women with afro hair became targets of state to state tyranny.
Because Davis was an afro wearing African American woman and criminal, the “justice” system, within America, made it feasible to repudiate the rights of due process and habeas corpus to any young black woman, solely depending on her hairstyle (Magubane). In other words, due process is the legal requirement that the state must respect all legal rights owed to a person (Google). And habeas corpus, a law requiring an individual under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court especially to secure their release unless there are lawful grounds proving they should be detained (Google). The problem with this is that white Americans, today, have utilized a similar system, in order to prevent and exile the expansion of black beauty from society.
Afro hair has always been political.
Natural afro hair has been exiled from the political sphere of society and I am NOT here for it.
In the article, Being ‘too black’ in corporate America, the author, Tara DeVeaux, discusses what being ‘too black’ in corporate America means for black women and overall the black community.
As DeVeaux refers to Insecure, the new HBO comedy series, a story of two black women managing relationships, love, and working in corporate America, she questions the number of times she personally has switched it up.
“… to survive in corporate culture, have I put on a mask to avoid being perceived as “too black” to fit in?”
Here, DeVeaux questions whether or not she has deliberately concealed a piece of her identity as an act of conformity.
What does this being “too black” mean? Such phrase insinuates that there is a right and wrong way of being black as if it can be measured by a thermometer.
“Too black” as in I am illiterate, incompetent, wild, and, dangerous? “Too black” in that, I meet every stereotype named to belittle and stigmatize blacks? This notion of being, “too black,” is paralleled with hair, in that the kinkier a black person’s hair is, equates to how black they are. Can you believe this?
Although such notions have so much taken a slight turn within modern society, there still are many black women who are being challenged, reprimanded and condemned for “betraying” the superior white American beauty standards. Not ok.
Being a woman, but specifically, a black woman in a white and male-dominated profession compels her to sacrifice a piece of her identity, in order to somewhat conform to the white aesthetic.
As if afro hair prevents blacks from adding numbers, reading, or writing. This is what DISCRIMINATION looks like.
“for African-American women, the personal has always been political. What grows out of our head can mean the difference between being a citizen and being a subject; being enslaved or free; alive or dead… 300 years of a tangled and painful racial history cannot be washed away with a simple apology” (Magubane).
As you can see, a black woman’s hair has never been seen or respected as simply an aspect of their black beauty and culture, but instead as an act of betrayal against the white aesthetic. The hair that grows out of a black woman’s head has determined her: socioeconomic status, whether she is a citizen or piece of property, and/or whether she is to be alive or dead.
In the article, Wearing My Afro Is Always a Political Act, Stacia L. Brown shares her experience of whether or not being unapologetically natural in corporate America is a political act.
“As a black woman choosing not to straighten my hair, I am at risk of being viewed as a professional liability or of being forbidden a personal freedom granted to everyone else” (Brown).
Here Brown proves that black women with natural afro hair do not have much of a choice. It is either the fro and no job or no fro and a career filled with “opportunities.” This is the reality of a black woman, who has natural hair, in corporate America.
Her brain, passion, work ethic, and outstanding resumé is not enough. At the end of that interview, it is the hairstyle she wears on her head that determines whether she is to be hired or not.
Being perceived as a professional liability if I choose not to wear my hair straight, is called DIS-CRIM-IN-ATION.
Welcome to White America.
My afro is not a danger to you or me or anybody for that matter, so stop telling me that I need to comb it, brush it, or lay it down.
Just because my hair is not silky straight where I can effortlessly run my fingers through it, or just because I cannot wash it without braiding it and then not wear a bonnet or silk scarf after to bed, does NOT mean that the strands that grow out of my head are not “professional.”
What does that mean anyway? To look professional? If looking professional is what the current president of this fabulous country is, then I do not want, “TO LOOK PROFESSIONAL!”
Disclaimer: Do not be mistaken, professionalism does exist and is important. But for the sake of this context, I stand by my claims.
What happened to our First Amendment rights, huh? You know the one that grants U.S. citizens freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of religion. Well, maybe me being unapologetically black and loving that is MY definition of freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of religion. Not to mention that no human is illegal; therefore, the way I choose to wear my hair should not be presumed that way either.
Hair is an ENORMOUS DEAL in the black community. When people like the Kardashians want to call braids “boxer braids” instead of cornrows, do not tell me that is not a big deal. Do not tell me not to comment or feel upset when Vogue magazine wants to put afros on white women instead of finding black models who have naturally born afro hair! The difference between an afro being placed on a white woman’s head versus an afro that grows naturally out of a black woman’s head means all the difference in the world. For a white woman, it is all fun and games, that is called white privilege. For us black women it is something that has determined and affected all aspects of our lives, it is a war that has not ended and a war that will never end.
Therefore, I WILL politically correct you.
So, when you see Viola Davis, Diana Ross, Tracee Ellis Ross, Solange, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, Yara Shahidi, and Uzo Aduba all rocking their natural hair on the red carpet, know that is 100 years & more of a war fought and WON just for the public’s tolerance of the black aesthetic.
Thankfully, The Natural Hair Movement, especially those who support and join it, has inspired and empowered black women to challenge the political oppression of the fro in corporate America, and all spheres of society as well.
Happy Black History Month!