Black Women & Hair: (Part 1) "Why The Shame?"
"You need some black friends"
The above quote is what someone tweeted to Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles, after she tweeted a photo of herself after finishing a 4 hour practice with the Houston Texans Cheerleaders where she is serving as their first Honorary Team member. Simone is from Houston, so there is a sense of hometown pride with being apart of the squad and earning her 'red boots".
What is interesting however, is the reason this individual felt the need to tweet "You need some black friends" was because of Simone Biles hair. In this picture you can see Simone with her hair in more of a natural kinky and slightly unprocessed state. She is smiling, and is actually very happy because she is getting to be apart of an opportunity that has value to her. Unfortunately all the focus went into the negative trolling of her hair. That first tweet went viral and more individuals decided to chime in with the shaming of this young black woman's hair.
What is troubling to me and something that I have grown to have an awareness of with age and maturity is the belief that something is wrong with having natural, afro, kinky, curly and dare I say nappy black hair. Why is there shame on the black woman's crown of glory? How is it that after all these years of progress with race equality and opportunity that the Eurocentric standard of beauty is still the focus of measure that people in America and First world democratic nations adhere to? What makes having natural hair a problem?
I am going to take a deep look into the ideology behind this. The first obvious reason of course will have to do with slavery, and the culture that European slave traders and owners created in order to maintain their position of control. They taught the imported Africans to despise their culture and to hate themselves. They had to rid any acknowledgment of their true culture or face punishments that ranged from being publicly whipped, to even as far extreme as death. When slavery was abolished black people were hit with segregation and Jim Crow laws. There was a movement of assimilation, the need to be accepted and conform into a Eurocentric White American society. It caused a disturbing loathing of black roots and culture. An identity crisis grew we didn't know whether to be called Black, Colored, Negroes, African, or African American. We were conditioned to resent our natural exotic and beautiful features. A self hatred grew among us and as much as we had pride in our blackness there was still a conditioned need to be accepted in White American society.
One of the first wealthy black millionaires was a black woman named Madam CJ Walker. She is known to have invented the Hot Comb and the first Perm, both products created for the purpose of straightening black people's hair. Perm is often referred to as relaxer, which is interesting when you think about it. It is called a hair relaxer because it "relaxes" , "untamed" hair. The significance of that term will help you to understand the thought process instilled to black people about their own hair and natural identity characteristics. There is a lot of layers to this and I am going to do my best to break them down and give some perspective on black hair in a series of blog articles starting with this one.
So returning to the Simone Biles situation, this isn't the first black female Olympic gymnast that was the target of trolling on twitter over her hair. Gabby Douglas also was met with strong criticism when she was seen during her Gold medal Olympic run with a more natural hair look of her own. You just cant help but wonder how the idea that these black women natural hair is "unkept" & "unacceptable' is able to be draw more attention than the actual Gold Medal accomplishments. It is moments like this with despite the profound progress and growth of African Americans and Black cultural in America there are still many who are stuck in their ways of thinking. There are so many natural hair champions who promote natural hair on the internet through social media and natural hair boutiques and salons but even with those efforts many black people still have an issue with hair.
Stay tuned for more and feel free to comment and share your thoughts as well!