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Black, Proud and...too Sensitive?

On December 15, 2019, Teresa and I did both a podcast and blog wherein we discussed natural hair. (See the podcast titled “Hair Talk” and blog titled “What is this continuing fascination with our hair?) We took something of ours that society said was ugly and not only did we refuse to believe it  was ugly, we turned a billion-dollar industry on its head. I get it. Manufacturers who never imagined delving into the natural hair industry had no choice but to rethink that position lest they see their bottom line irreparably harmed. Us with our twists, afros, braids and coils are walking runways, working in Congress, sitting on the Supreme Court and starring in movies in all our natural hair glory. You go gurl! We are killing it. However, I have to wonder, if in our quest to boss up about our natural hair if we are starting to unfairly respond to others who too admire the look.


African-American women have cried foul for years about people discriminating against us for our natural hairstyles. I remember my first job after graduate school. I was feeling overwhelmed with the number of on-call hours, managing my first staff and playing mommy when my husband was often unavailable due to him working long hours. One week I had enough and decided to have my hair braided. You know the style, cornrows which end in a bun in the back. If Teresa and I had a budget I would be able to show you a graphic, but so far that hasn’t happened. (It was neat. I loved the look and knew that I could wear it and be care-free for a few  weeks.) When I went to work, my director called me in. She too was black. Looked me over, said she loved it and said she was glad I got a conservative style. While she was a director, she was the only African-American director and I was one of a few minority supervisors. I stayed in her office and we chatted about race and our workplace.


Pop singer Adele (“Hello; “Someone like you”) once came under fire for wearing bantu knots. For those of you who don’t know, bantu knots are a natural style where sections of hair are worn to resemble knots. (Again, wish I could show you but…no budget.) Anyway, Adele faced backlash in the form of folks making charges of misappropriation against her.


I don’t know of instances where Adele has been labeled racist or has committed racist acts against African-Americans. Not that that’s needed for rightful charges of misappropriation, but I am confused. It’s her hair. She wore her hair, which was on her head in a style she liked that is typically worn by women of another race.  


Misappropriation? I thought imitation was the highest form of flattery. What harm was caused to African-Americans as a result of Adele wearing her hair in bantu knots? She wasn’t in black face, wearing bantu knots and singing in her melodic voice, “Say it loud I’m black and I’m proud.” If what Adele did was misappropriation, then what makes getting our hair permed different?


When I posed that question to a friend, the response was that we were intentionally made to believe we aren’t beautiful, so we get a pass if we incorporate European beauty standards into our beauty regimen. Help me understand what makes one different from the other. We have had more perms, bobs, layers, blond hair and straightened styles than grains of sand on a beach. Misappropriation? You have got to be kidding me. I don’t know about you, but I have more important issues to monitor and complain about.  I need to know, what am I missing?  Have we become too sensitive? #askingforafriend




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