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We Lose, When We Get Distracted

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?) With the natiral hair movement, 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. That is major and 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 and starring in movies in all our natural beauty. 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 even more hours than I did. One week I had enough, and I 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. (I loved the look and knew that I could wear it and be care-free for about six 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.

This week pop singer Adele (“Hello'; “Someone like you”) came under fire for wearing bantu knots. For those of you who don’t know, bantu knots are a natural style for 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 isn’t that what we have done for years? 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 small beach. Misappropriation? Because she wore her hair in bantu knots? I thought more was required for that label.I don’t know about you, but I have more important issues to monitor and complain about. I am trying to stay laser focused on the issues of the day, not the least of which is the continuing racism against African-Americans and the enormous impact on our very lives. I am concentrating on what policies are being developed, not pretty talk in well crafted speeches, but actual policy. I am trying to stay informed to deduce what are leaders doing in actual practice every day in their areas of influence to enact policies that are fair and show inherent regard for quality of life for all Americans with a particular eye on those that disregard the needs of low-income citizens. If I werent trying to show some level of restraint I would tell you exactly how much I care about Adele's hairstyle. You have got to be kidding me. STAY. FOCUSED.

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