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Hair Politics

by Jessica T Chihota

Fashion bloggers make noise about white people wearing ‘black hairstyles’ and it is labelled as disrespect and mere ‘fetishization’ of a strong element of black identity which should be stopped. Is this really the case?

While hair is a fashion statement and something that makes you your unique self, for some people it strikes a political nerve which reinforces comments about black women and their hair. Hair politics is creating a buzz with dimensions of complexity being added to how people wear their hair and in extreme cases, what race you must be to wear your hair a certain way.

Credit is due to the people that believe and place importance in the symbolism of ‘black hairstyles’ as a statement about resistance to oppression and African pride. For some reason it is considered ‘ghetto’ for a black person to wear a hairstyle ethnic to black people (dreadlocks, boxer braids and hair extensions).

When white people wear these hairstyles they are labeled ‘funky, artistic or quirky’. This has caused waves in the black community and it has boiled down to an issue of race and cultural appropriation.

However, a line should be drawn at implying that white people should not wear ‘black’ styles or that it is an insult to black culture. The reason why people wear their hair the way they do is because they admire the style and feel that it gives them a look that they like so to dish out insults about African culture being disrespected and understood is unnecessary. Culture appropriation is a positive idea because it creates diversity which may help us get rid of ethnocentrism and become more accepting and tolerant of different cultures.

Some may fire back and say why is it that black women wear weaves which oddly enough, makes them look Asian or white. While this may be the case considering cosmetic procedures such as skin bleaching, alone it has no racial undertones. Black people have been wearing hair extensions since 3400 BC, the time when Queen Cleopatra of Egypt wore different coloured sheep’s wool and human hair.


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Some people have gone as far as tweeting that “YouTube tutorials on how to get ‘black’ hairstyles for whites are insensitive and inaccurate”. Their reasoning is that black African history, ‘institutional racism’ and black hairstyles are interrelated so it is more than just a hairstyle­. Truth is it the promotion of diversity and promotion of the black culture, there need not be any racial politics attached to how one wears their hair.

Watch Cory Goldstein responds to viral dreadlocks video below



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