Black Hair, Still Tangled in Politics

6 Apr

Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

Came across an article I wanted to share…

Skin Deep

Black Hair, Still Tangled in Politics

Published: August 26, 2009

SILKY straight hair has long been considered by many black women to be their crowning glory. So what if getting that look meant enduring the itchy burning that’s a hallmark of many chemical straighteners. Or a pricey dependence on “creamy crack,” as relaxers are sometimes jokingly called.

Getting “good hair” often means transforming one’s tightly coiled roots; but it is also more freighted, for many African-American women and some men, than simply a choice about grooming. Straightening hair has been perceived as a way to be more acceptable to certain relatives, as well as to the white establishment.

“If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed,” the comedian Paul Mooney, sporting an Afro, says in the documentary “Good Hair,” which won a jury prize at the Sundance film festival and comes out in October. “If your hair is nappy, they’re not happy.”

The movie, made by Chris Rock, explores the lengths black women go to get long, straightened locks, from a $1,000 weave on a teacher’s salary to schoolgirls having their hair chemically relaxed.

In the face of cultural pressure, the thinking goes, conformists relax their hair, and rebels have the courage not to. In some corners, relaxing one’s hair is even seen as wishing to be white.

“For black women, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” said Ingrid Banks, an associate professor of black studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “If you’ve got straight hair, you’re pegged as selling out. If you don’t straighten your hair,” she said, “you’re seen as not practicing appropriate grooming practices.”

Anyone who thought such preconceptions were outdated would have been reminded otherwise by some negative reactions to the president’s 11-year-old daughter, Malia Obama, who wore her hair in twists while in Rome this summer. Commenters on the conservative blog Free Republic attacked her as unfit to represent America for stepping out unstraightened.

Please take a moment to finish reading this New York Times article here:  Black Hair, Still Tangled in Politics

By the way…look at Malia Obama sporting a great natural look!

One Response to “Black Hair, Still Tangled in Politics”

  1. myaliasfotography April 23, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Very interesting article along with the commentary from a sampling of black women, speaking on their on hair.

    There is stil a stigma of ‘good hair’ versus kinky hair. It is slowly getting better. There is more awareness, more black women wearing natural styles and non-blacks curious and asking questions and getting educated. I think that’s a good thing. I used to get the ‘Oh, but you have good hair, my hair won’t do that.’. And I’d just say, I just have ‘regular old black hair’. lol.

    I think, absolutely, if you prefer a straight look/relaxer or weave, because it’s your style perference – go for it. I have always loved cute and funky bobbed styles – but didn’t have the time and money to maintain a perfectly relaxed do, to achieve that look. And have never liked my hair relaxed in any case [it just feels wrong], except for the one time I had it relaxed and cut short [grade 12]. The key here was it was short! I don’t like spending hours on my hair. I’m a wash ‘n go kinda girl and I could basically just get up and go. And then a year later I cut it all off and went natural [for the first time].

    But the real question is where is this perference coming from? When we have all been stigmatized from childhood that ‘your hair is nappy and hard to manage’ and you have to ‘relax it’, for to be manageable, there’s a problem. We’re starting from a place of ignorance and never give our hair a chance – and then live by that standard, no matter how painful [relaxer burns, too tight weaves] or inauthentic you feel in doing it. That’s how I feel anyway.

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