Black Hair and Cultural Assimilation


They say that variety is the spice of life and I totally agree. I enjoy wearing my hair various styles including braids, afro puffs, twists, curls, coils, waves, locs and more. A couple of years ago I was wearing an afro puff at work and a female Caucasian colleague came up to me saying "I love your hair! You can do so many different things with it. I hate my hair, it's so boring". I've been styling hair as a hobby since I was a teenager so I told her that she could do a lot of things with her hair too. When I suggested that she play around with curls for volume she seemed hesitant and I got the feeling that she was worried that people might accuse her of cultural appropriation.



Danielle "Bhad Bhabie" Bregoli was recently accused of racism because of the disrespectful way that she defended herself against accusations of cultural appropriation. She tried to compare non-black women wearing braids to black women wearing wigs and weaves ignoring the issue of cultural assimilation. I witnessed the issue of cultural assimilation first-hand in 2006 when my Nigerian friend relaxed her afro textured hair in order to get a job at a top London law firm. Her freshly straightened hair looked nice but I was concerned about the damage that the chemicals would do to her hair in the long run. Recently, my friend's husband cut off his long locs because he felt that they would prevent him from getting a job that he was interviewing for. In both cases the pressure to assimilate and conform was driven by the need to be a productive member of society. Racism and discrimination are still very real so if it's a choice between natural afro textured hair and having an income many black people will choose to change their hairstyle so they can earn money to provide for their families. Weaves and wigs are a way for black women to assimilate without damaging their hair with harsh chemicals. I'm praying that a time will come when black people no longer have to alter their natural hair to get a job.

Comments