We’re all born with it and most of us will die with it. Some have more than others but it’s always there, in varying colors, lengths and textures, all over our bodies. Depending on our tastes we might trim it, wax it, shave it, color it or just leave it alone to do what it does. We’re mammals, so we all have hair. It’s one of the many things that every person, regardless of culture or ethnicity has in common, yet it’s something that differentiates one group from all of the others.
People with with a larger proportion of African ancestry are likely to have a very noticeable difference in hair texture than those who have little or no African ancestry.
Black people with curly or kinky textured hair have been catching hell about it ever since Europeans decided to insert themselves into the lives of people in every corner of the world, forcing their personal perceptions of beauty, decency, and normalcy down everyone else’s throats. Those narrow ideas didn’t only effect fashion, culture and self-esteem. From describing our tresses as nasty, to enacting policies that force us heat or chemically alter our hair, to making us feel that we’d rather hide it than allow it to be seen in it’s natural, NORMAL, state, the European influence on Black hair has been oppressive. In some cases, suppression of African influenced beauty and fashion was legislated. Louisiana’s Tignon (pronounced teen-yawn) Law is a prime example.
From Noir in Nola
The Tignon Law was created in response to the concerns of white women who were threatened by the attention that white men paid to women of color in Louisiana. Specifically, white women believed that the voluminous curls and intricate hair styles worn by women with African ancestry were a major cause of white men’s supposed inability to limit their sexual interactions to their wives, or at least to white women only.
As evidenced by recently enacted laws in California and New York, the situation is so pervasive that requiring employers, schools, and other organizations to maintain fairness to all people, regardless of the texture of their hair, must also be legislated. The problem effects school children and highly educated executives, along with everyone in between. Famous people aren’t excluded from this perversion. Gabrielle Union, a well-known actor, recently lost her job as a judge on a popular national talent competition. According to multiple sources, including Ms. Union herself, she had been chastised for her wearing hairstyles that were “too Black.”
New Orleans anchor woman and author, Sheba Turk, experienced a similar comment from a viewer, via tweet. She addressed it beautifully, taking his attempted insult and turning it into a complement. Since then she has continued wearing her naturally curly hair in various styles, including braids with extensions.
Speaking of braids with extensions, last year a Catholic school in a New Orleans suburb reprimanded two girls for wearing braided hair with extensions. After pressure from the girls’ parents, as well as the public, the school adjusted their policy to be more sensitive to all students.
Though often overlooked by both the African American community and the Latinx community, those with an Afro-Latinx background suffer as well. In addition to be recognized for her talent beauty, and curves, Amara La Negra, a star of Love & Hip Hop: Miami, has become well-known for speaking out about her experiences with both racism and colorism. Advised by a producer to straighten her curls, she was frustrated by his attention to her hair instead of her music.
I read and hear about stories like this and consider my professional experiences. I’m glad that no one has ever suggested or insisted that I alter my hair for work. At the same time I’ve often wondered if my hair, worn in locs for the past ten years, is a reason I’ve been ignored when promotions were available, or why I wasn’t invited for a second interview. By simply allowing our hair to be seen in it’s natural state, Black women may be viewed as messy and unprofessional, or even rebellious or revolutionary. I wonder if people have thought about me in those terms.
I wonder, but I’m not changing my hair for anyone. If I cut my locs shorter, cut them off completely and rock a short style, let it grow big and fluffy like, or get straightened, it will be because that’s what I felt like doing with the hair that God gave me. Anyone who has something negative to say about it might as well keep it to themselves.