A Tribute to Black Hair

Sandra Appiah April 19, 2011

By: Ms Afropolitan

Photo By: Nii Dbarbeng

Some people can be emotionally draining. They don’t necessarily mean to be, but their energy somehow manages to soak yours up leaving you drained of flavour like that last scoop of ice cream you’ve had in the freezer for a wee while too long.

A Tribute to Black HairRecently I had such encounters and instead of feeling less affected by such people as I get older, I feel they influence me more, but in a self-reflective sense. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is to say that such ‘drainage’ shows up in life not as a relevance to who they are, but to who you are; as an opportunity to create a relationship with how you react to situations.

Speaking of perceptive, because that is what I’m doing here, I like the perspective that India Arie and Akon have in ‘hair’. It’s not a new song, most of you have heard it, danced to it, chanted it, maybe even as a spiritual practice of sort!

Jokes aside, a very powerful message often goes missed in that song, one that goes beyond the weave/natural/relaxer black hair debate, whilst simultaneously being precisely about this.

See often times, people don’t get why women of African descent frequently talk about hair. You know? That often unintentional but nevertheless condescending here-they-go-again attitude. Well, there’s a reason we have the hair conversation.

First of all, it’s an ice breaker. It’s a connector because it’s a cultural experience that we share. Historically, during the slave era, if a black person could pass the ‘comb test’ then the more likely they were to advance from slavery into freedom.

Skin colour was also very determining for black people’s progression but studies show that hair texture is perceived as even more important for society’s approval than skin colour, which indicates that a dark skinned person with straight hair might have had an advantage over a light skinned person with tight curls. This historical remnant still prevails, for example it is still considered ‘unprofessional’ in the corporate world to wear an Afro, and black women with straight hair are more likely to land a high-profile job. If you don’t believe that picture this.

That’s Europe and America. In Africa, these perceptions didn’t quite come into fashion until recently, a sad development. So, hair is a political issue and when black women discuss hair, we are in fact discussing politics.

Like in politics, where you have a spectrum of voters who debate, agree, disagree and share some values, the same applies to our hair. When Solange Knowles decides to wear an Afro wig, some got upset, called her unauthentic, whilst others watched in awe at black women getting upset over another black woman wearing an AFRO! What they don’t understand is that by wearing that wig, Solange has in fact pulled the ultimate triumph. She has performed the unthinkable. She has punched the idea, that white hair is a status symbol, in the nose. She has made a political statement, and people are merely reacting to that.

See, it all boils down to perception and reaction, as with energy-draining people?

I hope we keep the hair conversations going, it’s a way of healing and expressing to each other that – I too have been through the journey where the world keeps trying to tell me that I am my hair, but I am not.

Do you agree? Is there more underneath the surface or are black women just more obsessed with the follicle than other women?

Last Edited by: Updated: March 25, 2016


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