I was just trying to enjoy my Sunday. I was with my friends at Made in America, reveling in the fact that less than 24 hours before, Beyoncé had stood in that very space, when I noticed a Shea Moisture booth out of the corner of my eye. Being the natural hair product junkie that I am, I quickly made my way over in search of free samples.
Instead, I found that the company was doing free makeup and hair makeovers. I got in line with my friends to put my name on the list when two white girls got in line behind us.
That’s when one of them asked an attendant at the booth, “Excuse me, do you do cornrows?”
I had to get out of line.
I think if my eyes had rolled any harder, they would have permanently gotten stuck in the back of my head.
How many times must white women and non-black people of color (POC) be reminded that it’s not just about hair?
How many times does #CulturalAppropriation have to trend on Twitter before people understand that black hair is not a costume to be adorned by anybody who wants to look “gangsta” for the day?
After Amandla Stenberg called out Kylie Jenner for her cornrows on Instagram and Rachel Dolezal was exposed as a white woman pretending to be black, one would think that conversations on cultural appropriation would be taken a bit more seriously. Dolezal went to many extremes to pass as a black woman, including wearing braids and curly afro weaves to appear more ethnic. It is bone-chilling to think that white people would torture us, enslave us, and murder us then wear our skin and hair as a costume. It’s absurd, and it’s evil.
The thing that the Jenners, the Dolezals, and the random white girls at music festivals seem to forget is they can take those braids out at the end of the day and continue to receive the white privilege that they are afforded by this society.
For black women in America, the option to remove the costume simply does not exist.
Black girls are shamed in schools for styles specific to black culture. Black women feel uncomfortable in the workplace because of hair regulations that target them only. Until recently, the U.S. military placed fierce restrictions on black hairstyles. The consequences for hair are so real for black women, that we are justified in being upset when white women and non-black POC wear our hairstyles just for fun.
They do not face the same realities that we do because of our hair, so it is unfair for them to attempt to copy us with cornrows, micro-braids, and locs.
While I’m on the subject, white people should not be wearing locs anyway.
White locs are achieved by intentional neglect of proper hygiene. The curly texture of black hair allows for it to loc up naturally, even while washing and caring for the hair on a regular basis. Also, the stereotypes attached to black people with locs are much more damning than those attached to whites. While Zendaya was basically called a pothead hippie for wearing locs to an award show, Miley Cyrus was called “brave and bold” for unveiling rainbow dreadlocks on Instagram with the caption “Serving Rastaaaaaa Realness.”
Once again, cultural appropriation reared its ugly head, lauding Cyrus for the very thing that condemned Zendaya.
Some people argue that black women appropriate white culture and hair by wearing weaves, dying their hair blonde, or straightening their hair.
Unfortunately, among the bundles of Brazilian and Virgin Indian hair, I have never found this illustrious Caucasian Remy. Also, white women do not have a monopoly on blonde hair.
When a black woman straightens her hair, she is not doing so to look more like a white woman. If anything, she does so because the preference of European beauty standards has been enforced in this country for so long, that she feels more comfortable with that style.
And she has every right to feel that way.
Cultural appropriation only happens when the oppressors adopt elements of culture from the group(s) that they have oppressed. It’s bigger than hair, Instagram, and hurt feelings.
It’s another form of silent subjugation and it will not be tolerated.
And to all of the “All Lives Matter”-chanting-“We’re all one race, the human race”-preaching -“Why can’t we all just share and get along?”-crying folks out there, we’ll share the culture when you share the privilege.