Dear Black People, You Are Your Hair. Love, America.

tarahloveszendaya

I’ve gone through countless, cultural lessons in light of the 20 years I’ve lived. It’s only right to share. You know, so we’ll all be culturally versed together.

Lesson Number 1: Black people don’t have long hair.

This lesson was first taught to me in no other than the institute of learning. In my elementary years, my classmates challenged the legitimacy of the hair coming from my very own follicles. Because my hair reached past my shoulder blades, it was fake. Duh.

As I grew up, people have always wanted (and even attempted) to touch my roots, checking for extensions. I’m not mixed so all this hair couldn’t possibly be mine.

Lesson Number 2: Black people should hate their hair. Oh, and Black people should perm their hair, too.

As a child, I didn’t like wearing weave because I was afraid people would think I didn’t have any hair. Saddening, huh? But once prom came around, I fell in love with extensions and couldn’t see myself without it anymore. To be beautiful meant to have bundles of hair flowing down my back.

Part two of lesson two:

Due to the fact that our hair is untamable and wild, we must permanently straighten it to look acceptable in society. If we don’t do so, we may miss possible job opportunities that we probably could’ve gotten if our hair was straight.

Lesson Number 3: Darker skin + big hair = more problems.

I’ll never forget my senior year of high school. My sister and I were two of the very few Black people casted in our school’s huge production: 42nd Street. Our excitement was quickly squashed when we noticed we weren’t included in our favorite scene. As we sat out and watch them rehearse, we noticed something. Every girl lightly dancing around in tutus were fair skinned with silky, long tresses. I couldn’t help but tear up at our “misfortune.”

Asides from that scene, along with everyone else, we had to wear wigs. It was easy for the directors to find one for me because I had a perm but it was difficult to find one for my sister because she was natural. Again, yet another problem with us.

Lesson Number 4:  “Ethnic hairstyles” on us looks…trashy. (So basically, we should stray away from not just wearing our hair out, but from braids and dreads, too!)

We’ve seen this when Kendall Jenner was accredited for an “epic”, new look: cornrolls. And now we see it with Giuliana Rancic saying that because Zendaya wore dreads, she must have smelled of “patchouli” and “weed.”

Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely, positively love Zendaya. She’s a poised, stylish and reputable young woman. And so her response to Giuliana Rancic made me adore her even more. It moved me to the point where I had to create this post, to shed light on the expectations America has on African-Americans.

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Lesson Number 5: Black people, America says: “Contrary to your belief and India Arie, you are your hair…and you are your skin, too.”

When you consider hair, you consider color. We deal with the color of our skin, and within the color, we deal with the shade. We deal with the texture and we deal with the length of our hair. Our hair represents who we are to society, as stereotypical and racial it may be.

I do not consider Giuliana Rancic a racist. That comment was ignorant, yes. And we will hear a lot more of degrading remarks in this life, but do not confuse racism with ignorance and do not allow negativity to cause you to seep low with ignorant comments of your own. Handle with regality, with grace, with poise.

Heck, handle it like Zendaya.

* Photo Credit: Adriana M. Barraza/WENN.com

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26 thoughts on “Dear Black People, You Are Your Hair. Love, America.

  1. Munachi says:

    Amazing. Zendaya’s response was AND IS amazing. Guiliana Rancic is ridiculous! Which is sad since I was actually a big fan of hers until I realized such ignorance spewed from her mouth.

    And I just started wearing extensions about two and a half years ago and I fell in love. Not because I hate natural hair or want to hide what I have, but because I love my 18in long locks that I can’t grow naturally and absolutely LOVE the versatility of being able to switch it out for my intentionally 2-3 inch cropped, chemically straightened hair which I am equally proud of (if not more so).

    Love the light that was shed in this article.

    • tarahsaint says:

      Thank you, Munachi! I’m actually natural now but I switch back an forth with protective styles because I love the versatility (and because I don’t know how to care for my hair on my own lol). Zendaya’s response moved me to write and so I had to! Glad you enjoyed this read 🙂

  2. glossybaddie says:

    I love to see other fashion bloggers talking about this subject. Fashion and beauty industry has been pushing our esthetic down for so long and most of black people usually opts for not talk about it and being a industry puppet to attain success (I don’t blame them, but it’s frustrating).

    Afro hair is a versatile hair, not a problem…I’m proud we found so much ways to work with our hair no matter the way (weaves, braids, twists, dreads) when all other people want to look at it as a problem.

    x
    http://glossybaddie.tumblr.com/

    • tarahsaint says:

      Absolutely! I’m glad this conversation has been brought to light. We as writers, bloggers – fashion lovers – have to speak on it, as well. Fashion definitely goes hand in hand with beauty and culture. Thanks for reading, love!

  3. Anastasia says:

    Amazing post! Like you I don’t think Giuliana is racist and I really think she had no idea that what she said was offensive. She, like many people in the majority have no idea how deep seated stereotypes shape all of our views and theirs in particular. That is why sharing our voices and experiences are much needed in the industry.

    Btw, I went natural a few years ago and I love my hair more than ever!

  4. Tianna says:

    I love Zendaya! She is so beautiful and her “locs” smelling of anything didn’t even cross my mind. Looking at her, I just thought “wow, I wish I had hair like that” and a dress like that and basically everything about her was gorgeous. I find it just annoying and insulting when people make comments like that, but I feel like so many hosts at the Oscars made tactless, insulting comments to so many celebs you know? They seem like they do it just to create controversy, in my opinion, which is almost worse than being ignorant. Or maybe it’s a form of ignorance. I hate that there is such a stigma around natural hair because I love natural hair that black women have. I’m a white girl (Italian, Sicilian, and Dutch Irish mainly), but I grew up wishing I had that hair. I always felt that natural hair is beautiful. I had several friends in school growing up who were from Nigeria and they had corn rows or just natural hair and I always thought they were so beautiful like that. Of course, hair at the end of the day is just hair. It should be more about who you are and being a kind, unique person that matters the most. I hope that girls everywhere can feel happy in their own skin and know that, you don’t have to change yourself for society. Make them change for you. I’ll have your back ♥ great post!

    • tarahsaint says:

      Aw wow, you’re beautiful yourself! I think shows like Fashion Police should be taken off air but popular culture supports those who publicly tear other people down, just as long as it doesn’t offend them. Thanks so so much for reading, commenting and supporting Tianna! I appreciate your response 🙂 God bless, love.

      • Tianna says:

        thanks Tarah-Lynn 🙂 I know me too – all they do is bag on others. I always felt like it’s just a bunch of hens clucking – all noise and no real message. It’s like the freaking View for young people. Of course and thanks for your reply 🙂

  5. My Fashion S/ash Life says:

    Great topic hair, the issue of hair…it does open a can of worms but the can very well needs to be split wide open! In some ways I agree with India A. that we are not our hair, because strands on our head should not be what embody and define us.But then in many ways, we are our hair because hair forms part of the picture that people see when they first see us and we all judge on first time impressions in one way or other.
    Having said all that, comments based on ignorance and made to continue to put blacks in a miniscule box are just not on!!

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