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Black Hair: Appropriation vs Appreciation

Hair has become a topic of controversy in the past years. The issue of professionality has been heavily influenced by appearance, setting back Black women from being their authentic selves. Conformity has forced Black women to adapt to the appearance of white women and while they in turn, try to adapt the appearance of Black women.

Interestingly enough, the argument over hair goes both ways.

Black women have consistently been sounding alarms around cultural appropriation, the adaptation of another culture in attempt to rebrand it as one’s own. There is no attribution, props given or reference. We’ve seen this with the use of black styles and fashion on white bodies instead of using the black bodies from which they came. Afros, boxed braids and every other traditional style rooted in African tradition has been shunned from society but endorsed for sheer entertainment.

The very things Black women have been creating and manifesting into their culture were not only shut down but stolen and made appropriate onto white skin. Kendall Jenner’s photoshoot with an afro rose controversy over why the stylist didn’t just choose a capable Black model to pose in the hairstyle.

The issue is rooted in the prejudice Black women face for wearing their own styles. They are made fun of and called unprofessional or “ghetto.” But somehow, when presented on the white woman it is stylish and trendy.

A common counter argument is that Black women “try to be white” by their use of weaves, wigs and hair straightening products. To be clear, Black women never aspire to be white. They were forced to conform for the sake of being accepted in society, maintain a job and even getting past the interview. Black women are rarely considered to be qualified for jobs on the same level of their white counterparts simply because of the way they look. It was a matter of adapting to what was acceptable by society instead of trying to pass off as another culture.

White women have been taking advantage of the cultural influence Black women have on style and fashion. What is worse than not giving credit to the inspiration is not being vocal about it. Instead, they allow the change of the societal tide to move and ride with the “trend” they don’t acknowledge came from another source.

Hair is never just hair. Especially not to Black women. Black hair is history, culture and personality.  It should be appreciated, paid homage to and given the credit it deserves for influencing the world’s Kim Kardashians and others. It starts a conversation beyond just hair but also into clothing, skin darkening and more.

Black women just want something they can call their own. Especially if it’s growing from the top of their head.

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