Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ongoing Biases Concerning Black Hair

By Briana Whiteside

On June 15, 2015, Vogue magazine published an article accrediting North West—Kanye and Kim’s daughter—with inspiring “a Generation of Natural Hair Girls”. While the recognition is interesting, it is also problematic. Kim Kardashian is Russian-Jewish and Kanye West is African American; hence, North West’s “famous set of curls” is reflective of “the natural beauty of her mixed-race.”

Though natural hair communities are progressive, and can be very supportive, differences in hair textures can cause separatism. And, those who are not part of natural hair communities can be insensitive and outright mean. For instance, Blue Ivy—Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s daughter—was regularly the subject of unkind attention because her tresses were seen as “unruly” or “unkempt.” At age 2, people heavily criticized Beyoncé’s decision not to “tame” her daughter’s hair.

We have to stop and consider the consequences of praising bi-racial children for their ability to grow “manageable,” “acceptable,” “silky” hair, while punishing those whose hair may be more “kinky,” “thick,” or “coily.” Vogue’s article perpetuates overly simplistic views of black women’s beauty, and attempts to further control identity politics—aesthetically, the closer you are to white, the more right, or appealing you are.

Differences in something like hair textures can potentially produce ramifications of self-hate, which blossom into major self-esteem issues. We cannot afford to continue to draw lines of demarcation that reinforce isolation among black women, or children for that matter.

Briana Whiteside is a graduate student  at the University of Alabama and a contributing writer for the Cultural Front.   

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