Don't Cash Crop On My Cornrows
Sometimes people continuously look at it or ask to touch my hair. I had braids in middle school and someone called it horse hair. You never think anything about your own hair until someone else points out that it’s different or you see in media that no one has the same type of hair as you.
Black hair is essential to black culture. It is not just hair for us, it is something that bonds us together. When black people were being transported to America, their heads were shaved. So when it grew back out, so did the bond between fellow black people. And it even bonds us now - seeing a black person with their natural hair is an instantaneous connection because we’ve struggled the same way, have overcome the belittlement, and are trying to overcome Eurocentric beauty standards which have been forced upon us.
Some white people do not understand how vital hair is in the black community, specifically braids and locs. Black people used to braid each other's hair in patterns to plan their routes to escape slavery because they couldn't community it any other way. Locs are something Rastafarians hold close to their identities which bring them closer to their religion and a way to defy oppression. The issue isn't that white people are adapting black people's hairstyles. The issue is that black people are demeaned for their hair and how it naturally grows, we aren't hired because of it, we are made fun of for it, we are discriminated against because of it - but when white people wear it, it's like it's something new, cutting-edge, and highly fashionable.
Kylie bought herself big lips and all of a sudden everyone wants big lips - yet I remember being made fun of for my big lips when I was younger. But now it's the new white-girl trend. There are designers who put their models in du-rags, Bantu knots, purple dreads; the Kardashians get braids and Vogue covers it and calls it "boxer braids". Black people have been doing that for centuries, but our hair is considered unkempt. It’s hurtful and enforces erasure when people are getting credit and making money off something black people created and are shamed for doing. People often want to argue it's just hair, but it's not just hair for us if we are getting kicked out of schools for it or when we don't get jobs for it. It's never just hair. There’s a whole movement behind black people embracing the way their hair naturally goes despite the whole world telling us differently.
Black people have definitely been conditioned to think European hair is beautiful: specifically straight and long hair. But it's not just hair. We have been conditioned to think everything white is better. Complexion, hair, nose, lips, body, life. We have been fed for so long that this is how you are supposed to be, this is what is beautiful and pretty. Growing up, so many black girls permed their hair to make it straight. There are girls who grow up and think a perm is something that is supposed to happen because it was so normalized within the black community. It was normal to change our hair to fit the standards, to look more eurocentric, to feed into these ideologies. We live in a white supremacist world and these standards are still being enforced, but there has been such a rise in people embracing their hair and the way it grows naturally. Despite the media and despite the standards, black people are learning that this is us, it's who we are, and if you think my hair doesn’t make me as worthy as anyone else, then you need to change, not me.
Title adapted from: Amandla Stenberg: Don't Cash Crop On My Cornrows
by: Ashanti Simmons