#HiddenHistory — Black Hair

Black Hair — White Question: How Did Processing Creep Back In?

Racism in Black hair- we can’t seem to wash it out or untangle it

Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

Updated: February 1, 2020

A white man asked: How did processing creep back in?

This is my response: I appreciate you reading my piece (see below). However, I found your comments are little dismissive.

I know you’re an older white man and you may not understand, but hair to a Black woman is a sensitive subject. It’s like discussing male genitalia — it’s not something discussed lightly.

The answer to your question is: Racism is why Black women and some men went from wearing natural hairstyles like Afros and braids in the 70’s back to “processing” their hair to make it straight — like white people’s hair…

I’m not sure where you’re from, but in America Black women and men’s hair have been policed and discriminated against since slavery… Slaves weren’t allowed to properly wash or groom themselves which is punishment within itself because our hair and skin dries out easily if it isn’t moisturized and protected.

In the last 100 years, Black hair has been debated in schools and at work with policies the require “neat” (meaning straight) hair. Some professional sectors literally banned braids or locs and when I’ve worn my hair natural, I’ve had white administrators tell me that they “liked my hair better when it was straight”. These comments and policies totally negate the fact that Black women spend twice as much time and money to get our hair styled.

A simple wash and blow dry might take a white woman 1–1.5 hours — that same process can take double for Black women depending on the length of hair and we’re often charged more…I’ve been charged double at white salons to deter me from asking for service.

Racist standards of beauty and forced assimilation made Black people turn to harmful chemicals and high heat to “relax” the natural curl patterns out of our hair. I urge you to research The Crown Act and read this article about America’s history of hair discrimination.

Luckily, America’s natural hair movement is coming back in full force and slowly gaining traction around the world and now laws are being passed so our natural hair is no longer a hindrance to our careers or Black children banned from taking school pictures

Photo by Jermaine Horton

Or literally having their locs cut off in order to compete in a sporting event.

Sadly, if you want to know how or why something is negatively impacting Black and brown people the answer is normally rooted in racism — even in Black hair.

I hope I answered your question…

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Writer, Founder WEOC and Editor of Writers and Editors of Color Mag Bylines in Zora, Momentum, An Injustice!, POM, Illumination, The Pink, and Better Marketing

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