Viewpoint: Natural Hair Controversies

By: Natanya Toomes

Our society has made it to where black women and men have to feel ashamed of their natural curls and coils. There is a long history of ridicule that black people face when it comes to their hair. There are even companies and schools that are known for having regulations against natural hairstyles. From being told that it is unprofessional and a distraction, our society has succeeded in making a race go through whatever lengths just to be “accepted.”

In 2013 a 12-year-old Florida student, Vanessa VanDyke, was threatened with expulsion if she did not opt to cut her hair after giving complaints about student teasing. Vanessa wore her hair in a natural all year long without it being considered a “distraction” until she brought the issue of teasing to staff. A young girl being told to change herself in order to conform to what is deemed “acceptable” is unacceptable. 

Whether it’s perming or pressing, which destroys the hair’s natural texture, or getting weaves black women have tried it and still do it in order to mask their true hair texture.

Due to the rarity of black women embracing their natural hair in the media, the women who do embrace their natural hair in their everyday lives are subjected to ridicule. Many feel that it’s almost taboo for a black woman to love her natural hair, yet when a woman from another race decides she wants an “ethnic” hairstyle she receives praise. You start to question the real message society is trying to send.

There are very few black women in the media who are seen wearing their natural hair. Those who do usually make headlines that circle around the view of their locks. Much like the latest controversy between Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic and Disney Channel star Zendaya Coleman at the 2015 Oscars. Rancic said that Zendaya’s dreadlocked hairstyle indicated that she probably “smells like patchouli oil, or weed.” Yet Kylie Jenner, who has also sported dreadlocks, was never accused of smelling of marijuana but in fact crowned a “trend setter.”

Many celebrities and runway shows are adopting black hairstyles such as laying down baby hairs, creating Bantu knots and wearing cornrows. Black women are ridiculed and mocked for their originality in hairstyle choices while others profit from and “borrow” their creations. There are countless instances where hairstyles that are usually associated with people of color were once considered “ghetto” are now becoming “trendy” and “edgy” only when worn by other races. 

“It’s too bad our society does not like black people as it much as it loves black culture,” stated Twitter user, Black Queen.

Songs like “I Am Not My Hair” by India Arie uplifts the disputes surrounding natural hair by being able to accept what society constantly tries to take control of and destroy with lyrics saying “be you, be free to be you in whatever form you choose.” Whether it’s a natural afro, dreadlocks, twists or any other natural style, be happy and be nappy.