Thursday, February 4, 2010

Celebrate Black History Month By Relaxing Your Hair

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The above image is from Sociological Images.   It appeared in a Family Dollar ad from last February.

There are many Black women who continue to relax their hair, however; it is important to note that this product has its genesis in the internalization of racial hatred.    The desire to be as close as possible to Whiteness made Madame CJ Walker the first Black millionaire, however; today Black hair care products are largely owned and marketed by White companies. 

In essence, this ad represents White companies telling Blacks that in order to celebrate Black History Month, that we should internalize Whiteness.  How nice and self-serving.  Many would prefer that Black History Month cease to exist because they refuse to acknowledge that the rest of the eleven months of the year are dedicated to promoting Whiteness.  This advertisement suggests that if we must celebrate Black History Month, that we should find a way to center Whiteness, thus once again supporting White Supremacy.

Hair continues to be a contentious issue within the Black community.  For many, it is a signifier of what we are not and the fact that we continue to attempt to force our hair into submission to match White beauty standards, speaks of the ways in which Blackness is still considered undesirable.

A Black woman wearing her hair without a relaxer is making a political statement because it tells the world that she has fully embraced Blackness.  Loving yourself as you are, can only be considered a radical act, if one believes that Whiteness has the right to rule.  This is why women who wear their hair natural are often called angry; Whiteness is determined that all should submit. For Black women, hair will never be a simple matter.  It is filled with traditions, bonding between women, internalized hatred, racial pride, political statements, sexuality, beauty, etc., Black women's hair speaks volumes.

Whiteness is not maintained solely by White people.  In fact, people of colour labour to ensure the continuation of White supremacy, even though it acts to marginalize us.  The easiest way to rule is to convinced the oppressed to work on the behalf of the oppressor and these ads present this opportunity to Black women.  Not only can you internalize Whiteness through the straightening of your hair, you can also enrich a White owned company.  The only ones that lose in this scenario are Black women but then Whiteness has never intended for Black women to come out ahead.