Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is the Whip My Hair Cover Racist?

Willow Smith recently released the song Whip My Hair.  There is something extremely celebratory about a young Black girl singing about hair in a positive manner.  Few can reasonably deny that hair has been used to reduce Black womanhood and continues to have harmful effects to this day.  There are grown women who have no idea what the natural texture of their hair is, because of generations of racism and sexism.

I recently came across a video on youtube, in which a young White girl decided to make an acoustic version of Whip My Hair.

In the comment section of youtube for this video, many accused the singer of racism and I have to say that I agree.  This is outright appropriation and it fails to take into context what is most important about hair in terms of young Black girls.  Black women have always been told that we are inferior because our hair is not straight and loose like White girls.  We have been told not celebrate our hair as a positive attribution so exactly what does it mean when a young White girl decides to sing about whipping her hair?

There is also the history of Whiteness appropriating parts of African American culture for their own gain. In fact, just have a conversation with Little Richard, he would be glad to tell you that he is still waiting to be paid for the numerous times that White men stole his music.  Obviously by posting this on youtube the young girl in question hoped to gain some sort of notoriety.  I won't deny that Willow has extreme class privilege as the daughter of two very famous parents but I do believe that to completely ignore race in this conversation implies that once one achieves a certain level of economic success that race fails to continue to be a problem.  Willows class privilege does not negate her racial oppression, it simply manifests differently for her than the average African American.  What this young girl did was to stand on Willows shoulders to achieve a positive gain for herself and isn't that what White women have been doing to Black women for centuries?