Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Black Hair is Still an Issue

Hair Braiding Lourdie August 10, 20105photo © 2010 Steven Depolo | more info (via: Wylio)

Even though regular readers are no longer commenting on posts that are buried in the archives, I still get drive by trolls, or ignorant racist determined to tell me how wrong I am.  I place many of the comments into spam and never publish them.  On a post I wrote last year entitled, "Is the Whip my Hair Cover Racist?", I have been getting the same sort of ignorant commentary for awhile. The following two comments best illustrate the points I want to discuss.

Jack:
I think you're all being ridiculous and inadvertently racist yourselves. For one whilst willow smith's song is amazing, it's just a catchy pop song with no deep meaning about racial freedom or expression about hair - it's just trying to make money. Two it was co-written by a man so it's hardly a female expression. Why shouldn't a white girl be allowed to sing the same song as a black girl? And she's hardly trying to culturally appropriate the song, she obviously think it's something worth covering and is so applauding it. Furthermore, why are you even noticing that one is black and one is white? People like you are keeping racial divides alive. 
Vervechild:
Let me get this straight:
-You are complaining that economic success leads to less racial awareness and as such racism.
- And, you are complaining that a white girl dared to cover the song. Moreover, you brand her racist because she is oblivious that hair used to be a racially discriminatory trait.

Yeah, it really is bad that the young generation of our time has moved forward and stopped being aware of old discriminatory traits. It is really sad that if society progresses, for example through economic success, racisms declines.

Madam, with all due respect, I think your article is racist! Not Ms. Smith and neither the white girl daring to cover a song! It is time that you move forward. 
What we see above are two repetitive tropes that continue to rear their ugly head in the comment section of that piece, and many others to be honest.  It is not racist to critically discuss racism. Ignorance that one is being racist, does not negate the effect of racism.  People of colour don't have the option of pretending to be colourblind, because we are impacted by racism everyday, much in the same way that disabled people don't have the option of buying into the lie that the world is generally speaking kind to those of us who negotiate a disability.

When you juxtapose a White girl and a Black girl, race cannot be excluded from the conversation, because to do so would only uplift White supremacy at the cost of POC. Particularly when it comes to a post about Black hair, scores of people will drop by the blog to tell me that hair is no longer viewed as a marker of difference.  Black women continue to be attacked and minimized when it comes to natural hair.  Of the few Black models that manage to have a career, how many of them have natural hair?  Black women across North America, can tell stories of being told that their natural hair is unprofessional in a work place setting and yet hair is supposedly not an important issue anymore?    Hair is a political issue, because it is yet another signifier that Black women are still considered other.

Even the fact that the first Black millionaire was a woman who sold hair care products designed specifically to straighten Black hair is not accidental.  From weaves, to wigs, to relaxers, money continues to be made on the process of making ones hair to match that of Eurocentric people.  Many Black will say that politics has nothing to do with their decision to straighten their hair but I must wonder how many them actually remember what their natural hair looks and feels like?  How many of them would know how to style, condition and comb their hair today if all of the creamy crack (read: relaxer) were to suddenly disappear?  How many girls are ritually asked about their hair care practices, only to be laughed at?  How many Black people have been treated like pets because a White person is curious about their hair texture?  Unless you possess Black hair, you have no idea whether or not it is a political issue because you will never be subject to stigmatization because of it.

Finally, you will notice that they both charge that my discussion of racism is keeping it alive. I refuse  This kind of comment is actually quite popular on this blog.  Critical conversations about race makes many White people upset, because it forces them to acknowledge that this imaginary post racial world that they have created does not exist.  One cannot rule over people who will not consent to be ruled, and in this space, I will not now or ever consent to be a slave to White supremacy, at the expense of my own personal dignity.