If You Are A Non-Black Person Thinking of Trying Out Black Hairstyles, This Article Is For You

When I was younger my mama, just like a lot of black women during the time, permed her hair. It was worked in her routine. Every month she would go to the beauty shop to get a touch-up. After every appointment, her luscious strands had so much life and body. Five-year-old me was very envious. My natural hair was always twisted into four pigtails and donned with what we called “knocka knockas,” but is more commonly known as “bow-bows.” 

Children are influenced by their surroundings and people they grow up around. So, the fact that every woman in my family above the age of 12, and every black celebrity had a perm really affected me. I wanted straight hair so much that I began to despise my naturally curly locs. I begged my mom to relax my hair every chance I got, to which I was always met with “Girl, you don’t need no perm.” One day, I finally expressed to my mom my true feelings. I told her that I wanted to be pretty like her with straight hair, and not ugly with “nappy” hair.


My mom hasn’t relaxed her hair since.


The point of my recount is to indicate that natural hair isn’t something you just decide to try out one day. The way I choose to wear my hair on any given day as a black woman does not define who I am as a person. If I decide to straighten my hair one day it doesn’t make me any more beautiful than I already was. If I want to rock my natural curls, they don’t make me aggressive or unattractive. The soul underneath all of that stays the same throughout everything.

Black women are just about the only race of women whose natural hair is deemed inappropriate and unprofessional. My mom, again, like many other black women, relaxed her hair to blend into White America. Styles like locs, braids, and even the curls, kinks, and coils that grow from our scalp are looked down upon in corporate America. I myself am the victim of straightening my hair for special events like interviews and picture days.


Our hairstyles are often appropriated and turned into fashion statements when worn on the heads of people like the Kardashians. When black women call these appropriators out, a common response is “It’s just hair.” 


The fact that places like New York City and Los Angelos have to pass laws criminalizing the discrimination of black people based on their hair should tell you that it’s not “just hair.” 


Just recently, a little black girl was pinned down by three white boys and forcefully had her locs cut off. The fact that our children have to go through traumatic encounters like this should tell you that it’s not “just hair.”


The fact that a lot of our children grow up hating who they are because they don’t fit the mold of what’s considered beautiful by society’s standards should tell you that it’s not “just hair.” 


So, until black women aren’t mistreated, looked at as “ghetto,” and given credit for the hairstyles created by us, for us, no you cannot get those “dreads” you saw on Rihanna. No, you cannot get colorful box braids and slick down those adult hairs with insurance policies and 401k’s you try to pass as baby hair. Instead of appropriating our culture, learn about it and appreciate it respectfully. And if you’re feeling really moved, become our ally and speak up for, in the words of Malcolm X, “the most disrespected person in America.”