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Time’s Change and So Does Our Hair

“Another person’s beauty does not mean the absence of your own,” is a statement that the black community has embodied in every sense. To dismantle toxic eurocentric beauty standards, individuals have started to appreciate natural features [more] and celebrate what once was deemed unattractive. And while more black representation is in the media nowadays, the decades-long fight against negative stereotypes associated with skin complexion, clothing, racist caricatures, and natural hair continues to be a relevant topic of discussion.


On July 3, 2019, The C.R.O.W.N. Act (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) was signed into California’s legislation. (New York, July 12th) It is a law that addresses discriminatory grooming policies that directly affect members of the black community. Furthermore, it prevents workplaces and schools from creating policies that reject hairstyles such as afros, locs, twists, braids, etc. In order to bring this change to legislators, a petition needs 100,000 names. To sign the petition click here


As society gradually disregards the “hood”/ghetto stereotype and eliminates “Sambo” or “Mammy” references in fashion and media, discussions about Black hair still come with a dash of politics. Whatever hairstyle(s) black individuals decide to wear, especially their natural hair texture, should not be an obstacle when it comes to seeking employment, bookings, or being at work. 


Images like the one below is a prime example. The meme speaks to a larger issue (minimizing blackness in a white world) while coming off as a light-hearted joke. It’s both humorous and disheartening, more so, funny because it’s sad. Both women in the image represent two different ideals. The image implies that the woman on the left had to straighten her hair before her interview. Why? The one on the right wears an afro. After she gets the job, she is able to wear her hair in its natural state. Why? The joke here is that a woman possessing eurocentric features upon the first impression is more likely to land the job. Once hired, she can take off her “mask” and be who she naturally is.


Source: me.me


This is not to say that black people should only wear their hair as it grows or that wearing it straight is indicative of trying to be white. The point is that wearing hair out of its natural state should not change how the individual is treated or their chance at an opportunity. 


In 2010, a natural hair movement sparked. It primarily focused on black women and how they wore their hair. This movement led more women to wear their natural hair in various styles and ignited a change in media representation and the economy! Sales for relaxers and perms marketed towards black women decreased tremendously, and continue to do so. Hashtags, online profiles, and styling tutorials dedicated to the appreciation of natural hair continue to grow daily.


Trends come and go. And once they are here, they influence the perception of ourselves and those around us. It’s important not to lose sight of your identity and what it comprises of. The video here shows the evolution of hairstyles black women have worn since the 1920s to now. 


Source: giphy.com


Source: giphy.com


What matters is not the hairstyle, but the person who wears it. In order to fix a social issue, we must alter the system(s) in place, not those who are negatively affected by it. No one should have to cut off locs they’ve invested years in just to get employed or compete in a high school wrestling match. Straightened hair for weddings or graduation pictures are not the default hairstyle. Black hair is beautiful in any form, including the one we are born with.

Sophomore, Georgia State University. Major: Studio Art
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