Don’t Tell Us How to Feel About Our Hair Jay Park

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Gather round kids, I have a story. Allow me to set the scene. Jay Park, an Asian American artist based in the USA, posted on his Instagram a clip of a white rapper named Avatar Darko. Don’t bother researching him, this man could have easily been out rapped by Soulja Boy. Besides the attempts this man was making to rap, he was wearing dreadlocks. Let’s all breathe a sigh of exasperation. Personally, I do not like seeing Caucasians people wearing dreadlocks because they are rarely done well, and they usually don’t understand the history of dreadlocks.

This is not a situation that I would ever feel the need to comment on however, it appears that a lot of people jumped in Jay Park’s mentions about this “rapper” and Mr Park went on to tell his fans and everyone else on Twitter, “”Let’s not argue over dumbs***. There are REAL problems out there, much more serious than how you wear your hair… If you wanna focus on something, go focus on that. We’re just trying to put on for the city and our people while doing what we love… If you don’t like it, that’s cool. Much love to all the fans.”

Hold on Sir. Now you’ve forced me to make commentary.

Should the hair be an issue? No, in an ideal world, why would we care about hairstyles. The problem is that we do not live in an ideal world and there is centuries of history behind Black hair and the way the rest of world perceive it.

Despite our hair having a rich history and the ability to manipulate our hair to do amazing things, White Oppressors have dictated what we can do with our hair. It started with Slavery, carried on through the colonization of Africa and Jim Crow. You would have thought that it end but alas it has not. To this day, hair is still a source of contention for Black people (especially black women) and it does not matter what part of the world you live. People assume that if you wear dreadlocks, you are dirty, probably smoke weed and do not contribute anything to society. Do I need to remind people of the disrespectful comment that were made about Zendaya when she wore faux locs to the Oscars? Giuliana Rancic of Fashion Police made racists comments on a live broadcast, saying that Zendaya’s faux locs “make her look like she “smells like patchouli oil. Or, weed.”

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Our hair is described as political. Why do you think people assume that you are ready to start a revolution just because you have an Afro? This misconception is the reason why we never saw Michelle Obama wear her natural hair while (my forever) President Obama was in office, but now we see it more frequently now. The picture below is depiction of the Obamas by the New Yorker when President Obama was running for office in 2008. For the record, Michelle Obama never had her hair in an Afro during the 2008 campaign.

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Our hair has been described as unprofessional and unkept. This is the reason why black women will wear European style wigs, weaves or (if you’re feeling brave) braids to an interview but hardly wear their natural hair. You reserve the twist outs, afro and faux locs for when you secure the job. Why? Because we know that there is unfair judgement when it comes to the hair that naturally grows out of our heads or the styles we wear to protect our hair.

Back to our story on Jay Park. I actually find it comical that an artist who is trying to gain success in a genre of music that was created and still dominated by black people, would have gall to tweet such foolishness. This is exactly why the vast majority of us do not like seeing people of other races wearing our styles. Other races will wear our culture hair styles we created as fashion that can be picked up and dropped whenever they feel like it. However, when questioned on their decision or if they have done any research on our hairstyles, we are met with rudeness. Worse still, we are told that our hairstyles aren’t a big deal. To add insult to injury. they state dying your hair blonde hair or listening to K-Pop is also cultural appropriation. As if blonde hair is only mutually exclusive to Caucasians or listening to music on K-Pop on Youtube or Spotify is not for public consumption.

Black women have lost job offers because of wearing dreadlocks and had to take these matters to the Supreme Court (see the links below).

https://www.ebony.com/news/black-woman-supreme-court-dreadlocks/

Teenagers girls in South Africa have had to protested just to wear their natural hair to school without the threat of suspension.

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https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/31/south-african-students-speak-out-ban-afro-hair-pretoria-school

We are constantly put in a position where we must defend our hair. Yet we have to watch the likes of Kim & Khloe Kardashian wear cornrows and call them “Boxer Braids.” Fashion Houses will wear dreadlocks for as an accessory when it is part of a religion for a whole community of people. Our styles are picked up and dropped whenever it is convenient because it is deemed fashion forward and edgy. Remember Marc Jacob’s at the 2016 New York Fashion Week. However, these people face none of the consequences we face when wearing these styles, and it’s aggravating.

I hope you are starting to see the source of our contention. I am not trying stand on a soap box behind Jay Park. The Lord knows as a Black K-Pop fan, you must pick your battles of colourism and race wisely, or risk throwing the whole genre away. Some of you reading this may not give a flying monkeys about Korean artists or dreadlocks, but the fact of the matter remains that black hair is a touchy subject. I want to make it clear that it is easy to exist in a predominately black space. We appreciate talent and respect for our art, craft and style, but the respect is mandatory. A lack of respect will have you dragged all over the internet by Black Twitter, and Black Twitter will make you atone for your sins.

I look forward to the day where I can go to a place of work and not worry about if I’m being judged on my “ethnic looking hair.” Or wear my Afro out and people not assume that that I have my “fist in the air.” However, until we reach that Utopian space, do your research, do better and don’t tell us how to feel about our hair.

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Why Do You Want To Touch My Hair?

British people pride themselves on their love for personal space. If there is a bench that seats 3 people, you are likely to find two people sitting on the edge, and no one sitting in the middle. We do not like people in such close proximity to us. Unless you’re on the London Underground, then all bets are off. Therefore, you can understand my confusion and frustrated when people feel that it is acceptable to touch my hair.

It is the year of our Lord, 2019. Why is this a conversation we are still having? Why do people think it is okay to touch someone’s scalp without their approval? Even worse when you are a stranger. Yet I have seen people in this country get annoyed when strangers touch their dogs without their permission, so how have you rationalised touching me without mine?

Clearly this is an international problem because there are scenes on How To Get Away With Murder regarding this issue. Solange has even written a song with this statement as the title: DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR! Black women are fed up! Do we need to start screaming “assault” or “unwanted bodily contact” every time Sally from HR thinks our hair is fascinating?

In case some of you are fixing your fingers to tell me that I am exaggerating, I am going to share 4 incidents of the most memorable times that someone has touched my hair and made me uncomfortable.

1. At The Dead Sea

I had been swimming in the Dead Sea in Israel. It was awesome. I had covered myself in mud and done all the things that tourists do while there. Tell me why one of the women, who was in charge of cleaning the toilets, felt it was okay to start lifting up my braids and calling them beautiful? Let me make this clear, she had literally just come from cleaning a toilet when she touched my hair! Think of the germs and bacteria that had come from that public toilet! I wanted to die.

2. At Work

Work is probably one of the worst, yet most common place that this can happen. I remember when I worked in Sales, one of my male colleagues closed in on me while I in the corridor alone. He told me that he was going to touch my hair whether I liked it or not. That was disgusting and upsetting. Before you start to unpack this inappropriate behaviour, there was no HR department, he was fired for others reasons (sleeping with the director’s girlfriend, who was also an employee there) and the company closed down. I wish I was making this up.

3. Another fun work story. When a colleague of mine felt very pleased in telling me that he was married to a Zimbabwean lady and had forbidden her from braiding her hair. Why do you ask? He was worried for her edges. Without warning, he proceeded to lift up my braids, trying to see if my edges were in tact. After I told him it was so unacceptable to touch my hair without my consent, he told me that he had nothing but respect for Africans. 😒

3. At The Post Office

Can you imagine trying to send a parcel and an old lady interrupts your transaction. Then proceeds to tell you that you have hair like her granddaughter (who I can only assume is mixed raced), and then inserts her hand in your hair with no warning. Yes, this happened to me and I had no clue who that lady was.

As you can tell, I am over this insensitive behaviour. It is not a compliment to touch our hair without our say so even if you think the hair looks pretty. Yet if we call out this problematic, entitled behaviour, some of you want to act like we called for the execution of your pets. Is it too much to ask for you to simply admire our hair from a distance or do like Michael Jackson said and leave us alone?

Please comment and share any of your hair horror stories.

Short hair. Oh, you do care?

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I have another rant in my hair spirit so bare with me.

I feel like I should give some back story about myself. I am an advocate of the natural hair movement. I stopped perming my hair in 2009. I stopped wearing weaves in 2011 and I cut off a large chunk of my  hair in 2012. I’m committed to the cause.

However, I had never done the Big Chop. The Big Chop is when one cuts off almost all of their hair and starts growing it from scratch. I never felt the need to. I had always expressed an interest in it but never got round to it. To be honest, it was all talk. I never wanted to cut off all my hair.  Well, I was going through a lot of stress in the Spring of 2016 and a third of my hair fell out. Therefore, I was confronted with my fear of finding out the true shape of my head.

I’m not going to lie to anyone who reads this blog. I sat on the grass of my local hospital and cried on the phone to my best friend. I was so sick that I now had to shave off my hair. I thought I was going to look so ugly. While I was at the barbershop, one of the barber’s said that I shouldn’t worry and he was going to make me look like Amber Rose. I was not sure whether to take this as a compliment.

To cut the long story short I ended up loving having short hair. That time in my life forced me to like my looks and build up my own self esteem. This is due to the fact that everyone and their mama required an explanation as to why I cut my hair.

“But why did you do this to yourself  T?”

“Couldn’t you just wear a wig?”

“How are you planning to get a job with hair like that?”

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Believe me, when you constantly have to answer questions like that on a regular basis, you will learn to be your own hypeman. In the year of our Lord, 2018, I am ready to cut  my hair again for several reasons. One of them being that I’m tired of constantly braiding my hair and I want something new. Braids have been breaking my new growth. And lowkey, SOMETIMES I’M LAZY!!! Sometimes I can’t be bothered to twist my hair every night. Don’t even get me started on wash day.

However, the majority of times I have expressed my plans for my new hairstyle, a male friend expressed that I shouldn’t do it. Why, do you ask?

“I’m not attracted to girls with short hair.”

I’ve heard several variations of that answer since November 2017. One guy even told me that he “would allow me to cut my hair.” So I’m going to make something abundantly clear. What I do with my hair is not for the attraction of men. I understand that there are plenty of women out there who will base their whole look on what men like and that’s fine. If it makes them happy, go ahead. I, on the other hand, do certain hairstyles because I like to experiment and because it makes me happy. I do NOT do things to the hair that God gave me because it might increase one’s sexual desire for me.

The day a man decides to sit with me the whole six hours (and that’s the minimum) it takes to do my braids or decides to hand over the £200 for a wig, THEN and only then will he be worthy to have an input on my hair. If the desire to keep my hair long concerns you so much then please feel free to send the funds for all my natural hair products. I will be like Samson and a razor will never touch the hair on my head. Until that day, keep your opinion to yourself.

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I have a rant in my hair spirit

I currently have a rant in my spirit so bare with me.

Life as a black girl is hard. Life as a black girl  who has gone natural is harder. However, life as a black girl who is natural in Essex just seems like I have voluntarily asked for problems.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why I am facing a struggle. Through slavery and colonisation, black people have been conditioned to hate every inch of themselves. Therefore, we generally praise those in our community who have lighter complexions and we adore those who have hair that is a similar hair texture to Gugu Mbatha-raw or Tracee Ellis Ross.

 

 

For many decades black women have put relaxers in our hair, to make it as straight as possible and we have put weaves in our hair to make our hair to fit the European Standard of beauty. Remember, colonisers instilled in our community that our hair is strange, unmanageable and ugly. Hair would be a factor in whether you were deemed professional and it could dictate whether one was deemed beautiful.
I give all this context to say that I understand why up until 2010, the hair shops in Chelmsford only supplied chemicals relaxers, virgin human hair and expressions (because we will braid our hair until the end of time). However, we are in the year of our Lord 2018. Things have changed. There are no longer so few black families in Chelmsford that we all greet each other in the streets. We no longer have to drive into London to buy Supermalt, we can get it in Tesco now. You would think that there was a direct pipeline between Anglia Ruskin and Lagos.
SO WHY I AM STILL STRUGGLING TO GET NATURAL HAIR PRODUCTS?!
There are 3 black hair shops, 2 salons and 2 barbershops. I cannot name a single black woman that still relaxes her hair. So why did I walk into the hair shop and only saw 1 bottle of Cantu shampoo and that singular bottle was the only natural representation in the entire shop! I was disgusted. These people are making it very difficult for me to “buy black”. At this point I should not have to still go into London and buy in bulk in order for my hair to flourish.
The hair shop owners in my area need to recognise that there has been a black women awakening. The natural hair movement is very real and it’s not going anywhere. Black girls are proud of our natural hair. We are wearing our natural hair out at work, making it into wedding hairstyles and celebrating our black girl magic. In order for  me to prosper in my 4C fro, I will need leave-in conditioners, shampoo without Sulphate and essential oils! For goodness sake, do better!