Gather round kids, I have a story to tell. 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.”
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. 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.
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).
Teenagers girls in South Africa have had to protested just to wear their natural hair to school without the threat of suspension.
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.