Roots of Criticism

The video ‘Lockin’ Up” was a great example of how criticisms concerning hairstyles and hair textures stem not only from outside communities, but also within the black community. I could especially relate to the idea of good hair versus bad hair. During conversations with black friends on campus about hair, I have often heard them refer to another black woman’s hair as “good” based on how loose her curls are—a misconception that I frequently confront within my family as well. Over this past summer, while I was searching for employment my oldest brother suggested that I relax my hair rather than sport an Afro to increase my success in securing a job. His argument was that because the majority of employers would be white, I should straighten my hair because it would look more presentable to them, but not him because the appearance of my hair did not concern him. Despite his claim that my hair did not matter to him, I knew that deep down it did; he was insinuating that I do not have good hair, so I should straighten it and “leave it down,” I should correct my hair. I faced similar sentiments from my aunt and uncle in Chicago and my aunt in Alabama. My family’s disapproval of my Afro and their suggestion that I relax it to expand my opportunities and even to get a boyfriend is painful. In these situations, the question that always arises in my mind is why it acceptable for a white woman to wear her hair “down” in its natural state, but it is unpresentable for a black woman to way her hair “up” in an Afro in an Afro in its natural state? Despite my family’s painful comments about my hair, I cannot blame them too much because their criticisms are rooted in a white model of beauty that has been and continues to be imposed on people of color.


2 thoughts on “Roots of Criticism

  1. Kelly, I’m sorry that you had an older brother that you look up to tell you that you need to straighten your hair in order to have a job. The way I view it, straightening your hair for that one job is like hiding a piece of who you are and if you are hired for the job, then you’ll start to wonder if they’ll fire you if you let it become an afro so you continuous straightening your hair. Although there were be many criticisms about your hair from people, the only criticism that you need to listen to is your own. It’s your hair, your body, your life, not theirs. Yes, some people are going to be ignorant about the situation when it comes to the work force but think about it, would you want to work for a company that won’t let you show a part of your biological self?


  2. Hey Kelly, I completely agree with Milinda, and I’m sorry that your brother doesn’t seem to be supportive of how you want to portray yourself. Do whatever makes you happy, because what really matters about you does not depend solely on your appearance. Like Milinda had mentioned, a job that condemns you for the way you wear your hair may not exactly be the place you want to work for. Keeping your hair natural is a lot more healthier for your hair than constantly perming and straightening it, so way should they be judging you for taking care of yourself?


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