Understanding Hair-itage

Famous musician Diana Ross poses with her natural hair during a photoshoot in the 70s.

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Famous musician Diana Ross poses with her natural hair during a photoshoot in the 70s.

Ciara Massey, Reporter

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Black hair is a very taboo topic. People do not understand how to effectively discuss the subject therefore, it remains in the shadows. As more and more African Americans begin to take pride in the many states of their hair, it has stepped into the light of modern American culture.

In previous African cultures, a lot could be said about a person by looking at their hair. Through weaving patterns of intricate braids, people’s spirituality, tribe, social and marital status could be revealed. This system went on for centuries until, through slavery, Africans were shipped off to the Americas. That is when their hair was cut and shaved, stripping them of their identity and culture. It was then impossible to tell a peasant from a king; black hair ceased to have any meaning for hundreds of years.

Fast forward to the 60s, African Americans, in an attempt to fit into American society, conformed. Men wore short trimmed haircuts and women wore waves and curls to match their white counterparts. The 70s brought the black power movement and people started to embrace their ‘blackness’ more than ever. Afros popped up everywhere. One could see them on the street and even in the workplace.

Present day culture seems very reminiscent of the 70s. The natural hair movement has taken off, and now African Americans everywhere are embracing the tresses that they were born with. They began to wear their hair in multiple ways, such as with wigs or extensions. This has become the new norm for African Americans but not without some resistance.

In recent years, there have been stories where Americans have experienced extreme backlash due to wearing their hair in their natural state or with extensions.  For example, in August 2018 an 11 year old girl at a private school in Louisiana was asked to leave class because administrators said her braided hair extensions violated school rules. In New York, an 8 year old boy had his dreads cut because the teacher felt that they were ‘disruptive.’ In the same state, at a local Walmart, workers were instructed to lock all the black beauty products. Customers would have to ask for assistance anytime they needed a bottle of shampoo.

Depending on who is asked, opinions will vary on what is acceptable. One thing is for sure, if it makes the individual feel comfortable that is all that should matter.