Black Hair History And Cultural Appropriation

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The history behind all of the creative hairstyles originated in Africa. Hair grooming in Africa played a major role in society in regards to distinguishing status and identity of an individual. The elaborate hairstyles was a way for them to identify each other’s social status based on ethnicity, social rank, age, marital status, fertility, manhood, wealth, religion, and death. The different technique to create these beautiful elaborate looks includes braiding, twisting, weaving, and liquids such as mud and animal fat. Like today, because these hairstyle took hours to create, women used this time as a means to socialize with one another. Traditional African hairstyle brought a sense of unity among these African tribes. Their hairstyles demonstrated the complexity of the African tribe.

In 1444, Europeans began to kidnap Africans of all social status and trade them on the west coast of Africa, many of them wore their elaborate hairstyles. Although the Europeans were at first fascinated by these hairstyles, they wanted to strip them of their identity to maintain control and dependency. Many of the slave traders not only shaved the heads of women but they also shaved the men, this was considered an unspeakable crime in many tribes. After being on a ship for three months in unbearable conditions, where hygiene let alone hair care could not be maintained, many on the enslaved hair were matted upon arrival in Jamestown 1619. Eventually, all of the African culture and hair grooming technique began to disappear and African slaves began assimilating to white beauty standards.

After slavery, the ‘good hair mentally’ continued to dominate the black community. The more they identified with their oppressor, the more valuable they became. African American who resemble or had white feature were more likely to get a job or treated better. After slavery ended whites favored black women who styled their hair similar to that of their female counterparts. Having straight hair or ‘Good Hair’ became the prerequisite for entering any facilities such as schools, churches, restaurant, or any social gathering. The hot comb, invented in 1845 by the French, was a metal comb that was heated on the stove to temporarily straighten Afro-textured hair. Following the hot comb, Madame C.J Walker created different types of hair product for African American women. She is famously known for creating the perm, which chemically changes the texture of afro-textured hair. Butter knives were also use to straighten their hair in order to assimilate to white society beauty standard People of color began losing their identity in order to fit into society and their beauty standards. However as time progress, change in the black community began to take place, people of color began to embrace their natural hair.

The Black Panther broke White Americans beauty standards by promoting black beauty. The Afro rejected the typical beauty standard in white American.’In 1943 an art student named Annabelle Baker decided to let her hair grow naturally and was told by her black that she should be ashamed to be seen with her hair in its natural state (Vargas p97).’ The Afro gave African American women confidence, it allowed them to fully accept their black beauty. However, Baker receives backlash from some individuals in her community due to years of oppression and the lack of education about their own natural hair. Many people of color have lost their identity due to this false beauty stand that has been pushed onto them by the media. ‘In 1969, Newsweek polled African Americans as to their feelings about the Afro and 75% of northern blacks under the age of 30 said they approved whereas only 40% of all southern blacks gave their approval (Walker p185).’ Afros were now the beauty standard, Afro rejected white beauty standard and restructured beauty standards for African American women. The Afro became a symbol of black pride and identity. Although the natural hair community began to grow and take pride in their identity, there has and will always be setbacks.

For young girls of color, hair isn’t only something to play with, it is something that is weighed down with messages. It has the ability to dictate how others treat you and how you feel about yourself. In Noliwe Rooks book ‘Hair Raising’, the author states, “Hair in 1976 spoke to racial identity politics as well as bonding between African American women. Its style could lead to acceptance or rejection from certain groups and social classes, and its styling could provide the possibility of a career (Rook pg 5-6). ‘ This is very prevalent in today’s climate. In the Washington Post, the article states ‘In recent years, staff members at the prestigious Pretoria High School for Girls in South Africa’s administrative capital had taken to telling black students to “fix” their hair, according to some current and former pupils.’ Young girls in South Africa are fighting for their right to wear their natural hair in schools after the code of conduct unfairly discriminate against their hair. These young women are fearlessly fighting to reclaim their identity. They understand the significance of their hair and its origins because this is a tool used to keep them from getting a good job in society. African American women are very aware of the negative stigma that black hair has, but nevertheless, they continue to fight for change. Black hair and culture are not appreciated unless present of a white body.

Cultural appropriation is the remodeling or stealing of symbols, ceremonies, and mannerism from one culture or subculture by another. Generally, this occurs when the subject culture is a minority culture or some way or another subordinate in social, political, monetary, or military status to the appropriating society. Cultural appropriation happens with no genuine comprehension of why the original culture participated in these practices or the implications behind them, regularly changing over culturally important ancient artifacts, practices, and belief into meaningless fashion or giving them a noteworthiness that is totally different from the initial culture.

For years, black girls were told that their natural hair was dirty, unprofessional and that it did not meet the standard of beauty. Many may say it’s just hair, however for people of color, it’s not just a hairstyle. This goes past insignificant Aesthetics, it more about the social mistreatment and refusal to recognize the oppressor’s privilege. For a considerable length of time, Black Women were exposed to hatred because of their hairstyles, they were told that their hair was a mess, unkempt by society and the media. There were even laws targeting Black women to control how they keep up their hairdos. The majority of that just to now have it appropriated by the same culture that viewed it as bad. Black women were once constrained by law to wear head wraps ‘maintain control’. Locs were once called messy, yet they are now being worn by white models down the runway for no particular reason. Slicked down baby hairs that were considered ‘ghetto’ is currently strolling down the runways of Marc Jacobs’ shows. In addition, influencers like Kim Kardashian, taking from a culture that is not their very own is just empowering the social burglary. Not long ago, she posted this pic of her sitting up in bed half dressed, with a head filled with cornrows, calling them ‘Bo Derek Braids’. After receiving backlash for the black twitter and the media Kim does not make an attempt to correct herself or issue an apology to those whom she has offended. She gives her reasoning as to why she called them ‘Bo Derek Braids’ and proceed with her daily life. This is the issue that a lot of influencer and fashion media have, they refuse to acknowledge the cultures exist and give credit She is a troublingly oftentimes and careless social appropriator and, more regrettable of all, declines to recognize it as an issue ever. This is the reason social apportionment is such an issue inside the form media world and also society. Influencers, big name mark and even simply customary individuals take from these underestimated social without giving the best possible acknowledgment, utilizing appropriate phrasing, or not perceiving its history. These are the few motivation behind why social apportionment is hostile to numerous ethnic gatherings.

Cultural appropriation is hurtful due to fact that it is an expansion of several years of prejudice, discrimination, and abuse. Culture appropriation treats all parts of marginalize individuals as a free for the taking. This is additionally similar to the justification that has been and still is utilized to take land and resources from minorities, particularly from people of that community. Set up each one of those components of the taking land, resources, and culture of marginalize group that are being oppressed assembling signify demolition. Culture appropriation isn’t a sufficient technique to regard, respect, or recognize people of Color. If you wish to regard, respect, or recognize black people or their culture, by then you should make sense of how to see, go up against, and dismantle purposeful bias rather than appropriating dreadlocks, a picture of the wearer’s duty to Jah Rastafari what’s increasingly, Black assurance from partiality. Notwithstanding whether you don’t grasp why it is horrendous to see distinctive parts of one’s lifestyle appropriated, or you think there are increasingly more unfortunate issues that People of Color ought to contribute their vitality going up against. Regardless of the way that it is white individual’s’ commitment to go up against bias, it is so far fundamental to check out People of Color when they recognize and require an end to social task. As focal points of bias, Ethnic minorities are the masters in fanaticism, and in like manner threatening to dogmatist tries should be composed by the necessities recognized by People of Color.

There has been many misconceptions regarding African American hair. Whether is viewed as a political statement or being culturally appropriated, there has always been a negative stigma when it come to African American hair. The purpose of this research is to educate individuals on traditional African hairstyles and grooming technique that began to disappear due to enslavement. I want individuals to understand that the the process of Africans and African Americans grooming their hair was a technique that was apart of their civilization, representing a progressive community. Through the creation of their hairstyles, we are able to analyze different components of these tribe, such as one’s own psyche, life, trends and politicals events that were occurring at the time. Although many traditions die due to slavery, people of color were able to regain their identity. Understanding African hair as well as the traditional grooming method and history is very important in understanding why is is so important in the black community. 

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