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Perspectives

Publication Date

8-1-2017

Abstract

In the United States Black hair is viewed negatively because of its difference. Black females often deal with societal pressures to alter their kinky, curly hair from its natural state. To date, the social pressure of adopting a more Eurocentric (reflective of European descent—such as long, straight hair) look begins at an early age through socialization. The Eurocentric beauty standard plays a huge role in Black women’s positive self-identity and their perceptions of their own beauty. At an early age, specifically between ages three and four, African American children have a good understanding of what “good” hair means and the social hierarchy it can create for themselves (Bellinger 2007). Black females are constantly told that they have “nappy” or “bad hair” and begin to internalize self-hatred. Theorists suggest, that this self-hatred journey begins at home, as a result of constantly being teased about their tight curly coils from many sources and close ties. As a result Black women receive messages that “nappy” hair is undesirable (Robinson 2011). In addition, Black females often have their hair straightened, relaxed, or chemically altered because of the societal pressures that remind them that their hair in its natural state is not acceptable or presentable in society (White 2005). One can argue that this is the case for the majority of Black females with “wild” curly hair, who have a weekly ritual, spend hundreds of dollars, and spend numerous hours trying to attain the White western ideal image. This is problematic in the Black community because Black women are constantly oppressed and devalued based on their physical appearance, essentially being brainwashed into erasing their cultural identity. This is detrimental to the Black community due to the fact that Blacks are encouraged further distance themselves from their cultural roots, while forcing Blacks to abandon their African hair traditions (Randle 2015). In this paper, “good hair” is defined as hair that minimizes African ancestry and is more reflective of a European, Native, or Asian ancestry within the Black individual, it is usually wavy or straight in texture, and long. “Bad hair” is the extreme opposite of good hair—tightly coiled, thicker, and more likely to be short, clearly reflecting African ancestry (Robinson 2011). Further, Black females endure a host of negative effects due to the lack of available options to learn and care about natural afro hair which has created an enduring interlocking system of oppression for African American women that inhibits Black females from being free to express themselves and their beauty in a way that does not revolve around the Eurocentric standards. (White 2005). Racialized beauty standards combined with the color complex make hair texture and length an essential part of Black female identity (Randle 2015). Using an Afrocentric Black feminist perspective, I seek to understand how the Eurocentric standard of beauty negatively affects Black women’s positive self-identity and enhances their struggle to embrace their natural hair. This paper will explore the history of Black hair, Black hair politics, Black hair in the workplace, and discuss how Black females who choose to wear their hair natural is a form of empowerment while simultaneously challenging social norms.

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