Monday, 1 July 2019

It's Just Hair

I understand why you think this. It's an easily digestible thought; sometimes I think it too. On those mornings when I’ve snoozed all three of my alarms and have no time to lay my edges, I think it too, “Oh it doesn’t matter—it’s just hair.”

The New York Times recently published an article saying that the state is finally putting laws in place preventing workplaces from having discriminatory etiquette guidelines, particularly those pertaining to traditionally black hairstyles: braids, dreadlocks, afros etc. Being reminded that laws like this still exist, puts “It’s just hair” in perspective. Hearing personal anecdotes from friends and family who’ve been told they look unprofessional or being sent home from school for wearing their hair as it naturally comes from their head makes it hard, rather impossible, to believe that it’s just hair. Maybe it is to me, but the rest of the world doesn’t view it that way. Is it “just hair” if it’s not suitable for a workplace?

There was also the ‘boxer braids’ phenomena. In 2016 Kim Kardashian wore her hair in cornrows and was credited with creating a style called ‘boxer braids’. Obviously, they are not braids, nor were they invented by Kim Kardashian but as a budding young adult having seen my own friends and family not being allowed to wear that very hairstyle to school and their jobs, and then seeing Kim Kardashian not only praised for the style, but credited with inventing it—I really do begin to ask myself if it is “just hair”, who’s hair is it? Because it’s not Kim’s hair. Or Kim’s hair type that is the problem. And it’s not the style, either. On Kim the style was chic and new. On me, it was unprofessional.

So what about when people who don’t have naturally straight hair wear straight hair? Is it just hair then? Not quite. The issue is the origins. The attack isn’t on the style, it’s on the person. When a specific type of person is disallowed from wearing their hair as it is, what choice is there but to make it fit the type of hair that’s allowed?

That’s the difference. There’s no historical ban or persecution of straight hair, or those who grow it. That’s the hair that’s “just hair”. Not mine. My hair was never just hair.


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