Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who Defines black hair and Blackness?

By Marenda Kyle
As a little girl my mother braided my hair as way to stay in touch with my African-American roots. As someone who continued to wear and became fond of braid culture, seeing my peers bleaching and straightening their hair made me feel like an outcast.
In the January 2014 Big Holiday and Glamour Issue of Sophisticate’s Black Hair Styles & Care Guide, I was relieved to see the advertisement of a Braids and Natural Hair mini-magazine. However the Black Hair magazine’s definition of “black hair” was light and straight hair opposed to what real black hair is, which is braids and natural hair in the mini-magazine.
Who defines black hair and Blackness?
As I looked through the magazine I realized that most of the Black models and actresses were light-skinned with light hair. Most of the pages promoted weaves and chemicals to lighten and straighten hair. By these examples, the magazine is conveying the message that is what black hair is supposed to look like. I did come across a page that glorified braids, but that acceptance was short-lived because the next page had a light-skinned model advertising the KOEE Skin Lightening System. This holiday issue of Sophisticate’s Black Hair Styles & Hair Guide is telling black girls that if you want to be festive for the holidays, wear your hair like this and look like this.
I have now came to the realization that braids and natural hair are a thing of the past and if you want “glamorous” hair you have to straighten, bleach, or do anything it takes to achieve the desired European look. As a proud wearer of braids I encourage people to stick with what they have. To quote India Arie, “I am not my hair.”

Marenda Kyle is a 12th grader at Gardena High School. She has volunteered over 400 hours and is passionate about teaching individuals to love themselves.

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