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Op-Ed: The War On Hair

September 15, 2015 by Skyler Stanford

According to media, the black community is in a state of outrage over white celebrities adapting traditional black hairstyles. If you haven’t read about this already, on July 11, Kylie Jenner posted a selfie of herself with cornrows and soon after a black actress from The Hunger Games, Amandla Stenberg, came forward and accused Jenner of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is when a member of/or one race mimics elements from another race and in doing so, oppresses the race that is mimicked. In the comment section of the photo Stenberg said “…when u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter”. Following this comment many people began chiming in, claiming that because Kylie Jenner was adapting the style from black culture that she owes the black community something in return. Those commentators did disregard the fact that The Kardashians are The Kardashians; they just sit around their mansions and take selfies. They have not and will not contribute anything significant to society other than their existence. Asking Kylie Jenner to take a stand for the social injustices that are occurring in the black community is like asking Iggy Azalea to host the BET Awards- it makes no sense and it and should only be stated as a joke.

Not letting this discussion die, a month later Allure Magazine included a how-to tutorial on attaining an afro. The so-called problem was that the how-to was aimed specifically for white girls with straight hair, and a white actress was used to model the hairstyles. Again, the term cultural appropriation was angrily pecked into phones all across America. Commentators claimed that the Allure Magazine article was highly offensive because they failed to mention the origin of the hairstyle. Ignoring the fact that in typical hair tutorials, the origin of the hairstyle is rarely mentioned. This article wasn’t about the history of the afro; it was a tutorial for girls who want to try something new with their hair. To expect the author to go into a long winded rant about the origin of the hairstyle is absurd. The second issue is the fact that they used a white actress instead of a black model. This is also one that can be easily explained. Many black people don’t have to do anything special to their hair to obtain an afro. Therefore, if you are trying to teach someone who doesn’t naturally have an afro how to style one, you want to use a model that looks like them and who can prove to the reader that the steps in the tutorial actually work. That is why they used a white actress. The only thing Allure Magazine did wrong was the hairstyle in the article was more along the terms of a ‘twist-out’ instead of an afro because in an afro there are less defined curls. If they hadn’t used the word afro, people wouldn’t have gotten so offended, but then again they probably would have faced the same heat.

The fact that people took offense to hairstyles shows how oversensitive people are becoming. Yes, those hairstyles are traditionally black and hold cultural meaning for the freedom to be black, bold, and beautiful. Still, if someone wishes to replicate this style it does not mean that they are automatically obligated to take on the topic of racial inequality. So to everyone reading this, do whatever you want with your hair, but refrain from spreading ignorance as often as possible.


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