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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Black hair is not a battlefield

    I don’t know if it’s because we never really had royalty and our politicians (read: the first family) are too politicized to be idolized — but Americans sure are obsessed with celebrities.

    In our obsession, we’ve created a disgusting need to judge celebrities from afar for their parenting and physical appearances. That need is two-fold in the hate that Blue Ivy Carter, the adorable, genetically gifted offspring of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, receives.

    Blue Ivy Carter is a toddler. She is not a grown woman and, as a child, has decisions made for her. One decision being made for her is how she wears her hair: naturally. Who knows why people think they have the right to criticize black women’s hair, much less the hair of a toddler? (OK, it’s centuries of institutionalized racism and black women being viewed as aesthetic abnormalities.)

    In June, a petition was filed in the hopes that Beyoncé would do something about Blue Ivy’s hair. Doing something about it being: “altering it to conform to a white aesthetic of beauty that values ridiculous, time consuming, often painful and certainly expensive hairstyles over natural ones.”

    “This matter has escalated to the child developing matted dreads and lint balls,” reads the petition, which now has almost 6,000 supporters. “Please let’s get the word out to properly care for Blue Ivy hair.”

    Besides the fact that claim is completely ridiculous — it is abundantly clear that Blue Ivy does not have matted dreads or lint balls — the real shame is in the petition’s comments. Both women of color and white people felt the need to chime in on an issue that is entirely personal. These comments are not unique to this petition; Blue Ivy has been lambasted and Beyoncé accused of child abuse all over social media. Someone will always have an opinion on black hair with no reason to have it.

    Arit John of the Wire is in tune with the constant assault on black hair in this country and notes that this criticism is systemic.

    “Not what it looks like, but what it symbolizes,” John writes, “how it reflects upon black people, black self-hatred, black self-love, the natural hair movement, the rejection of unattainable European standards of beautiful, racism, classism, texturism (is your curl 4C Africa kinky or a manageable 3B?).”

    This criticism isn’t new, however. Historically, natural black hair has been viewed as unkempt, dirty and unprofessional by white people, who have then forced this view upon people of color as some twisted standard of beauty. History has had its fair share of examples corroborating this stereotyped point of view, too, and they just keep happening.

    In 2009, the media referred to Malia Obama as ghetto trash for daring to rock natural twists. In 2012, Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas’s hair wasn’t relaxed enough, according to internet chatter. In 2013, schools nationwide banned natural hair styles as going against dress code. This year, our own military banned certain natural hairstyles as an update to uniform standards.

    I’m not certain of the tactical efficiency advantage that a wig, one of the military’s approved hairstyles, has over a natural hairstyle like simple twists. But apparently, the U.S. Military, an organization predominantly and historically headed up by white men, has deep and critical knowledge surrounding this issue.

    These changes were veiled by an effort to “maintain uniformity within a military population,” but black women should not be subjected to costly and hard-to-maintain haircuts because a few stodgy old white men don’t understand that not everyone can have a crew cut.

    “I’ve been told I’m lucky to have nice hair,” said Nicole Bradford, a creative writing and physiology senior who identifies as mixed race, referencing her naturally loose curls. “I wasn’t ever told that it was OK to disagree with that idea [that natural black hair is less than nice] until I learned to admire black women and their hair in all its forms. And yes, I did have to learn to admire black women. Thanks, society.”

    So, lay off Blue Ivy, and lay off women of color and women in general. Their hairstyles are their own choices, and deciding not to chemically relax a toddler’s hair does not constitute child abuse.

    The control that white people and people who are not affected by black hair feel the need to exert over it is ridiculous; it is manipulative, and it is destructive to the self-esteem of individuals who, in so many other arenas, are already being told they aren’t good enough.

    Maybe participating in Jessica Williams’ intensive Operation Black Hair boot camp from “The Daily Show” should be mandatory.


    Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter. 

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