Past generations bring with them the way black hair was looked upon and pressured to conform to Eurocentric acceptance. The politics of Afro texture hair it brings deeper conversations within our society and among ourselves. Today, we as black women and men are rising above that. Embracing our own textured hair is louder and bolder than ever. It's not about being a rebellious, its about accepting who you are, identifying with someone who looks like me, and claiming our ancestral heritage.
Politics of Black Hair
In 1960s United States, natural afro-textured hair was transformed from a simple expression of style into a revolutionary political statement. It became a fundamental tool of the Black movement in America, and "hair came to symbolize either a continued move toward integration in the American political system or a growing cry for Black power and nationalism.Prior to this, the idealized Black person (especially Black women) "had many Eurocentric features, including hairstyles. However, during the movement, the Black community endeavoured to define their own ideals and beauty standards, and hair became a central icon which was "promoted as a way of challenging mainstream standards regarding hair. During this time, afro-textured hair "was at its height of politicization," and wearing an Afro was an easily distinguishable physical expression of Black pride and the rejection of societal norms. Jesse Jackson, a political activist and well-known cultural icon, says that "the way [he] wore [his] hair was an expression of the rebellion of the time". Black activists infused straightened hair with political valence; straightening one's hair in an attempt to 'simulate Whiteness', whether chemically or with the use of heat, came to be seen by some as an act of self-hatred and a sign of internalized oppression imposed by White-dominated mainstream media.
At this time, an African-American person's "ability to conform to mainstream standards of beauty [was] tied to being successful. Thus, rejecting straightened hair symbolized a deeper act of rejecting the belief that straightening hair and other forms of grooming which were deemed 'socially acceptable' were the only means of looking presentable and attaining success in society. The pressing comb and chemical straighteners became stigmatized within the community as symbols of oppression and imposed White beauty ideals. Certain Black people sought to embrace beauty and affirm and accept their natural physical traits. One of the ultimate goals of the Black movement was to evolve to a level where Black people "were proud of black skin and kinky or nappy hair. As a result, natural hair became a symbol of that pride." Negative perceptions of afro-textured hair and beauty had been passed down through the generations, so they had become ingrained in Black mentality to the point where they had been accepted as simple truths. Wearing natural hair was seen as a progressive statement, and for all the support that the movement gathered, there were many who opposed natural hair both for its aesthetics and the ideology that it promoted. It caused tensions between the Black and White communities, as well as discomfort amongst more conservative African-Americans.
The style of afro-textured hair continues to be politicized in contemporary society. "These issues of style are highly charged as sensitive questions about [an individual's] very 'identity'. Whether an individual decides to wear their hair in its natural state or alter it, all Black hairstyles convey a message.
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